By Sharma Krauskopf
This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.
British Airways Boeing 747 via Wikimedia
"Ladies and gentleman in approximately and hour and half we will be landing at London Gatwick Airport. We will be coming through the cabin serving a light breakfast. If you would like one please put your tray down."
Shoot! They are at it again. Just when I get to sleep they wake me up to eat. I love my trips to Scotland except for one thing. The airplane rides from the US to the UK are a real pain. The US transatlantic flights going east fly at night so not only is my body shocked by the time difference it loses a night's sleep. Every airline I have used for Scotland handles it the same way by serving drinks, dinner, movies, and breakfast. I am sure it is done to entertain those who cannot sleep. What about the rest of us? After much practice I fall asleep the minute I am done with my dinner (sometimes even before they remove my tray) and snooze until they wake me up.
Since I haven't reset my watch, I take note they have chosen 2:00 a.m. (my time) to serve breakfast. No wonder I am not hungry since dinner was only three hours ago. I might as well reset my watch and get into the swing of things. London and the passport check lines await me. Another big joy of traveling to the UK.
What a strange January flight this is. Usually our transatlantic planes are crammed with passengers. This plane has 2/3 of the seats empty. Weird since the round trip fare to London is now below $400. According to the media the lack of travelers to the UK is caused by the strength of the pound sterling against the weak US dollar. It costs a fortune in US dollars to buying something in the UK. My resourceful husband takes advantage of the lack of passengers by grabbing a middle section seat. This allows him the luxury of actually lying down to sleep across three empty seats. He leaves me with two seats to call my own which helps me spread out a little.
Well, here they come. A friendly flight attendant chucks a very hot towel in my hand. Being a dutiful passenger I wash my face and hands so I look nice and tidy for breakfast. Since I order special meals, I am the first served. A wonderful hard bagel, tasteless low fat cream cheese, jam, orange juice and coffee are the menu. Yum, Yum? A gourmet breakfast helps start the day in the middle of the night.
Suddenly I remember, I am going to Scotland. What in the world is wrong with me? I am complaining about everything. Many of the Radiance readers would consider this an adventure of a life time. "Stop it! Sharma Jeanne!" I say to myself. All of these little things are not important when you consider the bigger issue. Going to Scotland is my desire and to get there you have to put up with a few inconveniences. I look out the window to see if I can detect dear Scotland. Most US flights soar over Scotland on the way to London - remember Lockerbie? Sliding up the window cover I search for the first sight of the green shores of Scotland or Ireland since I could not tell the difference from this altitude. At this point I am not fussy, all I want is to see land. What do I see? A floor of white fluffy carpeting and nothing else. What else? Clouds! On my June trip home it had been clear. I saw the Hebrides, ocean frosted with white caps and even a light house. I will keep watching maybe the haze will clear this time also.
The clouds are stunning with a faint tinge of orange on their edges from the rising sun. I find myself relaxing as I watch the scenes change as the light alters with the rising of the sun. In less than an hour I will be in the UK and just one short airline hop away from Scotland. Speaking of airlines I notice one just below me. It is gray and heading in the same direction we are. Other lucky people are on their way to London. I speculate if anyone down there is going to Scotland.
Happiness over takes me when the sight of the other plane. The worst part of traveling to Scotland will soon be over. I never have trouble with the flight going back to the USA just this flying all night stuff.
" Ladies and gentlemen this is your first officer speaking. In approximately 20 minutes we will be landing....."
Fantastic, we will soon be on the ground in London. My exhilaration is building reinforced by lots of strong coffee. I look out the window to watch the plane below descend. Wait a minute! It is not going down. It is coming up toward me. I watch with curiosity combined with fear as we descend and the other plane continues to rise. Oh, dear - if this keeps up, we will collide. The gray plane comes closer and closer. Not knowing whether to scream or call the flight attendant I look around to see if anyone else is noticing the oncoming plane. I want to arrive in Scotland safe and sound - not in pieces. As I am about to reach for the attendant's call button I realize the shape of the plane below is not becoming sharper as it comes nearer. By now I should be able to see its markings but it is still the same shade of unadorned grey. As it gets closer and closer I start to laugh. Hysteria? No - not this time. Just the awareness the plane I am so afraid of is our shadow. The sun must be just right so a perfect shadow of my jumbo jet is being cast on the vapor floor. As we descend, it gets larger. It is not moving we are. Soon we will meet it and pass right through it on into Britain. Which is exactly what we did!
As the beautiful green of the British landscape replaces the phantom plane and the fog, I make a promise to myself. Next trip from USA to Scotland I will sleep through breakfast and wake up as we land. (graphic of Gatwick Airport via Wikimedia). My psychological state must be affected by night flights. No more strange fantasies of crashing into ghost plane which turn out to be shadows for this traveler.
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