5:59am. That was the time on my alarm clock cum mobile phone this morning when my eyes blinked open. I was vertical half a second later and spitting expletives under my breath as I threw on my suit.

Somehow I’d managed to knock the alarm function off whenever it initially went off.  No snooze, no nothing. Disaster! I should’ve been awake an hour ago.

I should have been standing in the check-in queue at Belfast City Airport at 5:59am. As it was, I was more than half-an-hour away in Crumlin. Thankfully (and unusually) I’d prepared well enough in advance, and had my bag packed, wallet at the ready and shirt clean and ironed over the kitchen door.

So, stopping only for a cursory brush of the teeth, I raced out the door and was soon burning up the miles between my house and the airport. I couldn’t switch on the stereo. Wasn’t in the mood. My little phobia about missing flights was about to become a reality.

The entire journey to the airport was fraught with a throbbing panic. I told myself to calm down, that it didn’t really matter, but the pressure was there anyway.

I reached the airport around 6:30, marvelling at the speed which I’d got across country at. Better still, as I passed the airport on the way to the car park, I could see the check-in queue was empty. Brilliant! Was there still hope?

Not out of the woods yet, the City Airport long stay car park was full to bursting. I had to park away at the back, further from the terminal building that I was comfortable with. After a furious sprint across the car park, I made it panting and coughing to the terminal, got checked in and took my place in the security queue.

The guy in front of me overheard me calling back home to tell Lisa I was almost there. When I hung up the phone, he turned to me and said “Don’t worry, I’m on the same flight as you. For some reason, the Birmingham flight never leaves on time, so we’ll be in the lounge for a wee while anyway.”

Sure enough, he was spot on. The flight was called later than scheduled, and was stalled on the runway for a little while too. Better still, after all that panicking…

I was the first person on the plane.

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