Aside from a quick look at getting onto the internet, the main things at the forefront of my mind are the cold and sleep. It is 5:23 and I have been awake, occasionally dreaming* for three hours now. This is a side effect of not really sleeping the previous night and going to bed early last night. I’m pretty much screwed when it comes to sleep then. Is there a reason for this disarray? When in this case it is because I got an early (7:10am) flight to Malta from Edinburgh.
Whilst that is an early start (we aimed to leave at 5:10am though actually left at 5:30) I would have thought a few hours sleep would have been in order during that night. Unfortunately I get rather worked up when travelling. It is anxiety really, trying to make sure I have covered everything. If I have a better check list then perhaps it would be easier but I tend to keep everything in my head and as I described in this post, one thing can trigger off branches of other thoughts and holding them all in my head is challenging. That is not to say that I haven’t written travel lists before, in fact I usually do, but I couldn’t remember where I put any of them so I was starting from scratch. I have however travelled enough to be confident that I have more than enough things to cope for most eventualities and I think that I automatically to know the bring the vital things: tickets, money, passport, credit card and drugs (the ones that help me stay alive rather than have a good time).
So I can be all packed and calm in the knowledge that I have enough stuff but still I wont sleep. I think the adrenaline is pumping through my body, I can lie down and rest but sleep will not come. Instead I stay up watching TV serials on Netflix, nothing too demanding, it is really about passing the time than being entertained. As 4:50am approached, I got out of my snuggle of blankets completed with the dog on top, and made myself a cup of coffee and a couple of slices of bread. I was set to go but a card my daughter had written for my friends’ I was visiting had yet to be found (and never was) so we started late. Unfortunately the car had also armoured itself with thick sheet ice after an unexpected plunge in the temperatures; it was obvious the roads had not been gritted either.
The drive was uneventful and I got to the airport and hour before my flight left. I only had hand luggage and had already printed my boarding card at home, so I went straight to security and was through there in a few minutes with little queuing and no searching required. My departure gate was already up on the board so I walked there and joined the queue. As time went on, it was obvious we were going to take off later than scheduled but thas was fine, I have completed all my tasks required that morning and assuming no mechanical failures, I would be in Malta in four hours or so.
I slept a good two hours of the flight which is a fine way to spend time on a budget airline in my book, it also avoids all the hassle of being sold food, drink, duty free and lottery cards (buy one get one free special today). I listened, at least initially, to two CDs worth of Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin played by Artur Grumiaux, music I have owned for thirty years now. After a few random tracks I then rediscovered Hurts first album with its rather 80s synth inspired songs. Its an excellent way to bring a smile to my face and getting lost in rhythms, chords and soundscapes. I think the only thing of note that happened on the flight was that the woman in the window seat wanted to get out and rather than disturbing me (snoozing in the middle seat), she walked over the seats. I had my eyes closed but I think she must have placed her feet on the seat arms; all rather strange. She got back in the same way too. I appreciated her thoughtfulness. I didn’t stir once from my seat until we landed. I have to say, perhaps the runway is longer than usual at Malta, but I would have sworn we were travelling faster than usual when we hit the tarmac, and the plane took longer to decelerate with the engines screaming and fuselage juddering than is usual.
Passport control and baggage was a quick formality and I soon exiting into the main outside area of the airport. I was surprise to see so many people waiting for others at the exit all with names on white bits of card. It would seem to be normal to hire private hotel connections in Malta. There was only one couple in front of me at the car hire desk who were finishing up when I arrived. The guy behind the desk was friendly and chatty, a change to the often officious rental handling I experienced elsewhere. There is no doubt in my mind I will be charged for any minor scrap or scratch to the white Peugeot 108 I was assigned, he was very fastidious about point out its existing issues but I have annual insurance policy to cover the excess charges (1000 Euros in this case) that is standard on holiday hires so nothing new there. He was insistent that if I had an accident that I don’t move the car and just call the local police and wait. Having now experience the driving in Malta, I would find this a bit disconcerting, there isn’t always a lot of space for other cars to pass you by here, not that that stops them from tiring.
The car itself was basic and driving it reminded me of the first car I owned, a 950cc Ford Fiesta (Fisaco a friend renamed it), with a rather loose gear box, viscous clutch, and limited power for hills but it serves its purpose fine. I met up with my cycling friends near the apartment we had rented and joined them for lunch and chat about today’s experiences. After new two years on the road, they are looking fit and healthy but a bit worn in places. The apartment is spacious with three decent sized bedrooms, and an open planned kitchen / sitting area but there is no central heating. It is designed to stay cool in the hot summer, unfortunately it also stays cool in the winter and with persistent rain outside and temperatures in the low teens centigrade, the cold slowly seeps into my body.
Over the evening, I pull my socks up (I am still in the shorts with long socks I wear through the Scottish winter) and put extra jumpers on but still I am cold. When I go to bed rather early for me, I have to hunt around for more blankets and eventually work out that five layers is enough when I cover my head with a jumper. I try reading a book but my hands are like blocks of ice so I give up by 10:30pm and try to sleep. Although it is 2:23am when I woke up next and eventually consult my mobile phone, I am toasty warm. I refuse to acknowledge my bladders need for release, it is too damm cold to be getting up in the middle of the night and I know I will adapt if I push myself.
How do I survive at home when it is freezing outside I ponder? Well the heating goes on for one, and then extra jumpers, blankets and finally a hot bodied dog. It takes an effort to sit up in bed and start typing on my cold metal laptop, but with a jumper on my body and another on my head it actually is okay. Next time though, I am going to pack a pair of running tights or something, just in case shorts are not enough.
The dream I remember is rather bizarre. It involves remotely flushing rather full toilets (is it completely blocked?) and other people who are standing near said toilets being caught up in the flow of water and getting sucked down the pipes only to reappear later covered in shit and looking rather annoyed.