The morning started before daybreak. My mobile phone alarm woke me and for a few minutes longer, I lay still in the king size hotel room bed. I showered as quickly as I could bear it; standing beneath the wide rainfall shower head from which the water of precisely perfect temperature fell neither too harshly nor too softly. I wrapped a plush white towel around me and wandered back into the bedroom to switch on the media player of my Sony Walkman phone. The sounds of Nouvelle Vague gently filled the room as I dressed and brushed my wet hair back into a low ponytail.
There was a knock at the door. It was room service with the breakfast I’d ordered the night before. I wasn’t really hungry but it was going to be a long day and it was likely to be the most substantial thing I would eat. I thanked the porter, ‘Shookran,’ I took my tray and newspaper and set them on a stand at the foot of the bed. The spell cast by Nouvelle Vague was broken by the pale glow of approaching daylight just visible now from behind the window blind. I opened it now and took in the shadows of the buildings – a Dubai skyline.
I switched on the television news and sat down to eat my Eggs Florentine. I’d had it the morning before in the restaurant and it was delicious.
The band members were to rendezvous in the hotel lobby. Still groggy and muddled from the gig and after party that night, there was a confused row. The accounts hadn’t been settled, the event organiser would answer neither the door nor the phone, the taxis were waiting, and we were due to be on stage in Portugal that night.
‘Everyone just hand in your credit cards and we’ll sort it out later.’
I didn’t move.
Voices were raised now, the stress was building and the sun of another 40 degrees Celsius day was beginning to fill the lobby. They weren’t going to let us leave. We had to leave.
At last, he was located. Our host, breathless and annoyed, in his dressing gown, purse in hand. As the card reader cleared the expenses of rooms, food and drink, our bags were magicked into the waiting taxi van.
We made it in good time to the airport after all – our flight was delayed. There was nothing to be done but wait. Some phone calls were made. Yes, our connecting flight to Munich was delayed. Any other way to get us to Portugal in time? Maybe. Tight squeeze. We had to go through passport control, we were flying in from outside of Europe of course. No flights? One? We might not make the show. Best hope we made our connecting flight. There was nothing else for it.
As our plane began the descent into Munich airport, the reality of the time was felt by all of us. Are you ready to run?
Oh my god. I don’t run.
We fought like an angry mob to get off that plane: a motley crew of musicians with unevenly developed social skills and moderate physical fitness.
We can make it! Run! Run!
I swear we looked like Scooby Doo and the gang, bags flapping, arms flailing through the arrivals hall to border control. Not a one of us spoke German and someone howled, ‘We have to make our connecting flight!’ A calm member of airport staff gently informed us in perfect English that we would be dealt with if we just joined the back of the –
The keyboardist and the other backing singer took no notice of the polite German and elbowed past the waiting passengers. This band has to get on a flight to Portugal right now they informed the mildly alarmed border guard. With no other visible expression of excitement, he beckoned for the passports of the company. In chorus, a stack of burgundy UK travel documents were piled under the plexiglass and quickly handed back as their owners set off running again.
I performed the same staccato movements with my own blue passport, poised to run as it was quickly handed back.
‘Excuse me,’ a voice said from behind me, ‘Please join the queue.’
‘But I’m with THEM!’ I panted.
‘Where is it you’re traveling to?’ the guard enquired mildly.
‘Portugal! I have to go now!’ I screeched as I helplessly watched the rest of my band gaining distance toward our boarding flight.
‘Where have you traveled from today?’
‘Dubai!’ I pleaded. I reached into my satchel and thrust my computer printed boarding pass under the plexiglass. ‘I’m going to Portugal! My voice was shrill. The guard sighed heavily, reached for his stamp, marked my point of entry into one of the empty pages of my passport, and blithely passed it back under the plexiglass.
Oh my god. I don’t run. I willed my legs to carry myself over the lost time and distance to my departure gate. I simply couldn’t go fast enough and my lungs burned. I wanted to stop, to catch my breath, to tell everyone I was too slow, I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t get there. I would have cried if there was a molecule of space in my chest that wasn’t on fire. With each step my legs felt heavier, held back by an unseen force of iron that held my feet ruthlessly too close to the floor.
When at last I reached the departure gate, I found the keyboardist at the gangway, rooted to the spot. He’d been the first to arrive, as boarding was closing and stubbornly refused to get on the plan. He’d held up the flight for us.
I collapsed into my seat and waited for the painful breathing to subside. In just a couple of hours, we’d arrive in Cascais in time for soundcheck.