Packing means i have to decide what I’ll want to wear one week from now in a climate that is way out of my league (40 degrees, 78% humidity). It’s a nightmare. I’ll be working in air con, which means I’ll be freezing cold. Then I’ll go outside into an oven and my specs will steam up. Not to mention the ‘extreme mosquito risk’ which means I should wear long sleeves. Why ever did I say I’d go to Nanjing?

If I could just manage to focus, it would only take me a couple of hours. Instead, I stop for endless cups of
tea, I answer emails, make calls I’ve been putting off for ages, write blogs, then get fed up with the mess of clothes covering my bed. The lists are endless – everything from DEET to alarm clock and snacks for the plane. After so many years of travel, you’d think I’d be good at this by now, but I guess I’m just a very slow learner.

What’s it all about?

It’s interesting to write about this now. Makes me realise just how much goes through my head when the suitcase comes out.

It’s my way of focusing. Working is a bit of performance, so I have to give thought to my costume. How do I want to affect the people I’m working with and what do I want to evoke in them?

I want them to feel confident that the next few days of their lives will be useful, interesting and worth taking time out of work for. And I want them to feel safe enough to take a risk with new behaviour and new thinking. I know the information and knowledge is the major factor, but they have to be interested in me as a person before they’ll be ready to access any of that.

It's packing day and I can faff with the bestIncreasingly the people I work with are younger than me. In fact what am I saying – all the people I work with are younger than me! Most folk of my age have retired by now. So I work hard not to come across like an elderly dame who’s out of touch with the world.

I realised recently just how aging it is for baby boomers to be out of touch. A prime example is boasting about not understanding social media. They don’t look smart to anyone under 50 they just look past it. It’s the modern day equivalent of my parents saying my boyfriend needs a haircut!


So back to the packing

See how I can wander off? I’m even considering whether to clean the kitchen floor – it must be bad!

Have to remember a hairbrush. Forgot that once and it was a nightmare. I had a comb and that was all. Early morning, wet hair, no one I can ask for help, I just had to get on with it. Amazing what you can do when you have to.

What about all the connectors – plugs, adaptors, link to the projector, lead for the speaker – does everyoneIt's packing day and I can faff with the best
take this much or is it just me? I dread turning up in front of a group without the right plugs. Maybe I should go back to acetates!

Must be time for a cuppa by now. Anything other than try and work out which shoes goes with each outfit. I can’t carry that many – can I? – and will they be comfy enough for a whole day on my feet? Maybe if I alternate the heels with flats I won’t suffer too much…..

Finally, I’m getting there: right number of outfits with appropriate underpinnings, shoes and jewellery; toilet bag and slap; hairbrushes and gloop; papers and plugs; a good book, my journal for wise thoughts…..

And now the final piece – my pillow. Can’t go anywhere without my pillow. Just that little bit of home makes the world of difference and stops me having to tolerate deep sponge, heavy flocking, bullets or the lumpy ones that should have been thrown out years ago. Make sure it has a colourful pillowcase on it so it won’t get mistaken for one of theirs. And preferably silk for maximum pampering.

I really am such a princess.

Now can I close the case…

As long as the pillow is duck down, it’s no problem – just squash it and it will go anywhere. When I broke my arm and had to travel to Geneva, we flattened it totally and bound it up in cling film so it would fit in a bag small enough for me to manage.

So finally I’m there. All I have to do now is get the case downstairs.

And wait for the moment of truth when it goes on the scales at check in. I’m not often caught – maybe just when moving from an international to a local flight where the allowance is less. And then only generally It's packing day and I can faff with the bestwhen I’ve been shopping. Doesn’t everyone buy soapstone dolphins and singing bowls?

The best purchase was a beautiful wire tree in South Africa. Couldn’t resist it. And didn’t think about getting it home until it was bought and the shop was shut. Still we had an adventure finding a DIY store and getting a sheet of ply to lay it on. Not your normal tourist run.

But I digress – again. I generally pack a couple of days ahead of time, then there’s time to remember the extras – tea bags, water heater, drinks flask, neck pillow…… Now I’m into hand baggage – the space is filling up – will I make it?

No wait – what about my passport. There was the time I left it in the room safe and got half way to the airport before I realised. And the time it fell out of my bag in the car and I didn’t realise until I was at check in. That time, my son in law saved the day by rushing back to me. As I ran back to the check in desk the staff were shouting me on – thanks Wizz Air– I needed that bit of help! But at least I’ve never taken the out of date one by mistake like my old man!

At last, the bag is packed, checked in and I’m waiting at the airport. Plane’s on time, G&T in hand – it’ll be fine. Now there’s nothing more I can do – just relax and go with it. As long as I’ve got my pillow and laptop, I can manage anything!

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