ImPrecision Air 2/Me Nil

Away for a week.

A weekend with the Big Kids.

It sounds excessive. Indulgent.

It’s the getting there that necessitates the getting out two days before Friday. It’s the getting back that means we arrive in the Outpost mid week after the weekend away.

It’s partly out geography; it’s mainly Precision.

Prior to departure I telephone Mr Abdallah, unfailingly enthused (given his employer’s track record) Outpost representative for Precision Airways.

What’s the opposite of Precision? Hat wants to know.

Imprecision, I tell her emphatically.

Imprecision Air has a better, certainly more truthful, ring to it.

Mr Abdallah, I say, how IS Precision’s service these days?

Very Precise, he tells me.

He is, regrettably, proved wrong two days later. Our flight is delayed eight hours. We depart not after breakfast as we ought to have done but as the sun is drawing long lines down the dust strip. I don’t drink coffee after take off. I drink beer. For the time of day and the fraying of nerves. An added surprise is the re-routing west instead of the direct flight east.

We land on the soggy shores of Lake Tanganyika. The mountains of the Congo glower from a distance, shoulders deeply hunched, expressions menacing; they’re wearing hoodies. Paddy fields spill over. Mud splatters the side of the aeroplane as we touch down so that we can no longer see out of the windows. Tanzania’s west is sponge-soaked, has drunk its fill. There’s nowhere for all the water to go. So it lies, a million tiny mirrors, reflecting the greedy paunches of low-slung grey-bellied clouds.

We fly the fat breadth of a country that desiccates proportionately as we travel east. Lush green gives way to lean khaki, light surrenders softly to dark. When we arrive in the capital city the sky would be quite black were it not infected by the jaundiced glow of a thousand neon lights.


When I am with the children, when I am with all three, when my head is busy with what they are doing, when my physical self so immersed in the talking, listening, being, I never question what I’m for. I never need to. There isn’t time anyway. And when they’re all asleep, when I look in on them last thing at night in the guest room where they lie like sardines tucked into a trio of beds that touch one another, with limbs flung, I smile. Will I always, I wonder, need to check on my son as he sleeps? Did I imagine, when he was tiny, just two, that I would be doing the same when he reached almost-18 and could lift me clean off my feet?

Sometimes I think motherhood tastes very, very sweet the smaller the sips you are allowed enjoy; I hope the taste will keep me going.


We arrive at the airport to check in for the flight home.

There is none, we are told.

But it says there is, we say, and point to the board which hangs above the check in desk with a series of tired looking (like me) rubber bands. I want them to break. To snap (as I threaten to). I would like to see the Precision Air staff hit on the head with a board that redundantly suggests one of their fleet is going to the Outpost that day. Or week.

I telephone Precision Air’s Call Centre

Nobody answers. Instead I listen to calming music (well chosen given the frame of mind of most customers who dial the number) and a recorded announcement which promises me that one of the A-Gents will take my call soon (they don’t) and in the meantime suggests that some people fly to get there. Unless, of course, they’re going Precision?

You are Why We Fly, I am informed. Or don’t as the case usually is.

Because they are tired of people trying to check onto a flight that isn’t happening, the airline staff remove the board indicating Outpost as a destination. This is disappointing. Uncharitable, I know, but disappointing all the same; the rubber bands were stretched to their limit.

Imprecision finally agree that there might be a flight that day. But they are not at all sure when. 4pm? 2pm? No telling, really, and they shrug and smile and tuck the board out of sight. Because no departure time can be confirmed we are all obliged to stay put, lest an aircraft suddenly appear, as if by magic, like a rabbit out of a hat. We are issued with lunch vouchers. Boarding passes with LUNCH scrawled across them in ballpoint.

I don’t want any, says Hat, who has gone very pale, I feel sick she says miserably. And then she is. Dreadfully. I wish she had been sick at the feet of the staff whose heads I wished destination boards had rained down upon. Alas she has better manners than her mother.

We do take off eventually, eight hours after we should have done. We are just thankful we left the same day.

