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Tag: delays

Delayed (again)

I am becoming a zen master at spending many hours in airports. And I even have a cold!

My flight out of Edinburgh boarded on time but sat on the ground for 45 extra minutes because of the weather in London. Landing slots all pushed back because of high winds. It ended up squeezing my already short connection time to an impossible-in-a-massive-airport 30 minutes once I was off the plane. It wasn’t gonna happen. In fact they had already re-booked me onto a later flight before we even landed.

So, things I will not be doing today:

  • Getting my first ride on an A380, which, even as someone who dislikes flying, I was kind of excited about
  • Seeing my parents (and seeing how many of Islay’s 8 distillery names my Dad can properly pronounce, which was going to be an amusing game)
  • Eating dinner at this place, which I was sooooo looking forward to
  • Running through Heathrow T5. A plus! It was definitely nice to be notified of the futility of such an action before I attempted it.

However. This is all ok. I mean, it’s kind of annoying, but also, what am I gonna do about it?

Due to said cold (it’s kind of a bad one) I’m slightly more miserable about sitting around in public for 7 hours than I normally would be, but I’m doing pretty well considering the circumstances. I loaded up on cold meds and bought myself a smoothie full of ginger and stuff from Giraffe the minute I got through flight connections. No airport beers for me today.

There’s a giraffe in my smoothie.

Then I managed to find the Quiet Area of T5 A gates, which is tucked away behind the massive Duty Free shop between gates 12 and 13. There are lounge chairs here. And they aren’t luxury sofas or anything, but they’re… loungey.

It’s easy to forget how bloody crowded the place is sitting here because it IS actually pretty quiet, save for the announcements. Not too many people walking by. Charging sockets at every seat. A nice view of the planes (and the rubbish weather). I spent two hours stretched out lazily reading (Station Eleven, which I’m loving) and watching silly airport vehicles in the rain. It was nice! And hey, I’m not at work!


Then I went and used my £10 voucher from the delay on some head-clearing noodles at Wagamama. Any day on which I get to eat noodles can’t be all bad. Particularly when someone else is picking up the bill. There was a lot of chilli and ginger and lemongrass involved, so I feel like I’m working on healing myself. Although now I’m a little soup-bloated. But no matter! I’m back in the loungey chairs to write this while I wait my final hour or so.

I must apologise to whoever ends up next to me on this flight. I am the girl you do NOT want to be sitting near. I am the one who is doling out the post-flight colds. I have often been on the receiving end. I’m trying to keep it to myself as much as possible but I’m sure everyone pretty much hates me. WHO GETS A CHEST COLD TWO DAYS BEFORE A FLIGHT. Well done, body! Also it’s kind of weird reading a book about life after a flu that wipes out most of civilisation when you’re going around plaguing fellow air travelers. I’m sorry, world. I am. Truly. Hopefully I’m not patient zero of the apocalypse.

Anyway. I got my parents to re-book the restaurant for lunch the day I fly home, so I’ll still see them AND eat the food (and my Dad will have more time to practice his ‘Bruichladdich’s and ‘Caol Ila’s). And I’ll be on an A380 on the way home, so I’ll still deliver on my promises to coworkers – who were even more excited than me when I said ‘top deck!’ – of pictures of the experience.

I do wish this cold medicine was a bit stronger though. And I’m looking forward to a G&T, a film, and a snooze once I’m in the air.

The need to sometimes be alone in the world

Fife Coastal Path

On the Fife Coastal Path. Photo © Duncan Blair

During my recent overlong travel day, I had quite a few moments when I thought how WONDERFUL it was going to be when I finally got into my flat and got reacquainted with my own bed and, perhaps, a pizza or other convenience comfort food. But with my ultimate travel goals on the brain, my longings for home automatically led to wondering what I’d do with those feelings on a much longer trip. One where a very long delay in an airport (or three) may not end in my own flat. Or my own room. Or even in accommodation, let alone a private space.

As travel delays go, my day in Helsinki airport wasn’t really all that bad. It was simple to put myself in a bubble most of the time, and there were plenty of comfortable places to sit and get lost in a podcast without disruption. But it’s not always like that, and even in that fairly good situation, I still wanted out. Most of it was just being tired, but that kind of fatigue makes you susceptible to feeling, physically, like crap. And also to emotions. The kinds of emotions you don’t really want to have a chat with in public.

Quietly getting through the day in full view of a strange public for hours on end seems to get me thinking about my life’s big issues. Past present and future, they’re all fair game. I can’t just shut it all off while I read a trash magazine or something. It’s one of the cruel tricks my brain plays on itself. I am bad at relaxing and I’m bad at being quiet between my ears. This has a way of building up, and it’s harder to manage when I have nowhere to be my bizarre, alone self. (YOU KNOW you have a bizarre, alone self too, so, don’t pretend I’m talking nonsense.)

When I have an end of the day or a destination in sight, I can usually keep this stuff in check with the promise of isolation on its way. But what about when I don’t have a definitive end? What about when I’m on a multi-month trip and may not even know where my next bed is because I’m being adventurous and not always planning that far in advance? What happens when I need to cry or nurse myself to health or just simply be AWAY FROM ALL OTHER HUMANS?

