Return flight delayed. Infuriatingly instead of information being flashed up on the screens regarding the boarding gates or the purported new estimated time for departure there are just the words "relax and wait" running repeatedly along the bottom of the screen. It makes me want to do neither of course. But then I am heroically goadable.
The flight is ultimately delayed by over an hour and is the most turbulent that I have ever experienced, seeming to drop from the clouds to the earth in about three minutes. As we land the plane fills up with the smell of burning SOMETHING.
Behind me on the plane was an annoying noisy family from central casting or a lazy BBC 3 comedy : the dad was a bald Scouser with bruised cheekbones and the mum an emaciated Essex girl like a carrot stick in Prada sunglasses. Their kid, Rhys or Reece or Rheace or Reice, in his flat-cap and gillet combo, moy macho, Rhys, had a peculiar high-pitched whine, an exact tonal cross between estuary squawk and Pudlian screech. And he didn't stop talking. His everyday speech was like an hysterical tantrum and his hysterical tantrums, which he was inclined to in the manner of a Victorian spinster receiving some mildly diverting news, were pitched on a level with a dog's fire alarm. He screamed all the way through the, admittedly wobbly, descent, which helped the experience immeasurably. Luckily I'm very good in these "Act of God" scenarios. It takes a broken toilet or a frozen computer to spook me. And speaking of toilets it transpired that Scouse dad can't work one, as I discover from the toilet cubicle he has just vacated. There in the toilet lies the fruit of his sentimental, sing-a-long guts, bobbing like driftwood in the Mersey. Cheers la!
When I alight from the plane I find that my connecting flight doesn't exist.
I question the bloke in the customer service booth (bored, with a hairdresser's haircut).
"You just have to wait till it's up on the board," he says, rolling his eyes and stifling a yawn. He doesn't actually. But he may as well have done. Go with it: he yawned in intent.
A flight to Belfast appears finally but with a completely different flight number to the one on my ticket. I expect trouble - trouble is my default setting. I ping the metal detector at both airports. I don't know why. The pins in my legs? The tube of Zofirex in my pocket? My silver hair? In Southampton this wasn't a problem: a man frisked me, including sticking his thumbs in my trouser waistband and quipping "It must have been a good Christmas!" - the cheeky bastard, he was twice my size and had a fucking moustache. But then I was on my way.
In Manchester I had to "adopt the position" in another x-ray machine and send my shoes off on a little journey of their own without me. Then they "tested" my little bag of "fluids" again, because I was proper dodgy. The test turned out to be a middle-aged woman scowling at the bag for a few minutes before handing it back to me with a look that said "you win this time!"
My flight is due at 18.45. A sign flashes up saying "next info at 19.00". I read this as meaning that the flight is delayed. Though they aren't saying that, the fucking cowards. There's no announcement, no apology, just the promise of fresh information, fifteen minutes after we were due to take-off.
We eventually fly at 8.30. On the plane the captain reveals the reason for the delay, as well as the hurried descent and the intense smell of burning - the plane from Southampton had been hit by lightning! It was also the plane I was due to get to Belfast, which explains the three hour hangover at Manchester. My journey from Basingstoke to Belfast ultimately takes 10 and a half hours.