Thursday 17 October 2019

This Man's Life: 'Like Nadia in 'Russian Doll', I was caught in a loop in the universe'


Natasha Lyonne’s character in Russian Doll keeps dying and coming back to life on her 36th birthday
Natasha Lyonne’s character in Russian Doll keeps dying and coming back to life on her 36th birthday
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Golda Meir once said: ''Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you're aboard, there's nothing you can do.'' I fully agree with these wise words from the fourth prime minister of Israel. But first you have to get on to the actual plane. And I had my moments last weekend...

The poor kids didn't know whether I was coming or going last Friday morning. I kissed them goodbye in their beds at 7am as I left for the airport. I was off to London to do a few interviews for the soaraway Sindo. Except I was fated not to soar away. I was just arriving at the airport at 8.15am when I received a text message from a certain airline that my flight was cancelled "reactionary to heavy air traffic control slots at London Heathrow due [to] low visibility".

At 9.45am, I was back home to the kids who were going out the door with mummy to the park and then further afield. I could tell by their faces that they had made fun plans that didn't include daddy arriving home without previous notice or arrangement. It was an existential moment when your kids leave you to go out while you sit at home gloomily and wonder about low visibility over England.

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Then, the person who was bringing me over for the interviews in London rang to say that he had booked me on a 2pm flight with the same airline. I sat alone at home for a couple of hours before making my way to Dublin Airport, once again. Caught in a mysterious loop in the universe, I was like Nadia in Russian Doll on Netflix. Only I didn't die every day. I would travel to Dublin Airport on an endless time loop instead.

The kids probably secretly expected that I was having them on and that I wasn't going to London - "to see The Queen, daddy", as my daughter put it - at all and that I would be back for tea-time. They were almost correct.

When I arrived at the counter of the airline at 12.30pm in very healthy time for my 2pm flight, the massively charming person behind the check-in counter told me with a smile as wide as the wing-span of a plane that the flight was over-booked from the cancelled flight that morning and that I did not, in fact, have a seat. I am a nervous flier. So I took this as a message from God that perhaps I should not fly on that plane. I even conjured an image of my children never seeing their daddy again, as his plane - with the pilots blinded by a bank of killer fog at 33,000ft straight out of a Stephen King novel - crashed into the Irish Sea. Then the lovely airline person came back 30 minutes later and said they had found a seat and I was good to go. I rang the kids and said I would see them and mummy for tea at 6pm on Saturday. My flight was at 4pm the next day. What could possibly go wrong?

So, after doing my work in London, I caught the Tube to Heathrow at 1.20pm, and, with delays, at 2.30pm, I was once more healthily early for my 4pm flight to Dublin. The lovely person at the check-in counter told me that alas the flight had been delayed to 4.40pm. I went through security and found a place at the bar and had a well-earned drink. Whiskey, neat. (Here, for the record, I met an Irish guy who had flown in from Costa Rica and a Malaysian girl who had flown in from Los Angeles. He was flying to Dublin; she to Cork. She asked me: "Is potato still predominantly the staple diet in Ireland?" It wasn't, as far as I could detect, a trick question.)

I had a pain in my neck from monitoring the screens above. The pain went to other parts of my body when I saw that the 4pm flight which had been delayed to 4.40pm was now delayed yet further to 5.45pm. I used my extra time at the bar to work out that I had taken eight Tubes, two taxis while in London - as well as two buses to and from Dublin Airport - totalling more than four hours. This was to say nothing of the hours I spent staring at screens in Heathrow airport. By my imprecise calculations, it was, four hours hanging around Heathrow and four hours travelling around - and to - London on various forms of transport.

If you discount the eight hours I slept in a depressing hotel bed, I had spent more time hanging around Heathrow and travelling around, and to, London than I actually spent being in London. I had another whiskey.

The plane didn't take off until 6pm. (I texted my wife from the runway several times that we were about to take off, only for the dastardly plane to get stuck in traffic and not... er... take off.) The kids were fast asleep by the time I got home at 8pm. I felt like the worst daddy in the world looking at their cherubic faces, their eyes closed in sleep. (Did they go to sleep wondering where daddy was and why didn't he come home?)

When my daughter woke me up at 7am last Sunday to welcome me home, I was so jaded from flying to London that I felt like I had flown through a storm with Golda Meir and the Queen of England.

Sunday Independent

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