It was Sarah who, while I was tending an especially nasty new-shoe bite one season, enquired as to why I hadn’t “broken them by wearing them around the house in advance?” The query was more incredulous than imperious; surely everyone must schedule such activities to fill their spare time?
To travel with only hand luggage is to enter the realm of the super human. Show me your packing proficiency and I will offer you my utmost respect. And I’m not talking, by the way, about those men who just throw a load of crap into a bag in 10 seconds and then find themselves shivering on a mountainside in Dunton, Colorado, wearing a pair of disintegrated Birkenstocks and a towelling bathrobe. (You know who you are.)
Meanwhile, my education continues. Marching through the departures lounge en route to France last week (five nights, temperatures variable, high chance of precipitation, nearby beach), I offered myself a smug pat on the back for containing all my clothes, toiletries, chargers and reading requirements in a tiny case that would satisfy the scrutiny of a well-known budget airline that slaps massive surcharges on items that haven’t been sufficiently declared in advance. I had packed ruthlessly, casting out all extraneous items that weren’t deemed essential. And then I had packed again, just to make sure.
I was feeling confident. I waltzed through the check in. I sailed through the scanners with my mini liquids, all carefully repackaged, decanted and bagged into their polythene prophylactic. I watched my fellow passengers stumble and scrape with their overladen bags with a gracious but patronising smile.
But approaching the gate, I was suddenly thwarted. “I’m sorry madam,” intoned a spiffy air steward who stood between myself, the aircraft and my imminent ascent to ninja status. “But the flight is really busy today so I’m going to have to put your bag in the hold.”
I blustered, I prevaricated. I begged to keep the bag on board. “You don’t realise how many useless things I didn’t pack in order to keep this suitcase with me,” I pleaded. But it was not to be. The bag went down below. And the worst thing about it? I should have packed that bloody dress after all.