Earlier this week I missed an aeroplane, an important aeroplane. A loved one, who shall remain nameless, said, “I knew you’d miss that plane.” Tired, cross and furious with myself, I suggested tartly that this person with a mystic gift should buy a lottery ticket. End of conversation.
Now, I do have a well-deserved reputation for lateness (of which more later) but in all my years of travelling, I can think of only two missed flights: the infamous Bangkok bollocks, when I (and Dai, who had flown off somewhere else but was equally culpable) got things so wrong that I was 24 hours late. Oops. The flight was just after midnight and we got the time right but not the day!
How could two experienced travellers have got something so basic so wrong? We decided that it was because we hardly ever travelled at that time. Simples. (And very, very stupid. Mind you, I was heartened when I saw that I was not alone in the please-help-us-eejits-get-to-where-we-want-t0-go queue; it wasn’t short and it wasn’t just oldies, which was a real relief.)
The other time was when Dai and I were going somewhere, Frankfurt I think and the flight was delayed. We were in the BA lounge and heard nothing, then found out belatedly that the delayed flight had been re-re-scheduled, brought forward and we were left mouthing imprecations at the poor pilot as he eased away from the stand. Dai was incandescent and it took a lot of deep breathing and persuasion to get ourselves on a plane that took us near enough to where we wanted to be, when we had to be there.
Twice in a quarter of a century or so, not so bad. And I’m pretty sure I only missed one deadline in 20 or so years of reporting/writing (there were of course extenuating circumstances; whatever they were, they’re lost in the mists of memory).
So why did I miss my flight on Tuesday? Well, the short answer is that I didn’t leave home early enough. If I’d left earlier, plumping for a route that included a crucial road that turned out to be closed wouldn’t have mattered because there’d have been time to double/triple/quadruple back and still get held up at security.
How to count the ways? Having to take off the furry boots (heading north); then another rookie error (very much out of training, especially with hand luggage only) of not putting the rolled up, nearly empty toothpaste tube in the plastic bag; and, worst of all, having my breakfast confiscated. “It’s liquid,” they said. “But it’s solidified,” I said (chia seeds soaked overnight in kefir). Security weren’t impressed. Not solidified enough apparently. My goose wasn’t so much grounded as cooked.
If you miss your flight, you then have to hang around and wait to be escorted off the premises – you’ve gone through security , remember – but there were no handcuffs. There were three of us, the other couple had missed their flight to Belfast. They were going for the Christmas shopping. Blimey. “Is Belfast good for shopping?” I asked, not really knowing, being well out of the loop. “I don’t really know,” the wife said, “we’ve never been.”
I had a coffee and an almond croissant (no great shakes) before wending my weary way home. So much for my new making-a-big-effort-to-be-early regime. Crashed at the first real test. I’d been trying to follow the advice of Philippa Perry, wife of Grayson, in her latest publication, “The Book You Want Everyone You Love* To Read. (*and maybe a few you don’t.) In the section on how to change old habits, she tackles the subject of habitual lateness, right up (or down?) my rabbit hole.
Terrible timekeepers can change, she says. “We don’t just reach adulthood and stop developing. The brain is plastic, we can therefore change it. We change it by noticing what we normally do, inhibiting our normal reaction and working to form an alternative response, and thus developing a new habit.”
Ah well, the only thing for it is to persevere – even Philippa isn’t perfect, not that she would claim to be I suspect. I bought the last two signed copies of her book in Foyles at New Street station (spoiler alert: potential Christmas presents) and discovered on closer inspection that even she has her limits. See if you can spot the difference.
There was nothing for it but to take myself off to singing, better than moping about at home berating myself. Helen, our teacher, a trained soprano with perfect pitch, is so kind and encouraging, even with a toneless numpty like me. She hoped choir would make my day better and when I said it undoubtedly would if I were a better singer but I’d enjoy the company, she couldn’t have been more sympathetic. “Our choir is never ALL about the singing Patricia…it’s the laughter, the chat and friendship that really matter.”
That’s why I keep going. It’s a joy.