Just when you thought you had conquered your fear of flying, you get a bumpy Atlantic crossing to get the adrenalin flowing again. I have always been an intermittently nervous flyer, but five transatlantic flights in a short period had desensitized me to being up in the air, and I was beginning to fancy myself as a born again jet setter. So when I boarded the Kuwait airways flight 101 to New York JFK, my mood was not one of anxiety, but mild frustration at the delayed departure, and curiosity about what the service would be like on this new airline company (for me). The crew seemed to be numerous, predominantly male, but pleasant and dapperly turned out. And the voice from the cockpit wasn’t Kenneth More’s, but the tone was urbane and reassuring as one would want in one’s captain, so I settled down in my flight socks to enjoy my refreshments.
For all my new bravery, though, a crumb of residual anxiety lurks when flying over the Atlantic because the ” ‘unlikely’ event of landing on water” suddenly becomes less unlikely, and that’s a road I try not to even go down. However, we were tootling along smoothly and I was in my serene flying self when things started to get rather bumpy, and the warning came to buckle up. Thereby followed almost an hour of severe turbulence, the kind that rocks you from side to side, up and down, and makes the plane rattle. It was very unpleasant, so I took a large slug of the rescue remedy that I keep in my bag for such occasions (it’s the brandy not the Bach flowers that help), and quietly repeated to myself the mantra ‘ it’s the safest form of travel’, and after one particular swoop, I admit it, The Lord’s prayer. But despite these props, I could not unclasp my white knuckles from around the arm rests,and I sat rigid, my eyes closed, holding on for dear life. At one point, the older beveiled lady sitting across the aisle from me reached across and stroked my hand, which was a lovely gesture. But there was an eloquent silence in the plane apart from the man behind moaning softly and I thought of that line from the Woody Allen film : “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. Eventually I got used to the turbulence, as you do, but it was the shakiest flight I have ever experienced. It was very good to get to JFK, however late and bedraggled, and be triple-checked by immigration.
I am now settling into my new room which is freshly painted and spacious. Unfortunately it has what they call euphemistically ‘ a courtyard view’, but with some mood lighting I think I can make something of it.