Tea and sympathy on the way to paradise

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Paradise is waking up to blue sky, a clear view of the islands and twin baby lambs pressing their black noses against the glass of the kitchen door. That reminds me, we need mint sauce for Easter lunch. Paradise is definitely spring on the west coast of Scotland, but we almost didn't make it.

Paradise is waking up to blue sky, a clear view of the islands and twin baby lambs pressing their black noses against the glass of the kitchen door. That reminds me, we need mint sauce for Easter lunch. Paradise is definitely spring on the west coast of Scotland, but we almost didn't make it.

"Due to an incident earlier this morning they've closed one of the runways," said the girl at the Heathrow check-in desk. "All flights are delayed, yours is running up to an hour late." What sort of incident, I said with interest, remembering the final scene in A Fish Called Wanda.

On the Tube, "an incident" invariably means that someone has committed suicide at Embankment. It's always Embankment. But then it's easy to lose the will to live waiting for the Circle Line at Embankment. "Between you and me," said the check-in girl lowering her voice, "it wasn't really an incident. It's just a hole in the runway."

Now I've heard everything. As excuses go, though, leaves on the line is still my favourite.

"This is a bit awkward," I began, "because it means I'm going to miss my connection. You see, there's only one bus a day that stops at Glasgow Airport for Ballachulish. If I miss that it means I miss my ferry as well." "Excuse me, did I hear you say Ballachulish," inquired a thin, quavery voice behind me. "Oh thank goodness, I'm supposed to be getting that bus too."

The little old lady, variously layered in alternative tartan and Fair Isle jersey, cardigan, scarf, jacket, overcoat, shawl and mackintosh, grabs my arm and says pitifully that if she'd known she might miss the connection she wouldn't have taken the flight, but they've now checked in her bags and refused to give them back. Even worse, she confides, is that an hour ago she took one of her special pills to stop her passing water and if it runs out before time... she starts to cry.

"Listen," I say hastily wondering what will happen when the pill runs out. "I'm sure we can sort all this out. We'll get them to halt the bus or perhaps you could take another pill. Why don't you sit down and I'll get you a cup of tea - maybe that's not such a good idea." "Call me Edna," says the little old lady still weeping, "I'm 86 and the doctor said I could only go to Scotland if I didn't get stressed. Oh dear, oh dear."

To cheer Edna up I told her about a friend who once booked a package weekend to Istanbul. He checked his bag in at Gatwick at 6.30pm only to learn an hour later that the flight had been delayed for three hours. At 10pm they learned that there was a further unspecified delay.

Furious passengers shouted at the airline staff that they'd spent most of their weekend at Gatwick instead of Istanbul, and could they have their luggage back. No, they were told, whether or not they went to Istanbul, their luggage certainly was going. My friend observed all this and then quietly sidled up to an attendant and said without passion that he was on very strict medication. If he didn't take one of his special pills, which happened to be in the bag he'd checked in, within half an hour he would not care to answer for the consequences. Ten minutes later my friend and his luggage were on the Gatwick Express heading for Victoria. He learned later that the Istanbul flight had left at 4am.

Edna wasn't listening. She was saying that she could feel one of her turns coming on. Last time she had a turn was when she fell down in her allotment and spliced her thigh on a bamboo cane. She was rushed to the military hospital at Frimley where, she said with some pride, because of the unusual nature of her injury, she was examined by army doctors researching the sort of wounds soldiers on manoeuvres might sustain in the Far East.

For the record, they held the bus for us, Edna and her waterworks carried on to the Isle of Skye, I got my ferry and give or take the odd cloud I can see, this looks like paradise to me.

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