The alarm goes off at six thirty, but I’m already awake, staring at the darkened ceiling and wondering why I went daft on the red wine last night. I knew I’d have to get up long before the crack of dawn to catch the flight to Heathrow. It’s a bit like eating a PotNoodle when you’re other half’s away somewhere and you’re left to fend for yourself: a bit of the old self flagellation, a brief slice of self-inflicted suffering that’s regretted pretty much on mouthful one. After all, you could be eating steak and chips, couldn’t you?
Outside it’s blowing a gale: long, cold shoves of wind that rattle the trees and make the telephone lines howl and writhe. The drive in to town isn’t much better either, Fiona’s scabrous, filthy old Renault Clio lurching about on the tarmac as we struggle along behind a tractor the size of our house. The alarming wobble calms to a gentle rock as we become embroiled in the traffic jam that leads from Swailend all the way into Dyce. A mile-long ribbon of bleary red tail lights, inching forward, stopping, then inching forward again. Like penitent monks, Pot Noodling themselves on the way to the holy land.
According to the woman on the other end of the phone at half six this morning, the first flight out was cancelled, so everyone from that one is now going to be stuck on the same one as me: this means more people on the flight and less chance of getting a good seat. But then, there’s nothing I like better than sitting crammed between a huge sweaty business man with halitosis and a BO-riddled, acne-quilted toss-pot with what sounds like a hefty dose of TB. Must get there early or even the nasty seats will be gone and I’ll be forced to fly down to London in the toilets – I’m too big to fit in an overhead locker. We’re not quite late for the plane, even though the traffic is appalling and I manage to get that holy of holies: a window seat with no one sitting next to me. The flight’s a lot emptier than I would have thought, maybe everyone else woke up this morning, took one look out the window and said, “Sod this for a game of soldiers, I’m back off to bed.” If only I was that wise…
There’s something about flying from Aberdeen to Heathrow that just screams DELAY. So we sit in our little seats, trying not to sniff the smells emanating from our fellow passengers, looking out the tiny portholes at the wind-battered runway. Who would have thought thin air could be so destructive? According to the bastard on the radio this morning, lorries have been blown off bridges in Scotland: it’s been that bad. Hundred mile an hour gusts of wind. And the man sitting two rows forward seems to be suffering from the same condition if the ‘unusual’ odours emanating from his seat are anything to go by.
Strangely enough, when we do finally get into the air, the plane clambers its way into the sky over Middlefield, Kingswells, then Westhill, I’ve lived in all three places, but can’t find any of my former homes as we climb. Which I find faintly depressing. I’d like to have said, “hey, me: I can see your house from up here!” Instead Westhill disappears behind scuttling clouds and I contemplate another breakfast in economy class. Today’s offering is masquerading under the pseudonym ‘ham and cheese panini’, but looks more like a slice of toasted mattress filled with phlegm. But probably doesn’t taste as nice. I eat it anyway, having missed breakfast at home in the rush to get into that funky, early morning traffic jam. Another Pot Noodle for the soul.
More lumpy air. The landscape below is painted with a soft golden light, shadows flickering across amber fields and snow-dusted mountains, while the plane bounces around like a politician’s spotty arse in a brothel. And that’s when I realise that there’s a dead Daddy-Long-Legs in my window, trapped forever between the outer glass and the inner plastic. How the hell did it get in there? It’s not like you can open the damn things to let in a bit of air. But I keep my secret, desiccated insect to myself: no one else has one and I don’t want to start a riot.
It’s not until I get off the plane in Heathrow that I see someone else has made a better showing of the flight than I have: a pair of upended airline-sized bottles of red wine, suckled dry of their contents. Now that’s the way to travel: drunk.
Maybe on the way back.