I always get caught out by flight times. 8 am sounds like a reasonable time to fly but it’s not. They say I have to be here two hours before, it takes an hour to drive and I need at least half an hour to shower and get ready. Counting back brings getting out of bed time to 4.30. Half past FOUR!
It’s hardly worth going to bed.
Add in the stress of travelling, of tossing and turning in bed worrying about the trip, being scared that the alarm won’t go off or the motorway will be closed.
They say to get here two hours before flight time and I always obey. There’s an automatic response built into my emotional make up that gets very scared at the prospect of being even a few minutes shy of the deadline. As usual, though, I’m through security and waiting in the departure lounge wishing I’d used the 90 minutes I have to wait here for extra sleep. Six am would have been a much more civilised time to roll myself out of bed.
I sit on the hard seat wondering if my dignity would allow me to lie down and have a nap like many others have opted for. It won’t. No surprise there.
A lady comes over and sits next to me. This is doubly disconcerting as there are lots of empty places where she could be in splendid isolation, as I hoped to be. She also looks a bit familiar, as if I should know who she is. I think hard but I can’t pick her out from the checkout assistants and CBeebies presenters that spring to mind.
‘You don’t recognise me do you?’ She says unhelpfully.
‘Erm, it’s early, I’m still half asleep.’
‘That’s no excuse,’ she says, ‘I’m Jenny Parker and you’ve written four books about me.’
‘You can’t be,’ I say.
‘Because I’m a fictional character?’
‘Because I’m the product of your imagination?’
‘So where does you imagination get its ideas?’
‘I really have no idea. Thoughts just pop into my head and I write them down. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’ve written until I read it back.’
Jenny smiles but it’s not a warm kind of smile, more of a long-suffering kind. ‘What makes you think that you’re any more real than I am?’
That’s a good question and not one that is easy to answer even for someone fully in possession of their faculties. ‘I’m a writer, you’re a character. You depend on me for your existence.’
‘If I didn’t exist then you’d have nothing to write. Then where would you be?’
I begin to think about the consequences of her turning up in the flesh. What if my so-called imagination is just recording something that’s actually happening? I’m always telling people that my characters, especially Jenny, never seem to do what I intend. That they seem to have a will of their own. I can’t help feeling responsible for the extremely hard time she’s been having, though. ‘Maybe I should write something good about you. Give you a nice easy life from here on in. Would that help?’
‘It’s a bit late for that now,’ she says.
‘What about I change the ending of the latest book?’
‘That would only confuse matters. Why not just let things be as they are for a change? Leave me to get on with my life without all the dramatisation.’
She stands up, ‘that’s my flight,’ she says. ‘I don’t want to miss it.’ Then she merges into the crowd and disappears through Gate 27.
‘You won’t,’ I say. I imagine she’s going to London to negotiate a rather important deal involving Russian Oligarchs and the Italian Mafia. I do hope she keeps her wits about her.