When I leave in the morning, it is generallly darker than when I return in the evening. Some people I know would find this incredibly depressing and the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder are well-documented. I know, because I convinced myself that I had this once and even bought a lamp to help me, but I don’t really. Have SAD, I mean; it turned that I was always grumpy and tired and that actually, I had anti-SAD. I’m at my best in the morning and I genuinely (sort of) enjoy being an early riser
Larks and owls and what kind of person are you and all that stuff aside, I derive pleasure from getting up early, because when I was young, getting up early was associated with a big adventure or treat; like the pre-dawn shufflings of Christmas day or the strategic planning of a trip to the airport before going on holiday. My dad took this part of the trip very seriously. The car journey to the airport would normally take about 3 hours and if it was an early flight, parental discussion for weeks beforehand would revolve around such crucial topics as optimum positioning of luggage in boot and the necessity of a centralised bumbag holder for the placement of passports and tickets. The night before we set off, my sister and I would be charged with making the back seat of the car as comfortable as possible. This was the most exciting thing ever for me. As a 7 year old, the backseat of a car is huge and ripe with possiblities (particularly in the pre-seatbelt era), so I would spend hours deliberating on where to put my pillow and blanket for the journey. The car was my house – thrills!
The possibility of sleep the night before an early start diminishes with age, but even at seven I remember being beside myself with aniticipation at going in the car to the airport in the middle of the night! I don’t recall being enthusaistic about the holiday to follow and nor can I remember which country we ended up in afterwards. But I do remember being lightly shaken awake, forced into my ‘travelling gear’ and carried to the car. I normally slept throughout, which suggests that anticipation of travel is better than travel, which in turn is better than arriving.
A note on travel attire. One winter, my father booked us a last minute jaunt to Spain. The weather in England had been pretty terrible, which added spice to planning our voyage to the airport. Assuring us that it would be ‘white hell’ on the motorways, dad fretted, cogitated and formulated on the additional time that we would need to catch our flight. He decided, and we agreed, on leaving at 2 in the morning for a 10 o ‘ clock flight, giving us an extra five hours. Travel kit became even more essential; it’s one thing to dress for comfort but what about durability? What if we became stranded on the motorway in an avalanche or blizzard or something and have to rely on our wits and survival instincts to get by? Once you consider these questions, there’s really only one answer for a family of four of varying ages, sizes and genders: we’d all wear our matching shellsuits! That way, the helicopters or SAS rescue soldiers would know that we were a team and we’d get airlifted out of the snowdrift together, of course. At two in the morning, the atmosphere in the car was tense, but by the time that we arrived at the airport, a mere two hours later, two hours during which we hadn’t seen so much as a flake of snow, , we felt a bit like dicks. Prepare to fail? You betcha! The phrase ‘white hell’ is still used in my family to imply that someone is overplaying their part. But that trip also had its uses. Sometimes, when I’m dozily and reluctantly pulling myself together before the crack of dawn, I like to don the shellsuit in my head and relive that jolt of excitement that I felt as a kid. The adventure begins ….