We had landed at Heathrow at 5.40am and had been through the usual scrum that is the getting of luggage from overhead lockers and people pushing and shoving in the hope of getting off the plane 2 milliseconds faster than his or her neighbour – after waiting an eternity of course for the more well-heeled to get off first.
Mind you if they are prepared to pay something like $6000 more than I am for a seat on the plane then no doubt they deserve their comfy beds and being able to get off before the poor people in the economy section.
I was glad of the delay as it gave me time to get a decent blood flow restarted in my legs and to don my backpack.
Now you need to know a thing or two about my backpack.
Firstly it was heavy enough to break the back of a pack mule what with my many books and the “God have I made a big mistake bringing this? ” Mac laptop which by itself would make a good doorstop. Secondly, it is tricky getting it onto my back.
Usually I have to jump up quickly when the seatbelt sign goes out and grab the backpack – well ….there I go again……making things up. Because ‘grab the backpack’ is not an accurate description of what I do.
I have little short legs so I have to stand on tippy-toe, grunt and groan and haul on the straps of the bag till a kind gentleman nearby offers to help, then I stand by to catch it when the smiling gentleman drops it …… as he has been totally unprepared for the weight of it as it tumbles out of the locker.
I’ve learned from experience that unsuspecting passengers are not happy when a 2-ton backpack lands on their heads.
Having caught the thing I then need a fair bit of spare room to swing it up and back and get my arms through the shoulder straps. If I leave this manoeuvre till everyone else is standing up I literally can’t get the damn thing high enough to get it on.
Then there’s the video camera in its case.
‘Gosh’ murmurs the kind gentleman ‘are you sure you’ll be able to carry all that?’ then his jaw drops as the heavy coat and plastic bag full of ‘bits and pieces’ I’ve also brought with me fall down on my head. ‘Dear me, you are loaded down aren’t you?’
Having arranged all this about my person I catch my breath before adding the final piece of my cabin luggage – my handbag. This is enormous and stuffed with toiletries, cameras (yes – plural), any duty-free items I may have purchased and of course my money and travel documents.
I have a lot of these documents with me on this trip as I have spent many days and nights trawling through various websites doing my ‘homework’ for the trip. As a result I hired a car and rented 2 houses (the houses not to be used simultaneously, you understand) for my 6-week stay in London and Poole.
These bookings seem to have produced enough paper to have caused the felling of a significant number of trees – maybe a small forest even – but I try not to think of that side of things as I say a quick prayer that they won’t want to search my luggage.
Not that I’m carrying any contraband (whatever that means these days) but just the thought of having to go through all this lot in front of a total stranger leaves me feeling weak at the knees – or maybe it’s just the thought of my handbag taking its toll.
Anyway, as well as all the afore-mentioned stuff (see!) I also have within easy reach any document they might ask me for – so my handbag weighs a ton.
I leave it til the last possible moment to pick up this final item as my back is already beginning to ache and I don’t want to look as though my arms are being pulled out of their sockets as I force a smile and say goodbye to the stewardess and nod ‘Yes’ when she asks if I enjoyed the trip.
It’s all lies anyway.
The only reason I can dredge up a smile is that the god-awful trip is finally over. There’s no way to actually ENJOY a flight that’s taken 26 hours – what with the seats crammed together in all directions and the fact that your bottom first goes numb then starts to ache with all the sitting on it.
Unfortunately, getting up to stretch your legs and get blood back into your nether regions is a hazardous exercise as the flight attendants are endlessly pushing their cumbersome carts up and down the aisles serving plastic food on plastic utensils with plastic cutlery which bends into funny shapes when you try to use it.
You can find yourself stranded, unable to get back to your seat, until half the people on the plane have been fed.
It must be said that I do look forward to having a lot of fun with the many cellophane and foil packets containing food in many shapes and sizes.
Opening them, apart from annoying everyone with the crinkley-crunkley noises which distract them from their TV screens as they can’t resist seeing if you were served a tastier treat than they were, invariably causes these wonderful packets to strew their contents far and wide when they finally succumb to brute force.
Hours later I am still finding bits of peanut or crisp in the folds of my clothing – it certainly helps to pass the time. I feel a connection with the great apes as I hear my quiet, contented burbling while ‘grooming’ myself and nibbling on tasty morsels retrieved from about my person in the gloomy half-light that passes for night-time on a long-haul flight.