12.10: Stuff stuff in overhead lockers, trying not to expose midriff.
12.12: Limbo into seat and appraise allocation in terms of proximity to: the seat in front; the toilet; the children; the likelihood of the chicken preference running out.
12.15: Suspiciously monitor people getting on board. Jump to wild conclusions about their lifestyle; lineage; unfeasible tan; ability to cope in confined quarters.
12.20: Take stuff down from overhead lockers.
12.25: Familiarise with plane seat landscape: positioning of substance-less pillow; storage of blanket; shoe situation (on/off/socks).
12.30: Test facilities: chair recline; food table axis; screen tilt; remote control functioning.
12.35: Arrival of passenger in adjacent seat. Quick Terminator assessment scan: weight; odour; personality type. Give economical smile. By the end of this journey you will know more about me than my gynaecologist. But embark on a conversation and I will assume the brace position.
12.40: Feel bored. Wonder how long is left of the flight. Realise it hasn’t taken off yet.
12.41: Liberate Inflight magazine. Flick through. Study world map with route arrows connecting capitals without knowing why. Read an article about week-ends in Barcelona. Replace magazine.
12.42: Accept cleansing tissue. Watch how many people use it to clean crevices only usually reached by hot towels in Indian restaurants.
12.43: Liberate Duty Free brochure. Question how popular the ‘his and hers’ matching sets are. Of anything. Question if you are bored enough to purchase a pendant for the birthday of an elderly relative. Decide you are not.
12.44: Elect to sleep before take-off. Close eyes.
12.44 and 3 seconds: Open eyes.
12.45: Look at film options. Get excited you can watch a recent release. Manage disappointment when you realise you are not flying to Buenos Aires.
12.50: Eat Bombay Mix, despite swearing you wouldn’t before you got on the plane. Dread the rest of the food resolutions you know you are about to break.
12.55: Listen to the Captain speaking, on the look-out for signs that he is pissed/hungover/ playing a pre-recorded message. Wonder why he sounds so goddam relaxed.
1.00: Rummage around for cosmetics bag, knocking over bottle of water by feet.
1.05: Apply face cream to already freeze-dried skin. Look in small mirror at bloodshot eyes and desperate hair. Know it’s only downhill from here.
1.10: Feel grateful for the distraction of the emergency landing instructions. Appreciate the hostesses also find them deeply ironic. Consider how attractive hostesses are. Wonder if you would like to be/nail one. Take no notice of nearest exit.
1.15: Examine emergency landing card without registering a single piece of information.
1.20: Pointlessly adjust seatbelt. Take off. Feel nostalgic.
1.25: De-click ears by swallowing 10 times.
1.30: Sigh and prepare for the onset of terror-suspect sleep-deprivation.
1.40: Rummage in bag for book, knocking water over again.
1.45: Read 2 pages of book. Feel bored. Stow in magazine pocket, stretching it to capacity.
1.50: Moniter progress of hostess with drinks, with mounting fear she may miss you out. Consider spirit/wine/ sensible water options. Pluck up courage to ask for more than one. With ice. And lemon. And saucy bits, if it’s a Bloody Mary. Manoevre unwieldy limbs to safely transfer beverages to table. Just miss hostess trying to hand her back the spent refresher towel and empty Bombay Mix packet. Shove down the side of the book in overstretched front pocket instead.
2.00: Drink drinks. This is great. This is like being in a bar. I’m almost enjoying myself.
2.10: Finish drinks. Feel cold, dehydrated, nihilistic.
2.15: Adjust air flume above head, which is pointing the wrong way. Play with light on/light off. Accidentally press hostess button. Sorry. Sorry. No, sorry, it was a mistake.
2.20: Play a computer game. Try to get to grips with how to hold the remote control to move the caveman around the maze. Derive inordinate satisfaction from zapping pursuant elephants after ingesting power-enhancing carrots.
2.30: Study menu card. Try to deduce meal least likely to mortally offend palate. Wish you had pretended to be a vegetarian. See vegetarian option make a funeral march past. Feel relieved you didn’t pretend to be a vegetarian.
2.45: Receive meal and contemplate dolefully. Then set to work making the necessary adjustments: transference of less weary salad items to main tray; swapping round of sauces/vinaigrettes; roll placed to one side- no, sod it, roll reinstated and lavishly buttered. Crackers and cheese placed in reserve. Dayglo pudding laughed out of court.
