Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Travel or travail?

I wish I was a more relaxed traveller. I usually arrive too early, and this time is no different. I should be able to enjoy a lull in a frenetic schedule but airports are such attention-deficit-inducing environments that I don’t settle. I just want to get on the plane. I’m tired after a lot of driving, in an unfamiliar hire car, on the wrong side of the road with unintelligible road signs, feeling sweat-sticky, tired throbbing hot feet. This is the part of travel that starts me wondering – for a while, at least – why I travel. This is the travail of travel. I should be able to people-watch. I should continue to take delight in the slightly odd things foreigners do, but I’m fatigued by it all now and I want to do home.

They’re late boarding us. We’re in a holding-pen with insufficient seating, and tired fractious toddlers. I sympathise but doubt that throwing a tantrum would get us on board any quicker. I smile as I imagine throwing myself on the floor and thrashing and screaming and shouting.

But the announcement finally comes. There are friendly welcomes from the groundstaff and the air stewards. Soon we are taxiing, there’s that pull on the stomach and we’re airborne. The ground falls away. Real people diminish to the size of ants. Cars shrink to tiny matchbox-toys. Other peoples’ lives become insignificant, just like that. I marvel at Bergen from the air; it’s a splattering of islands connected by little bridges, all populated by people, but what do they do all with their lives?

Then it’s up through the clouds into the sunshine above a white wonderland as pristine as any glacier. We’re homeward bound, home to the right coffee, my favourite muesli, marmalade and a comfortable bed. I let my mind drift as we float above the clouds, then after a while I get glimpses of ships on a still, still sea. Which part of Britain would we fly over first? I guessed it would be The Wash. The landfall isn’t right for Norfolk though. Where are we? Everything is so difficult to place from up here, but who cares. We’ll soon be home – to the right coffee, muesli, marmalade, comfortable bed and 137 emails (not counting a similar number in wait for me at work).

Loo signs at Bergen airport

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