by Paul Clement

Photo by Walter Lee Olivares de la Cruz on Unsplash

A couple years before Agnieszka and I moved to Canada, we decided to pay a Christmas visit to my family. A nice little ten day vacation to say Merry Christmas!

But it sometimes happens with international travel that what seems simple becomes much more complicated than expected. This is especially true with winter travel. And this was a particularly problematic winter in Europe.

Winter had hit Germany and England much worse than usual and a lack of deicer at Heathrow and Frankfurt airports meant that there were several flights either delayed or cancelled and thousands of people forced to sleep in airports or make other arrangements.

Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz on Unsplash

I’ll be honest. I don’t always handle stress well… and I was getting nervous. I was keeping an eye on weather conditions across Europe in the week leading up to our trip and I knew that one missed or delayed flight could wreak havoc on our entire journey.

So, when a fog rolled into Katowice the day before our departure, causing all flights to be cancelled, I was… concerned. I might have even said a few bad words. I think some of them were four letters long and began with the letter F!

We even considered driving to Germany overnight to make sure we would catch our connecting flight, but in the end cooler heads prevailed. We decided to take our chances and go to Pyrzowice in the morning and hope for the best.

We were encouraged by the fact that one flight before ours was able to take off after a long delay. At the same time, I was still a bit worried. A long delay would mean that we would miss our connecting flight, potentially setting off a chain reaction and sending our travel plans spinning into chaos!

But the time came and our flight left without any delay! And then the fog rolled back in and all the other flights out of Katowice that day had to be cancelled. What an amazing piece of luck that ours was the only flight in two days to leave on time!

And what about all the problems in Frankfurt and the rest of Europe? No problem for us! Our departure from Germany was on time and smooth! In fact, the only delay that we had in our entire trip was a two hour delay in Calgary! But by that time I didn’t care. Calgary is a three-hour drive from Edmonton and the worst case scenario would be that we had to take a bus.

As for the holiday? It couldn’t have been better! We went to a hockey game, ate at some good restaurants and had a fun Christmas morning with my parents and my brother’s family.


pay a visit – This is just a saying that means to visit someone.

e.g. It would be nice if you paid your aunt a visit on her birthday.

lack – This means that there isn’t enough of something. It can be used either as a verb or a noun.

e.g. I want to open my own business, but I lack the money to make it happen. 
e.g. There is a real lack of good workers in this part of the country.

deicer – A chemical used to remove ice. It is sprayed onto planes at airports in the winter.

wreak havoc – Havoc is another word for devastation or destruction. The word wreak means to cause something in a negative way. It is not a very common word, but the expression to wreak havoc is common.

e.g. The tornado wreaked havoc on our town.
e.g. This government’s new policies are going to wreak havoc on the economy.

cooler heads prevail – The verb to prevail means to win. When we say that cooler heads prevail, it means that in an emotional situation, we are able to use rational thinking and calmness and don’t let our emotions control us.

e.g. The two countries almost went to war, but cooler heads prevailedand they came to an agreement.

chain reaction – This means that when one thing happens, it causes another to happen and then another and another.

e.g. The fire in the engine room caused a chain reaction and in the end the whole factory was destroyed.

worst case scenario – The worst thing that can happen in a situation.

e.g. I never invest more money than I can afford to lose. That way, theworst case scenario is that I lose a few dollars, but I don’t go into debt.

Do you understand?

1. Why were there so many problems with flights in England and Germany?
a) They didn’t have enough chemicals to take the ice off the planes.
b) The conditions were really foggy and planes couldn’t take off.
c) Because all the flights from countries like Poland were either cancelled or delayed.

2. How did we catch our flight from Germany?
a) We got there on schedule from Poland.
b) We got there late from Poland, but got on the next flight.
c) We drove overnight to Germany.

3. How many flights left from Pyrzowice the day before our departure?
a) all of them
b) none of them
c) two

4. In which country was our flight delayed?
a) Canada
b) Poland
c) Germany

5. What would be another way to say wreak havoc?
a) to cause a chain reaction
b) to cause chaos
c) to cause a lack of something