In 1982 I was living in the USA and as this was pre-internet I got my news from the wonderful National Public Radio (NPR) and the rather less wonderful US news channels and broadcasts. I did subscribe, at huge cost, to The Sunday Times, which arrived in my mailbox on Melaleuca Drive on a Thursday; I read every letter of it, spreading it out on the floor of our open-plan living room, an unwise and provocative move bearing in mind my daughter was constantly riding her green tricycle at great speed and skill in the same house.
Anyway, people began to ask me what I thought about the ‘Falklands War’ and to be honest, I had no opinion as I didn’t understand how the whole thing had been allowed to get that far.
The benefit of hindsight doesn’t make the whole thing anymore reasonable, and the loss of life remains simply appalling.
The names Falklands and Malvinas cropped up again last week, when Lufthansa gave details of its longest non-stop flight ever: 13,700 km from Hamburg to the Mount Pleasant Complex on the Falkland Islands.
On board were 16 crew and 92 passengers, the latter bound for the Research Vessel Polar Stern of the Alfred Wegener Institute, which is based in Bremerhaven, just up the road from us.
If that’s not fantastic I don’t know what is.
I miss flying more than I could ever have imagined.
In early 1982 we flew with Air Florida to Washington DC (and back) and shortly after that, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the Potomac river, killing most of the people on board. Instantly, I became petrified of flying, which was unfortunate bearing in mind that over the next years I had to travel by air. As I always do, I constructed all sorts of complicated tales about why I couldn’t possibly fly to visit (for instance) my friends in California, and when I really did have to fly I took all sorts of strange precautions like packing damp towels in my hand luggage to put over my children’s heads, ready to crawl along the floor with them both trying to find the exit. I always had a over-vivid imagination.
Many years later I started teaching engineers. I saw with what skill and care these people worked on their machines and projects, and I learned more about how and why planes can fly. I realised my fear was connected to my fears about myself, and the way my life was. I began to enjoy the thrill of the take-off, understood what turbulence is, and grew over the years to love the feeling of an airport, loved knowing Schiphol and Changi like the back of my hand…I loved the KLM sandwiches and the peanuts and the gin and tonic as I sat back in my seat on board Singapore Airlines, loved arriving in the Singapore heat in the early morning, rushing to the wonderful Changi ladies’ bathrooms to take off my cosy German underwear…just one more flight and I will be with my grandchildren again.
SPLASH! That was a tear falling on my keyboard, because it’s all gone.
‘Never mind’, the voice in my mind says, remembering a book I used to read to my own children, and grandchildren, ‘Could be worse!’
Indeed it could. Stay well everybody!