One would think that the Scandinavians can manage a snow storm or two. One would also think that they could manage an airport with stranded passengers. Well, one would be wrong.
It was February. I was in Trondheim, halfway up the coast of Norway, at a meeting with Statoil, a customer of mine at the time. When the plane landed the day before, I could tell that it did not bode well for the coming weather. We had to make three attempts to land because it was so windy. I am not the scared type but even I was getting nervous when we swung off to the left suddenly and swerved around to start again. None of this would have been possible in a larger plane. We landed. I had my meetings, stayed the night and headed off back to the airport to get to Oslo.
We made it to Oslo, the last flight that was allowed to leave Trondheim that day. Chaos in Oslo as it seemed all the flights out were cancelled. No one had the slightest idea of where to go or who to talk to. I finally decided to join a queue that looked promising. In front of me was a very tall man. Bored, I decided to think about where he might be from by checking out what he was wearing and carrying. ( I people-watch a lot at airports) He had very curly hair, slightly mad professor looking, dark and springy looking. He was at least 6' 4", maybe more. He wore a waxed, brown coat that was clearly not of the English persuasion. He carried a battered leather briefcase ( major points from me) with two magazines, in English, about sailing. I thought he was either Scandinavian or German.
After standing in the queue for about half an hour, he said something to the person in front of him and then turned round to me and commented about the nuttiness of the system at the airport. I smiled at him and he smiled back and, with that, we were talking. He could really talk. Turns out he was Dutch. Don't know why I didn't think of that, knowing how tall they are. He had a craggy sort of face, sensuous lips, grey eyes and skin you could tell would tan well. He wasn't exactly drop dead handsome but he had charisma in bucketloads.Not conventional charisma either. He wasn't 'charming' in a 'chat-up' sort of way. He was genuinely lovely, interested in what I was doing there and where I was headed. He listened intently to everything I had to say and was very forthcoming when I asked him the same questions. I reckoned he was in his early-mid 40s.
He finally made it to the counter and was told he could get on the next flight to Amsterdam that was going in about 1.5 hours. I had no such luck. I was told there were no flights to Dublin that night and they had no idea when the next one would be. I asked if my luggage was retrievable and they assured me it was and gave me a voucher for the hotel close to the airport. So far so good.
My new friend had hung around with me while I was getting this news as we seemed to have struck up a camaraderie and wanted to continue to talk to each other and, I realized later, he was that kind of person. He would never have walked off and left me to my manage alone.
Since his flight was leaving in the next hour and a half and I was going nowhere, I decided the luggage could wait. We went to the bar which happened to be right across from his gate and he ordered two beers. He sat across from me. I was very aware of his scrutiny. He seemed to be completely absorbed in me and everything I had to say. It was so unexpected and disconcerting but not unpleasant. I had not had a man in my life for quite a while, on purpose. My last relationship had left me exhausted and I needed a break.
I can be really dense sometimes. Because I was not flirting with him it never occurred to me that he was, with me. I had no inkling that he fancied me. I didn't think he would. I was feeling very fat and unattractive at this point in my life and had not had a man look at me in a while so was sort of out of the loop with the whole flirtation thing.
It suddenly became clear when his flight was called and he got up off his stool to say goodbye. I was expecting a handshake or, at most, a peck on the cheek, since we had been quite friendly with each other. No. He came around the table, bent over his rather enormous height, took me in his arms and kissed me passionately. Everything inside me started to quiver. Everything.
He stroked my cheek and told me I was the most beautiful, intelligent woman he had ever met. And then he left to catch his plane.
I sat there, speechless, not really knowing what to do with myself now. I knew I had to go off in search of my luggage and should have just left but felt somehow immobilized. Besides, I hadn't finished my lager. I sat there for about 15 mins gathering my wits and trying to make sense of what had just happened when, all of a sudden, there he was in front of me again!
As I said above, the Scandinavians weren't doing a great job with snow chaos. The flight he thought was going, wasn't.
Taking charge of everything, he decided that we should find my luggage. Yeah, right! After searching for where it might be, and then searching for someone who knew anything about anything, we realised ( after almost 2 hours) that there was no way I was going to find my suitcase. Oh well, no clean underwear, no toothbrush, no cleanser, moisturiser, makeup - NOTHING.
We left and went to the hotel across from the airport, for which I had a voucher. He was going to make sure I was well ensconced before he went off to take care of himself. Told you, he was a gentleman through and through.
