Cruising around Heathrow for the third time, by now I am hanging over the seat, arse in the air fishing in my rucksack. Ella is driving, weaving way to fast around the traffic, waving her fourtieth fag in the air "I am sure its terminal three - really I am" she shouts at me - I flop back in my seat, envelope in hand and pull out my ticket. I pause to focus for a moment and try to see through the fug of smoke, as Ella gestures in a not too friendly way at the taxi in front of us who is going too slowly for her liking. "yep" I confirm, "just drop me outside, no need to come in with me." We swoop in to the drop off bay, screech to a hault and I leap out and haul my rucksack to the pavement. "Now dont go doing anything silly out there" warns Ella, dropping her fag but in the gutter and lighting another at once, "and I dont do goodbyes so I am off!" with a quick hug she was gone, and I am standing on the pavement, in the rain, rucksack at my feet, about to embark on the adventure I have been planning for my whole life. I sigh, and do the first two things which come in to my head, buy a packet of fags and burst in to tears.
Three fags later I am sitting in a coffee shop with a Polish waitress anxiously passing me enough napkins to plug a storm drain. The tears have turned in to a sob and people are trying not to stare. Good grief I am such a wuss, I try to pull myself together and with a grateful wave to the waitress I wheel my rucksack to check in. There it is, on the board, Quito, Ecuador. No going back now. I glance anxiously about me, looking for someone who may like to sit next to a 40 year old fat woman with piggy eyes and snot on her t-shirt. I heave my rucksack on to the scales and wander off to do a spot of shopping.
Its January and I have just turned 40. Literally. I have spent my life up until now raising kids when I was just a kid myself, and working very very hard, now I have sold my beloved florist shop (more on that later) and I am about to realise a life's ambition and go travelling. No more funeral flowers, no more needy brides, its time as they say, for me time. I have never been more scared and every fibre in my body is telling to get the hell out of there, and jump on the first train home.
Its probably just the high from smoking (after two years of quitting) I tell myself, coupled with the hangover from last nights departure party I am bound to feel a little wobbly. So I buy a Toblerone (seemingly the only chocolate available at an airport) and by the time I have wandered down to departures I have eaten the whole thing.
In no time at all I find myself on the plane, wrestling with the seatbelt, I suck in my stomach and clip and wonder if its possible to cut off the circulation to the entire lower half of my body. To my left is the isle and to my right, a South American looking man, with his head leant back on the headrest, seemingly quietly talking (or praying?) to himself. I close my eyes, try to swallow a returning sob and wait for take off.