A long haul flight is the closest we get to reliving our nursery days. We're primed by the initial, airless airport wait which provokes the same interminable, skin-crawling frustration that five minutes of delayed gratification brew in a four year old. Once on, strapped in, rule-bound and prostrate, our pre-takeoff resolutions to eat nothing, drink bottled mineral, sprtiz regularly and sleep dissolve into a catatonic willingness to consume everything offered, from antiseptic towlettes to neon chicken curry, cotton wool bread rolls to complimentary boiled sweets. Our palate is palliated into prepubescence with soft textures and bland tastes. Our belly swells into baby roundness. We spill and splatter and slurp.
The repeated application and removal of scratchy bits of clothing - blanket, eye mask, socks - leaves us swaddled and twitching like a mittened toddler. The sudden lurches remind us that we are not in control of this world but suspended over an abyss, continually subject to vicissitudes determined by some greater, older power. Our bodies are perpetually surprising once more: expanding hourly, they become both woozily disconnected and minutely observed. Rarely since the playground have we been on such intimate terms with our hangnails and hangups, excretions and ingestions. Gazing in the cold corpse light of the wet-floored loo, our every eyebrow hair takes on Brobdingnagian size.
Like a squalling brat pacified with Bob the Builder, ridiculous films somehow leave us rapt. Bride Wars becomes as moving as Brief Encounter. Romancing the Stone suddenly does seem Classic Cinema after all. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is positively Pythonesque. All attempts at sleep subside as Simpsons repeats scroll before our eyes. We emerge staggering on infant legs, with the hallucinogenic weariness of those post-tantrum comedowns we remember so well. Home, a hot bath, and bed by nine. We wake early, and cry.
I'm avoiding saying anything about Baros, the turquoise-waved, cream-beached Maldivian isle which was the small glittering gem set at the heart of my return flight noose, because I'm pretending my seven day stay never happened. When you find yourself, 12 hours after landing, on a stinking train to Weybridge staring glassy-eyed at peeling upholstery, two Surrey teenagers playing electro Bhangra on their phones, and the measly beaded ejaculation of rain on the rattling window, the only defence against potentially fatal shock and depression is furious repression.