Tales from the snow face
The UK is one of the world's wealthiest nations and Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports. Its failure to cope with minimal snow is shameful. It is also bad for the economy. I was due to fly to Montreal on 22 December but my flight was cancelled. I rebooked for 28 December, the earliest available flight. Thankfully I could be flexible on my departure date and my employer is accommodating. But there are many who do not have this luxury and will see their holidays cut short or cancelled altogether.
I and my family were at Heathrow and spent the night on the floor. Half the people at the airport were trying to get home. They made the mistake of thinking London was a place where you could go Christmas shopping, or that Heathrow was a reliable place to change planes between the US and Germany.
The government should strip BAA of ownership of Heathrow. I just had a trip to see my relatives in Australia for Christmas cancelled – 72 hours after it stopped snowing.
I well remember two freeze-ups as bad or worse than this, in 1947 and 1963, when the country ground to a halt to an even greater degree. The difference was that the journalists then expressed admiration for the way people and services muddled through, rather than indulging in whining, wallowing in misery and encouraging the rest of us to blub along with them. Grow up, Calder.
Why is this a "national embarrassment"? It snowed ... live with it. If you don't want to be delayed by snow, don't travel during the winter!
We returned four days late from a voyage on Swan Hellenic's Minerva which ended in Dubai on l9 December. The company looked after us all wonderfully well on board, fully fed and watered, until the last day when we were moved into a five-star hotel in Dubai to overnight, again full board, and then on a chartered flight back to Stansted, with complimentary buses back to either Heathrow or Gatwick.
Indian visa rules
In her article on Kerala, Harriet O'Brien wrote: "The one drawback of this area is access." There certainly is a problem if members of your family have the "misfortune" of being born in Pakistan. In July our family party of three couples planned a holiday in Kerala. We are all British citizens and retired professionals, but included two people who had been born in Karachi 60 years ago. Put simply: even if access to India is allowed, the process of obtaining a visa could be so protracted that you end up having to cancel, and in so doing lose hundreds of pounds.
We have all decided that there are too many other welcoming places in this world for us ever to try again to go to India.
The wisdom of hitch-hiking
I felt that I couldn't let Simon Calder's advice on hitching pass completely unchallenged, because it seems uncharacteristically unperceptive. As a mountaineer, I have sometimes given lifts to hitchers in National Parks in Britain, and I have also hitch-hiked in New Zealand, where it's commonplace to both solicit and offer lifts without intimidation. But it struck me that your endorsement of hitching comes from a very male perspective: women are more likely to feel physically vulnerable and conscious of the risks in accepting a lift from a stranger.
Even moderate dress and behaviour provide no guarantees for personal safety, either in the UK or in many other places where a woman standing at the roadside is regrettably viewed as exploitable.
Please could I suggest that you maybe balance your enthusiasm for hitchhiking with the realistic view that there are some serious risks that need consideration too?