I had an unexpectedly eventful day at Heathrow Airport today. I was there to meet and greet some visitors from the USA who were arriving on various flights for a week long tour of gardens in the South East of England (including some of our favourites at Chartwell, Sissinghurst, Hever and Wisley), culminating with a visit to the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with which long-term blog readers may be aware I have a fond connection, having previously worked on two gold-medal winning Show Gardens.
Now I am no football supporter, but while idling away a half-hour between arrivals I flicked through a discarded newspaper and noticed that last night Chelsea had won the Champions League. Knowing that my son, who is currently cycling through New Zealand, likes to be ‘up’ on all things sporting I texted this piece of news to him. He replied to say that he is staying in a hostel in the north of the North Island run by ‘an awesome football mad Italian’ and that all the guests had got up at 6.30am to watch the match live. He also confirmed that it had been a pretty amazing and long awaited victory for the Chelsea team and fans.
Thus enlightened I became aware of a number of blue shirts suddenly appearing among those waiting for travellers to emerge from the depths of the Terminal 3 Customs Hall, together with a group of watchful policemen. I assumed some possibly over excited, rowdy Chelsea fans were expected, and tried to work out how they could have got from Munich to the various European airports from which, according to the Flight Arrivals Screen, arrivals were imminently due.
As numbers swelled, with an unusual number of ‘just pausing while passing’ British Airways uniformed staff, airport security personnel and finally a TV cameraman gathering next to me, I was able, thanks to the events of the previous paragraph, to begin to put 2 and 2 together…
I cross-examined an BAA official who would only say that they were expecting ‘a pretty busy afternoon arrivals-wise’….
Clutching my ‘Chelsea Flower Show Tour’ sign I then befriended a group of BA staff. Given the slightly odd juxtaposition of my sign and what they suspected was going on apart from the arrival of my Chelsea Flower Show fans, they confirmed (obliquely) that an unlisted charter flight was arriving back from Munich bearing not only the entire victorious Chelsea AFC football team, management and WAGS, but the 2012 Champions League Trophy itself.
Thus, some ten minutes later, I found myself standing, unexpectedly excitedly, pointing my iphone camera at the most newsworthy footballers in the land. Even I recognised Frank Lampard and John Terry when they strolled past a few feet away clutching the Champions League trophy between them, and I took pictures of other team members for later identification by my off-spring. Fortunately I was right up to speed having ascertained from afore mentioned discarded newspaper that Didier Drogba, who appeared a few minutes later, had played a crucial role, and even I was able to recognize Frank Lampard’s fiancée Christine Bleakley.
A final PS for my son who is also a golf fan. Chatting to a fellow ‘greeter’ who was clutching a BMW sign, I learnt that he was waiting for a ‘well-known’ golfer who would be playing in this week’s BMW PGA Golf Championship at Wentworth in Surrey. As he greeted his charge I was fortunately able to recognize (my son has trained me well) Charl Schwartzel. I played it cool and didn’t take a picture, just smiled sweetly – he was rather nice ‘close up in the flesh’…
All in all it was a ‘day at the office’, in Blue Badge Tour Guide terms, with a bit of a difference!