The Youngs have not enjoyed good fortune recently with their Summer holidays. Two years ago, we booked a villa in Portugal with many bedrooms and a resident cook. We invited children and grandchildren to join us. Two days before departure, we came off the tandem. Of the four arms available to us, three were in plaster. The holiday was cancelled, and the cook, being unwilling to fly to England, had a week off.
This year, we had leafed through the brochures and planned a holiday of culture in one of Europe's great historic cities. The flight had been booked though a low-cost airline, with check in at 5.30 at Stansted. A hotel that had been built as a monastery, served as a prison and had then been converted into a hotel had been earmarked. Tickets for a number of cultural events were booked over the internet.
A few days before departure, we turned on the 10pm news to see that Prague was disappearing under water. We were sorry to hear about the elephant, though we were not planning to visit the zoo; but were interested in the fate of the sea-lion which had escaped and was last seen swimming in the Voltava.
The delicate question of reimbursement arose. The hotel was booked but not paid for; but it had the details of my credit card, including the intimacy of its expiry date. If we cancelled, they would probably help themselves to the cash, under the terms of the Czech small print. If we didn’t, they would certainly do so. The dilemma was resolved by an email from the hotel, with water dripping down the screen, saying that not only was it closed due to the floods, but it was guarded by police to prevent looting. Under the circumstances perhaps Sir and Madame would be good enough not to persevere with their planned visit.
The airline was more difficult. It conceded that flying to Prague was inadvisable today; but perfectly safe on the morrow – the day we were due to fly. Unlike the authorities in Prague, it was predicting a remarkable recovery in the fortunes of that great city. It was only when we contacted the associate company of the airline that dealt with hotels, to find one the right side of the tidemark, that the airline backed down. The lady we spoke to made it clear that we would be mad to fly to Prague.
That left the Opera House. We emailed to say that we couldn’t make it this year – could we come to their opera house next year? Indeed, we expected performances to be cancelled. A defiant email was sent back; life was going on as normal. No question of any refund. Indeed the tickets had already been delivered by hand to our submerged hotel. But I bear no grudges – the city and its institutions need all the help they can get.
We have made alternative arrangements. From one flooded city to another. We went to Venice where they can cope with these things.