It's the night before I fly to Nepal and I've come to Southend overnight to spend a bit of time with my family. We've had a lovely evening watching the Commonwealth Games and drinking a bottle of bubbly. There's only one cloud on the horizon...flying.
Now I like to think I'm a fairly rational person. I am willing to have a go at most things, love white water rafting and am thoughtful about my decisions. There is one aspect of life, however, which terrifies me and that is getting in a plane. I know that there is a scientific rationale behind being able to fly. I understand that it has something to do with air pressure and I know that - statistically - it's probably one of the safest forms of transport. That withstanding, I never feel quite so scared and out of control as when I am strapped in the seat and the engines rev hard.
Flights for me go something like this: Firstly I'm convinced we're going to crash on take off. Once that's over, I'm then convinced we will drop out of the sky by sliding backwards as the the plane tilts upwards. Then the plane banks round corners - surely a time to slip downwards? After that, once up and flattish then it's all the "bing bongs" where each time a cabin crew member rushes to answer a phone I'm sure it is the captain telling them we are having difficulties. Then landing, which seems to take forever on the descent and is interminable when you have to switch off Kindles or MP3 players or any other means of distraction. The actual moment of hitting the ground (we WILL break apart!) is a moment of terror and joy and the best bit of the whole experience is when the engines throttle back to a manageable level and I feel like control is regained. I have been known to have parallel cuts along the palms of my hands where I've been clenching my fists!
I think it's really a control issue and the fact that once on the plane I have NO control over my destiny. I don't like that. I like to feel that I could do something to help myself but on a plane...no chance.
So, what's the strategy? Point 1 - if I want to go to exciting places I have to fly. Point 2 - recent news notwithstanding, incidents of problems are rare. Point 3 - not thinking about actually getting on a plane until I am on the steps up means I can block out some of the worry. Point 4 - surely this is what alcohol was invented for? One glass of something is usually quite an effective relaxant. Point 5 - Airports are fascinating places and great for people watching. Point 6 - It's a small part of the overall adventure. Point 7 - sleep.
Please don't tell me I'm being irrational. Fear isn't rational (as those of you who know my mushroom aversion will know!). Rather, I consider myself brave for doing something which - if I really thought about it - I would never put myself through. It's a means to an end and I have to focus on the arrival.
However, I shall still be saying lots of prayers!