I really was on my hols. Four glorious weeks stretched ahead of me across Christmas and well into the New Year; and I had nothing to do but read and socialise the kittens. For four weeks Porgy and Bess and I played with each other every day (in between books, of course) and took an afternoon nap when we were tired. Kittens live at two speeds on and off. When they are not active they sleep. When they are not sleeping they race around the house at the speed of light plus one. It is terribly disconcerting to leave the kittens in a room, then walk to the other end of the house and find the kittens already there, with nothing but a sonic boom and a blast of Cerenkov radiation to mark their passage.
Two kittens is the ideal number. One for each ear. Stereo purring is one of natures more relaxing sounds. Invariably when the kittens climbed on top of me and slept on my shoulders, purring enormously the while, I would fall asleep as well. Believe me, there is no sleep so satisfying as a kitten induced catalepsy.
But all good holidays come to an end. Id thoroughly enjoyed being lazy, doing nothing but read. Now I had to go back to work and the normal daily grind began again.
I took a taxi to the airport to catch my first flight of the new year. I was going to Auckland to run a Linux course. I went through the security gates and into the aircraft and made myself comfortable. It was fifteen minutes after the scheduled departure time and they were still boarding the flight - but that is quite normal for Air New Zealand who have a somewhat cavalier attitude to the strictures of the timetable. I have often considered nominating their timetable for an award for the most creative fiction published in New Zealand during the year.
Eventually, half an hour late by now, a voice came over the speakers.
"Cabin crew arm your doors and cross check."
There was a brief flurry of activity around the door to the air bridge and then we taxied slowly out to the runway where we waited for a while, engines throbbing with anticipation. Then the captain made an announcement.
"While we were taxiing to the runway, the plane developed a small fault and I'm afraid we are going to have to return to the air bridge so that the engineers can check it out."
We taxied slowly back to the air bridge.
"Cabin crew prepare your doors for arrival."
It had been the shortest aeroplane journey I had ever made! Mysterious thumps came from underneath the aircraft as relays of engineers hit it with increasingly large hammers as they tried ever more urgently to find and fix the fault. A man in a fluorescent yellow jacket went into the cockpit to talk to the pilot. An announcement was made. "Well I'm sorry everybody, but it seems that we have a major problem on our hands and I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you all to disembark."
We filed off the plane and as we re-entered the terminal a loud voice announced:
"Due to engineering requirements, Air New Zealand flight 446 to Auckland has been cancelled. Will all passengers uplift their luggage from carousel number one and proceed to the check in counter to be reassigned to a new flight."
My travel gremlins were working well. The rest of the year was looking promising. Three and a half thumb-twiddling hours later, I finally managed to fly to Auckland, kittenless and bereft.