Monday, 1st January 2018
After neglecting you for a few weeks, here’s the second part of the “Gill Gets Sick In Gran Canaria” as a way to wish you all Happy New Year. Better late than never…
So last time I told you about my frantic rail journey to meet my sick friend that was flying into Manchester Airport, if you can remember back that far. Here’s what happened next…
(Oh and if you didn’t read the post Just Another Manic Monday Installment 1, or need a memory refresher, I suggest you take a quick look now so that at least this part of the story will hopefully make some sense to you.)
As the train pulled into Manchester Airport Railway Station, I could feel my heart jumping out of my chest. I was waiting by the doors of the train for the flashy light to illuminate the “OPEN” button and also waiting for one of the many people that I had text to please, please, please, send me the requested number of the friend that Gill was travelling with.
The second of Gill’s potential flight had landed 5 minutes earlier and I still had no word from her. When I called it went straight to voicemail, so I suspected that she had’t got a single one of my multiple messages that I’d sent, begging her to stay put and wait for me.
It was looking anything but good at this stage and I pleaded with my mind to stay far away from all of the dark places that it kept trying to creep off to.
Finally the irritating little door bleep sounded that it was time to alight the train, and I looked for the exit and followed signs to Terminal 2. My last hope of finding my friend.
As I was scaling the sedentary escalators that seemed intent of hindering my journey even further, my phone vibrated with life to alert me that someone had sent me the friend’s number. Result.
I copied the number and pressed call, my blood pounding in my ears as I heard the dial tone ring out.
“Hello?” Said an exhausted and unhappy sounding voice.
“Oh, er, Hi!” I stammered. “It’s Amy Weaver here, Gill’s friend. I’ve just arrived at Manchester Airport to meet her, and am making my way to the terminal now to take her home. Where are you? Are you with her?” I gabbled and garbled breathlessly.
“You’ll not be meeting Gill. She’s gone straight to hospital in an ambulance. It doesn’t look good. We’re still on the plane, waiting to get off.” came the reply.
“Oh my God!” was all I could manage, my worst fears now a reality.
Silence as I tried to figure out what to do or say next.
“Well I’ll meet you guys in arrivals and then I can collect her bags and car and go to the hospital.” was the best that I could come up with.
“OK. We’ll meet you there.” came the reply.
I felt sick. A combination of a 3.30am start, a day of travel, a lack of any real food save half a tub of chocolate roll crumbs, and a seriously sick friend.
“It doesn’t look good.”
Those words went round and round in my head.
That’s what we say when a horse has an unsurvivable injury. Or an elderly relative nears the end.
What the f@#k was going on? What was I doing in Manchester Airport at close to 10pm at night? And why by the way was it completely f@#king deserted? I suddenly realised that the whole place was completely devoid of people.
Since leaving the train platform, I’d seen no-one, the escalator had not been working and there was still not a soul in sight. Apart from the lights being on, there was not a single sign of life. And I’d walked miles. Where was this bloody terminal? I’d been following signs, but this now all seemed like part of a bad dream. How had I wound up in a maze of fluorescent lit walkways and empty check-in halls in Manchester Airport in the final few hours on a Monday night? And where was Gill, what the hell and happened to her and the question I didn’t want to ask, was she going to be OK? If this was a just dream please, please let me wake up in a hot sweat in my bed right now.
I didn’t wake up, but I did finally come to the arrivals hall, where I paced up and down, checking the TV monitors, that displayed the Las Palmas flight as having landed, and one more jet from Greece that was still in the sky.
There was a smattering of semi excited friends and relatives waiting in the Costa Coffee, plus one bloke with a hand written sign saying “Mr Garibaldi” which I wondered aimlessly if it was his real name or some kind of “code”.
Finally, the automatic sliding doors burst open and the first few sunburnt Brits started making their way towards the small crowd, grumbling about the delay to their flight and being back in “Bloody Britain”.
Waiting for someone at an airport, is not something that I’ve done much of thankfully, normally I’m the one doing the arriving and I always hurry out purposefully as I feel totally awkward with the gallery of eyes starring at me, knowing that none of them are waiting for me.
Today I was part of that gallery and to be honest I felt even more awkward than when having to do the “no-one is waiting for me walk of shame”. I vaguely knew one of the girls that had been on holiday with Gill, I had no idea who the other person was at all.
Eventually I recongnised the friend of Gill’s that I knew, who was accompanied by another woman and two airline personnel, who were wheeling Gill’s humongous suitcase.
