It was Sunday the 27th of October 2002 when the storm struck. The wind howled round our house as though demons were squeezing the genitalia of the devil himself. We were due to fly from Stansted which is in East Anglia although it claims to be a London airport. This is relevant because East Anglia is very flat and the wind howls round there at the best of times.
Our plane was due to take off just after 1pm and drove down the motorways. The wind was catching at the car and shaking it to and fro. The skies played furious games with the clouds and the rain scudded in. At one point a caravan and it's towing 4x4 had been tossed into the verge as though they were made of card. The people in the vehicles looked all too real though. As we waited with the other traffic to get past the smash we could see birds being pulled in the maelstrom and swept backwards.
We arrived at the airport scanning the skies for signs of aircraft moving in the air. We saw one banking away against the leaden October sky but that was all. We parked the car and got out. To stand was difficult. We fought our way valiantly the 20 yards to the airport bus stop and sheltered as best we could against the freezing rain and the whipping wind. The radio said it was the worst storm for 20 years and it felt like it. We debated which was worse - that our plane would take off or that it wouldn't.
I really didn't want to get tossed around like the caravan we had seen. Some one sheltering with us dropped some papers and saw them fly away into the distance. The signs all rattled and the lamposts bucked and swayed. The bus picked us up and dropped us at the departure gate. We checked in and the flight showed on all the boards as leaving on time.
In disbelief we went through security and time was now short so we had to hurry to catch the plane. We got into the queue but then some one noticed that a nuclear bomb type storm was happening outside the windows and that taking off into the storm would be folly in the extreme.
We waited-sanity prevailed- the wind dropped and around 4.00pm we took off for a totally uneventful 2 hour flight into Rome Ciampino. The plane landed, we wandered out through customs and into a warm still evening. Ciampino is 45 minutes from Rome Centre and our taxi driver was going to prove it. Unfortunately there had been a smash on the autostrada and the participants had decided to debate the matter of fault on the road which caused a traffic jam.
No problem our taxi driver regarded this delay as being a challenge to his manhood. At speeds up to 150 Kph we sped toward Rome centre. Now I have no problem with 150 Kph but when it is performed at 15 cm from the car in front then I do. The taxi driver didn't know where our hotel was. No problemo- phone a friend. Finishing with "Ciao Baby" he put his mind back into the job of driving and one hand on the wheel for most of the remaining journey.
Traffic in Rome is indescribable. It involves moving your vehicle into any available area of tarmac as fast as possible. Now this would be OK if it weren't for the fact that any other vehicle that could see the same space would also be heading for it. The vehicles fighting for the road space vary from 25 mtr coaches to mopeds via all brands of car and motorbike and with a few push bikes thrown in as well. Pedestrians can also join in.
The approach as a pedestrian is to declare yourself immortal walk into the road and glare at any other road user. This approach amazingly did seem to work or at least we didn't see any recent road kills. So the taxi driver is approaching this traffic disaster area. He phones another friend and then decides to listen to the local football match. Speeds decrease and a few more macho manoeuvres and we are there. Praise the lord!
Note: 7 days later we read that the storm killed 9 people in the UK and that some places are still without electricity.