Saturday, 21 November 2009

Doesn't bode well



My mother was rather a last-minute person, able, admittedly, to get a lot done in a short space of time if she put her mind to it, but it could be nerve-wracking for those worrying types around her. I vividly recall watching in mounting anxiety the sewing-on of name tapes to new school clothing late into the evening the day before I was due to fly for the first time from Germany to boarding school in England. In the next few years, I twice missed a plane because we - werent - quite - ready - yet - just - sit - on - this - suitcase to - close - it - while - I - find....


As a result, I have become an anxious packer. I like to have everything organised for days before I need to travel, thinking of everything, taking all necessities so that if I or anyone around me requires a triangular bandage, a baby wipe, a hairgrip, a biscuit, a length of string, a safety pin, a warm vest, a universal bath plug or a device for pulling bee stings out of their necks, I'm probably your person. I Go Prepared.


Except twice. I once arranged to meet the Lovely Son in London when he was free from work; a friend and I had been to some exhibitions (FYO, Jacques Henri Lartigue, and Edward Hopper, both very good) and afterwards, as we hung about in the heat outside, the LS texted me from across the river to find out where we were.


Before I could respond, my uncharged phone died. Worse, I didn't have his number written down anywhere; it was stored inside my dead phone. Result: major horror and self-recrimination at my own stupidity, and a huge, justifiable telling-off from the LS later that evening.


Then today. This little trip to Devon has been a doddle so far; travelling light (10 kg of hand luggage only!) so minimal packing, assuming that they do have shops in Devon should anything essential actually be required, like universal bath plugs and lengths of string, and everything arranged online, cat and dog carers sorted. The to-do list has steadily dwindled; camera and phone charged, dog's bath and her bedding laundered planned for tomorrow. Passport (for airport security) in handbag, said passport being the only item of photographic ID that I possess, other than my bus pass, which makes me look like one of those moon jellyfish in the aquarium, and which, according to the extremely unpleasant woman in the local Post Office, Won't Do as ID when collecting parcels.


Except, except... my passport, which I've checked for years and knew in my heart would expire next year, turns out to have expired last May. Seven months ago! I only found this out this afternoon. "Rose will kill me!" was my first thought, the prospect of explaining that I couldn't fly with her, when her sole purpose in flying at all was to fly with me, making my stomach churn. The second thought was that I'm becoming the sort of person I dread travelling with, forgetful, disorganised, ill-prepared, never able to find a length of string when one is needed.


Another friend, who I rang to bleat at in high-pitched tones of anxiety, advised ringing the airport and the airline for advice, to ask if a bus pass with a photo of a moon jellyfish on it might get me through security. After all, I was only taking an internal flight. I was only semi-reassured; this is the much-travelled friend who is a fount of horror stories of the meanness of airport security personnel. I started with the airport, and was passed to the so-nice people who manage check-in. And guess what? You can travel internally on an expired passport for up to a year. Did you know that? Isn't that a useful thing to know? I'll test it out on Monday morning and report back. I shan't tell Rose.


But I shall also be wearing: a triangular bandage safety-pinned inside my warm vest, a length of string round my waist, hair grips in my hair, and round my neck a universal bath plug on a little chain, worn as avant-garde costume jewellery. Bee stings and biscuit emergencies will have to be dealt with in Devon.


14 comments:

Marcheline said...

Oh, poor you! I know how awful that feels, getting what you think is *everything* ready, only to find the most important piece of the puzzle is missing.

I hope the passport debacle turns out all right, and that you have such a wonderful time in Devon that you completely forget about the stress you're feeling now.

Breathe. Let go. Have fun!

liZZie said...

Bon Voyage! Mine expired in June so I'm very grateful for the info. By the way - how about your driving licence as ID? I bear no resemblance to the photo on mine but no one ever seems to query it. By the looks of things you'll need waterproof leggings and goloshes etc...

rachel said...

Marcheline: I tend towards catastrophising, I know... but am breathing, calm, collected, confident that it will be fine.....

Lizzie: My driving licence is the original, and so tattered and torn, so worn along its folds, that opening it requires an expert from the British Library to ensure its survival. My driving's the same: old and flaky.

Isabelle said...

Poor you indeed. I can imagine the cold hand gripping your heart...

However, I'm glad that all you'll have to worry about is the cold rain gripping your feet. Devon is a wet country, in my (granted, limited) experience. And that was in July.

Have a lovely time!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I'm of the same school of thought as your mother , I fear . I cheerfully sent my two eldest from Spain to Switzerland and back when they were small and only noticed weeks later that their passport ( one between them , then ) was out of date . No one else had noticed either , or was too kind to mention it .
You're fine ! Apart from one minor detail , you're prepared for a major expedition . Let's face it , in a warm vest , one can tackle anything .
Oh , just one thing . Rose doesn't have internet access ?

Anonymous said...

This made me laugh...but I do empathise with all of it. Packing is always a nightmare for me and all the "what ifs" cluster around me. Devon will be fine, I'm sure (there are shops, and worst case, Exeter will provide any amount of recherche objects); I hope you and Rose love it. Let us know how you get on.

Jan

mountainear said...

Travellers' tales eh?

With you on packing for every eventuality. The smallest bag can contain life/face-saving kit for a fortnight. I am working on getting everything else saved onto my iPod Touch - did you know that amongst everything else it can be spirit level, tape measure and Pantone reference?

Have a good break.

elizabethm said...

Oh my god - having read and empathised hugely with your blog I now also see that mountainear tells me an Ipod touch can be a spirit level. It is only a matter of time before I give in and buy one.

Susan said...

I always overpack, totally whack about it. The husband tells me that they do have stores in all the places we go should I need something but that has not cured me of packing everything (and the kitchen sink).

Susan said...

oh yes, additionally we have a debate going - is your adorable dog a yorkie? (my vote), a silky terrier? (my daughter's vote) or a mixture (my son's vote who is just playing it safe).

pennygj said...

Oh I KNOW that gut clenching rush of heat you get when THE THING YOU'VE GOT WRONG manifests itself. I'm hope that that got the disasters out of the way and you have a good trip, enjoy Devon and that the warm vest proves unecessary.

Marie said...

Oh dear, I do hope it all turns out right for you!! I live in fear of my Canadian Passport expiring whilst I am living over here. I do have a British Passport as well, but I like to keep both as current as possible! Your mother sounds like quite a character! And I LOVED your list at tne end, especially the bath plug pendant!! It made me giggle!

Linda said...

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but not packing something that you find you really need could be a good test for the local shops - it would give you a flavour of what it's really like to be 100 miles from John Lewis!

Lots of fingers and paws crossed for good weather for you!

Rattling On said...

We used in live in Russia, and I used to bring the girls home for the summer holidays. We carried all the phones, ipods, plug-in speakers, laptops, etc in our hand luggage...just in case the check-in went missing. One time they called bomb disposal to us, to check if we were carrying the components. Most humiliating. My husband has travelled abroad on a cancelled passport and nobody noticed for about 6 months. Reassuringly it was UK control who spotted it.

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