PICTURE the scene: late afternoon on a warm summer's day. The fragrant scent of freshly cut grass hangs in the air, twittering bird song drifts from the nearby trees.

Overhead, a single vapour trail cuts across the cobalt blue, cloudless sky. On the garden lawn, I lie back and watch the small, moving dot of an aircraft making haste through the stratosphere. My hand reaches for my phone. I click on an app: BA49 from London Heathrow to Seattle.

I am endlessly fascinated by planes. There was a time, many years ago, that I briefly considered training to become a pilot. My poor grasp of maths let me down: it transpires that not getting muddled between double and half is crucial when attempting to calculate the necessary fuel load.

Perhaps this geeky love is because I didn't fly for the first time until I was 22 when I won a competition in the now defunct Minx magazine for a trip to Barcelona.

It was a giddying experience. I felt hopelessly unsophisticated and remember bashfully trying to thrust a wad of notes into the hand of the flight attendant when he brought me my breakfast tray.

Later, there was a time when I was on and off planes almost every week – sometimes several times a week. A statement that seems incredibly selfish now in light of the climate crisis. Not to mention a bizarre parallel universe given how the pandemic has curtailed global travel.

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These days, I live vicariously through my Flightradar24 app. I daydream about who might be inside the winged, pressurised containers soaring above. The rows of passengers within the cabin. Sipping champagne. Fighting over the armrests. Gazing out the window at tiny ants like me far below.

Usually, these are imaginary scenarios, although a while back, as I stood at the bus stop on a cold, winter morning, stamping my feet against the chill, I looked up to see the twinkling light of an aircraft approaching from the east.

It was the 6.30am easyJet flight from Edinburgh to Luton. I knew my colleague Teddy Jamieson was on board, heading to London to do a magazine interview. I could picture him with his nose in his notes, mainlining strong coffee and prepping questions.

The skies have been a lot quieter this past year. It has been a while since the Emirates service from Dubai roared over my house on its approach to Glasgow.

There are still the cargo planes for company: DHL en route from Frankfurt to Mexico City or Kalitta Air gliding its way from Cincinnati to Leipzig.

When passenger flights go over, I fret, hoping that its occupants are travelling for essential purposes and not on a leisure jaunt. I try not to think about the invisible virus hopping ticket-free from one destination to another.

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Instead, I spend endless hours trying to guess aircraft types. Is it a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner? An Airbus A319? This much I do know: I will be keeping both feet firmly on the ground for a while yet.

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