Time to face reality: most of my life has been a wasted journey

Any long-suffering fan of a lower-division football club understands that there is one thing worse than making the long trudge to somewhere like Plymouth or Arbroath to see your team hammered 4-0, and that is the maddening futility of a trip to see a game that is called off before kick-off because of a waterlogged pitch. So, pity the poor Chancellor, who arrived in Tel Aviv in the early hours of Wednesday morning after a six-hour flight, only to be ordered to fly home to vote in favour of detaining terrorist suspects for 90 days. The only consolation of this pointless journey was that, as collector-in-chief of our taxes, he gets to keep the Air Passenger Duty that he - sorry, we - paid on the trip.

This ridiculous, expensive shambles has had a minor side-effect. It has forced me to confront a reality: that most of my life has been a wasted journey. Indeed, so adroit have I been at squandering travel opportunities that it is a marvel that I ever manage to get anywhere.

After many years made misty with jet lag, I have not the faintest recollection of how I got this job, but evidently, at the time, no one thought to ask a question like, "Are you any good at travelling?"

You might imagine that an ability to turn up at the right airport would be a prerequisite for a travel editor. While other passengers understandably muddle up terminals at Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester, at least they usually find the correct airport. Whereas I presented myself at check-in at Luton in good time for an easyJet flight to Geneva that was actually leaving from Gatwick, 55 miles away. The airline charged just £25 to switch me to a flight from Luton. Last month, however, I turned up at the right place, Heathrow, for my BMI flight to Belfast, but just a little early. It was 4 October, and I remonstrated with check-in staff, saying, "Excuse me, but look at the confirmation. It says I'm booked on the flight on...", at which point my indignity turned to loss of dignity "... er, 4 September 2006." The financial penalty for being 11 months early was a lot more than £25.

WASTAGE IS etched on the DNA of aviation, as anyone who took the mad Monarch charter flight from Gatwick to Varadero in Cuba will know. A weary Boeing 757, more used to shuttling to the Med and back, was pressed into service. It could get no further than Gander in Newfoundland before pausing for fuel. Then it took off and headed straight for Cuba. Four hours later, the captain announced: "Those of you on the right can get a nice view of Varadero."

This was unfortunate in a couple of ways: first, because I was sitting on the left; second, because the view was from 30,000 feet. The flight plan called for the jet to fly straight over Cuba and continue for another 90 minutes to the Costa Rican capital. Fortunately, the pilot knew the way from San José back to the Cuban resort, where the view had long disappeared into the night.

BRITAIN'S MOST exquisitely pointless journey is the long haul to try to reach the island of Bardsey. The holiest isle in Wales, whose shape resembles a comma rising from the Irish Sea, is at the end of nowhere - or, more specifically, it's a full stop punctuating the end of the Llyn Peninsula in north-west Wales.

My first two attempts to reach it each involved a couple of days on standby on this beautifully bleak thumb of land before giving up and returning home. On both occasions, I was defeated by bad weather in the turbulent two-mile straits separating Bardsey from the mainland. By the second wasted journey, I had mastered the art of sitting in the pubs of Abersoch, occasionally looking wistfully at the storms outside the window and shaking my head sagely.

Medieval ecclesiastical computations decreed that a pilgrim could make three visits to Bardsey in lieu of one to the Holy See in Rome. In my case, the odds were reversed. At the third attempt, I reached a place steeped in spirituality and strewn with the debris of the centuries. Rather like Jerusalem, which Gordon Brown reached on his second attempt. But I bet that my failures were cheaper.

Our man in seat 11F

The tyranny of technology has reached the skies - and, in particular, the business-class cabin of flight LY315. This is El Al's morning flight from Tel Aviv to Heathrow, which the Chancellor took back from his abortive trip to Israel. Unbeknownst to Mr Brown, the man in the seat behind him was using the inflight wireless internet to file to the aviation website, www.flyertalk.com.

"Currently reporting to you lot live at 39,000ft," wrote the passenger. "Gordon Brown is sitting in front of me in 10F."

The correspondent speculates about why Mr Brown should be travelling aboard an Israeli aircraft when a British Airways jet was due to depart on the same route. One rumour was that BA had mistakenly operated the flight using an aircraft fitted with Club Europe (barely indistinguishable from economy), not Club World (flat beds, ideal for a travel-befuddled prime-minister-in-waiting).

A spokesman for BA refutes this. All the airline's Tel Aviv flights on Wednesday included Club World; it appears the Chancellor and his team failed to fly the flag because of scheduling.

Meanwhile, our man in seat 11F reports that "Mr Brown is relaxing back in his seat without a care in the world."

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