‘This is your captain speaking, welcome aboard this flight to London Gatwick. As there is a passenger on our flight today with a severe nut allergy we will not be serving any nuts or nut products for the duration of the flight.’
That was the first announcement the pilot made, ahead of anything about flying the plane.
‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ the builder boyfriend said. He was holding a bar of hazelnut chocolate he was very much looking forward to, not least because on our outbound flight to Greece we discovered that since we last flew (which was, to be fair, almost in the last century) the complimentary meal tray has been replaced by a range of sandwiches and biscuits to buy at special 30,000 feet prices.
‘Put it away!’ I hissed, as a beautiful stewardess with her hair in a chignon made her way down the aisle checking seatbelts.
‘All right, all right,’ he snapped, pushing it into the seat pocket in front of him.
‘Not in there! Put it in the overhead locker! It might emit nut fumes!’ But it was too late. The stewardess was level with us. If we admitted to bringing nuts aboard who knew what would happen.
We might be ejected from the plane and made to surrender our nut products to be blown up on the runway by the bomb disposal squad.
Our friends, seated two rows ahead, had brought a pack of pistachios from the departure lounge shop. ‘Good God, I hope Arl doesn’t start shelling those pistachios!’ I whispered. We shifted guiltily.
‘This is typical,’ I muttered, although I didn’t know why I was annoyed. What did it matter if we couldn’t have nuts for three hours? I didn’t care. I had lost Gracie. Maybe that was what hurt. I was carrying on as normal, when really I wanted special treatment.
‘What about my grief?’ I nudged the BB who was staring out of the window. ‘If anyone mentions horses I might die with the pain.’ This was childish, of course. But the builder boyfriend had his hand over his mouth as he stared at the runway we weren’t taxiing up because of the air traffic control delay that wasn’t as important as the nut allergy warning.
‘What about my germ phobia?’ he said, from behind his hand. ‘Breathing other people’s air makes me want to…’ And he retched. His OCD is a thing.
He blew through his mouth in an ostentatious fashion while we waited for take-off. When we got air bound, and the cabin crew were making their tortuous progress with the refreshment trolleys from either end of the plane to the middle where we were sitting, he put a tissue round his hand to lower the tray table.
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I said. ‘It’s not ridiculous,’ he argued. And he did look quite green. The plane bumped, the seatbelt light went on, and the pilot announced turbulence.
‘Oh no!’ I wailed. ‘I can’t cope! I’m allergic to planes! I need some help here!’
The BB told me to be quiet, it was nothing. And after a few minutes it did stop. Then we heard the stewardess serving the seat behind us and a female passenger said to her: ‘And some wasabi peas please.’ To which, to our astonishment, she replied: ‘Certainly, madam.’ And we heard the crackle of a packet being handed over.
The BB looked at me: ‘Wasabi peas are…’ ‘I know,’ I said.
‘And I’ll have some shortbread,’ said the other passenger.
The BB and I grabbed our in-flight refreshment menus in unison and ripped through the pages. Sure enough, the shortbread had a nut allergen sign next to it. ‘OMYGOD!’ we gasped to each other.
‘So two teas, wasabi peas and shortbread… that will be £9.50.’
‘I’m gonna say something!’ And the builder boyfriend clicked his seat belt open and began to turn round. ‘Sit down!’ I growled. ‘You’ll get the plane landed in Turkey.’
‘The plane’s gonna land in Turkey anyway if nut man collapses!’ ‘It might be nut woman,’ I pointed out.
‘Can I get you anything, sir?’ the stewardess asked us. We ordered two teas and were about to explain as quietly as we could that she must take back the wasabi peas and shortbread from the two women behind us, put the packets down the loo and wash her hands, when the stewardess wheeling the trolley the other way sidled up backwards and whispered to her colleague out of the corner of her bright red lipsticked mouth, while continuing to smile serenely for the passengers: ‘Sto’ ser-ing ’ings wi-uh NUH sym’ol!’
Somehow, we didn’t make an emergency landing. But if the nut allergenee had found out how much nut was floating about that plane, I expect we would still be trying to get home.