The flight is full. Demonstrated by the flight attendants’ silent looks at one another as they try to get all the hand-luggage into the overhead compartments. A baby cries. A woman whines about not being able to sit beside her husband. I imagine she’s probably a little afraid of the rush down the runway to a sense defying lift-off and the screech of brakes forty-five minutes later when we hit tarmac again in Dublin.
This flight is so full that my companion is in the next flight. And in a moment of unfairness, is travelling business class.
Seatbelts on and the wheels roll. The baby cries throughout the safety announcement. Although I expect myself to find such a noise annoying, by my sympathy goes to the parents and I can’t fault the babies rationality. It takes a fair amount of social conditioning to think that being flung into the sky in a crowded metal box is a good idea.
My conscience winces at the thought of this flight and the volume of fuel it takes to rise us so high. It’s not like I can blame my actions on being ignorant of global warming. I know I’m dooming the planet to abrupt change. Yet there’s another part of me which feels free in that moment the plane leaves English soil, and with the nervousness of a first date, my heart expands with glee. I’m in the air again.
The shadow of the plane passes over school fields marked out for a game of football. As we pass over a cloud, I’m delighted to see the shadow being magnified on its fluff. Another plane passes below us. I stare so intensely that I no longer notice whether the baby cries.
I follow the roads, and then I see it. There, beyond the winding river, over the railway line, up the hills which I cycle, right at the junction, is the buildings of the manor house of our landlord, and the tiny terrace of three. Earlier, in that middle house, I woke, ate breakfast and dressed for this adventure.
Just in time, for thick cloud is lathered across the land, obscuring it from view. Bright white in the sunlight. Like alpine snow.
The ferocious air conditioning is on full blast.
Height: 6400 meters. Location: Cirencester, then the Cotswolds.
Complimentary orange juice and a packet of crisps.
We skirt the Welsh coast. Below us, the land is a dark, rich green. We’re too far south for it to be ‘my’ Wales, but I stare at the beaches along the coast with fond memories.
Height: 7924 meters. The sky is an amazing blue. The sort of blue that invites you to admire its blueness. Yet it has a gradient, fading towards the cloud line.
And then the deep, dark sea.
My ears pop.
My friend will be in the air by now.
And we’re down.
[From the diary.]