Fly Away Home
This time three weeks ago, Homesick and Heatstruck was soon to be Happily Homeward Bound. I hadn’t visited England since last summer and, while the last eight months had trotted swiftly by, it somehow felt like I hadn’t been home in years. On returning to Dubai in August, I had made the somewhat bizarre decision to fly back in my flip-flops, leaving all my warm, waterproof, closed-toe shoes at the bottom of a wardrobe in my parents’ house in Kent. I am, however, a huge fan of anticipation, meteorological diversity and occasional shopping missions, so it was with great pleasure that I followed the terrifying weather reports (Minus two and snowing! SNOWING! And it’s SPRING!) and pottered down to the nearest mall in the 35 degree heat to buy myself some fur-lined boots.
I have decided that travelling anywhere is all about the art of waiting. Airports sort of funnel you from waiting in one place to waiting in another until eventually you’re waiting to board, waiting for the plane to take off, waiting for dinner, waiting to land, waiting to disembark and waiting for your suitcase to sidle up to you on the baggage carousel like an embarrassing old acquaintance at a dinner dance. I’m getting very good at waiting. I’m an expert wait-er… waitress? Perhaps I should start a weekly support group for fellow flyers who need help with their intercontinental patience … I could call it Wait Watchers. Ahem.
As a seasoned traveller, the taxi to take-off usually sees me casually passing the time by gripping the plastic arm-rest with one sweaty hand and frantically pumping Rescue Remedy onto my tongue with the other. I don’t like take-off. I never have. I have little understanding of aeronautical engineering (let’s be honest, I have no understanding of aeronautical engineering whatsoever) and so the whole process seems highly unlikely as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s much more likely that 560 metric tonnes of aluminium alloy and fat expatriates will just hurtle obstinately along the ground and straight into the sea rather than leaping lightly into the air like a spring sparrow. In my imagination, the pilots are all crouching in the cockpit with their fingers crossed, desperately whispering “Wingardium leviosa!” But the Emirates A380 took me completely by surprise. Take off was delayed due to some startlingly incompetent and inconsiderate passengers who had checked their luggage in but then inexplicably missed the flight, so I started reading a book. A few chapters later I glanced out of the window and realised we were in mid-air. And the book really wasn’t that good. It had all happened with very little noise or fuss. I was astounded. And frankly rather impressed.
The flight passed as all flights do. I enjoyed a nice film or two, tried to doze, got cross with other people’s screaming children and went to the loo once or twice, just to check my legs still worked. The bit of a flight I most dislike is after the meal, when the trays have been collected in and they turn out the lights and turn up the heating. I don’t mind the darkness and the warmth so much, it’s just that it all gets a bit… well, farty. The woman sitting next to me had the most god-awfully stinky feet I have ever encountered, so it was never going to be an olfactory voyage of delight, but as people’s stomachs churned up the ‘gourmet’ lamb biryani and they relaxed into a post-dinner slumber, the air positively thickened with the smell. Imagine how bad it must have been for the poor devils who had to climb on at Heathrow and tidy up for the next flight. They must have needed oxygen tanks and anti-radiation goggles.
Still. None of this suffering could begin to dint my joy at returning home. I had a window seat and, as we flew up and across Europe, I gazed out of the window, watching the ground grow greener and the clouds start to gather. Over the Channel, the clouds merged and deepened. Thick, swollen pillars of cumulonimbus rose up, with occasional cauldrons opening between them – the cloudscape yellowed and darkened into shadowy wells through which I could glimpse the wintery world beneath. It was wonderfully dramatic. Landing was every bit as uneventful as take off and, before I knew it, we were on the runway and the thick oval windows were being pelted with sleet. As I moved from plane to tube to train – changing and waiting, changing and waiting – I was positively giddy with the joy of anticipation – a feeling I usually only get on a dark and sparkling Christmas Eve. The festive feeling was heightened by the icy winds and snow that greeted me as I hopped off the train that had carried me from London back to Canterbury. All that waiting had been worthwhile. I was home.
This post is for baby Tom – my brand new gorgeous godson. I would fly 4000 stinky miles for him anytime.