A few seconds too long at London Heathrow Airport

I tried my best not to breathe. Don’t gasp for air. Don’t move. Don’t do it. This too shall pass. This too shall pass, I tell myself.

My eyes bulged as I held my breath, glaring at the innocent strangers surrounding me. Don’t do it, Liv. Keep it together. Don’t do it.

Uh oh. Game over. I gasped.

There I was, only 1 hour in to the Malaysian Airline 787 flight to Kuala Lumpur, spluterring like a fool.

A chunk of cantaloupe melon which I was merrily eating from my airplane food tray had gone down the wrong way and the coughing and spluterring was uncontrollable. Fellow travellers curled away into their seats in sheer disgust. What a selfish girl, exposing us all to the coronavirus on a 12 hour flight. Shame on you, girl. Shame on you.

“Wrong! Way! Huhhhh – choking! Mel-on… Wrong… Hole.” I did my best to articulate.

I said before going on this trip, that I wasn’t put off by the hysteria that the media has created surrounding the virus… But in all honesty, it is a little unverving. Especially seeming to be the only two humans travelling and not wearing a face mask.

The 4 and a half hour coach journey to Heathrow, for example. Some woman, a couple of rows back (and another rare non-face-masker), was coughing up her lungs every couple of minutes. Not a smokers cough, not a mucusy cough, but a harsh, stubborn, dry cough – just like the NHS guidelines states.

‘We’re doomed.’ Being in the same claggy air as Mrs Splutter Guts for such a time, we were bound to catch something. And oh, what’s that? Yup. My throat is sore.

In a 20 minute stop at a service station, my proactive self purchased a pack of Halls Extra Strong (menthol action). Extra strong – ya not wrong. If you want your eyes to stream and your nose hairs to feel like they are being ripped out, give ’em a go.

Due to the virus, the airport was much quieter than usual. What was the usual though, was beeping as I went through security (gets me every time). This time, however was certainly the most thorough search I have had to date… Now I’m not sure there is a pretty way to describe it… Nope, there’s not. So here goes –

The swift all body rub by the stern gum-chewing female security offiicer had a very memorable moment – that moment being a very firm pressing on my pubic bone. Was it an accident? Did her hand slip? The question is, why was she there a couple of seconds too long? Perhaps, like in any job, she had a moment of daydreaming, wondering what she was going to make for her dinner that night and what might be on the telly. And then she thought, oops. I’ve been touching this lady’s private parts for too long. My bad.

I let out an involuntary giggle and my cheeks flushed a deep shade of red with the embarrassment that the crowds of people surrounding us knew exactly where she had just rubbed… I immediately told Mum and I’m glad she found my trauma amusing.

 

And so it begins

I have started my travelling adventure. I don’t know long long for, but it has indeed begun! There were no tears when saying goodbye to Mum and Dad before security at Manchester airport, but my whole body felt awkward saying goodbye and walking away. It felt wrong. My legs suddenly felt all weak and shaky.

Plane was an hour late. I’m sat in the departure lounge, munching on snacks. I want to write exactly how I feel in a coherent way but I’m struggling. There are too many thoughts merged into one…

– what the heck am I doing
– goodness I’m excited
– I hope mum and dad aren’t killing each on the M25 #BackseatDriver
– that Chloe perfume I sprayed in duty free smells lovely
– I hope I sit next to someone good looking on the plane and they think ‘wow! she smells great.’
– ew we’re all gonna be smelling gross after 40 hours of travelling though
– am I going to get lonely?
– what if I literally make no friends
– I hope mum and dad are alright
– and Syd (world’s greatest dog)
– this flapjack is tasty
– oh god what if my backpack doesn’t make it to Auckland
– oh god… The rape alarm
– what if the rape alarm that mum got me goes off and they destroy my bag cos they think it’s a bomb
– I hope there’s not an actual bomb
– change thoughts, change thoughts!
– I wonder what the weather will be like
– oh shit I don’t think I packed my retainers…

***

It’s Thursday 6am. I’ve been travelling non-stop since Tuesday afternoon. I can’t be bothered to work out how many hours that is, but it’s a long time.
On the plane about an hour ago, I told the 70-something-year-old lady that I’m sat next to, that I could see land. She got excited. “Where!? Where!?”
I then rubbed my sleepy eyes and had to apologise for my mistake. It wasn’t land at all. It was the wing. We were both in stitches laughing.
I’m yet to ask her name but we’ve spent a few hours talking (I’ve got my own little bet going on in my mind because she looks like a Pat). She’s from Liverpool, she has an 11 year old border collie cross called Brandy. She used to live in NZ when she was younger, then she married a New Zealander, the love if her life. Sadly, he passed away 7 years ago. This will be the first time she has been out there since.

I think she’s glad I’m sitting next to her. I repeat to her the things the air-hosts say like, “milk or sugar?” And I softly nudge her if she’s asleep and the food comes around. It took me a few minutes at breakfast. I thought she’d died. She hadn’t.

***

I’m finally in the departure gate at Auckland, waiting for my flight to Wellington. Goodness, Auckland was a bit of a nightmare. I imagined it would be small and quiet but it was rammed! My heart raced itself silly as I waited for my bag to show. Must have been the last one on the conveyer belt. Such a classic.

Let out a big depressed sigh as I found out Pat’s name was Lynn.

NZ is quite strict on what you can bring in. You have to declare food, medications, have you been on a farm in the last 30 days? Etc.
Any misleading / incorrect information could result in a fine between $400 – $100,000. ‘Jeepers!’ As Joe would say (see California diary, 2015).

After asking directions for domestic flights, a bit of panic set in… There were so many people! It was a long way to go and I didn’t have a great deal of time. Taking pity on my cute, lost face, the lady in official uniform whispered, “follow me.” She lead me to the front of the ginormous queue. Amazing!

X-Ray, bomb-check-scan, declaration and then checking in and bag drop. It was all this DIY check in malarkey like at the Tesco Express nowadays. It was confusing and I’m convinced my bag won’t be there to meet me in Wellington.

***

All is good. Backpack and Liv are in Wellington.

And so it begins!