AIDA AUSTIN: 'If the plane goes down, we both die. I don’t suppose we’ve got a will sorted?'

Driving towards Cork Airport to catch a flight, “I feel a bit odd,” my husband says.

“It’s flying without the children,” I say nervously, “It’s sort of putting the frighteners on me too. I mean if the plane goes down, we both die. I don’t suppose we’ve got a will sorted?” 

“Not unless you’ve written one,” he replies. 

“Maybe the fact that we both feel nervous about flying without the children is a sign. Maybe we shouldn’t fly together. ”

“I’m not nervous about flying without the children,” he says. 

“What then?” I ask. 

“I don’t know,” he says, “it’s just a niggling feeling. I can’t put my finger on it.”

At the departure gate. I’m becoming increasingly jittery about flying without the children. It is very windy and the plane is one of those tiny ones. 

“Shit!” my husband exclaims. “I knew I’d forgotten something.”

It strikes me that for the first time in my life, I’d actually be grateful if my husband had forgotten his passport: One live parent is better than none.

“What have you forgotten?” I say, hopefully.

“The egg sandwiches,” he says. 

“Two dead parents it is,” I think.

Waiting at the foot of the plane, steps in a gale. 

“Oh look,” my husband says, pointing at a sign on the side carriage of the plane, “that’s where they store the flight recorder. I’ve always wondered where they put that.” 

“What’s a flight recorder?” I say. 

“The black box,” he says, “you know, that thing they recover after the plane’s crashed.”

In seat row F. 

“I hate these tiny planes,” I say, holding my husband’s hand. 

“You’ll end up like Dennis Bergkamp,” he says, “if you don’t get a grip.” 

“Who’s Dennis Bergkamp?” 

“Arsenal player,” he says, “the non-flying Dutchman. He was on a plane when the engine cut out and a journalist who was on the plane at the time made a joke about having a bomb in his bag, just as the engine cut out. He never flew again.” 

“His timing was really bad,” I say. 

“I know,” he says, “he was at the top of his game. It severely limited his ability to play in European competitions.”

“No,” I say, “I mean the journalist’s.”

Take off. My eyes are closed. It’s very windy and there are a number of lurching bumps. Four, to be exact, one for each of my children that I might never see again.

“It feels like nothing is holding us up,” I quaver. 

“It’s Bernoulli’s Principle,” he says, “the same principle that keeps a ping pong ball up in the air if you blow it with a hair dryer.” 

“A ping pong ball is very light,” I say. 

“Look,” he says, “I’ll show you how Bernoulli works on a bit of paper.” 

“A bit of paper is very light too,” I say. 

“Come on,” he says, “open your eyes, Dennis.”

I open one distrustful eye. 

“Look,” he says, ripping a bit of newspaper and holding it close to his mouth, “pretend this is a wing.” 

He blows at the bit of paper and says something about airflow and air pressure. 

“An aircraft achieves lift because of the shape of its wings,” he says, “go on, you blow it.” 

I blow it. The bit of paper flaps up and down. 

“See,” he says. 

“Not really,” I say, “but basically, you’re saying that the only thing standing between my children and orphanhood is some flaky Bernoulli’s Principle.” 

“No,” he says, “Bernoulli’s is only one element.” 

“Good,” I say, “because right now, that doesn’t feel like very much.” 

“I mean the Munich air disaster had nothing to do with Bernoulli’s,” he says.

In flight. We are instructed to keep our seat belts fastened for the duration of the flight.

I have lost count of the number of bumps; it’s more than four but less than 50, which is the number of years that it will take for me to board a plane in high wind again.

I keep my eyes closed. I can hear newspaper.

“It’s all to do with creating an aerofoil shape,” my husband says.

“I’m not interested in aerofoil shapes,” I say, “only survival.”

Two minutes to landing. I have been trying to order my fear around but it has a life of its own. It is not at all biddable, this fear, what with the bumps. 

“Look,” my husband says. I open one distrustful eye again. My husband has made a paper plane out of newspaper. 

“It’s easier to show Bernoulli’s principle with this,” he says. 

I look, but I am not opening two eyes until convinced. He throws the plane into the air.

The paper plane makes no upward arc, just an immediate downward one instead.

“Oops,” he says. 

I look at the plane, where it has crash-landed on the floor in the aisle.

I close my eyes, prepare to land.


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