Monday, 12 January 2015

Finding my wings

One of those things that people always say they'd do if they won the lottery is to travel - or buy a tropical island if you're one of my friends. Seeing more of the world is an ambition that most of us have had at some point and unless you have a pathological aversion to travel it's one that is pretty achievable. My in-laws didn't go on foreign holidays when Hubbie was growing up, but as soon as their sons left home they were off on long haul holidays and gallivanting all over the world on cruises too. My parents only ever went on holiday to India to see family so my Mum often laments that she travelled from India to England and never saw anywhere in between. If I won I'd take her on holiday to the places that she wanted to see. Of course I'd have to actually play the lottery first to be in with a chance of winning.

In my own adulthood I've been fortunate enough to be able to go to some fascinating and beautiful places. I went scuba diving in Egypt, skiing in Canada and worked with children in Romania and Sierra Leone. I've done my fair share of flying alone and it's been ok, but I'm not a joyful or willing traveller by air.

Apparently when I was a toddler my Mum took me to India and during a scheduled stopover we had to disembark the plane and I flat refused to get back on as I was so terrified of the plane that I had boarded earlier at Heathrow without seeing how big it was. From the tarmac in Germany it looked far too scary and it took most of the cabin crew and some maternal cajoling (bribery) to persuade me back on board to complete our journey. I didn't actually know this so when Mum told me it reawakened a fear of flying that I had no idea I ever had.

Once upon a time flying somewhere was an exciting experience that was magical and fun and made us feel like we were doing something special. Now it feels like an exercise in enforcement and the process is unpleasant and designed to make you feel uncomfortable. From the long list of forbidden items to the series of security checks it's a conveyer belt of fear and anxiety.

I was booked to travel on the 12th of September 2001 - the day after the events that led to liquid limits and shoe removal being a normal part of travel. Now I was travelling from Stansted which is possibly the worst airport I've ever been to (and I'm including that tiny airstrip in Sierra Leone where we sat for half a day waiting for the fuel to arrive for our plane and where I saw a bit too much of Andy Kershaw as the bus we were travelling on had poor suspension and his shorts left little to the imagination !) and it was the first day of the newly created security measures so it was complete chaos. It took over 2 hours to check in and I only just made it to the plane in time. It was RyanAir so there wasn't even any solace in free snacks as you get jack all on their flights unless you pay through the nose for it.

I'm telling you this because my new job requires some travelling and will involve flying to a few places too. It's a strange experience going to an airport for work rather than a holiday. Instead of buying magazines and sunglasses in the departure lounge I look for wifi and a spot to sit with a cuppa. Where I'd usually go shopping in Fat Face for some additional holiday outfits I'm only travelling with hand luggage so I can't add anything to my bag and instead of reading my book I start to ponder what the boys are doing while I'm away. The main thing is I'm putting off the fear of flying alone. When we were on a plane with our boy I was so concerned that he not be scared that I forgot my own fears entirely.

In recent years Hubbie has dealt with my fear of flying in two ways. Firstly he takes the mickey out of me mercilessly during a flight saying things like, "oh that isn't normal is it ? That wing looks wonky." which doesn't make me feel any better but distracts me from the genuine fear I'm feeling. The other thing he did was bought me a flying lesson which I put off doing for over a year. When I did actually do it I was terrified, but so exhilarated once I'd done it.

I'm still not the best flier, but is it too much to hope that the next crew I fly with are the Foo Fighters ?

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