Travelling within a small group means relationships eventually develop – but like any new pack, I knew the bonding was essential. The pack soon gathered around the proud lioness of a leader and I noted from a distance who were the alpha-cubs.
Elsa recognised a familiar face. Marie had travelled to Italy before, but not to Rome. “How did the Italian lessons go?” asked Elsa. “Didn’t do them – I opted for line dancing instead.” Marie was a member of U3A – and I felt her new skills would be invaluable as we tried to talk ourselves out of any dangerous dance disasters that Rome is known for.
I’d booked my seat on-line, and let my mouse pick an aisle, near the front. That way, I’d planned, I could get to the loo without having to wake anyone. I was pleased to see that Mickey had come up trumps for me. Not only was I in the aisle, but I was in the first row behind first class. That meant no seat in front, just a curtain. My legs, though not that long, were afforded the luxury of a stretch – and travelled first class as they disappeared from view.
The curtain that separated my feet from the rabble was definitely second class. A large gap allowed me to see what my budget had deprived me. Proper crockery and cutlery with which to eat a delicious meal were not a great loss, I thought. Nor was the linen napkin and a glass, a real glass for a beverage.
Very soon I became bored with the view. My own feast arrived and I was quickly distracted by the challenge of ripping open the elements of a kind of meal. The dry stodge of a roll was little enhanced by the soaking of orange juice, but it was still a meal, I thought. The passengers to my right clearly thought so as they blessed what they were about to receive. The husband, next to the window, spent the rest of the flight dipping in and out of his bible – small sticky labels were colour-coded and I couldn’t help wonder if he knew more about the food than could be saved by a grace.
Touching down in Rome, the first class passengers rejoiced in landing a split second before the rest and my feet withdrew back to the confines of second class.
Thankfully the signs in the airport were easy to follow – no need to dance our way out of bother here. I followed a rather large man in a bright shirt. He was hard to miss on the plane and I presumed he’d have to collect his luggage from the same area as me. Once more I could hear Simon’s praise as I used my initiative to solve my first challenge on foreign land.
As the passengers crowded round, trying to spot their unique, but mass produced bags I was able to spot Elsa easily. Some of the others were staying close, this was obviously a jungle environment and they were dependent on her for survival. Bags were retrieved, returned and then correctly claimed. Gradually the conveyer emptied, ready for the next flight and we set off for the coach journey to the hotel.
Peering out through the tinted glass, I began to relax. The sights and sounds of Rome, the traffic, the people – all drew me to its soul. I may not have reached Outer Mongolia like Simon, but I was no longer a Terminal Five virgin and now all roads most definitely led to Rome.