Monday, 20 December 2010

It brings us together and tears us apart

So. The consequence of a cancelled flight from Hong Kong to Heathrow is a strange out-of-body, other-worldly feeling.

A nagging voice in my head keeps reminding me that we shouldn't be here, where we are, surrounded by woolly hills, butterflies and jungly trees. But look, we are, because I can see my feet soaking in sunshine. I keep looking at my feet, definitely on the ground, my toes enjoying the warmth, and I tell myself that warm toes are a good thing. I can scribble out deep vein thrombosis on the to-do list for today.

But it was such a fixture in the diary, and has been for a long time. The return to England was written there forever, with promises to children, dinner dates with friends, meetings with families, and now they're all gone.

The children bit is hardest. I inscribed that date in my diary and affirmed Yes, there will be Christmas trees! And baubles made from shuttlecocks! Then I inked it in with my own mitochondrial DNA, such was my conviction that I could carry it through. Stupidly, blindly, ignoring those increasingly urgent pictures of England under white, I even diverted the Amazon sleigh to take a left turn over Buckinghamshire.

And now look, everything's gone in different directions. We're not there, we're here. The feet are wandering off down the family trail to Lo So Shing Beach, while the body's wandered off trying to find the head, which is somewhere lost, wondering where all the Christmas plans have gone.

Well now I've been forced to stop, and look hard, at your pictures of snow mountains, most of them it seems gathered on runways 1, 2, and 3.

I still don't blame it or hate it. Indeed, I am envious of your snow. Snow is one of those miracles. For every family it tears apart, it brings others close together. Locked out of the rooms where the heating doesn't work properly, or where the doors don't shut and the windows rattle like chattering teeth, we can all unite in the kitchen for comfort, and argue in a heap. But it's warm there, because Dig will have fixed the oven door back in its place, so we can cook spice biscuits and share out winter cakes. If we're brave enough, we can trek across the fields, and laugh at each other's noses turning scarlet.

And I know, really, lost from a flight home, I have nothing here, on the ground, to complain about. We have what we need. I'm not a refugee transiting an airport terminal wrapped in emergency silver foil. I haven't got my weeping granny in a wheelchair by my side, nor three toddlers staring uncomprehending because this year, Christmas made it only as far as Athens. If the snow loses us our time in England, we still have warm toes, night time beds, and we can mark the day when we decorate the sunshine with tinsel.

But isn't it true that we humans, we always want something different. But if we have it, then we want things back the same.