Travel · Writing

About chicken legs and a wee whiskey or two in the night

Friends have been asking ad infinitum when I planned on blogging here again. And I haven’t had an answer. Until now.

The kick-start I needed came this evening.

Firstly, I went for a run. That in itself is noteworthy enough, but what really got heads turning was the fact that I was wearing shorts – with the temperature at a balmy -10°C. By the end of the run my legs looked like two flame-roasted chicken drumsticks. One of my neighbours, who was out promenading her toddlers, was so embarrassed by the sight that she spun her kids away and together they pretended to admire non-existent rose bushes in her snow-encrusted front yard.

The second significant event was that I had supper at my dining room table for the first time ever: me, with my giant pink pig for company. Most evenings I just sit glued to the TV or my laptop, but now that I’ve broken the ice, I may enjoy many more meals at said table, with said pig. Perhaps I’ll even invite others around to enjoy the atmosphere.

It’s been 13 cold days since I arrived home from South Africa, and I am finally beginning to acclimatise.

SAA and a tractorI left Johannesburg on the 12th of February on a journey that was to take 30 hours. We were bussed out to our Airbus on time, and before I could begin feeling homesick, pushed back from our parking spot. And then we stopped. And waited. We waited longer than any plane should have to wait for a slot to taxi and take off. And then the captain came on: he with his calm, monotone voice, the one that couldn’t possibly be concealing any worry or irritability.

“Hi folks. You’re probably wondering why we aren’t moving,” he began, stating the obvious. “Well, we are unfortunately stuck on the pushback tractor. The airport was trying out flashy new technology, where one rides the plane’s front wheel right up onto the tug … and now our wheel is stuck. I’ll keep you updated; I’m sure we will get going very soon though.”

But he was lying through his teeth, of course. They always do. Eventually, half an hour later, with no updates from him, his first mate or any of the flight attendants, we lurched off the tractor and were on our way. The rest of the trip to Frankfurt, Germany, was uneventful – the plane half empty and, with two seats to myself, I managed to doze, resuscitate my comatose backside, doze, stretch my aching legs, doze … and so on for 10 hours.

After a few hours of wandering Frankfurt’s airport like a zombie, I boarded my next flight for Vancouver. This time the plane was chock-a-block and I ended up next to a quiet German woman on her way to heli-ski in BC, and an older lady who hailed from Glasgow and was now living in Wigan, an outcast of a town sandwiched between its better-known neighbours Liverpool and Manchester. She unpacked snack after snack, and tabloid magazine after tabloid magazine and settled in for the flight. I soon discovered that she wasn’t quite as demure as the German next to her.

In fact, a few whiskeys into the flight and she was laughing raucously at Forrest Gump, completely unaware that she was not alone in her living room with her husband. The few times I did manage to nap I was woken, heart racing, by a god-awful screech in my right ear.


The flight attendant, who was at my left ear, could have heard her order from first class, 50 rows away, so loud was my delightful old Glaswegian neighbour. She was sweet, though (I discovered, when we chatted in the wee hours of the morning.) Loud and sweet.

But she had nothing decibel-wise on the little boy three rows down. He screamed from the time his mom tethered him to her lap before take-off, right through supper and into the bassinet. I will forever remember the few movies I watched on the flight as having a “scream” soundtrack. He did quiet down for a bit in the middle, and then, as the attendants rolled out breakfast two hours before landing, he started his wailing again – finally leading us all whimpering into Vancouver airport’s welcoming embrace. His mother smiled sweetly at him throughout, the flight attendants smiled sweetly at him, and I hatched a myriad of plans on how to shut him up. Unfortunately I never got to carry them out. The one involving sneaking copious amounts of alcohol into his milk bottle would have worked, I’m sure!

If only.

Then there was the Asian family who were seated in row 49, whose carry-on baggage was just too large for the overhead lockers. I watched entranced at how first the dad, then the son and then the daughter tried to shove the bag in and close the latch. It was turned this way and that, duty-free purchases and coats were jammed in above the bag, beside the bag, under the bag and finally in another locker altogether. Eventually, after an uproariously entertaining eternity, with the daughter on the son’s shoulders, pushing with all the might she could muster from her shoulder, she latched row 48’s luggage locker shut with a loud click. I think I heard the bag groan inside. Or perhaps it was sniggering.

And then the passenger actually sitting in row 48 arrived, opened the locker, wedged his laptop bag in alongside the Asian family’s (still) too large carry-on … And so recommenced the same dance. I should have helped, maybe, but then I would have missed out on better entertainment than anything the airline could offer us all flight.

I could go on about the flight, talking about the young Bavarians who played drinking games and giggled for hours, or of the solid, sawdust-like dry gluten-free bread foisted on me at every meal, or of the stomach churning turbulence over the north Atlantic, or the stark beauty of Nunavut, but I won’t. Like any journey, this post must also end.

I love flying: the characters, the entertainment, the reality of it all. I’m just about ready for my next travel adventure … What’s next?


5 thoughts on “About chicken legs and a wee whiskey or two in the night

  1. Reminds me of the night we were stuck to the ice at Heathrow for 2 hours, unable to move!! Got to JNB too late to connect to EL ….and that after a looong return home from.. … Vancouver!

  2. save this post for your book (and for your newspaper job interview) I love ‘travel writing’ and this is it. by the way, thanks so much for my Mada postcard of the Renault on bricks. 🙂

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