It’s a sunny Saturday at Heathrow arrivals terminal two. Sunny and busy.
There is something so warm and comforting to me about London Heathrow. It is where I caught my first flight ever to South Africa with my mother at barely 6 months old, where I said goodbye to my family at 18 on my year long adventure around the world, where I repeatedly said goodbye time and time again to my (now) husband before we knew we would be married and not knowing when exactly we would see each other again. It is my gateway out and my portal back in to the UK each time I leave and return. Ever watched Love Actually? Yeah that sums it up about right.
Like all airports, Heathrow is a place of meeting and greeting, departing and parting, laughing and crying. Like one of my favorite travel writers Pico Iyer so perfectly describes:
“Airports are among the only sites in public life where emotions are hugely sanctioned……we see people weep, shout, kiss in airports; we see them at the furthest edges of excitement and exhaustion. Airports are privileged spaces where we can see the primal states writ large—fear, recognition, hope.”
And so on this particularly pleasing Saturday I have just arrived from a short jaunt across the North Atlantic from Boston via Iceland. I took the red eye from Boston to Reykjavik and spent an immensely pleasurable day soaking off my cramped muscles and jet lag at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. A mere 8 hours later, I lie passed out in my seat on the runway at Reykjavik and wake up as we are making our decent into London Heathrow.
Arriving back to London, coming home to a place I know so well, one can only assume that the familiarity eased me into a false sense of security. Usually when travelling alone and arriving to an unknown place, all senses are suddenly heightened at once, hyper aware, uber alert and ready for anything. But this is home, I can relax right?
Waiting nervously for my luggage to arrive, unbeknownst to me three tiny elves hide inside the baggage carousel. They are feeling particularly mischievous on this fine day and want to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting victim. Their intention is kind though and they don’t want to cause too much disruption, only the kind that brings good as a result, they like to think of themselves as ‘karmic’ elves. They spot me from afar looking both relaxed and weary as I wait not-so-patiently for my bag to arrive and they can see I’ve been away far too long. Almost 2 years to be exact. I’ve packed for a week but really a week will be far too rushed. Keeping quiet as the bag is collected and customs are cleared, I am excitedly greeted by family. They try to stay quiet and not giggle too much as they are bumped around inside the luggage in the car on the journey home. On our arrival they know time is limited. Whilst everyone is momentarily distracted by the dogs enthusiastic reaction to my return the elves jump out of the suitcase, zip it back up, take the clear plastic folder out of my handbag, run up the stairs and out the window without anyone having noticed. They know that they’ve caught us all off guard and that we/I am never going to notice anything has gone until the day before leaving. They also know that I have been overdue updating the name on my passport for a few years now so they are secretly doing me a favor, I just don’t know it yet. They also don’t want the documents to get into the wrong hands so once outside they combust everything to fairy dust – poof, gone, out into the atmosphere turning the sky vibrant shades of purple and orange. Giddy and joyful they run away, happy, mission accomplished, off to perform some more karmic deeds on the next unsuspecting ‘victim’.
I don’t know what happened to my passport. Maybe our messy house swallowed it up, maybe our dogs ate it, they look so guilty don’t they?
What I do know is sometimes imagination is just far more fun than reality. And sometimes your trips home end up in bizarre twists of fate that mean you get to cherish your loved ones for just that bit longer. More home cooked meals, more dog walks in the English countryside, more trips into London and strolls along the Southbank. So thank you elves, thank you for stealing my passport.