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Madam, you have a knife in your handbag

… The Swallows and I, we flew to South Africa leaving one husband/ swallow photographer behind…

The swallows will fly over western France to South Africa, at an average speed according to the RSPB of 35 mph, in search of warmer weather and juicier insects. No security checks, iris recognition checks, ‘six clear pages in the passport’ worries for them.

I too have flown to South Africa, but rather faster at about 500 mph, to see my sister again who is recovering slowly in hospital; juicy insects were something I did my best to avoid (nearly successfully).

The weather was not particularly good apart from a couple off beautiful sunny mornings but with most of the time spent in an air conditioned hospital the weather was not a priority. However I must admit that on Saturday I did enjoy a super breakfast in the sunshine on the Durban beach front with a friend of my sister which felt refreshingly if briefly holiday-like.

Not so the question mark, the permanent blot perhaps, on my security status. “Did you pack your bags yourself?” “Could anyone have tampered with your luggage?” I answered confidently. “Could you please step this way, madam?” Off I stepped, puzzled.

The security man lowered his voice, “We have identified a knife in your bag.” I expressed horrified disbelief and then remembered my darling husband had packed one of his special picnics for me to eat in the train to London. He is well known for his delicious picnics, always with a surprise or two, never dull.

I had eaten most of it in the train but not the last few foil-wrapped things which I had imagined enjoying at Heathrow. The explanation was obvious. My hand flew to my mouth as I realised the significance of my confiding to the official about the picnic with unknown surprises packed into my bag for me by my husband…

Sure enough: there was a table knife, and a small foiled wrapped avocado (grenade?). He tested the blade for sharpness. It was fortunately blunt. He tested it for length. It was longer than is acceptable. So the knife was confiscated, and the avo/grenade, and my bag and its contents taken away for specialist checks. Fortunately no explosives were identified; it was soon returned and I was allowed to move on.

I did feel very foolish. Locking back on it, it was very reassuring that the knife was spotted, and how the situation was dealt with. The young security man was charming – courteous and polite throughout – he probably thought I was some poor old soul who shouldn’t be allowed out on my own but he couldn’t have dealt with the situation more pleasantly.

And now I am back again, hopefully with my security status unblemished. It is good to be back; it always is however much one has enjoyed being away and I have loved being with my sister and seeing my brother-in-law and some old friends.

It is good to be back. Everything seems to have run seamlessly in my absence, John, Janet and co proving me reassuringly dispensable. The air is sweet and everything always seems so peaceful, particularly after the hustle and bustle of air travel and airports these days. (Dubai airport at 3am was crowded with thousands of travellers rushing to their flight, eating exotic meals in the numerous restaurants or shopping in the amazingly glitzy shops… What meal is it, at 3 in the morning?)

Whatever it is, I shall do a personal security check on my next JFS picnic.

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