NEWS19 April 2010

NeuroFocus Europe MD recounts Dunkirk drama


UK— The managing director of neuromarketing agency NeuroFocus Europe today recounted an epic 582-mile journey home amid the travel chaos caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland.


Thom Noble and Nielsen’s Stephanie Hayden had travelled to Zurich, Switzerland for a meeting last week when planes were grounded across Europe for fear that tonnes of volcanic ash pumped into the air could damage jet engines.

Seeing their flight home cancelled, Noble and Hayden set out from Zurich at 6am on Friday 16 April and took six trains and three taxis to get to Dunkirk to catch a ferry.

Noble’s 19-year-old daughter in London was co-ordinating their journey home, and found space for the pair on the 10pm Norfolkline ferry. When they reached Dunkirk, however, Noble and Hayden were told that the ferry was only accepting passengers with “powered transport”.

With no available hire cars and neither holding a motorbike license, Noble and Hayden were left with one option – they would have to board the ferry on bicycles.

“The problem was finding a bike shop that was open,” he said. “Eventually we found one that was basically a junk shop that had a graveyard of old bikes at the back. Unfortunately there were no male bikes left.”

Noble paid just under £50 for his bike while Hayden chose a pink machine with attached basket.

The duo – along with four other people who had the same idea – arrived back at the ferry check-in to be told that they would actually have to ride their new bikes onto the ferry (while carrying luggage) to prove they were cyclists.

Once at Dover, they received the same treatment and after planning to sell the bikes to “stranded Frenchmen” trying to make their way home, ditched them to get the last train into London at 22.45.

He said: “It really was an epic journey. I had no idea if we’d make it or not.”

To add some further drama to an already hectic day, Noble was racing to get home in time for his wife’s birthday on Saturday. He was half an hour late.