The volcano in Iceland that’s stopping the planes flying. (Picture: Associated Press)
For several days now there have been no jet aeroplanes flying in the sky over Britain. The great vault of heaven above us has been clear and blue, with a welcome warmth heralding the onset of much awaited summer – but no planes – not one.
Where I live, only 20 miles from Heathrow airport, this is very unusual. Normally they pass overhead one every few minutes. You get used to it, living here. Now it seems strangely quiet.
One thousand miles away in Iceland a volcano is erupting beneath the ice, sending huge clouds of grey, smokey ash into the atmosphere. Its creating a huge plume which is being driven south-east on the wind, over Britain and western Europe. Although the ash is ultimately dispersed it moves at around 30,000 feet which is bad news for the jets. The ash contains silica which can play havoc with the finely balanced jet engines; and the jets fly at that altitude in order to maximise their performance.
Its ending up on our car windows and in our gardens, but otherwise its harmless, a little gift from the land of ice and snow along with Icelandic bankers and Bjork.
Now many thousands of people have had their holiday plans thwarted, or, even worse, they can’t return from holiday. For the past few days there has been news of some people paying exorbitant taxi fares to be driven back to Britain from wherever they were in Europe. Today the British armed forces got involved and began picking up needy civilians along with soldiers returning from Afghanistan via Cyprus and Spain.
Even here at the temple we have begun to be affected, internationally connected as we are in this international society: an initiation may not take place; a gurukula teacher stranded in India; and devotees passing through London now doing more than just passing through.
I reflect yet again what our world – and our ISKCON within it – will be like when flying becomes so expensive that only the military and the very rich will be able to afford it. We will eat differently, think differently, do our politics differently and take our holidays in different places. And we’ll look back on the era of flight as a magical, but ultimately short-lived and wasteful period of human history.