I’m about to take off back to Blighty and I’m nearly – but not quite – ready. However much I plan in advance, it always builds up to a pre-trip devil-in –the-detail whirl. I tend to sweat the small stuff first – decanting lotions and potions into small bottles, loading up my Kindle, wrapping presents, buying and packing my favourite herbal teas which, ironically, are made in England. Yes, it’s definitely a case of ‘Coals to Newcastle’ but my mother’s local (rural) town definitely won’t have them. I’ve taken some recipes to try out so I can cook for friends and relatives, loaded up my USB stick with photos, documents and work-related stuff, sorted all my hard copy travel documents into folders, made up my regulation plastic bag of toiletries for the plane, cleaned out the fridge, given my indoor plants to a friend, measured out 72 cups of Bertie’s food (he’s off to a homestay place and I’m already welling up about the thought of saying goodbye to him), and tried to fix my garden sprinklers so my pots don’t dry out and die. I’m flying out tonight so better get some clothes in the suitcase sometime soon. ..
At a time of heightened fear in the media and amid all the rhetoric being spouted by our politicians, It’d be easy to succumb to worrying about security on the flight, Ebola, terrorism, mechanical failure – or even losing my luggage. Who hasn’t had troubled dreams about losing their luggage?! But I refuse to be infected by all the negativity and am planning to get on the plane and RELAX. Long haul fights can be mini holidays in themselves if you can get into the right headspace.
It may be the most unnatural thing for the body to be cooped up in a pressurised cabin full of recycled air, in uncomfortably close proximity to other people, with limited opportunity for movement and far too many rounds of heated-up food and stewed tea, BUT when else do we get the opportunity to do NOTHING but read, doze, watch films and doodle? Well,that used to be the case. What bliss when you couldn’t use your electronic devices during the flight. You could well and truly SWITCH OFF. That’s all changed now. I am not flying Qantas but have just checked their website, which states:
“There are plenty of ways to keep in touch while you are flying with Qantas. You can now use your personal electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets and music players in flight mode, for the duration of each flight, providing uninterrupted access to work and entertainment. On all A380, B747-400 and A330-300 aircraft you can send and receive text messages, make inflight telephone calls and perform seat to seat calls all from the comfort of your seat.”
What a shame! Is there no respite from the frenetic round of communicating, commenting, chatting, texting and tweeting? I’m happy to have uninterrupted down time and to enjoy the freedom that comes with being in a cyber-free cocoon.
My mother’s house is a technology free zone, which again, is no bad thing. I’m going over to spend time with her and Dad, not to be glued to electronic devices. I’ll have to ration my time online for blogging and emails as I’ll be hot-spotting via my phone. Mind you, however much I rant and rave about the joys of unplugging, I also recognise that access to the internet is vital for researching new destinations and travel arrangements. In 1985 – or thereabouts – I spent half a year in Spain during the third year of my language degree at Bristol. I had phoned ahead to book into a three-star hotel for my first few nights, there being no email or online bookings in those days. I arrived in Granada in mid-October about ten o’clock at night, loaded up with four months of luggage. The hotel claimed to know nothing about my booking – they were fully booked as it was a fiesta weekend – so they turned me away.
I met a fellow student, who had also just arrived from England, and we lugged our suitcases around knocking on hotel doors getting the same response everywhere. It was now getting towards midnight and a park bench was looking like our only option. Finally we found a cheap hostal residencia in the Plaza Bibarrambla. Run by a woman who seemed to spend all day in her dressing gown sweeping the steps, the beds sagged in a well worn banana shape, a bare light bulb in the ceiling flickered and crackled, and the communal bathrooms had chilly concrete floors and strict rules about not putting paper down the loo. It was super basic and the other guests could have stepped straight out of a Picaresque novel, but the place nevertheless had some charm, and offered fabulous views over the square. I wonder if it’s still there?