TRAVEL VIGNETTES: London & Miami, March 2023

A very sweet scene: a father taking his toddler son out for a bike ride. Dad, tall and confident in a wide-brimmed hat and shorts, getting a sweat on. Son in a bike seat behind him, atop the rear wheel. Wholesome picture, borderline developmental in its loveliness.

Brace yourself, kid [stock photo]

Right up until the Dad stood up on the pedals to attack a hill, and his buttocks started dancing six inches in front of the kid’s face. Then I realised how therapists make a living. And also why hills are so triggering. It’s not the exertion of going up them. It’s the flashback to being on the seat behind Dad, when the words, “We’re going up a hill!” were followed by paternal gluteal bouncing and a ‘floop-floop’ sound.

It’s no wonder some kids are messed up.


A woman was on her phone when she and I entered an otherwise empty lift at Heathrow. This is what she said to the person on the other end:

“Everyone’s talking to me like I’m insane; like I need to be sectioned or something…is it even worth going if I have this problem?”

Are you being victimised by a bunch of shameless gaslighters picking on someone because they can? Or are you a nightmare to everyone around you and it’s better if you stayed away? But, ugh, she said “if I have this problem”; she doesn’t sound entitled, she sounds victimised. Where are you going? Can I help? I desperately wanted to say something encouraging, but she was on her own, we were in a lift…so I started counting the dents in the wall of the lift instead. Gah.


A family of four in the queue for the x-ray machine at security, minding their own business, having a private conversation:

Wife to husband: “Any more of that and I’ll put you in a little cottage to live on your own.”


Me to husband: Doesn’t sound too bad, does it!

Husband to me: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it like that! [Slaps me approvingly on the arm.] Thanks!

Oh hang on, I immediately thought, I just meant living in a cottage with some time to yourself would be nice, I didn’t mean your wife is an ogre. I looked at his wife. Fortunately she was – I judged – very mildly amused. Albeit after her husband’s response to me, perhaps more likely than ever to send him into love-exile.


Sitting on the plane in a 3-3 configuration. In the three next to me is a woman by the window, and a man by the aisle. She turned to him and said,

“Where are you going?” [We’re on a flight to Miami; there’s a momentary pause.] “Other than Miami, obviously!”

“Indiana,” he replied, with a turn of the head so brief it was more like a twitch. He then nodded, slowly, and added, “Indiana, yeah.”

A longer pause, then the woman answered the question he quite pointedly had not asked:

“I’m going to Austin. Via Chicago.”



Then the woman who had the middle seat arrived, smiling, and said,

“You guys together? You want to sit together?”

“No!” said window seat lady cheerily, and continued without a hint of irony, “but we’re almost best friends already!”

There was a dull thud as my eyebrows slammed up into my forehead.


In a taxi travelling to the hotel in Miami at night we passed the Bank of America building. The company name – more or less – was lit up.

‘BA K OF  MERICA’ it read.



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