Many of us have been there. You go to bed one night at around this time of year, knowing big plans are going to be set in motion when you wake again. You try to get as much sleep as you can in the time that you have, but the adrenaline within has other ideas. It’s pumping through your veins, and you’ve never felt quite so alive since…well, since roughly a year ago, actually. You know you need to suppress it as best you can to get the rest you need, but this proves to be an impossible task. Every inch of you is almost shaking with the electric excitement that courses through your body, as if you’re hooked up to the National Grid. This goes on for something like five hours, and all the while your eyes are tightly shut in the hope you’ll drift off. These efforts are ultimately in vain, but at least you don’t need an alarm to know when to rise. The glow is there to guide you, both from the bedside clock – telling you it’s precisely 2:00am – and the landing, because the next bedroom is a hive of activity. You hear muffled and weary voices, and the hurried packing of suitcases. This is normally something done with the discipline of a military operation, because everything has to fit perfectly in every case and bag, but this morning it’s being done somewhat more excitedly, even as you try not to disturb the neighbours in their slumber. After all, you’ve got somewhere to be.
You’re going to the airport, and then you’re going abroad for a fortnight.
That paragraph described with relative accuracy how pretty much every one of our family holidays began for around twelve years. After the initial hustle and bustle upstairs, we’d all come down and gather in the hallway, adding the finishing touches to our preparations before leaving. We’d make sure we had a round of squashed Marmite sandwiches each to eat in the airport, and then we’d depart, driving away with the house in darkness behind us. To some, pitch-black and empty roads may have an eerie quality, but for me they always had a charm of their own. Street lights and shop signs of different colours would turn the early morning into a wondrous microcosm as they illuminated the gloom we journeyed through. I’d see other cars in both lanes, but their drivers would remain anonymous to me, so my imagination would be left to wonder what their stories were and where they were going. And as we drove further and further towards the airport, we’d find ourselves passing empty fields that were vulnerable to harsh winds, or motorways that were saturated thanks to a brief but torrential shower. Such sights meant that I always felt cocooned and warm, and most importantly that I could concentrate on the trip that lay ahead for us all to enjoy.
The numerous glows before me really did help with that. As Mum or Dad drove, the light from the instruments on the car’s dashboard were there to comfort me, and they made me smile as they pierced through the blackened yonder. When we reached the airport parking and had emerged into air that was chilly and crisp even in August, the hustle and bustle of the expansive buildings was there to greet us, and one could see the blazing white light of the countless rooms and corridors from quite a distance away. But between those two points, there was the most natural and eagerly awaited glow of them all in the form of the Sun itself. The latter stages of the journey would see it just poking its head above the horizon, giving the sky a faint orange tint that grew brighter as the giant orb ascended further into the sky. It felt like a race sometimes – who would finish their journey first, the Hawkers in the Vauxhall Zafira or Mother Nature? We did, of course, but the Sun was never far behind. As we wearily ate our sandwiches at a mucky table after check-in, its rays would be seeping through the windows. As we waited patiently in the Departure Lounge at everyone else’s breakfast time, it would be welcoming a morning in full swing with blue skies and birdsong. And then, when we were venturing out onto the tarmac to board the plane, it would be high in the sky, ready to welcome us with its full force when we disembarked, and to remind us – usually with all of 30 degrees or more – that the best fortnight of the year had begun.