The things they carry

A.L. Kennedy breaks down the author reading tour, which entails, among other things:

trotting along numberless corridors and gangways and aisles carrying a bag containing: one lap top computer, because if it isn’t with me, it will be lost — one set of universal adapters for phone and power lines, because you can never buy any once you’re there, wherever there is, and the internet cafés will all have burned down and, should your hotel suggest it has a business centre or even a computer terminal you can borrow this will always turn out to be a dreadful exaggeration — plus one, or more, backup memory storage devices for when I’m attacked by a lunatic with a huge magnet, or somebody steals my computer — one litre bottle of water for every hour of the flight, because there isn’t enough hydration in the world and even standing next to a plane rips all the moisture from my body until my brain starts to squeak — one aerosol bottle of sprayable water, for similar reasons — one tub of moisturiser to prevent my skin being shed in its entirety and scaring children — one bottle of eye drops, so that I’ll be able to blink every now and then — one mangled plastic bag of real food, to replace or supplement the pretend food I will be offered — one special inflatable neck collar, to prevent my becoming paraplegic en route — one note book and pen, in case an idea enters my head, or I have to scribble a farewell note which I will then sellotape to my stomach, if I have time as I plummet — one bottle of melatonin, to ease jetlag — one bottle of low-dose aspirin tablets to ease blood clotting — one bottle of super strength aspirin tablets in case I get a stress-related headache or feel the slightest hint of circulatory congestion — one random paperback which I will stare at numbly and grip with sweaty fingers until it is unrecognisably warped. And maybe a clean hanky, if I remember. Obviously this bag can no longer contain the Swiss Army Knife I used to imagine saving my life should I become trapped in wreckage, or have to survive in a hostile environment with other passengers intent on supplementing their leaf and berry rations with human flesh. I do pack the Swiss Army compass with attached magnifying glass. You never know when you’ll need a magnifying glass.

My bag is naturally, far too heavy to be a carry-on item, so I have perfected the art of casually holding it at the check in desk and swinging it about as if it weighed no more than half a pound. This frequently manages to convince.


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