Saturday, 5 June 2010

Oh Canada, or UCLDH @ DHSI

Zen and the art of long haul travel.

Unfortunately the world seems to know that I have started a blog, which leads to a certain level of expectation of content being produced, which I am not certain I can live up to. But then again I fear that if I take to blogging like I have taken to tweeting this is going to take over a lot of my life, but anyway, I’ll see what happens. I often tweet on train journeys, but it’s a bit pointless when there is no internet access up here somewhere between and above Coventry and Peterborough! (I love this neat map app they have on Air Canada, it tells you where you are to the mile and what direction you are going in. I anticipate that this might get less fun soon, as in over the Atlantic, still over the Atlantic, yup it’s the Atlantic again etc) So I am going to try something new for me, blogging my journey to DHSI.

I realise that in some quarters I am regarded as the kind indomitable feisty geek girl who is afraid of nothing other than the sky falling on her head. (And that’s the kind version) But regret to inform that in fact I am quite nervous of travel, especially long trips on my own. Or at least I was. What follows is yet more evidence of the power of UCLDH to change lives, or at least mine. My travel anxiety is not of the usual kind. Unlike a very high- powered academic friend of mine, who used to be scared she would fall out of the aeroplane at high altitude, I am not actually frightened of flying. I love planes, and the smell of avgas has the equivalent allure for me that new mown grass or their mother’s perfume has for other people. In fact at an early age, before I realised that I could neither see properly nor do physics, I was determined to be a fighter pilot. So it's definitely not flying that is a problem.

For me it’s the anxiety of forgetting things. I am always convinced that something terrible will happen and I’ll leave something vital at home. I always, as a consequence, pack far too many things, especially clothes, as I hate the idea of not having quite the right thing to wear in all eventualities. Not surprisingly perhaps that one of my recurring anxiety dreams is trying to pack a case in which things simply refuse to stay, or have to be chased about the house because they won’t allow themselves to be packed. Odd I know. Most people dream of exams not prepared for, being naked giving lectures etc. Not me. Freudians out there may leave a comment. I’d be interested to know your interpretation.

Also I worry about whether I’ll get jetlagged and not be able to cope with it, whether I’ll be able to sleep when I get there, whether I will miss my connecting flight and whether my suitcase will go missing (with all those important clothes in it) In general I tend to be a positive compendium of travel-related tension. (Ooh look, right now we are between Ripon and Manchester, a good place to be, if we were not heading west) Sorry I digress

This trip none of the above has happened. I am unbelievably calm. I packed in the minimum time last night. When I thought I could not find my passport I did not yell at husband and dash about randomly, whimpering all the while. I just calmly informed him and he calmly found it for me in the place I thought I’d looked. And then I didn’t even get cross with him for being smug about it. I did not fret and wake up hours before it was time to get up. I did not dash about the house collecting things I’d become convinced I might need at the last moment. I did get a bit wobbly when dropped of at the station, but not to do that would be a complete miracle for me. I should add that another irrational enxiety on leaving home for a long journey on my own, is that something awful will happen while I’m away. It’s daft, I know but it never, never gets easier. But nevertheless on this trip, for the first time, I did not get to Heathrow feeling like a completely stressed out wreck.

How has such a transformation happened I wonder? I think it’s to do with the launch. It seems like the last few weeks were just burned out a few of my panic circuits. It’s as if I went so far into worry that I came right out the other side. For example, if you lost your beloved laptop, and indeed only computer, to a hard disk fail, what would you do? Scream, cry, throw things, panic, vituperate? All of the above would be a normal reaction. But when that happened to me a week before launch none of that occurred, just a kind of scarily controlled rationality. I phoned the support people, booked it in for a repair, wondered to myself where I’d get another one, and found a temporary replacement, all without the slightest whisper of a hissy fit.

“Now, this is not normal” I thought to myself. But apparently it is. It seems that there is at least anecdotal evidence that this kind of reaction to anxiety can actually happen. People can stand chronic fear for a few weeks, and then somehow it’s as if they can just adapt, and resume their normal lives. Usually, mind, this is in war zones or such things, but it seems like something of the kind has happened to me. I’ve just got over being stressed, and all because the continual terror of preparing for the launch with one person fewer than we should have had seems to have shot me straight through anxiety into an eerie calm. I thought this might lapse when we’d got the immediate crisis over. But it seems not. It’s as if I just can’t be bothered to get stressed about minor things such as will I have enough pairs of shoes and would I be able to carry my suitcase if I did? And all of this is the unexpected consequence of UCLDH. I think I’m pleased. I’m not completely sure that the benefit was quite worth the pain. But it certainly makes travelling much more pleasant.



So here I am in Calgary airport, waiting for my connection to Victoria. Come to think of it, my cousin probably managed the building of at least part of it, given that the company she used to work for seems to have built most of this city. I really should have made time to call in to see her, but only thought about that last night. I was booking all this a few weeks before the launch when I didn’t have the headspace to work all that out. Oh well, next time maybe.

When in airports I always find myself thinking of one of my favourite scenes in the very fine Kevin Smith movie Dogma, in which the two angels stuck on earth for eternity find themselves musing on how airports bring out the best in humanitity. It really doesn’t come over well when described, but I fully recommend watching it. It’s extremely funny: think Milton with extra expletives... lots of extra expletives. But definitely one of my favourite movies. I am however a Smith purist. If it doesn't include Jay and Silent Bob, it's definitely not worth watching in my view.

Flight was horrible and tested the newfound Zen to the limit. Full of sceaming kids, so I didn’t manage to sleep. But still the bag came off the belt in one piece and in plenty of time to make the transfer. But yes I did worry about it a bit, I cannot lie, and did offer my usual prayer to the gods of air travel to make sure it didn’t get lost. But then, however calm you are there is no denying that long haul flying makes you feel like death. At least it does me. I am just refusing to think about what time it is at home at the moment. I have hidden the clock on this computer, as I don’t have admin rights so can’t change it. Sigh! Oh how I miss my lovely (light!) laptop. Flight has just been called so better go. More soon...When I wake up that is.