Iceland volcano: ashes to ashes, so to speak

Posted on: 19 April 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

The disruption caused by Eyjafjallajukull, the ash spewing volcano on Iceland, shows little sign of abating and the cost to business and stranded travellers is steadily rising.

I have been following the ‘volcanic ash’ situation with interest as I have friends and acquaintances marooned at various airports around the world. Some of them are as happy as Larry as they can enjoy an on all expense paid 'extended holiday' -  ahem, business trip. Others are desperately trying to hoof it back to the UK any way they can!

By the time this all pans out the cost will run into billions of pounds worldwide, a few hundred divorces, lost jobs … and maybe even the odd docked salary. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a catastrophe!

As well as all the people who are stranded, I feel for the food producers in the third world who are watching their harvest rotting on the tarmac or on the trees. The cost to them will be devastating both in terms of lost income and personal anguish! Many of the workers on the farms producing our food have already been laid off by the owners and I imagine it’s a case of 'no work, no money!'

The airlines are being hit by an estimated £130 million (US $200m) a day and this is likely to put a lot of them in Carey Street if it lasts too long. Many stranded passengers are discovering that the majority of travel insurance policies specifically exclude ‘Natural Disasters’ and ‘Acts of God’!
Business travelers will just pay and charge it back to their employers but the family on a fixed budget will find this enforced holiday punitively expensive and stressful. What can be done to help them? Not much!

The government cannot reimburse out of pocket expenses or additional transport costs. In London every hotel is full and there are stories that as much as £400 a night is being asked for a single room with no bath. Eurostar too has not been slow to exploit Easter tourists' need to get home. Theoretically you can buy a return to Paris or Brussels for approximately £69, however, since Eyjafjallajökull (try that with your mouth full) started to cough its lungs out, those prices have risen like the ash cloud to anything between £179 and £307.

What lessons can be learned from this – well, don’t take things for granted and remember mother nature's awesome power is controlled by no man. Finally, don’t take air travel for granted – remember the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away!

As for me – I’m not getting on a plane until the dust has truly settled!

Freud of Food!
I was recently sent a review copy of the re-issue of Clement Freud’s book ‘Freud on Food’. Originally published in 1978, it’s an anthology of recipes and food anecdotes from the Time and Tide, The Times and The Telegraph.

Reading through the pages, the wit and humour of the old hangdog raconteur flows with the ease of a friend regaling you with little homilies and gastronomic tips. I’ve always been a fan of Freud and this book is no disappointment. Every page is packed with good advice and a giggle! I’m going to lay down a couple of copies for Christmas presents! Old ones, loved ones, neglected ones!

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