I’m Packing


And it’s not a concealed weapon, unless it’s the large set of metaphorical cojones that I am going to need.

Let’s see: thermals, fleece layers, windproof jacket and trousers, mitts, gloves, fur hat: fur hat?

Cat! Cat, get out here! That could have been a bit of a, ‘should have gone to Specsavers,’ moment.

The cat, which is largely black, has taken to camoflaging herself and sleeping on my black holdall, and clambering into it to have a good poke around. She clearly has aspirations to join the Antarctic Odyssey and to follow in the footsteps of the ship’s cat on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition: (a black cat with a now non-politically correct name).

Back to the packing: sunglasses, goggles, water bottles, ‘pee’ bottle, baby wipes, mp3 player.

And so it goes on: tea bags, ritz crackers, espresso shots, coconut water, packet soup, energy gels, energy drink powder. There has been some debate about the ‘white powder’. My solution was to take it out of the bulky tubs and put it in zip lock bags. Alasdair was not sure of this one.

Alasdair: bags of white powder are not such a good plan, given your history with airport bag checks, and security frisking ....

He has a point. Long curly hair, John Lennon glasses and that boho hippy look of my younger days were never great when going through airports, especially Schiphol. I spent a lot of time in my younger years, and even more recently having my bags opened and the contents viewed publicly and suspiciously along with grim looking ladies frisking me.

Me: I would have a thought less of an issue taking white powder into South America than out.

Alasdair: I would leave it in the original packaging.

Me: It’s still white powder regardless of what it is in. They are bound to know what it is given my destination and the other contents of the bag. The tubs are too bulky.

Alasdair: Well, can I say, ‘I told you so’ after the cavity search?

Me: Very funny.

I have an interesting relationship with packing. Generally I travel light and go for that last minute throw a few things at a bag approach, which is not really in keeping with my organised project manager approach to everything else. There are reasons for this. For a number of years I worked away from home, getting the red-eye from Glasgow on a Monday morning and the last flight back on a Thursday evening. The travelling light came out of the frustration of hold luggage going missing every 3rd flight on average. I learned to fit a week’s worth of clothes into hand luggage. The last minute packing was more of an emotional thing. Packing meant I was leaving, so packing last minute meant that I did not have to think about being away from Alasdair and the girls until the last minute.

The last minute flinging things in a bag has on occasion backfired on me. There have been the famous occasions when I have forgotten to pack any socks, bras and on one occasion pants! I never see this as a big issue. As long as you have a piece of plastic and are not travelling to the end of the world you can acquire replacements for anything you forget.

Therein lies the issue; this time I am going to the end of the world. So, a more responsible and attentive approach this time. There is an excel workbook with several spreadsheets in it one of which is a kit and packing list which is 2.5 pages long.  It has a ‘to buy’, ‘got’, ‘hand luggage’, ‘main bag’ and ‘packed’ column and is subdivided into categories; running clothing, non running clothing (Antarctic), clothing (Chile), footwear, food and nutrition, electronics & miscellaneous. The running kit has been cross matched against the official kit list.

The spare room has become my Antarctic warehouse. All the running kit is laid out on the bed and has been checked a number of times; there is a row of shoes; a pile of food related items; a small pile of toiletries building up; and a pile of miscellaneous items such a pencils, a notebook, memory cards, folder of paperwork, converter plugs, a hot water bottle. Further items will be added in the run up to the final pack. I have endeavoured to keep things to a minimum and only take essentials.

Old habits die hard though. Nothing has actually gone into the bag. I was supposed at least start that process this last weekend, but procrastinated: was the bag big enough? A few items went in, no it wasn't, argh! I consulted with my eldest daughter. Of course a 100 litre bag was going to be enough. But the snow boots and running shoes take up so much room.  Was I taking hand luggage? Yes. What size: a 40 litre rucksack; plenty of room. Pack things inside the boots and roll things. Come on, you know how to pack and use space efficiently. It was also pointed out that my younger daughter, not known for travelling light managed to fit kit and clothing for 3 weeks away at Jamboree into a 100 litre bag. If she could do it then I surely could.

At this point cake and Prosecco, and spending some time with the girls who had come home for the weekend to see me before I go seemed like a much better use of my time, along with watching Encounters at the end of the World. Why didn't I pack? I have no idea. It is not that I don't want to go. This is my adventure that I have chosen to undertake. Maybe it was nerves that caused me to falter, or maybe just the unfamiliarity, the change of habit creating an alien feeling.

I am now up in Aberdeen working. I get home at some point on Wednesday PM and I have a board meeting on Wednesday evening. It will be packing on Thursday, between working and heading out for afternoon tea and cocktails with Alasdair before I leave on Friday. Drunken last minute packing: a superb plan.

Will I forget anything: undoubtedly. It does not matter how thorough I think I have been with the list, or that Alasdair will be checking things off whilst I pack. There will be something missing, but hopefully, it will be nothing of consequence and something that I can either do without or buy with the plastic.

It just would not be me to do it any other way, and it adds that touch of excitement and uncertainty to the process, and keeps the old adrenalin going.