It got to be kind of funny, this contrast between the outside world -- the atmosphere, my milieu -- all talking, walking, and breathing Spain and this growing feeling within me: I was now becoming intensely anti-Spain as if the Armada had descended. It became one of my inside jokes: How long could I live in the UK without visiting Spain? Ten years later, I was almost priding myself on this. It was fun to see Brits' reaction when I told them I hadn't been yet. It was twist on the Bucket List, stuff you wanted to avoid before you died.
But if Life wants you to go to a place, it will send you there. If you are meant to experience it, you'll have no choice anyway. In 2010, the moment arrived. The spell was broken. I could cross this off my Anti-Bucket List. I was invited to go to Madrid for the day in April by a Scandinavian design company looking for advice on media and communications.
On the day of, I arrived at Heathrow, looking all professional, with a small carry-on packed with my notes for our session ahead, plus a change of clothes I threw in at the last minute. An aside: I remember when I was throwing in my jeans, shirt, jumper, ballet flats, and even a pair of underpants, that I wanted to be really comfortable on my trip back to London.
Yet after all my fuss about Spain, now that I was finally going, it all felt a little anti-climatic. I 'knew' what I wanted to accomplish with this group of about 20 designers from all over Europe. This was only a one-day work trip after all. Airport-Office-Airport. I wouldn't see much. It was all ho-hum. My morning flight wasn't obscenely early. I caught a taxi without incident in Madrid. But as soon as I walked into their office, one of the firm's executives bounded up to me.
"You made it!" he said, wide-eyed.
"You're here!" he said. "We didn't think you'd make it!"
Did he somehow know that I didn't like Spain?
"How did you manage to get here? Was it a difficult flight?"
I was confused.
"Loads of flights have been cancelled. You must have gotten on one of the last ones," he said "A volcano erupted in Iceland."
Here I was, not even in Spain for an hour, talking to a man I barely knew about a volcano in Iceland that had erupted so powerfully that it was now disrupting European air traffic, not to mention both our lives in the short term.
To Be Continued