When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going – Winston Churchill.

13Mar20

Air New Zealand

The Global Coronavirus Pandemic is just one of a series of unfortunate events that Julie and I are dealing with right now.

Things started to go wrong in early February when we realised the extent of the COVID 19 outbreak in China. The first part of our holiday, which we’d booked months earlier, had us on a March flight to New Zealand with a four hour layover in Shanghai. Obviously, we were forced to change that. Now we’re on a different flight via Los Angeles.

Julie and I haven’t been to visit her parents in New Zealand for seven years. That last trip had been a special treat to ourselves for our 25th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately the gloss was taken off THAT holiday a bit because the day before we flew out, I was told that my contract was not going to be renewed for the Breakfast Show I presented at BBC Wiltshire. Cost cutting meant I had to go. It didn’t ruin our trip but it would have been nicer to head off around the world knowing I had a job to come back to. 

Although we didn’t know it at the time, losing that job opened doors to bigger and better things. When we got back, I freelanced on some great commercial and BBC radio stations up and down the country, including BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio London. I ended up getting a great permanent job as Programme Director and Breakfast Show Host at JACKfm in Hertfordshire, where I led the expansion to DAB and the relaunch as BOBfm. I stayed there for five years until I got the gig at Fix Radio in London.

Things went great at Fix. I was Programme Director, launched another Fix Radio station in Manchester, hired Russ & Jono, (ex Virgin Radio), and poached Ugly Phil from Triple M in Australia. I got the station to its highest ever listening figures and got paid a large bonus last year. Also, when the boss realised I hadn’t taken a single holiday or sick day for over a year, the radio station paid for Julie and I to stay in a hotel in the South of France for a few days last November. 

We’ve learned that radio can be an insecure way to earn a living. It’s never a good idea to take a holiday when things aren’t going well. In October 2019, we decided that as things were going so well at Fix, it was a good time to finally have a proper holiday and make the twenty-three thousand mile round trip to see Julie’s family in her home town, Whangarei, New Zealand. 

We timed this trip to coincide with a radio convention called the Worldwide Radio Summit that was taking place in Burbank California. The plan was, when we changed planes in San Francisco on the way back to London, Julie would continue to Heathrow and I would catch return flights to Burbank and then fly back to Heathrow from San Fransisco four days later. 

Everything was looking good until Wednesday 19th February when I was told I was being let go by Fix Radio. – Hey, that’s showbiz!

The night before we were due to fly to New Zealand, I got an email from a friend saying the radio conference in Burbank had been cancelled. 

March 12, we flew to New Zealand on the worst two seats on Air New Zealand’s NZ 1. 47 D and 47 E are an aisle and middle seat in a centre bank of four with windows either side blocked by toilets. The galley bulkhead is directly behind us meaning our seats don’t even recline. 

So that’s where I am now, writing this blog. The food trolley from the galley bashes into my seat every time it goes past. People stand in the aisle next to me, queueing for the toilet as we listen to at least three screaming babies on this packed flight to Auckland, which will take 26 hours, if you don’t count the time on the ground in Los Angeles.

The last bit of bad luck we’ve had happened during our two hour stop in Los Angeles. As a special gift for Julie’s dad, we’d bought him a bottle of sixteen year old single malt Scotch for £50 at the duty free shop at Heathrow. It got confiscated at airport security in L.A. because World Duty Free at Heathrow hadn’t given it to us in the correct type of bag. You see, even if you’re only in transit, when you fly to New Zealand through LAX you have to clear US immigration and customs and go through airport security again. A 700ml bottle of whiskey puts you over the amount of liquid you’re allowed to take on the plane, even though it was with me for the eleven and a half hours it took to get to LA on this same plane.

We’ve crossed the equator now, we’re bound to have better luck in the  southern hemisphere.

Craic on!

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