Sunday dawns. After the previous day spent in the North watching bears, today’s inevitably anticlimactic. I pack my cases, check and doublecheck. Everything is hunky-dory – gifts for the kids and from my friends and hosts. I have fallen in love with Canada as much as the Canadians themselves. You would struggle to find a more welcoming people. And now it’s time to say goodbye.

I hate goodbyes anyway but goodbyes with good friends are somehow even tougher. I make no bones about it – I’m a soppy old soul prone to blubbing at the least provocation, whether happy or sad. I am booked on the 3:30 flight out of Victoria to connect with the 19:00 from Vancouver to Gatwick. Jill and David come to the airport with me. We decide to have lunch. A well-meaning gesture but one that simply prolongs the agony of parting. The tannoy announces a 60 minutee delay for the flight. No big deal. Delays are common place in air travel and the flight to Vancouver is only 15 minutes anyway.

We hug and hold each other. I teeter on the edge of tears. This has been a magical trip. I turn to the departure gate and walk. I can’t look back.

60 minutes becomes 90. Slight concern at this point, no more. 90 minutes soon becomes two hours. The plane is somewhere near Nanaimo. I do some mental calculations – domestic arrivals and international departures are at polar opposite ends of the airport in Vancouver. Even with wheelchair assistance it will take a good 20 minutes to get from one to the other. In the time it has taken me to make this calculation, a further delay is announced and departure is anticipated at 18:25. With the best will in the world, that will allow me less than 10 minutes to get to international departures. The numbers don’t stack up. I’m in trouble. I explain as much to the girl on the departure gate. She is way ahead of me, already making calculations and looking at ways of getting me home. Then the plane is cancelled.

This is the cue for meltdown. Or it would be if events were out of my control. But they are not. I have done all my usual preparation and swiftly move to Plan B – return to Brentwood Bay and an offer to cook supper. While I activate Plan B, West Jet sort out my alternative travel arrangements. They can get me to Calgary if I want but probably not beyond. I elect to take the same flight out tomorrow with a longer connection in Vancouver.

The girl on the desk is on the receiving end of everybody’s complaints. Somehow apparently she’s meant to be able to control the weather, lifting the fog in Nanaimo. She is a model of civil professionalism under pressure as people shout and swear at her. In the face of all this needless abuse, I make a point of expressing my thanks for her efforts in trying to reroute me. She bursts into tears.

Take 2.

We are back at the airport the following day. More goodbyes. A strange feeling to be honest. I pass swiftly through security just as the tannoy announces a one-hour delay in my flight. I laugh out loud, attracting some strange glances from people around me. It must be Groundhog Day.

Turns out it isn’t. In any case I have allowed nearly 7 hours layover in Vancouver to meet the connection. By the end of that time, I know the duty-free shop like the back of my hand. We board on time. We leave on time. We arrive at Gatwick a good half hour ahead of time.

One of the things that makes eastbound travel so punishing in terms of jetlag is the loss of sleep hours. Going west, you arrive pretty much when you left. Going east, you fit a lot of hours into not a lot of time. It’s no wonder they pull down the window shutters. Otherwise the night lasts barely a couple of hours.

An hour later I am at home, unpacking my suitcases. The journey out had been the longest day. The return was surely the shortest night.

Canada diary 6: The shortest day