“Hi!” I said. And took control of the large bag that must’ve contained Gill’s entire wardrobe, cupboard and all.
“We’re staying at an airport hotel tonight, where our cars are, and have a taxi voucher to get there.” said Gill’s friend.
“OK. So should I come back with you? I can pick up Gill’s car and then go to the hospital.” I suggested.
“Ok great. We need some sleep.” she replied.
“And I need a fag!” piped up the other lady.
After thanking the airline personnel for all their help, we left the arrivals hall and set off in search of where the taxis were located.
Honestly, I was too scared to actually ask how Gill was, subscribing to the ignorance is bliss methodology, and asking if they’d had a “good holiday” seemed kind of pointless and frankly quite crass. Instead I opted to become navigator to the taxi rank, which happened to be all the way back over by the train station.
When we got in the taxi I fell back on my defense mechanism of making jokes, even though it was clearly quite a serious situation. I just didn’t know what else to do and I was also crammed underneath Gill’s giant suitcase, as the taxi driver evidently thought that an old Ford Escort was an appropriate vehicle for airport collections, so to me, making light of the grave yet bizarre scenario seemed the appropriate thing to do at the time.
It was somewhere on the drive to the hotel, through the winding lanes of Cheshire, in the pitch black, with the weight of all Gill’s clobber compressing my thighs, that I remembered what car Gill drove when I last saw her. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so snobbish about the Taxi man’s choice of wheels. But she surely couldn’t still have the same old “Dogmobile” could she? With the poor pooch was sadly no longer with us, I hoped that she upgraded for something a little more roomy and modern. Anyway, there’s no way that old thing would’ve made it as far as Manchester. I doubt it was even legal to take it on the motorway.
When we pulled up at the hotel, it was the first vehicle that I saw. Gill’s 17 year old Ford Fiesta proudly parked right outside the front door to this posh hotel. I couldn’t believe it. We collected the key from reception and as I hauled her luggage into the tiny boot, I mentally added “calling the AA” to the random collection of events that had somehow taken place over the last 24 hours.
Surprisingly it started straight away! I just hoped that its owner was as resilient as the feisty little Fiesta.
The kind lady at reception, printed me out directions to the Wythenshawe Hospital, which was great as my phone was flashing only 2% battery, and I said goodbye to the others, promising to update them by text as soon as I had any news.
I was cold, alone, it was dark, my friend was clearly very sick, I was in a “vintage” car and I not ashamed to admit that I was scared. The printed directions weren’t really of much help in the pitch black, and the only saving grace was that the heating in the car was working and there was lots of fuel.
I kept pulling over near the occasional street lights that I came across, checking my map, as the torch function on my phone was no longer alive. It was by now fast approaching midnight, I wasn’t insured, I hadn’t a clue where I was or how to get to where I needed to be, and I was driving seriously erratically owing to the narrow lanes, huge puddles, sticky gears and general lack of driving practice in recent years.
At this stage, I wasn’t sure if getting pulled over by the police would be a blessing in disguise or add insult to injury. I pictured myself sobbing into the arms of an understanding copper, who would escort me to the hospital blue lights and all. Either that or I’d be spending a night in the cells, whilst Gill withered away in her hospital bed.
My map said that I should be nearly there. Left at the end of this road and then the hospital should be located a short way down the first right turn. I’d nearly made it! But then I came around the corner to find the road completely flooded. If I’d have had the energy at this point I actually would’ve started crying. But I was drained, completely devoid of emotion, so I sat there, the car quietly ticking over while I contemplated what to do.
Option a) Drive through the water at a slow yet even speed, hoping not to flood the engine, as my phone battery was now completely dead, so there would be no way I could call anyone to rescue me if the river proved to be deeper than the low slung vehicle.
Option b) Make a “U” turn and find another way to this godforsaken hospital down these damn country lanes.
Option c) Floor it and hope for the best. Even though I know that this is not the correct way to drive through water or fords, such as this lake seemed to be.
I chose a cautious, yet potentially foolish Option A, and then changed to option C about halfway through, unable to control my trigger foot that just leapt on the gas. Somehow I made it to the other-side, despite creating a mini tsunami in the process. This was it, the home straight! And in another 5 minutes, I was pulling into a brightly lit yet massively confusing modern hospital complex, wondering which of the many signposted departments they might have taken my friend to…
To be continued…