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.