Back To Basics
Plus two cans of gin and tonic and a gluten-free pork pie.
I don’t mind flying - by that I mean in a plane. I've never tried the other variants and considering the intense fear of heights I discovered I had when Mark and I thought about buying a lighthouse (a story for another day) I don't reckon I'll be trying any one of them soon.
Airports, I don't love. The endless queues, the plastic overpriced food, and the constant nagging feeling that if you don't keep your head together you could be in trouble. But the actual flying machines themselves, I'm good with.
Generally, I get in my seat. Get my headphones on. Stick my head in a book or the in flight entertainment. I nod off for a bit, and then uncurl myself at the other end.
I check in as much baggage as possible so when people are wrestling over space in the overhead lockers, I smile a sympathetic smile. It's a system that works.
But as with every system, there's a day when it fails. Like it did this week when I traveled back from Scotland to LA.
The flight from Glasgow to London only lasts an hour , but this week there was an extra 3 hours in faff, delays, concourse busses, broken escalators, and more concourse busses. This meant that I arrived at gate security for the LA flight half an hour before take-off , which seemingly was way too late and I was not allowed on.
I wasn't alone. There was virtually a whole plane load of people transferring from different feeder flights who weren't allowed on, and the ‘customer service’ desks at American Airlines and British Airways were stacked.
It has to be said while the invention of the airplane undoubtedly illustrates the ability of humankind to achieve magnificence, British Airways customer service at Heathrow undoubtedly displays the opposite. One official seemed to equate service with screaming commands at people. The way she yelled in the face of an elderly couple made me feel sick to my stomach. But I guess in a competitive world, even psychopaths need to earn a living.
Anyway, the upshot of the flight delays was that I had the choice of sleeping overnight on the airport concourse or staying at an airport hotel.
Ever since I was a kid when I arrived at an airport, I'd look at the hotels and think, “What kind of idiot would stay in an airport hotel, when there's a whole world to explore?” Well it seems that every day is a learning opportunity. For though the entirety of London was there on my doorstep, it was late, I was exhausted and I just wanted the journey to be over. I was completely that kind of idiot and the hotel by the airport won.
Showered and dressed in an oversized t-shirt from British Airways overnight pack helpfully slung at me at the airport, I sat on the bed, the entirety of my possessions laid out in front of me.
Phone. Purse. Headphones. Charger. Hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste. Book. Chewing gum. Hand sanitizer.
Fortunately, I'd managed to find a Mark's & Spencer on the way to the hotel and picked up provisions presuming - accurately as it turned out -that any hotel next to an airport that changed 300 quid for their cheapest room would expect a second mortgage for any form of dinner.
I laid my bounty out in front of me: a big bottle of water, one banana, two cans of gin and tonic ( necessary), a small tub of tomato and mozzarella salad, and incongruously, a gluten-free pork pie. All - well most - of the major food groups right there.
Yet actually after the day I'd had, I felt ridiculously grateful: To be clean, to be safe, to have food and a warm bed, everyone should be so lucky. If I could have thrown in a change of clothes for the next day, my life would have been complete.
But even then, I figured that was less my problem than the person unlucky enough to sit next to me on the plane the following day.
It crossed my mind about how when I'm writing a show, I never have any more props that I actually need. In order to get by the prop test, that item has to be vital.
But in life I carry so much stuff. And really how much do I need? I've been living with two suitcases of possessions for the past six weeks. Maybe when I do eventually get home, I could shed what I don't use anymore. Sometimes in life, it's time to lighten the load.
The next day I got on a plane to Los Angeles with renewed gratitude for the invention of flying machines. I was especially amenable to the people sitting next to me, only to discover they'd been bumped from their flight too - ah British Airways you rapscallion! They'd spent the night in a shitty hotel in central London, but were too tired to go out and see anything. I laughingly commented that we might be the stinkiest row of the plane, but they didn't even crack a smile so I took that as the cue to put on my headphones and dive into the in-flight entertainment.
I've now been back home for three days and I have changed my clothes more than a few times and unpacked my suitcases and my jet lag is subsiding nicely. But the desire to clear more space hasn't left.
It's good to take a moment to look at what you have and what really matters. Even when you don't really want to. There’s a lot to be said for really noticing that you're warm, and safe, and have food, and a place to sleep. And all the other stuff that stresses you is just stuff and can wait till tomorrow.
The boys have been living quite happily while I’ve been gone, so I feel it would be a little out of order to come in like some house-clearing tornado. At least for this first week back. But it's coming. I don’t need to keep everything I’ve been given. Some things can be let go.
In spite of British Airways Customer Service Heathrow, I do still believe travel broadens the mind. Even when I'm part of the stinkiest row on the plane.
Till next week,
Well hello there, NFTV kitchen pals,
It was such a weird thing sitting in the hotel room that night thinking about how
Notes From The Valley is a reader-supported publication. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Notes From The Valley to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.