An Aeroplane Journey
The BBC weather site has been consulted, we have checked in online, he knows the size of the aeroplane and his seat number. Our suitcases are closed and weighed. Now he can only wait.
We pull out into the traffic for Heathrow Airport and he has double-checked all travel documents and passports several times. The tension is starting to build. My father drops us at terminal 5 and after our good-byes, the first cigarette is lit and smoked before we enter the terminal building. As we proceed to the machine to print our boarding cards he becomes bossy. I key in our reference number and he dictates instructions as if I haven’t done it before.
The British Airways bag-drop personnel are pleasant as usual and although the single suitcase is under weight, he waits anxiously as the kilo’s settle at twenty. There is a sigh of relief. Passports are checked the luggage receipt is stuck to the boarding card and we proceed back through the open doors to the “Kiss and Fly” zone. Another cigarette is smoked before we can make our way to passport control. His voice is loud as he politely says thank you for returning his passport, he is subconsciously putting on a show of bravado, there is no way back now as he joins the line for the security checks.
We shuffle along removing belts, boots and take the laptop from its case in preparation for our turn to walk through the scanner. On the other side he breathes heavily, not because he had anything to hide but because he is a step nearer to boarding the aeroplane.
Once in the British Airways lounge he searches for the perfect seat to watch the flight display board. He perches on the edge of his chair, hands clasped and gazes in earnest for the boarding gate to reveal itself. I ask him would he like a cup of tea? ‘Yes please, and some sparkling water”. When I return and place the refreshments in front of him, he guzzles his water as if quenching his fear.
The Nice flight is announced, it is delayed. The pacing begins. There are no words of comfort as his anxiety is prolonged. We wait. As he paces between the display boards he is willing them to change and for the flight to be announced with instructions for a Gate. Half an hour passes and he moves swiftly with a curt “it is Gate A13”. We gather our hand luggage and march to the Gate and one step further to boarding the aeroplane.
At Gate A13 the pacing recommences. The Gate opens and we fall in line to board. We show our boarding passes and make our way down the walkway to the aircraft, we are greeted by the Crew and find our seats. Once seated, we fasten our seat belts, he checks I am fastened correctly and surveys our surroundings with the same conscientious fervour as a Pilot.
Everyone has boarded, the doors are closed and the Crew have introduced themselves, we start to taxi away from the Gate. He kisses his medal and places his hands firmly on the arm rests, he is preparing for takeoff. The safety procedure is explained and he listens intently. The aircraft makes its way to the runway and his hands tighten their grip on the armrests. The takeoff is drawing nearer.
The aeroplane draws to a halt, the engines roar and we feel the acceleration as it gathers speed on the runway. As the huge machine shudders and rattles, he closes his eyes and grips the arms rests as he assists the Pilot. As the aeroplane leaves the ground the engines are roaring loudly and we hear the whirring of the wheels and the thump as they find their place under the wings and the flaps close over them. We climb higher our ears are popping and he helps the Pilot steady us as we climb even higher, we are almost at cruising altitude. The aeroplane lurches slightly, but he grabs the armrests tighter and helps put us on course. He gasps slightly but glances at me that all is well.
We cruise along, the engines are humming and there is an unexpected jolt. The turbulence takes him unawares but he manages to steady us perfectly with the armrests, we are in good hands. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and guides us through the skies safely.
Before we know it we hear the Pilot announce that we are ten minutes from our destination. We are approaching Nice airport, he readies himself for landing. As he straightens himself in his seat we feel the engines reduce power, he angles the aeroplane for descent and lines us up for landing. His hands never leave the armrests. We feel the thumps as the landing gear is released and the noise of the wind as we start to descend, but he keeps us on course. As we touch down with a bump, he grabs on tighter as the engines roar and the speed is reduced and the brakes are applied. We ground to a halt. The relief is audible as his body relaxes.
We taxi to the Gate and he appraises the flight.
He has completed another successful journey.