23 May 2024

We left Istanbul at around 1:30 in the morning local time which was around 22:30 Irish time. I usually change my watch to to destination time as soon as the plane takes off so I can get my head around the changes. I was expecting a long wait at customs and immigration but we were through very very quickly.

I generally travel fairly light and the only time I bring a check-in bag is on these overland trips. As I was one of the first people to arrive at Dublin Airport I guess my bag went on first, or at least in the first batch. This meant that when we arrived, most bags were collected before mine. This lead to a moment of anxiety wondering if my bag been either lost or kersnaffled by some low scoundrel. And then my bag trundled around the corner of the carousel with a very nonchalant demeanour about it, I thought. Because I had booked my flight through booking.com, there was an added bonus of of a free taxi from the airport to my hotel. So, I collected my bags, went through customs control and there was a guy there waiting for me. He had my name on a big sheet of paper. A short walk to the carpark and into a big air-conditioned taxi and a ride through downtown Dubai.

I really envy people who can sleep on planes. Those lucky ones who close their eyes as soon as the plane takes off and go spark out until the wheels hit the runway at the destination. I can never do that. I prepare for the trip by avoiding any coffee and only eat light meals but I’m wide awake during the whole flight. I occasionally have a nap of of 15 or 20 minutes, maybe half an hour at most. I nodded off last night or early this morning for a short while, it seemed. I woke myself up by making a strange snorting noise. Luckily everybody around me was fast asleep so I don’t think I surprised anybody. Maybe they were thinking somebody had smuggled a little hog on board.

It was strange, this morning, looking out of the plane window seeing the sun rise at about 6 a.m. My head was on local time but my my body was an Irish time so it felt like 2 in the morning. I frequently read until this time so I’m not unused to that sense of sleepy wakefulness. I started chatting to the person beside me in the Istanbul to Dubai leg of the journey. She was a young French woman, from just outside Paris, who working in the Middle East in ecology and the preservation and research into ancient ruins and sites. She was very passionate about her work and I noticed, as she was talking, how rarely people’s faces light up when they’re discussing their jobs. I thought that she was very lucky.

Sometimes, when I pass by a mirror, I look into it and see the man looking back, I am reminded of the fact that I am actually an old man. Seeing my white beard and my baldy head looking back at me, I think, you’re getting ould, sunshine. Of course, I don’t particularly feel old, I just feel me. However, I am old and, in the eyes of some, elderly.

The reason I am thinking about this is is because, when I was sitting in the plane next to the French woman, I was very aware of the the fact that we were forced into sharing a intimate space but have to maintain social rules contradicting that. A bit like in the tube in London or the Metro in any big city where everybody is packed in like sardines and we’re forced to invade each other’s intimate space. Yet, from a survival perspective, we find ways of managing the anxiety that comes from this invasion. I must have intuited something because I made a neutral joke and and it allowed the woman to engage and and we had a really lovely warm friendly conversation.

I reflected, later, on the very important social rules governing intergenerational and intergender contact. As a liberal and free thinking man and also as a gay man, I am very protective of the rights of women to complete personal autonomy and freedom from harassment by men. Yet, it’s great when two people from very diverse worlds can meet and mingle on a real and personal level. I’m glad we both took the risk to meet each other and talk. We exchanged email addresses and possibly I will contact her again when I am near her place of work in Saudi Arabia. I think we will be both there at the same time. That would be nice to have that connection.

Possums. I’ll have to leave you. I’m exhausted now and I’m going to hit the sack soon. More tomorrow.

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