After the endless standing in line, with its discreet pushing and shoving, the shuffle on board and the scramble for a seat and space in the overhead locker, the interminable and incomprehensible safety briefing, clearer by far in recorded Italian than live “English”, comes the moment when the captain puts his foot down, or whatever it is he actually does, and the pressure on your back increases, and the plane picks up speed, and it vibrates just a little and the nose lifts and it seems to be straining just a little and BAM!

Was it before or after lift-off? I can’t remember. A strange smell of burning fills the cabin. But it isn’t the rubber one might expect of a blow-out. More organic than that. We look at one another. The stewardess gets up a little early, a little briskly. She phones the cabin. She listens. She strides down the aisle. I manage not to crane round. She comes back. There’s more chat with the cabin, and with her colleague still seated. And then the announcement.

A bird strike. In the right engine. But nothing to worry about, honest. As far as I can tell (but what do I know?) that is true. The engine is on and working. But Rome is out of the question, and so is returning to Dublin as we are too heavy to land safely. So we head for Stansted, which, the captain assures us, is a great idea because not only is it the maintenance headquarters, it will also burn just enough fuel to get our weight down safely. An hour later we are there, circling to burn a few more minutes of fuel, then on the ground and changing planes.

And the worst of it is the behaviour of my fellow travellers. How can standing up the instant the plane has landed speed the resolution of the problem? We all have to deplane and replane; does it really matter to get off first? And is it helpful, given another chance to scrabble for seats, to attempt once again to unite all three generations of a massive family in a single block of seats? It wasn’t possible before; it isn’t likely to be this time.

Minor stuff. And I am not even sure that I’ve survived any sort of near miss. But it does feel good to be heading back to Rome, which may even be becoming home of sorts.

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