It’s not until a volcanic ash cloud swamps half the country that you realise your friends all lead far more exciting, jetsetty lives than you do. I currently know people waiting for flights to America, out of Kuala Lumpur, to Copenhagen, out of France and back from Bangkok. My Facebook wall reads like a who’s-who of glamorous globetrotters, all saying things like, “Looks like another three days in the Maldives for me! Bev, will you please feed the cat?” And while I really do feel pain for all those people whose plans are being scuppered by the thoughtless trantrum-throwing of Mother Nature (my money’s on PMS), it’s just making me more aware than usual that I never go anywhere. I consider a trip to the East Finchley Tesco an excursion of some merit.
The ash cloud has also raised awareness in another area; namely, my complete idiocy in sciencey matters. My first question on hearing about the cloud was “can’t the planes just fly underneath it?” My second was “can’t they put a bit of mesh over the engines, like a tea strainer?” And my third, by far the most sincere of all my efforts to help with the continent-wide crisis, was “What would the Doctor do?”
Because you’ve got to admit it, it sounds like a perfect Doctor Who storyline. It’s the stuff Steven Moffat’s dreams are made of. In the episode, they would climb down into the middle of the volcano and discover it was being operated by Davros. What the people thought was ash would actually turn out to be tiny particles of alien membrane, showered down to imbibe itself into the human race to build its own lava-army, with which they would form a giant set of living toy soldiers, and use them to play massive intergalactic games of Risk against the Sycorax.
The Doctor, on realising this, would be forced to do a bit of soul-searching, staring into the depths of the volcano, while the feisty assistant discovered a big clicky button somewhere that said, “Remove ash”. Then would follow an intense dialogue over whether the Doctor had the right to interfere with the course of Earth’s destiny and Ryan Air’s net profit by getting rid of the ash, during which the Daleks would arrive and surround them. After some witty banter where the Doctor pretended to be trying to get to a stag do in Marbella, they would fly the Tardis into the atmosphere and spin around vigorously enough to disperse the ash across the galaxy. Then would follow a montage where everybody got to go home or get on their planes and greet loved ones, a bit like the end of Love Actually.
Whether the transport secretary has thought of this approach I’m not sure, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to mention.