24th July, 2016
As we were walking towards the departure gate I spotted a screen saying ‘NZ2 London,’ and my heart leapt. The day has arrived. After months of waiting and a mad flurry at the very end packing up and securing the house, giving the two cats a firm loving stroke, on the way out, ‘I’ll be back before you know it.’ They were eating their biscuits and didn’t even look up. ‘Stay safe, please.’ And after several anxious pangs in the car on the way to the airport, wondering what have I left behind, what have I not done, we are finally on our way to London, the city where both our children were born, in two separate sojourns, nearly seven years apart, when my husband was a surgeon in training.
The big lumbering jet is making its way slowly down the runway. It never ceases to amaze me how these great beasts of aeronautical engineering rear back on their hind wheels and lift up into the air. We’re a long way from pioneer aviatrix Jean Batten in her tiny, flimsy, skeletal plane sitting in her goggles with her scarf flying behind her a thermos tucked beside her on the hard wooden seat flying in a series of intrepid hops all the way from England to New Zealand. Incredible. And when she arrived the Mayor of Auckland said she was a naughty girl and her should put her over his knee and spank her.
And it has happened. The plane has loped down the runway and slowly risen into the sky. Such a good moment. My two gardening friends tell me the instant they step on the plane, they treat it as the beginning of an adventure and they fly all the way across the world with that positive, optimistic attitude, not fussing about sleep and discomfort along the way.
Down below the lights of the silent city, orange and silver like jewels on invisible strings, shine, against black spaces where the quiet water of both harbours, Waitemata and the Manukau wraps around the tiny isthmus, upon which the city of Auckland floats. Slowly the lights dim as the plane climbs through wisps of cloud, like spun strands of wool, into white space and further up into the black indigo of the night sky.
… Later. Six hours of sleep disturbed by wild turbulence, so bad it felt like a ride on a carousel at a fun fair. We were about three hours out of Auckland when the plane began bucking wildly and I was awfully glad of my seat belt holding me in. And though I put my trust in the pilot I did briefly think, we could just fall into the ocean. Later when we talked about it my husband said he felt quite worried and that from a man who is normally unflappable.
This morning although the announcement just said good afternoon, LA time, the skyscape through which we fly is shades of blue – periwinkle blue tinted violet with a soft band of white tinted mauve three quarters of the way up the canvas. Sea and sky merging in Helen Frankenthaler bands of horizontal colour.
Deborah thanks Rangimarie Kelly and Pikau Digtal for website design and artist Karen Jarvis for her image ‘Writers at the Devonport Library,’ (2023)