Susan Marling's Traveller's Checks

Read all about it - fear of flying is all in the mind

This week's tragic accident involving a Singapore Airlines jumbo jet will have done nothing for those with a fear of flying. Even if, like me, you have a slight aversion to flying - you habitually check the faces of the cabin crew for signs of panic, listen too attentively to the changing notes of the engines, and can always see the headlines about "doomed" and "stricken" flight 655 in your mind's eye - take heart, you are not alone. One in five people has a fear of flying. For one in 10 the problem is so serious that they are incapacitated by their fear and either avoid flying completely or delay making travel arrangements. But according to Rob Bor, who is both a qualified pilot and professor of counselling psychology at London Guildhall University, fear cannot simply be mitigated by offering rational accounts of airline safety. The new "cure" for fear of flying, apparently, is to break down those fears into their constituent parts. For some people, the fear is triggered by a sense of claustrophobia in th

This week's tragic accident involving a Singapore Airlines jumbo jet will have done nothing for those with a fear of flying. Even if, like me, you have a slight aversion to flying - you habitually check the faces of the cabin crew for signs of panic, listen too attentively to the changing notes of the engines, and can always see the headlines about "doomed" and "stricken" flight 655 in your mind's eye - take heart, you are not alone. One in five people has a fear of flying. For one in 10 the problem is so serious that they are incapacitated by their fear and either avoid flying completely or delay making travel arrangements. But according to Rob Bor, who is both a qualified pilot and professor of counselling psychology at London Guildhall University, fear cannot simply be mitigated by offering rational accounts of airline safety. The new "cure" for fear of flying, apparently, is to break down those fears into their constituent parts. For some people, the fear is triggered by a sense of claustrophobia in the cabin, by the smell of aviation fuel or by other related anxieties, such as separation from loved ones. In many women, fertility and child-bearing (fear of flying often flares up in women in their mid-20s) coincides with a sudden reluctance to fly. We can help ourselves to face these fears with relaxation exercises and techniques that replace catastrophic images in our minds with more helpful ones; for example, imagining the plane to be a boat on water during spells of turbulence. The airlines can help, too. Frequent communication from the flight deck is known to assuage passengers' anxiety. Keeping open the flight-deck door - sadly less likely these days when mad, drunk and fanatical people are on board - is a major help for fearful passengers. Something about seeing the white shirts of the pilots coolly in control gives us a feeling of calm. (Yes, we diehard wimps will argue, but what about the chaos at air traffic control?) But Rob Bor's book Stress-Free Flying (Mark Allen Publishing, £10.99) might mean a few more people can have a sunny holiday who can't at present contemplate the idea.

Have yourself a very merry Christmas

Few experiences are more likely to summon up loathing of one's fellow countrymen than queuing in a French hypermarket in the weeks before Christmas. A special breed of Briton feels it necessary each winter to waddle around northern France in search of cheap grog. They load up twin trolleys with toppling packs of beer and cartwheels of cheese - it all seems so greedy and gross. An alternative, which at least has the virtue of encouraging the customer to taste what they are buying, is the wine festival (with takeaway sales) that takes place in Lille over four days from 17 to 20 November. This brings together 300 small growers from all over France who set out their stalls in the Grand Palais. Visitors are invited to taste and to buy if they wish. Since the show is very near the Eurostar station, buyers can make the trip by train, choose their Christmas wines and have them delivered later.

Bridgemania spreads up north

Bridges are fashionable. Despite the wobble in the London Millennium Bridge (for which a reopening date has still to be announced), the bridge excitement which started with Calatrava's harp-like masterpiece for the Seville Expo in 1992 has now hit Tyneside. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, all 850 tonnes of it, floats up the Tyne tomorrow on a huge crane-barge and becomes the vital link in opening up the "golden square mile", £1bn worth of visitor attractions on both banks of the river joined in a continuous waterfront walk. The pedestrian and bicycle bridge, which was designed by Wilkinson Eyre, is a beauty and re-engages the town with its river - a rare delight in Britain.

* s.marling@independent.co.uk

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