Notes from an addled brain

If you thought my last post was discombobulated, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I’m going to break this post down into easily absorbed, even more easily constructed bite-sized chunks…:

1) Valium

Valium, or, to be precise, diazepam, is a recent discovery for me, and one that I wish I’d unearthed a decade ago. For reasons I shall go into another place, another time, I occasionally struggle with claustrophobia on public transport, so an 11-hour flight obviously necessitated stocking up on the mother of all diazepam loads. You know how many I chugged back?


A whopping 2mg of the magic dreamy stuff. And that was mainly because of the anxiety engendered by the build-up to the trip, the packing, and tidying, and planning, and repeated insistence from mates that this would be the trip of a lifetime.

That one Valium had me reeling with giggles as we queued to check in at Edinburgh airport. Thanks to the chemical magic of that wee tablet, I knew nothing bad was going to happen, and even if it did, I couldn’t give a monkey’s. But even after that one little pill wore off, I was so in the travel zone, so going with the flow, I didn’t feel anxious at all. This might have been aided by the white noise rumble of the plane and the enforced stasis of the journey. I lost the energy, nay the will, to have a panic attack.

2) Check-in

As we placed our hand luggage on the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine, husband called out, is your laptop in there?! Well yes, I said, and also my Kindle and iPad. Those aren’t supposed to be in there, husband said. I shrugged. Not my problem, really.

Oh but it was.

Hand luggage disappeared off down another conveyor belt to the security woman, who was obviously already having a bad morning, since she had snapped at the woman in front of me about not moving her tray off the conveyor belt. “Rude!” gasped the woman in front of me. I smiled sympathetically.

“Any electrical goods in here?” asked the security woman, tersely. Yes, my laptop. And Kindle and iPad.

“Take them out,” she commanded. “Those should have gone in a separate tray. Take them out.” I did so, and she dispersed them into different trays before returning them to start their journey again.

Back the hand luggage came, on the conveyor belt of doom.

“You got any liquids in there?” asked the security woman.

“Uhhh,” I stuttered, “I don’t think so…”

“What’s this?” Abandoning all protocol, the woman had dived into my suitcase and dragged out a boxed bottle of Calpol. “And this?” A boxed bottle of Karvol. “And this?” A boxed bottle of Olbas Oil. “These need to be put in a see-through bag,” she said, putting them in a see-through bag and exiling them to separate trays, to begin again their x-ray journey. And, again, my hand luggage was seen sheepishly trundling down the conveyor belt of doom to the admittedly very patient security woman. “What else have we got in there?” she asked. Frankly, by this time I hadn’t a clue what I’d packed. Quite why she hadn’t thrown my bag and all its belongings in a bin and me in jail, I didn’t know. “Nothing,” I said.

“The machine definitely sees something,” she said. My guilt? Embarrassment? Shame?

“My foundation…?” I asked.

“Let’s try that,” she said.

“I don’t do this travelling thing very often,” I giggled stupidly.

“No, we just need more education,” she said briskly.

The foundation removed, all my illicit goods made their way down the approved belt, in four separate trays. I put the trays away. I didn’t need telling.

3) Duty free

Meandered through duty free once we checked in. Elderly man tottering in front of me said tetchily to his wife, “Why does the path go round corners instead of in a straight line?”

“To get you to buy things,” she said.

I suddenly remembered I needed perfume. Said to husband, I need perfume, and he said, I’ll take the children through and go and find something to eat and some coffee. We’ll see you the other side.

I chose my perfume, got to the till and was asked for my boarding pass. Husband has that, I said. Hang on, I’ll be back.

Ran to the shopping area, and through the crowds to the café section. Yes, I said crowds. Edinburgh airport might not be big, but you try looking for my husband and two children among the hordes ambling around the food section. Couldn’t see them. Got annoyed. Called husband’s phone. Went to voicemail. Tutted. Looked around a bit more. Called his mobile. Went to voicemail. Swore. Cast an unseeing eye over the travellers. Called his mobile. WENT TO VOICEMAIL. Audibly muttered accusations of unreliability.

Eventually, I decided to move away from the food area, the area he said he’d be in, and up the other end of the airport. Where I found him standing chatting to a mate who works at the airport, his back to the duty free exit which he would have seen me exiting if he’d been facing the right way, his mobile nowhere to be seen.

Boarding pass purloined, anger defused by presence of his friend, though still simmering gently thanks to the fact husband seemed utterly unrepentant.

Perfume purchased.

4) Sunshine

The thing that always hits me when I do go abroad is the very different light. The sun is higher in the sky here in Japan than it currently is in Scotland, and the light is brighter, whiter, more… foreign. As soon as we were off the plane and I saw the almost bleached blue sky, I knew we were far away from home.

5) “I love Japan”

Son started proclaiming this as soon as we stepped off the plane. He lauded the simple technology, the techtastic society, the small houses, the large fire engine, the rice balls… “Arigato gozaimasu,” he said at every opportunity, bowing and smiling. Five years of karate lessons and he thinks he’s home.

6) Trains

Trains in Britain are rubbish. Overpriced, under-repaired, late, late, late. Japanese trains are never delayed. They leave one minute before their scheduled time. Which is why it amused me to read the service status onscreen in the carriage of our (punctual, clean) train. Several services were delayed, for the following reasons:


Injured person

Obstacle thing.


Oh man, the jetlag. I have never had jetlag before. Obvs. I’ve never travelled more than one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This is… weird. Dizzying. Mummifying. I thought, I’ve done nights with no sleep, how hard can this be? But, see, it’s not just a night without sleep. It’s several nights without sleep, or no nights at all, or… I can’t explain! You pass over several time zones, and I actually thought I’d try to alter my watch to each time zone as we passed through it. I gave that up as soon as we left Dutch airspace. It meant that I didn’t know what time it was at home, or in Japan or where we were, and where were we anyway? I dozed a few hours off and on during the flight (which brings its own holy horrors of snoring and dribbling in public), but this in no way fooled my time-obsessed brain. I think that our bodies, our minds, are so attuned to a habitual rhythm of time, any knock in this continuum is taken very badly by our poor addled brains.

I’m going to leave it there. We’re up again tomorrow morning for a flight to Sapporo in the north, and I’m really going to need what few wits I have left.


  1. This is great Isla. Amazing how you can write all that when you must be so tired and confused. The Ice photos remind me that it’s a lot colder there than at home, I think I’ll stay here and be happy to receive all the information through you. Love you all, XXX.


  2. Michelle Ellel says:

    Just one word: bravo!!


  3. Olivia says:

    Oh man I’m so glad I bumped into you at the leisure centre door (albeit I know feel guilty for gushing about what a trip of a lifetime it would be)! I’m loving this blog and you’ve barely arrived. Bravo! Thanks for allowing us to live vicariously a truly exciting life!


    1. Olivia says:

      “now feel guilty” and I can’t even blame jet lag for grammatical fail!


    2. Lol – you honestly weren’t the only one…


  4. Rachel says:

    Isla, this is brilliant. I laughed out loud at, “I love Japan”. X


    1. The concept of chopsticks is now undermining his love…


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