Belfast Telegraph

How my holiday high was brought back down to earth

Remember when coming home after a holiday used to be dominated by two things – thinking to yourself, as you were driven up the road home "God, Belfast must be the dirtiest city in the world!" and panicking with fear about what you were about to find on the hall mat? All the bills.

Reminders of money owed that you weren't sure you had, but were pretty sure you probably didn't? And then the vague, free-floating anxiety of what there might be lurking in the hall that you hadn't even imagined? Some undefined horror. Some sci-fi like monster, demanding that you come to court and account for just not being a good enough person?

Thank God for direct debit. At least that part of coming home doesn't hold the old fears. Bills are paid magically. Money is not real. In my experience it's a piece of plastic that got more exercise than the rest of me put together over the last six weeks. And the evidence IS waiting when I get home, but hey, it's only numbers on a page, right? I can handle that ...

At a course I did once they said, "If you've got a problem you don't know how to solve, get a bigger problem."

I think of that often. Sitting on the last plane home a few days ago, the short journey between London and Belfast, after the 15-hour flight followed by the seven-and-a-half hour flight and the six-hour wait in Heathrow, nearly sick with excitement about finally getting home, wondering if I might pass out completely or explode, thinking "How am I gonna get through this next hour without disgracing myself here?" when suddenly, the air hostess comes on the tannoy.

(Cue sound of normal voice filtered through air hostess training school so that every vowel is strangulated into north Down meets BBC NI Weather presenter and every emphasis goes on the small words rather than the important words in the sentence ...)

"Ladies and gentlemen, sorry for the delay in taking off, we're just experiencing a slight technical problem which we hope we'll resolve very shortly. I'll keep you informed as we go along."

To put this in context – the woman in the seat behind me was shredding whatever nerves I had left, with her Alf Garnett's wife's voice that never shut the heck up and the air hostess had already told us to expect turbulence as we arrived in Belfast due to strong winds. So I'm already thinking "What the heck? (or words to that effect). What's she telling us that for? Now I'll sit here being excited and anxious the whole way!"

So then, not content with putting the wind up us about the flight ahead, she tells us we probably won't even get up in the air to start with. (Who trains these people?) All the while, I'm looking out the porthole at the wing which is moving in and out and up and down even as we sit on the tarmac.

"That'll be them trying to fix the mechanical problem, no doubt", I'm thinking.

"Help! Get me off! We're all going to die!" are some other thoughts.

So never mind worrying about how I'm going to last a whole hour, now I'm thinking we're either going to be bussed back to the terminal and told the next available flight out will be in June, or we're going to fly unsafely and blow up mid-air or upon landing in gale force winds of death. Took my mind off the bills on the hall mat anyway.

Thank God for bigger problems.

Belfast Telegraph

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