We arrive back as the sun is drawing long lines down the dust strip. I go home and drink a beer for the time of day and the frayed nerves …

19 Responses to “ImPrecision Air 2/Me Nil”

  1. Dumdad Says:

    You deserved that beer!

  2. rosiero Says:

    Whoever said that to travel is better than to arrive probably worked at Precision Airways. So sorry that your weekend break ended up breaking your nerves.

  3. Mud Says:

    Hope Hat is feeling better too – travelling whilst sick is a miserable experience.

  4. R. Sherman Says:

    I cannot imagine dealing with this on a regular basis. I get frayed nerves if I’m not five minutes early someplace.


  5. Wife in Hong Kong Says:

    I would be ready to wrench someone’s head off if ImPrecision lay between me and my children. Given the circumstances I think you showed remarkable restraint.

  6. Grannymar Says:

    You are a Saint!

    Just remember the sleeping treasures, only a mother understands those moments.

  7. kathleen Says:

    Mr. Addallah’s comment “very precise” is hysterical. Should have been a warning!

  8. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Whenever I go back to Africa, which is not enough, I always need a couple of days to acclimatise to the laid back African approach, but gosh I miss it when I’m not there!

  9. QldDeb Says:

    I find it hard enough to deal with the laid back attitude of the North Queenslanders, let alone Africa!

    I go nuts when I have to wait if I want to be somewhere, I have absolutely NO PATIENCE.

    And yet I can sit and watch the river running, or birds in the trees for hours on end. Curious.

  10. Expatmum Says:

    I checkd on my 5 year old “for breathing” the other night and laughed at myself. I also check on my teenagers but that’s usually to make sure they’ve turned their lights out!

  11. paradise lost in translation Says:

    My daughetr’s been ill this week. I slip involuntarily into waking up at night & checking her (she’s 4). It’s meant I’ve been grounded (even more than usual) all week & thus am feeling very frayed around the edges as well as having contratced quite a severe does of cabinfever. But then when I do venture out, I am jolted into remembering how frustrating this city is; the traffic, the anarchic driving, the bureaucaracy, the miscommunication etc. Ho hum…….

  12. More than Just a Mother Says:

    What an unnecessarily epic journey home – I hope your eventual home-coming was sweet and peaceful.

  13. Susanna (A Modern Mother) Says:

    I hate flying, maybe we should all go back to sailing…
    BTW — highlighting your blog on British Mummy Bloggers this week…

  14. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Dumdad; it was delicious.

    I think Precision’s motto is ”better to merely consider prospect of travelling than actually arrive”! thanks, rosiero.

    thanks Mud, she was fine once finally home.

    i try not to imagine it too often Mr S. Thinking about it has me in jitters!

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Wife in HK; restraint growing very very thin. I face ImPrecision prospect again in two weeks; watch this space for headless airline employees …

    Grannymar: thank you. special, special stolen moments.

    kathleen, and i bet he tells me exactly same thing when i enquire in two weeks time …

    Mapesbury, it’s odd isn’t it: you DO miss the laid back. But its astonishing how quickly i become accustomed to the luxuries of efficient time keeping!

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    QldDeb: i think it’s the trying to get somewhere vs the wanting to sit and be somewhere that makes the crucial difference.

    ExpatMum: yup lights is another reason to check! i do that too.

    paradise – i hope she’s better? i know: i long to get out and then when faced with the chaos ImPrecison presents, i wonder why i’ve bothered.

    Thanks More Than: yup, peaceful. if you discount the guineafowl who never stops shouting.

    I’m with you on the flying Susanna, i am a very, very nervous flier. I try to keep my eyes closed all the way which probably looks a bit silly when i am trying to simultaneously order beer but frankly i don’t care what ImPrecision crew think of me. Thank you very much for highlighting my blog.

  17. ali la loca Says:

    Oh, this made me laugh and at the same time remember frustrating flights out of Chimoio, in Mozambique.

  18. Wednesday miscellany XXX « Parlez-vous moo? Says:

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