Tim Dowling: we’re at the airport. Do I care if they won’t let me fly? | Life and style


I am standing in front of the bathroom mirror, shaving my lockdown beard off. This is partly because it had become straggly and hard to maintain, and partly because of what my wife said.

She said: “Are you going to have a beard on holiday?”

I said: “Why? Should I not?”

She shrugged and said, “It’s up to you.” I interpreted this as: get rid of it.

After drying my face with a towel, I see that my worst fear has come to pass: I don’t recognise the man in the mirror. His face is pale and pinched, the mouth thin and cruel. I try a few different angles, but I don’t see anybody I know. Just this jerk.

I put on a shirt and go downstairs. When I walk into the kitchen my wife looks at me blankly. I think: she doesn’t recognise me, either.

“Have you packed?” she says.

“Not yet,” I say.

The next morning I find myself at the airport at dawn, still wondering if we will actually get to Greece. The holiday has been booked for eight months, and in question for most of that time: can we go? Should we go? Do we, in the circumstances, even wish to go? The answers have changed several times. Some questions, however, are clearer.

“I’m not going into Pret,” I say, pressing my face mask against my nose with two fingers.

“Don’t be so wet,” my wife says.

“No one is social distancing,” I say.

“Yes, they are,” she says. “Sort of.”

“You can risk it if you want,” I say. “If you do, I’ll have a latte.”

I wander around a sparsely populated part of the terminal where the seating has been taped off. My reflection, with a mask on, is restored to something more recognisable. Looking around me, I begin to think everybody looks better masked. Most people have kind eyes. With all their cruel mouths covered up, it’s possible to think of the world as a benign and welcoming place.

I have to pull down my mask only once, as we board, so my face can be compared to my passport photo. The woman appears to be puzzling over the lack of resemblance. I know, I think. Me neither.

“This is an American passport,” she says.

“Yeah,” I say. She shows the passport to her colleague. They seem bewildered by it. It’s unclear whether their concerns are related to pandemic restrictions or not. I’ve had difficulty entering the UK before, but it’s usually pretty easy to leave.

I explain that I am resident in the UK, but the stamp that says so is in my old passport.

“Do you have your old passport?” she says.

“My wife has it,” I say.

“And where is your wife?” she says.

“She’s on the plane,” I say. I pull my mask back up over my nose and wait while calls are placed to superiors. No one picks up. Passengers file round me until boarding is complete. I imagine myself taking the train back home alone, which is grimly satisfying.

My wife is escorted back to the gate with my old passport, but the ground staff are not impressed by the stamp.

“It doesn’t have a date on it,” says one.

‘No,” I say. “It never did.” As departure time ticks closer, a strange calm steals over me. My holiday, I think, ends here. I fully expected this to happen, but then I always fully expect things like this to happen. It feels good to be right.

Finally, a call is answered and the situation explained. I can hear the faint voice at the other end when it says, “Let him on.”

“I let myself get a bit tearful,” my wife says as we walk down the empty ramp, “thinking about selflessly getting off the plane to come home with you.”

“You would have definitely gone without me,” I say.

“I know, but still,” she says. As I step through the plane door the masked faces of a hundred passengers look up at me: so welcoming, so benign.





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Johny Watshon

Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting <a href="https://usanewsupdate.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">News</a> is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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Johny Watshon

Life is like running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have right to know the truth and perfectly.

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