It’s hard enough to do the inner-self-maintenance required to be an outwardly positive or even just pleasant person without worrying about privacy. Sometimes the weight of certain kinds of loneliness, nostalgia, or your own particular madness is such that you need a place to implode without the world watching and wondering and occasionally trying to help. Because there’s no help for having to let yourself be a mess sometimes. You just have to purge that shit by letting it run through you.

So how do you make space for that when your home is on your back? How do you store it up without letting it ruin you? I mean, in my experience airport bathrooms can be good for this stuff in a pinch, but you can only feel so much better about life in a tiny cubicle with a hard, incomplete seat.

I think the simplest answer, as a wise fish once said, is just keep swimming. Easier said than done, particularly in the over-dry air of the most public of public spaces. But it’s the only option, really. The good thing is, at least I’ve found, the more experience you have with the swimming on, the better you get at being a courteous citizen of the sea and doing it without stirring up the shit around you in the water.

Pool in a hole in a giant rock

It may not look like much, but in my lifetime, this pool will be hard to beat.

Speaking of swimming, there is a somewhat positive flip-side to this. Needing to be alone isn’t always about purging the bad stuff, it can be about processing the really, really good stuff. I spent a blissful 15 minutes swimming in the dark in a pool cut into a giant rock looking at the stars in the spectacular African sky after one of the best days of my life in Zimbabwe. It was almost too much happiness to handle at once, and I managed to snag this tiny window of time away from everyone else on the trip to let the circuits in my brain calm down while I floated between the universe and a land that was so fantastic it may as well have been another world. (Why no one else wanted to go swimming at that point is beyond my comprehension. And I probably could have had longer than 15 minutes, but dinner was on and I was also a little worried about being alone in a place where it’s not rare for hungry cheetahs to roam around at night. (TIA, MF!) Sometimes life edits itself to perfection.)

Anyway, when I’m really struggling with a GET ME OUT OF HERE WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE AND WHY WON’T THEY GO AWAY HOLY CRAP HOW ON EARTH AM I MEANT TO JUST KEEP FUCKING SWIMMING situation, I’m hoping that I’m at least building up some karma for one of these alone-time bonuses. Actual swimming or not. It’s nice to have an image to work with, and it makes the bad stuff worth enduring now and then.

So I’m figuring the challenge of having no fixed destination is probably all about adaptation. Ten years ago, 10 hours in an airport probably would have made me a lot crankier, but now I put myself on autopilot and just kinda let it wash over me. That definitely makes it easier to handle. Perhaps learning to give zero fucks is the real answer to this problem, and sometimes you just gotta be a wreck for all to see if there’s nowhere to hide it and no ideal pool to go nightswimming in.

But thinking about it certainly makes me value the fact that I do currently have a place to come home to, even if there’s no pizza waiting.

The (unexpected) neverending day

Heathrow sunset

Waheyyyy! Bonus post! Because what was supposed to have been an easy 6-7ish hour travel home day has entered its 17th hour, and is now unlikely to end til well past the 20th. At least I’m now finally back on home soil, albeit in London.

But before I go on, I just want to say that one of the few shitty things about travelling alone AND living alone is that when you do experience one of these longest-ever-days of brain killing delays, there is no one at the other end you can call and A: ask if there is any food at all in the house (there’s not), and B: beg to go get you the one thing you really wanna eat when you collapse just inside your doorway.


It has been a Long. Day.

I got up before 5am, got to the airport in Helsinki and went through security only to find my first flight to Oslo had just then been cancelled. So I went back out into the check-in area and joined an unmoving queue, which took an hour to move AT ALL and two more hours for me to get to a ticket agent. And I was in the front 10% of that queue, so god knows what the people at the end were thinking. It was HORRENDOUSLY managed. I will leave it at that though, because I have no energy left for an explanation.

Anyway, I was rebooked through London on a flight leaving at 4.30pm. Mind you, it was then about 9.30am. So, I got well-acquainted with Helsinki airport today. I ate lunch courtesy of my original airline (not bad) and drank a lot of overpriced coffee. I answered emails from my phone. I read a lot on my kindle. I stayed awake. Like a champ. I was actually rebooked on Finnair which hopefully means I’ll now get miles for my flights home as that’s part of my usual alliance, so, silver linings.

Now I’m in London, slightly delayed again, but with not quite enough time to eat proper dinner before I got on the flight. And I was so freakin’ tired I went out through immigration control instead of going straight through flight connections. WELL DONE ME. There was a friendly UKBA dude who helped me out and laughed along with me at my stupidity though, so that was cool. UKBA people aren’t usually so jolly.

I’m really hoping Virgin Little Red serve complimentary booze, because I need a drink now. And a pizza. Which I will likely order from the tram ride home. If I manage to get a tram. If I manage to ever get home. I can’t wait to see Edinburgh now.

A full barrage of Finland posts soon to come.