WE are taking our daughter to the airport but the road is closed. It was open yesterday but today there is a sign and a man. The man watches us as we slow down. His expression says: “Road closed.” As does the sign.
We go five miles in the wrong direction. “I should have tried the other way,” I say. The ‘other way’ is a route known to my mother and her partner. “I wouldn’t go on the motorway to the airport,” Tim said earlier. My mother pointed out that she drove me back that way from the airport last summer. This is true, but there you go. I have used my natural-born right as an idiot to choose the wrong route.
Warrington looms into view, or at least a sign saying “Warrington.” The place itself doesn’t materialise, although the motorway does. After a bit of lane-juggling at the roundabout, we are heading in the right direction again. Ten minutes or so later, we are back where we started. Ten minutes after that we are circling upwards in the short-stay multi-storey.
Our daughter is off to Australia for a year. She is 23 and in need of an adventure. She is leaving us to continue the adventure of no longer being 23.
We park up and head across to Terminal 2. Our girl is trailing a suitcase that’s about half as big as she is. As she queues at check-in, my wife takes a photograph on her phone, and is told off – “No photographs,” a woman says.
So much has been invested in this moment, so many plans, so many farewells, and her she is. In the end, we don’t hang around as she still has more than two hours before boarding. We exchange hugs and I try to offer some fatherly wisdom – “Be safe, have fun, enjoy yourself” – while feeling particularly unwise. Then she disappears up the escalator and we go back to the car.
Years ago, I had an Australian adventure of my own, a long holiday rather than a year away. A girl in the house watered my spider-plants while I was away. By way of thanks, I bought her a clip-on koala bear. She still has it, clamped to a lamp in our house. The house where we rented rooms was owned by a couple who now live in Perth in Australia. With luck, we will visit them later this year when we interrupt our girl’s Australian adventure.
Half an hour later in the car, our girl texts my wife to say that she is having a gin and tonic in the bar. Hours later, another text tells us that she is changing planes in Doha. At the time of writing, she is still in the air. It seems a long time, but all those years ago, it took me 36 hours to get to Sydney.