It’s amazing how the power of Mother Nature can still scare us into submission, despite our 21st century technology. Iceland may have given us the twin horrors of bankruptcy and Kerry Katona, but in the past couple of days our entire air transport system has been destroyed by the volcanic ash from the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which could potentially gum up planes’ engines and cause them to fail. Lauren Laverne conveniently had Ash on her 6Music show on Thursday, surely yet another reason why the station has to survive. On the pulse.
News reports have been full of inspirationally smug stories, such as the guy whose “assistant” managed to get him a flight from Barcelona to Paris on Thursday and then book him a Eurostar ticket to return to the UK. When asked about his experience, the subject could barely hide his yes-I-should-be-punched-now smirk. Contrast that with the couple with four kids who are presently stuck in Malaga and have been warned that they may not be able to fly for over a week; or the Spanish orchestra trapped in London with no money to buy a hotel room, doubly so since everywhere is already booked solid.
The eruption has done what 9/11, 7/7 and other crazy musical time signatures couldn’t: close our skies. Forget the planes sat at the terminals in some sick Charlie Whelan masturbatory fantasy – the real intrigue here has come from the rolling news reports of empty airports. Pity those reporters sat in flight lounges which resemble deleted scenes from the start of 28 Days Later, forced to say every fifteen minutes that, no, not a lot’s happening really. Let’s jump to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Again, nothing; maybe an outraged British couple wondering where the hell their flight’s disappeared to. News is in some weird language, see. Cut to Charles de Gaulle airport, where staff are handing round croissants. Nice. And then maybe leap to some “expert” from UKIP who’s openly criticising the decision not to let planes drop out of the sky. Televisual brilliance.
This news event isn’t particularly exciting beyond the initial novelty factor, simply because there’s not much that those in charge can do. It’s not like terrorism, where a subjective decision is made about when to resume flights and everyone argues about the consequences. Here, when the ash cloud is above England, flights are grounded. When it dissipates, flights resume. It really is a situation not much open to interpretation, not that you’d know it if you were in a news studio, screaming at the Met Office guy to extract your headlines.
So we watch and wait for flights to resume, at which point the news channels will hopefully stop chasing the sensationalism that doesn’t exist, and stop filling our screens with pictures of hilariously terrible CGI sequences about ash particles and engines. And hopefully that will make Roland Emmerich not even think about picking up his pen.