Thursday, 16 September 2010

Infrequent flyer

Hi, I’m Pammy. Do you have enough room there? Sorry – all my bags. I’m not a very good flyer. This is my second time. Second time in the air. I’ll bet you’ve flown a lot? Not me. I get claustrophobic, see? You’ll have to hold my hand. I’m kidding – you don’t have to hold my hand. Don’t worry.
Are you off on holiday, or… No, no. It’s none of my business, you don’t have to say. I’m off to visit family in New Jersey. I have a sister there, and she has three children and eight grandchildren! Can you beat that? So that makes me a Great Aunt. Three of the grandchildren I’ve never met – this will be the first time.
Clara, Gabrielle, Edward, Karl, Tyra, Cassandra, Stevie, how many is that? There’s one more. I can’t think. It’ll come back to me.
I never had any of my own. Never had the time; never settled down. Oh I had the opportunity. You wouldn’t know it now, but back then I had the pick of the boys. I did. We used to go dancing at the Ritz. You know the Ritz in Manchester? It’s still there now. No, you don’t know it. We would go on a Saturday night and it would be Swing, Big Band, Rock and Roll. Not your ballroom nonsense. We were the original party generation. Back in the day. Back in the day.
Ooh! Looks like we’re moving; getting ready for take off. If the lady walks past, can you grab her? Well – don’t actually grab her, you know, but just let her know that I need her. Thanks. A man proposed to me once. Keith Smallshaw from Clitheroe, it was. He was well off too; he had a van. I know that means nothing now, but back then it was a big deal. He said that he loved me and would show me the world. He took me to Morecambe. He said that he wanted to marry me, but he didn’t have a ring. I said ‘Don’t be soft’, and that was that. He bought a tuba while we were there. I had to travel back to Manchester in the back of the van so that the tuba could be strapped in the front seat.
We’ve stopped again now; probably waiting for the little man with the ping-pong bats to wave us on to the runway. So there I was, bouncing around in the back of a van with no windows, while the tuba and Keith Smallshaw enjoyed the views. ELLIE! That’s it: Ellie was the one that I forgot. Eight grandchildren.
So I never saw Keith again after that. He dropped me off at my house – I lived just off Hyde Road back then, and I saw him drive away, the brass of the tuba glinting at me through the wing mirrors as he went. I wonder if he ever learnt how to play it.
Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you were wearing earphones. No, I was just saying: My name’s Pammy, I’m not a very good flyer. This is my second time. I get claustrophobic, so you’ll have to hold my hand…

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