The receptionist at the hotel laughed in my face, literally. 'A room?". she gasped. "not at all. No rooms here. Who told you there were?" I proffered my voucher and she huffed and puffed and said the airline ( SAS) were ridiculous and more annoyed stuff and handed it back to me. I asked her if she could suggest any solution and she told me to head into the center of Oslo and look around. Very helpful.
My new friend suggested we have a drink in the lounge by the fire before heading into Oslo to search for a place. It was now early evening and dark. Snow was piled up all over the place outside the windows so the roaring fire in the lounge seemed a very sensible idea. He loves Scottish whiskey. I asked if he had tried Irish whiskey. No, he hadn't but he heard it was sweeter than Scottish. So he got me an Irish and himself a nice smokey Scottish whiskey and we tried each others. Clearly, he would remain a Scottish whiskey fan. We sat there, talking and talking, discovering each other, enjoying the warmth of the fire and the warmth spreading around our burgeoning flirtation. An hour later, we knew we would have to make a move.
We got the train. Sat in a compartment with no other people. Recently, I saw a tweet from a celeb on Twitter about how disgusting it was to see two middle-aged people snogging on a train. It made me laugh because it reminded my of my friend and me, two middle-aged people snogging on a train. I wanted to tell this celeb that he would see one day that age has nothing to do with attraction. In fact, I think I did tell him that. He never responded.
S ( I shall call him S) wrapped me in his long arms and stroked my hair, kissed me, told me I was a delight, that he had never before experienced anything like this ( I didn't believe that of course, at the time) and that he was overcome with how he felt. He said he had been struck the instant he had set eyes on me in the queue earlier. He left me in no doubt whatsoever about his feelings. In fact, in a very refreshing and un-Anglo-Saxon way, he told me he wanted to make love to me but it was entirely up to me if that was what I wanted. He never, ever made me feel that I had to, or pressured me in any way. He just told me that he was so overwhelmed that he could not think of anything that he would rather happen but he would be completely OK with if that did not feel right to me.
I have been in situations like this many, many times in my life and on almost every other occasion, I had felt some sort of pressure. Now, because he was so natural and warm and loving, I felt I could make a choice that was good for me. I had some hesitations because I felt self-conscious about not being slim like I used to be when I was a man-magnet ( more stories about that coming later). Something inside me told me I would be making the biggest mistake of my life if I turned him down. Besides, I was totally attracted to him in the same way as he seemed to be to me. I said yes.
We got to town and finally found a hotel with a room. It being Oslo, there seemed to be nowhere to eat after 10pm so the only option was an all night convenience store with sandwiches. He got me settled in the room. I asked him to see if he could find me some moisturizer. He came back later with the only thing he could find, a tube of lip moisturizer. I was really touched that he had tried to find something that he thought might work.
It was one of the most passionate, fun and exciting nights I have ever had with a man. Probably the most, if I'm honest because he seemed to be without guile and was attentive to the point of bliss. We drank whiskey (Scottish whiskey in bed would remain a feature of our relationship), talked, laughed our heads off, made love, drank more whiskey, snoozed in each other's arms, talked more, laughed more, made love again and finally fell asleep. I have never been able to sleep the first time I am with a man. I slept like a baby, feeling safer than I had ever felt with anyone in my life.
I was a wreck in the morning. My skin felt like it had been sandpapered by his beard stubble. We didn't care what we looked like. We were in heaven. He took care of everything. Another first for me. A man who took charge but was loving and thoughtful of my needs. We returned to the airport and, this time, we really did say goodbye. It was wonderful and awful at the same time. Awful to part but wonderful because, unbeknownst to him until that moment, I had already planned, the previous December, to move to Amsterdam the next month. I told him then, when he seemed worried about how we might see each other again. His face was a picture. His whole being lit up with pleasure and he caught me in his arms and lifted me up and kissed me with joy. He went off to catch his flight, happy, bouncing and not aware of how tired he really was.
I went off to sort out getting to Dublin. I made it as far as Copenhagen. Stayed the night there courtesy of SAS again, no luggage. I managed to find a toothbrush and some skincare products. Slept the sleep of someone completely satisfied in every way.
I finally arrived back in Dublin on Sunday evening and there was my suitcase, the first thing I saw in the luggage hall. Turned out it had been sitting there since Friday. So a flight did get out after all, the lying toads. I didn't care. I was happier than I had been in a very long time.
The next month I moved to Amsterdam.