Keep the Red Flag Flying High

Wednesday 6th February 2008

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I woke up quite subdued this morning, thinking about today, the 6th of February. Thinking about what happened here fifty years ago. I was also probably feeling a bit glum because we had a midday flight home. Going home days are always miserable but it felt worse today because it was a really inconvenient time to fly.

A visit to the United memorial site over in Kirchtrudering was out of the question as we simply didn't have the time and there wasn't a cat's chance in hell of making it over to Old Trafford by 3pm for the memorial service either.

My mood slumped even further whilst packing when I spilt some leftover champagne all over my United scarf . I had intended to wear it with pride all day today but it was now soaked and stank. I had a right proper sulk.

A little later, as we walked to the U-Bahn, I was descending towards near inconsolable when I wheeled my suitcase through a steaming pile of fresh dog shit.

Julie did warn me. I heard her call "Watch out, watch out". But I didn't know what to watch out for. I was expecting to be whipped by a low branch or to smack straight into a lamp post. Instead I sliced through the creme brulee of a dog turd.

Julie's face was a mask of concern maksing the face that wanted to crack up with laughter. She knew she dare not even titter the way my mood was darkening. I tried to put her at ease by making light of the fact I had shit on my wheel but she could see that inside I was seething.

Things didn't improve much.

The 45 minute commute on the S8 train to the airport was torturous. The climate inside the carraige was sub-tropical and we were all dressed up for trekking the Himalayas. We all survived..... just. A little wilted, a little red in the face but we survived.

At Flughafen Johaan Strauss we checked in our luggage early and made our way to the security gates. Whilst Sonya and Garry did some last minute souvenir shopping we went on ahead. Steve strolled through with no problem but Julie and I fell foul of the 100ml liquid limit.

Now if it was a bottle of diet Coke I wouldn't have been too upset but it was an unopened, (still in its decorative box and sealed cellophane wrapper, bought in Stanstead's duty free), bottle of Armani Diamond perfume.

I began to argue with the security guard "Oh, come on! But it cost €70" I wasn't letting it go. Julie could see a rage incident happening and calmly said "It wasn't that much. It's only Body Lotion. Let it go Col. It doesn't matter."

I reluctantly backed down but I didn't let go. Instead I chose to remain in control of the bottle and be the one to throw the perfume ( it actually was body lotion) into the bin. "Thieving little bastard" I muttered under my breath. "You just know once we've gone he's going to scoop it out the bin to take it home for the wife".

I was in such a foul mood I even took on board the injust of others as my own grief when Steve's speedy boarding pass was of no advantage to him. Here in Munich he was one of the first privileged passengers to board the shuttle bus but then the rest of us piled in behind him.

The last on board then peversely became the first off! Oh how we moaned!

My biggest concern was that we'd be faced with Julie's nightmare scenario of having to sit seperately. She would not cope with a solo flight. Miraculaouly, despite almost being the last to board the plane, we thankfully ended up seated together on the second and third rows, as if we had reserved our seats. My mood swung upwards for the first time today.

I must however have been feeling a little vulnerable and exposed because for the first time ever I experienced pre-flight anxiety.

As we taxied towards the runway and waited our turn in the queue an unfamiliar eerie feeling took hold of me. I was reading an article in the Daily Mail about the Munich Air Disaster and how they described in detail the events of the crash when our pilot announced there was to be a delay of fifteen minutes or so whilst a severely black storm cloud passed.

I had a glimpse of what it must feel like to be Julie on a plane. I had strong feelings of impending doom. I wouldn't call it fear. I only had to look at Julie to know what fear looked like.

Once airbourne my anxiety passed and I could begin to relax. Well, relax as much as I could with this jabbering woman sitting in front of us. She suffered from the worse case of verbal flatulence I'd ever heard. She farted bullshit on and on and on, on full volume, for the entire flight home.

She drove me to within a whisker of blurting out "Will you shut the fuck up". I so wished I had brought my iPod with me. I could have retreated inside the headphones and she would have disappeared. Instead I had to listen to her waffle.

"Count yourself lucky" said Julie "at least you're not one of the poor sods sitting next to her!"

The two and a half hour flight became quite an ordeal. We were only released from our peace deprevation when we landed in Stanstead.

At least Steve managed to get some sleep which was good because he had a long drive ahead. The rest of us could sit back in the comfy seats of his chauffer driven BMW. It's plush seats were the perfect place to unwind, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the radio.

I woke up in time to hear the BBC news reporting about the 50th anniversary and the memorials taking place in Munich and in Manchester. I think I also heard that the Maharishi died today aged 92.

When 3:04pm arrived we were somewhere up the M6 but I no longer felt disappointed that I wasn't at Old Trafford. It was a time to remember and I could do that from right here.

I closed my eyes and in my own little memorial in my head I remembered the victims of the Munich Air Disaster and my childhood tales of the glory of Manchester United.

I thought of all those special moments that following United have brought me especially the thrill of my first ever game in 1978 home against Aston Villa.

I then drifted back to sleep.

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