Sunday, 26 July 2009


“Aye, the poor sap couldn't even recognise a blackcap.” Mr. Buchanan rubbed his arm where the antiviral had been injected.


He snatched his hand away. “Ach! A load of fuss over nothing.”

Jane wished mum would hurry up: the last Edinburgh flight was boarding and the old fools weren't even through security yet; dusk was falling on a car that seemed incapable of running both engine and headlights together; Year Two had given her hell all day; and now her father was wittering on about some bird. It had been wonderful to see her parents and spend the school’s in-service day with them but she didn't want to miss too much of that evening’s Cortinas tribute gig and there was a weekend of flat-hunting ahead. She couldn't keep living in one room.

“At your age,” she said, “the flu could be very nasty.”

“My age? My age? I’m as fit as lads half my years.” He was too – a miracle of Calvinistic preservation. “What’s your mother up to?”

“I should know?”

Why couldn't ma pee on the plane? They didn't charge for it. Yet. It was barely an hour in the air too, not as though they were going to spend all day getting to... well, yes, dammit, Australia. She could surely think the word by now.

“I do hope they're holding the plane for us.” Mrs. Buchanan bustled up. “They don't go without you these days, you know, what with – “

“Mum! Come on.” Jane stepped towards the escalator as though trying to encourage a couple of puppies to follow.

“You needn’t take that tone, Jane Louise.” Mrs Buchanan finished tying a headscarf, for which Jane could see no reason. “And in any case there's no point your going up there. We'll love you and leave you here.”


The public-address system bing-bonged and in the following announcement Jane caught the word, Edinburgh.

“That has to be final call.”

But her parents were moving. She hugged them, distantly. They seemed inclined to dither again. She checked the departures screen to chivvy them along.

“Only...” where was the gate for the flight? Edinburgh. Edinburgh. Cancelled. Cancelled? Impossible. A minute ago it had been showing gate – whatever the bloody gate had been. Cancelled? “Wait on.”

Her folks had reached the foot of the escalator. They followed Jane’s gaze to the screen. Jesus, God, she thought, thirty seconds earlier and they'd have been through. Instead, thirty minutes later she returned to them at Café Ritazza, having gleaned the news that one of the cabin crew had fallen sick and there wasn't much chance of a replacement that late in the day.

Mrs. Buchanan seemed unruffled. “That’s bonny. We’ll enjoy another night in Bristol.”

“Ma, this isn't British Airways. They'll not be putting you up at the Hilton.”

“They won't?”

“It’s a budget bloody airline, remember?”


Mr. Buchanan grunted. “Less of the language, girl.”

“Oh, brother.” Less of the gig, less of the search for accommodation too. Jane hadn’t space to put them up and couldn't dump them in the centre of town either; and they'd need bringing back to the airport in the morning.

And it was fully dark when they got back to the car. And the motor died as soon as she switched the lights on.

“I don't fucking believe this car!” Jane was past caring about language. “How do lights bugger up engines? And look...” She left the headlamps on and turned the ignition key twice, three times, to no effect; and buried her head on the steering wheel. She couldn't even cry. She had visions of Basil Fawlty thrashing his Mini with a fallen branch and actually began to chuckle.

Then she cried.

It was all shit. Bloody, bloody shit.

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