Technical failure, terrorism, another BA strike – we are beset by so many fears in the age of modern flying; and yesterday, I was able to add another to my list. The low-flying book.
I’d been reading extracts from Tony Blair’s memoirs on the train on my way to Heathrow. Leaving his sniping about Gordon Brown aside, his excessive use of the exclamation mark and the awful title, A Journey (living in LA, I am so sick of everybody’s bloody emotional and spiritual journeys), I thought there was enough of interest to warrant my buying a copy for the long flight back to LA.
The problem was, that as it is number one on the WH Smith bestseller list, it was on the top shelf. Not being one for girlie mags, and being a semi-dwarf, I have never been over- familiar with the top shelf, so I took what seemed like the easiest route, stretched up with a kind of little hop, too, and tried to grab a copy.
Big mistake. The book I grappled with flew off the shelf, crashed onto my face, cut my cheek open and left me with a whacking great bruise and in rather a lot of pain.
It’s a big book. Well, it’s a big book for a small cheek and rather delicate cheekbone. It was a veritable weapon of mass destruction, to be honest, and an attack that left me having to fill out a personal injury form while pressing an ice-pack to my face.
I really wish I’d paid more attention to those TV ads fronted by Billy Murray, who used to be in The Bill and EastEnders; he’s now on screen telling you how to get a lawyer to sue the arse off people who piss you off. I vaguely recall that his ads are for criminal lawyers, and I’m not entirely sure whether a book would technically qualify as an assailant, but I’m sure it’s worth a call.
In the Star Alliance lounge, where I went to recover from my attack, John from WH Smith and Susan from Air New Zealand administered to my needs, and the staff on board ANZ checked on my wellbeing throughout the flight.
As for Tony’s book, I never even opened it. It stayed in the overhead locker for the entire 12 hours, as there was no way I was going to risk another mid-air collision with the thing.
I can never decide what to do for entertainment on the plane. I usually buy half a dozen books but never get to read them, because most passengers pull down the window blinds within minutes of being airborne, and leave the cabin in relative darkness.
I’m running out of films, too, as I have made the journey so often (that’s journey with a small “j”, Tony! And that’s the way to use an exclamation mark, by the way!! And that's not.).
The Lovely Bones and My Sister’s keeper had me sobbing so uncontrollably throughout, I though I would need paramedics to resuscitate me on arrival. Dying, or already dead young girls are not the stuff of in-flight entertainment, I have decided.
I loved Ricky Gervais’s The Invention of Lying, which has an immense profundity at its comic heart; and yesterday I really enjoyed Sex and the City II, along with The Juliet Letters.
Mind you, it was hard to concentrate on either, as the woman in the opposite aisle was laughing so much throughout the episodes of Only Fools and Horses she was watching, I thought she would have to be sedated.
I’ve been making the journey regularly for nearly two years now, and this one, the penultimate one before returning to the UK at the end of the month, was an emotional one.
I’ve made quite a few friends, both among passengers and staff. I’ve travelled with celebrities – Sharon Osborne, La Toya Jackson, Mel B – and chatted to many writers and producers.
I’ve eaten both great food (ANZ) and not so great (Virgin). I’ve travelled in a wheelchair to the plane when I did my back in, and I’ve lost a hugely expensive tennis bracelet that I still can’t bear to think about.
I’ve seen more films than I ever would have managed to do on dry land, and written thousands upon thousands of words of my book.
I’ve cried when travelling to or from a funeral or memorial service, and I’ve travelled with great excitement when knowing I am going to see family or friends and share in more joyous activities in their lives.
Most significantly, perhaps, the fear I once had of flying has completely disappeared. It certainly feels a lot safer than trying to cross the road in LA.
True, that fear has been replaced by a fear of low-flying books, but you can’t have everything.
I’ll miss the long haul flights, not least because I can’t imagine any other circumstances in which I would have the joyous experience of being forcibly separated from the non-stop ringing of my mobile phone for 12 hours.
But I can again look forward to nipping over to Paris on the Eurostar; the short flight to southern Spain, where I still have an apartment; the easy train access to London’s vast cultural experiences.
And as people keep telling me: LA’s not going anywhere and I can return anytime I like. In the words of Tony Blair . . . Well, I’m not sure I’ll ever find out what they are.
But as journeys go, mine’s been a great one.