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“Did you feel comfortable on the flight?”

Flying. Iceland 2015.

I’ve just got back from Berlin and a friend is curious. What is it like to fly at the moment?

Well the airports are pretty much deserted; the toilets are cleaner than usual and there are many signs and instructions. Wearing a mask is compulsory, as it is in many other locations where you come into close proximity with the public, but security is delightfully much faster to pass through.

Being seated for a couple of hours, my legs ached a bit, and when I finally ‘alighted’ from the train at the end of my journey, I felt relieved to be able to remove my mask. Truthfully though, the familiarity of being on the move and the odd solitary state of flying alone soothed my nomadic need. I was glad to be in the air.

There is a limit to how helpful worrying can be

As analytical thinking creatures, we’re pretty unreliable at recognising the severity and likelihood of the dangers we face. We underestimate and overestimate on a daily basis and all of this effort can be exhausting. To avoid it, we delegate to the media who are financially incentivised to provoke our emotions, and to the government, whose job is to manage the whole of society rather than just us, the individual.

Going with your gut feeling is all very well if your gut feeling has a history of actually being right, and by this I mean actually right, not just all right enough that you could rewrite a storyline to make it feel not so bad. I don’t ignore my gut feeling, going against my stomach’s intuition is generally a bad idea, but nor do I think I should be led by my stomach. If your stomach’s twisting and turning in fretful motion, you probably need to do something (although it might just be something you’ve eaten). You should listen to it. However, that first inclination of how to act may well be wrong.

But from a practical viewpoint, who’s to say that my voyage to Germany is any less safe than spending a day working as a waitress? And who can analyse that with any accuracy, certainly not me.

The siren of warning emanating from your insides is just that, a warning. Your stomach is saying it’s unhappy. Most likely a decision needs to be made and action needs to be taken. It doesn’t excuse the analytical mind; it’s a sign that the analytical mind needs to be used. However, the analytical mind is limited and fallible. No wonder we are confused and overwhelmed.

Some people are much more risk averse than others

Sometimes I feel guilty for my lack of risk aversion. I’m not the sort to seek high adrenaline adventures just for the sake of it. Yet, I’m sceptical of fear. I want to live my life as I want to, not dictated by unfounded and uncertain fears. This isn’t just the post-trauma effect, it’s part of my character, although perhaps the post-trauma reclamation of life has added to my stubbornness. It’s certainly added to my scepticism.

Sometimes I do things that other people are afraid to do, although perhaps slowly as I build up my confidence, but the conclusion is the same. I’m focused on what I want. I’m not driven by the adrenaline, I’m driven by my curiosity, but often fulfilling one’s curiosity comes at a price. It asks that you dare.

Not daring has huge consequences

When I arrived in Berlin and stepped out of the airport into the cold, grey of cityscape autumn I felt lighter. I’d been stabbed in the throat with a cotton bud by a chap in a plastic gown, and I’d rubbed excessive hand sanitizing gel into the crevices of my hands, but I’d arrived. I breathed in the German air and relished in the selfish choice I’d made. It brought me a sense of glee.

It’s really difficult to decide what is best for us, the individual

We face a whole lot of confused messaged and contradictory thoughts, suggested to us by governments and news agencies who focus on their needs to manipulate the population as a whole. Nobody is quite sure what behaviour counts as dangerous. Some people flaunt the rules on masks or mixing households and some don’t leave the house. The psychological cost, being invisible and uncountable, is generally feared, but ignored within the risk assessment.

For me personally, the psychological threat is the one with my attention

It’s a danger I know from up close. When I look at my friends, I’m looking for the light of life in their eyes. I’m listening to the threads of negativity and I worry. I worry about the effect of a general reduction in laughter over the year. The lack of excitement about future plans and the dent in ambitions. It’s all rather saddening.

Psychologically, letting myself unfurl my wings for a brief moment was a precious balm. When I booked the flight, I had no idea whether regulations would let me fly or whether the aeroplane would even take off, but I felt it was worth the risk. Travelling is part of who I am.

“Did you feel comfortable on the flight?”

Yes, I’d go as far as saying that actually I enjoyed it. But I can assure you washed my hands thoroughly when I disembarked.

Above the clouds: thoughts on a flight

Flying by Plane
England from the sky.

The flight is full. Demonstrated by the flight attendants’ silent looks at one another as they try to get all the hand-luggage into the overhead compartments. A baby cries. A woman whines about not being able to sit beside her husband. I imagine she’s probably a little afraid of the rush down the runway to a sense defying lift-off and the screech of brakes forty-five minutes later when we hit tarmac again in Dublin.

This flight is so full that my companion is in the next flight. And in a moment of unfairness, is travelling business class.

Seatbelts on and the wheels roll. The baby cries throughout the safety announcement. Although I expect myself to find such a noise annoying, by my sympathy goes to the parents and I can’t fault the babies rationality. It takes a fair amount of social conditioning to think that being flung into the sky in a crowded metal box is a good idea.

My conscience winces at the thought of this flight and the volume of fuel it takes to rise us so high. It’s not like I can blame my actions on being ignorant of global warming. I know I’m dooming the planet to abrupt change. Yet there’s another part of me which feels free in that moment the plane leaves English soil, and with the nervousness of a first date, my heart expands with glee. I’m in the air again.

The shadow of the plane passes over school fields marked out for a game of football. As we pass over a cloud, I’m delighted to see the shadow being magnified on its fluff. Another plane passes below us. I stare so intensely that I no longer notice whether the baby cries.

I follow the roads, and then I see it. There, beyond the winding river, over the railway line, up the hills which I cycle, right at the  junction, is the buildings of the manor house of our landlord, and the tiny terrace of three. Earlier, in that middle house, I woke, ate breakfast and dressed for this adventure.


Just in time, for thick cloud is lathered across the land, obscuring it from view. Bright white in the sunlight. Like alpine snow.

The ferocious air conditioning is on full blast.

Height: 6400 meters. Location: Cirencester, then the Cotswolds.

Complimentary orange juice and a packet of crisps.

We skirt the Welsh coast. Below us, the land is a dark, rich green. We’re too far south for it to be ‘my’ Wales, but I stare at the beaches along the coast with fond memories.

Height: 7924 meters. The sky is an amazing blue. The sort of blue that invites you to admire its blueness. Yet it has a gradient, fading towards the cloud line.

And then the deep, dark sea.

My ears pop.

My friend will be in the air by now.

Tarmac approaches.

And we’re down.

[From the diary.]