To paraphrase the musings of the great philosopher and X-Factor winner Joe McEdlerry, holidays aren’t necessarily about how fast you get there, or what’s waiting on the other side: ‘It’s the climb’. And sometimes that’s just about the plane taking off and finally feeling like you’re getting away from it all. There is nothing about flying that I don’t love, from the first time that your ears pop the moment you’re invited to liberate a paper from first class on the way out (did I say that out loud?), and so the adventure begins.
Once we’re flying at full altitude, the pilot gives us a warm welcome and points out that we’re now high enough to see the whole contour of the continent. “So if you’ve left something behind, it’s too late to go back and get it now!” he jokes over the tannoy. I laugh, the kind of laugh you only ever do on a plane – something about the lack of oxygen and the fact that the man making the wisecrack has your life in his hands.
The air conditioning is turned up to a ferocious level and I start digging around for a blanket. I know I’m going to need at least four of the scratchy specimens woven expertly from pure plastic.
A parody of normal life ensues, with the air stewards creating an ‘evening’ with trays of rectangular food and bad films on screens in the seat back, a whole five inches from my face. Then the lights are turned off and my fellow passengers start fishing out eye masks, slipper socks, and even complete pyjamas sets before lining up neatly to wash in miniscule cubicles.
I don’t realise that I’m asleep until I get woken up what feels like moments later by the scent of six-hour-old reheated eggs.
“Breakfast?” the stewardess asks me.
“It’s breakfast?” I angle my head to read my hairy neighbour’s watch and realise that a whole five hours have elapsed since my last feeding time. The cabin crew turns the lights on and acts all cheery, as though we should all be well-rested after a perfectly normal night’s sleep.
“Please fasten your seatbelts. Cabin crew, seats for landing.”
I see the airport silhouetted against a puffy, felt sky. And exhale, properly, for the first time in months.