I’m flying to the States next week. Ostensibly it’s a research trip for my doctorate, but there’ll be plenty of opportunities for fun too – I’ve been invited to a Gatsby-style cocktail party in The Hamptons by my host family for Chrissakes! How many Geordie lasses can attest to that?
The problem is – I don’t want to go. I’ve always been a nervous flyer, but this time, it’s not just about the flight.
After M died, we, as a family, had an irrepressible urge to ‘close ranks’. We didn’t like to be apart for too long – one would peel off to do a provisions run, but was always back within the hour. People left food parcels on the doorstep, but we turned friends away, daubing a metaphorical plague cross on the door.
It was a strange existence, and to a degree, it persists. I am always relieved to be heading back to the village, despite its miserable microclimate (it brings a whole new meaning to 50 Shades of Grey) and its controversial dog shit problem (who IS that persistent offender?) A lightness of being comes over me when I drive back up the hill from the sunshine into the mist towards my house. The village and its people envelop my daughter and me in their protective cocoon, and leaving it feels dizzying and unsafe. Crossing the road into the next village sometimes feels insurmountable – how am I ever going to cross the Atlantic?
So I’m breaking the trip down into small, more manageable pieces. Pack bag – check. Get to airport – check. Order large gin and tonic in departure lounge – check. It’s the moment I realise I’m in the seat next to Leslie Nielson in Airplane that I’ll frantically disembark for the grey, grey mist of home.