3.00: Start to eat meal. Believe it to be so packed with lard it could walk off the plate singing a lardy song.
3.05: Start to love meal. Experience lard endorphin rush. Proffer little glass for wine. This is great. This is like dining out. I’m almost enjoying myself.
3.10: Finish acceptable parts of meal.
3.11: Start on unacceptable parts of meal. Re-introduce the Dayglo pudding. Resolve to try just one bite. Eat the whole thing, followed by the mini Dairy Milk. Panic you’re taking too long and there will soon be tea and coffee and you won’t have finished.
3.20: Balance hexagonal cup on tray for hot drink. Spray little milks over neighbour. Try not to feel like a giant.
3.30: Hand back empty tray, wearing the pleading eyes of a seal-clubber negotiating with Jesus at the gates of Heaven. If I could turn back time. If I could find a way.
3.40: Carry on with Caveman Crunch filled with self-hatred. Commit suicide by deliberately walking into elephants.
3.50: Watch a film. Laugh manically at anything remotely funny. Weep inconsolably at anything remotely sad. Make thumbs up/thumbs down gestures at traveling companion. Wonder if you also look like someone whose mind is on the turn and is obliviously sitting in their own shit. Wearing headphones.
5.20: Finish film. Look at watch. Look at passengers slumbering under their blankets. Want to kill them or wake them up by doing loud elephant noises in their ear.
5.25: Hear girl chatting vigorously. Locate her kneeling back-to-front in her perky seat. Want to clamp her mouth shut using any left-over pudding as glue.
5.30: Need toilet. Consider escape. Execute it. Stretch in aisle. See other scared eyes peeping out of hollow faces, looking to you for answers.
5.40: Eek into toilet, side-stepping wet bits. They’re just water. They’re just water. Flush toilet and think about large woman who got her bits sucked into the vaccuum and had to be removed by paramedics at the other end. Look in mirror under the cruel orange glow. Feel empathy for Michael Jackson. Feel kinship to a maltreated animal. Avoid squeezing actions AT ALL COSTS.
5.50: Return clumsily to seat trying to wake up traveling companion to ensure you are not the only person who has not slept for 72 hours straight.
6.00: Start new film. Weep all the way through. Even through comedy. Especially through comedy.
7.40: Accept glass of apple juice from hostess with the grateful wince of a galleon rower being spared the lash.
7.50: Try to sleep. Recline chair all 2 1/2 inches. Inflate neck pillow. Settle down to dreamland.
7.52: Admit you have never been so angrily, preposterously uncomfortable ever. Drift into a delirious state of half-existence, praying for unconsciousness or death.
9.00: Give up trying to sleep. Wonder why ruminating on the gaping flaws in your life surrounded by the husk of humanity in a pressurized capsule didn’t take you there. Look at watch. Try to cry but fail to do so due to dehydration.
9.10: Watch Friends. The One Where Rachel and Ross Get Together. The One You’ve Seen Five Effing Million Times. The One In Front Of Which You May Actually Evaporate If The Plane Doesn’t Land Soon.
9.40: Switch to radio. Anything. Claire Sweeney. Michael Bolton. Whatever. Take me Lord. Take me now.
10.50: Nod off for 5 minutes.
10.55: Awake refreshed. Renewed. Take out mirror and try to stick on pieces of face falling off, in case you frighten other passengers on disembarkation.
11.00: Enter The Twilight Zone. Play solitaire. Order a gin and tonic.
12.00: Watch a film. Laugh all the way through. Even through tragedy. Especially through tragedy.
2.00: Accept meal without prejudice. Eat the whole thing immediately. Eat the cake. Eat neighbour’s cake. Ask hostess if there is any spare cake you can eat. This is great. This is like being ever so slightly insane. I’m almost enjoying myself.
3.00: Get violently hauled into reality by the cabin lights. Examine surrounding wreckage. Wonder if you crashed and didn’t realise. Wonder if you will ever walk again.
3.40: Gather personal belongings worth salvaging, like a tramp being asked to move on.
3.50: Touch-down to collective whinnying of cabin inmates. Exchange the grimaces of a shared ordeal with those brave enough to make eye contact.
3.40: Exit plane planning motoring holiday in Wales for the next 10 years.