Like It or Loathe It (LIOLI)
Like MR, I wasn’t that fond of flying. When I was thirteen, my family took our first holiday outside Ireland or the UK. We flew to Rimini late one Sunday evening. Before we travelled, my dad took us all to Mass and the featured hymn was “Nearer My God To Thee”, which did nothing to promote confidence among us.
Back then, European flights featured propellors, not jets, so the trip was a tad longer drawn out than what you would expect these days. The flight path took us across the Swiss Alps and I remember seeing Lake Geneva as a huge dark patch between what looked like paintings of mountains.
As luck would have it, there was a thunderstorm that night, so the pilot brought us above the clouds, where we were treated to a view of lightning from above – which is quite dramatic, let me tell you, especially when the airplane is rocking and dipping through the flashes of lightning and the mountains appeared to be chasing us through the clouds. We recovered enough from that experience to not actually hike all the way home, but for years afterwards I would feel seasick the moment I approached the check in.
Almost twenty years later I decided to visit a friend who was working in St Mary’s on the Scilly Isles that summer. Without really thinking about the type of plane required for short hops, I booked a Dublin – Bristol – St Mary’s ticket. Embarking at Dublin airport, it was like deja vu all over again – it was the same type of plane as the one from the epic Italian trip.
But this time, it was a beautiful day. We flew along the UK coast – flying low enough for the pilot to point out landmarks, and show us the wreck of the Torrey Canyon. This wasn’t so bad.
But then, at Bristol I was confronted with a 1980’s version of the airbus you see in the picture above. It didn’t look half so shiny and new. We had to load our own bags into the boot (I wouldn’t have dignified that little space with the title of hold). There was nothing between the pilot and the passengers. There was about as much space inside as a Volkswagen mini-bus. For safety reasons, no hot drinks allowed. Cold drinks in covered cups with straws were available. I very nearly turned back, but the prospect of standing up the very hot male friend persuaded me to take that one small step to climb on board. (It was really only one small step….)
In flight, when the plane banked, it banked – I distinctly remember turning my head to look out the window on my left and getting a direct view of the sea beside (not below, beside …eeek) me, and when I turned my head to the right, I could see the sky (beside me) through the window on the other side.
There are a number of videos on You Tube which demonstrate the short landing and take-off strips on St Mary’s – one runway is half-gravel, half-grass with a hump in the middle, the other just goes right over the edge of a cliff. Our pilot had to land, leapfrog and then take an extreme sharp right along the edge of that cliff before finally coming to a halt.
But something strange had happened during that horizontal moment – I began to enjoy the ride. Now I like flying. If only I could do something about those damn airports.