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Going on holiday is stressful for lots of people. It is most stressful, however, for the nervous traveller. I am such a person and having recently gone on holiday, I feel compelled to reveal quite how stressful it really is.

1.)    Leaving the House. All manner of things could go wrong in our absence. The kettle, a reliable ally these past few years, could suddenly default, switch itself on, and explode. It must be unplugged. The television also. And the bedside lamp too. The iron will, of course, be checked, re-checked and checked again – but worrying about that is an amateur’s concern. True worriers have far more obscure things to worry about. Like the window that’s painted shut but won’t lock, and the gas fire.

2.)    The train to the airport. Trains never leave on time. We all know this because as Brits that’s basically all we talk about. And if they do leave on time they will inevitably find a way to delay because they know this is what we expect and otherwise we’d have nothing to talk about. We decide it’s best to get one super early, just in case. 

Aha, well done us, the trains are indeed delayed. ‘For Gatwick, board this train, here,’ which we do – why wouldn’t we? We sit comfortably in our seats and we wait for something else to go wrong. Announcement one: ‘Can everyone in blah and blah carriage please vacate. This half of the train is staying inVictoria’. Am I sitting in either blah or blah carriage?  Of course I am! Perfect opportunity, here, to converse with strangers. The only time we ever do it.

Sitting comfortably again, different carriage, more waiting. Announcement two: ‘The train on the opposite platform will be departing shortly. It is due to reach Gatwick before this train. All passengers wishing to reach Gatwick as soon as possible please make your way to the opposite platform.’ 

Well, that’s just like holding a red flag in front of a bull and throwing steak at it.  ‘This is ridiculous, RIDICULOUS, isn’t it?’ nervous travellers huff at each other.  ‘Yes you’re right, strange man who I’d never talk to normally, it IS ridiculous. Why can’t they just be honest and say “We knew this 10 minutes ago, but we enjoy seeing you stress and FREAK OUT, so, to the other platform PEOPLE. All together now….”’

3.)    The whereabouts of our passports. We’ve got them. We know we do. We distinctly remember putting them in our bags (or was it our coats, or maybe our trousers?). The lady at the check-in desk is looking at us suspiciously.  She’s seen this all before. ‘Oh,’ she is thinking ‘you’re one of them’. ‘I’m NOT,’ we want to tell her, ‘truly, I’m not’. She raises her eyebrows. ‘In your own time,’ she says.  She doesn’t trust we’ve remembered. We simply must prove her wrong. ‘It is here, somewhere,’ we reassure her. But she’s not reassured. ‘Do you want to stand aside Madam?’ ‘No, I DONT,’ we bark. ‘I’ve queued for hours, it’s my turn and I do have my passport somewhere here it’s just… Ha! Here it is! Ha!’ Smugly we produce the document. It’s a rather pitiful victory really. She couldn’t care less.

4.)    And finally, to our nemesis – security. We’re not usually in the habit of carrying handguns. In fact, I doubt many of us have ever held one in our entire lives. But as we approach security, we are filled with the most unbearable certainty that there is indeed such a weapon somewhere upon our person. A handgun and yes also a machete. And a bomb. Hearts wildly beating against our chests, we watch as our little hand luggage is conveyored towards the X-ray. What WILL they find in there? All sorts of grizzly things come to mind. Poison and explosives and drugs. All planted by that man who looked at us strangely on the train. 

But that’s nothing to what they’ll find on us. Gosh, we didn’t even think of that. ‘Step through the detector, Madam’. Aah, it’s all happening so quickly, stop, we’re confused. Right, think straight, think straight. What could we possibly be wearing that might be illegal? Ear rings – can they board a flight these days? Tweezers?  TWEEZERS? Deep breaths, deep breaths. Now we look guilty. Try not to look guilty. And what’s that – an Alsatian?! We’ve always loved and adored dogs but now, no. Stay the hell away. 

We walk into Departures, feeling slightly more at ease. But this only lasts a moment. For we now have the insufferable task of worrying about the flight itself and all manner of things that could go wrong with it. 

As we build ourselves up to this next nightmare, another more ominous thought crosses our minds. Did we double lock the front door?

by Beenie Langley

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