Phew! Cringe! And other emotions…

Christmas can officially begin. I have battled temperatures at both ends of the scale and tonight successfully arrived at my parents’ in Belfast.

Since snowcalypse descended last week, holiday travel plans have delicately been in the balance. Actually, at the very moment I booked my flights (back in October) I was already formulating potential back-up plans – one reason why I ultimately flew out of Birmingham instead of London. Then on Saturday night, with impeccable timing, I got sick. The illest I’ve been since Christmas two years ago and making it the third of the last four Christmases that I’ve been under the weather. Four nights of awful sleep and virtually no appetite followed, making panic over meteorological conditions and airline vagaries even worse.

Thus I effectively wasted my first two days of holiday languishing in bed till the early afternoon and then attempting to make myself feel more human by seeing actual people. This was possibly a mistake as it led to an inadvertent evening in a draughty exhibition hall and made me incredibly determined to keep my date with the BBC Radio Theatre on Tuesday [much, much more on this at a later date]. The latter also required half an hour queueing in sleet, which might account for how categorically awful I felt yesterday morning as I began my mission to reach the shire for Christmas.

But enough moaning about my woes. By today, with no further heavy snow showers in the West Midlands and a receding feeling of general malaise, things were better – which is lucky, given the fate that befell me today at Birmingham International Airport…

I’m a fairly patient and moderately experienced traveller. I’ve dealt with the ferocity of US immigration and the terror of Israeli Border Control and don’t generally get flustered if unexpected things happen. However, what I do like is order and effective queuing – something usually typical of airport security. No such luck at Birmingham, someone even pushed ahead of me while I was decanting my laptop into a tray – at Gatwick you’d be forcibly removed for such behaviour.

My belongings were spread across two trays and my rucksack. First my laptop was picked out for a swipe (I quite like this, it means my screen’s now clean for the first time in ages) then my rucksack was lifted out. This did not make me happy, anyone who’s familiar with my handbag habits would guess at what level of junk might be contained within such a tote. Here are some examples:
What’s in a Name? [A book on the origin of tube station names which has been in there since my nerd’s day out.]
– A box of Christmas wrapping paraphernalia – ribbons, bows and what have you.
– Two-thirds of a cinnamon & raisin bagel bought for lunch on yesterday’s train (indication of illness that I only managed to consume one-third of it over a 2hr journey). [I’d intended to throw it away.]
– Rather important letters/documentation relating to my holiday task.

Any item whose contents were unclear was lifted out and opened – swift intervention on my part ensured that my purse wasn’t opened upside down, spilling coins across the conveyor belt. My camera case was easily explained, but less so a velvety Ollie & Nic purse that appeared from the depths of the bag. My conversation with the guard proceeded as follows:
Guard: “Madam, what’s in this small bag?”
Me [cringing inwardly and probably outwardly]: “Er, those would be tampons.” 
Guard [also cringing and hurriedly zipping it back up]: “Ah, ok then.” 

Bless him. I think he was actually more embarrassed than I was – though I wasn’t particularly happy about my belongings being displayed for all and sundry to observe. Had I been feeling more fragile, I might have burst into tears at this point, but instead I accepted his apologies and said that he’d been much nicer about it than the guards responsible the last time my baggage was searched – when leaving Israel.

Weirdly (or not), I was much happier sharing this event on Facebook and Twitter than with my fellow passengers – I guess in these cases I know my audience, or at least my audience knows me. Plus, it gave me something to chuckle over during my hour’s delay. [FYI not a lot to do in Birmingham’s Terminal 2.]

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