Arriving twenty hours later than expected, after one cancelled and two delayed flights, my optimism - never my strongest suit - was low. So when I directed my swollen feet as instructed towards carousel number 4 to find my luggage, I didn't expect to see the dark green zip-up case.
I bought the suitcase years ago, in the mysterious time before I became a mother. I bought it after work one day in Telford for a Harry Shaw coach holiday to Austria. It felt like an extravagance. My cousin Rachel and I had booked this trip approximately 30 years too early, according to the demographic features of our fellow travellers, and we giggled our way for most of the 24 hours of motorways, autoroutes and autobahns it took us to get to Salzburg, and then Vienna, whilst other passengers slept and snored. I wrote Night Coach years later, which drew on this experience.
Writing poems often catches up with memories which have lain dormant for years. I may one day produce a Californian set featuring the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, sushi and chopsticks, downtown LA, the size of milkshakes, Huntington Beach and its perfect, swift sunset. Or I may write about the sense of passively patient trust I exercised waiting for announcements of further and longer delays in various departure halls, whilst other passengers struggled to quieten babies, or themselves, in the face of growing frustration.
After 45 minutes or so, I looked over to the right and my suitcase appeared. Somehow, it had got itself off abandoned plane number 1- which never made it to London - and found plane numbers 2 and 3 to New York, then Manchester. It couldn't quite lurch the last few feet to carousel 4, but its ability to find carousel 5 seemed, just then, as miraculous as an unexpected glass of champagne.