December 18th, 2001.

4000 miles to Christmas.

The worst thing about flying, and we're talking coach class here, is that there is simply no room to do anything worth doing. Sure, the airline lay on a few movies with free drinks, but while the people in business and first-class enjoy many comforts, back here in coach we're all trying to find that ever-elusive Mecca that is the 'comfortable position'.

Still, that aside, somehow I am sitting here with my iBook on my lap writing another installment of 'meanwhile'. The cabin around me is full, a mixture of Brits all making their way to the land of the free for their vacations, and Americans on their way home, or so I suppose.

The guy sitting next to me is the 'famous in his field' wedding cake creator, Nick Lodge. He said he'll give me his card when we touch down in Atlanta, it has his website on so I can gain a little knowledge about the art of what he does, which as I say, has something to do with expensive wedding cakes.

Actually, this guy seems to have it made. He usually travels in business class but on this occasion, his publisher would only pay for a coach class ticket. Still, that aside, you gotta think he has it made. From what he tells me, and why should I disbelieve him, he travels around 29 countries teaching people how to make world-class wedding cakes. He spends a bunch of his time in Japan, so much so that he even has an apartment there... lucky bugger!

I was going to tell him that I was a fabulously wealthy and powerful internet entrepreneur on a world-changing mission to America to introduce some groundbreaking technology. The specifics of this technology would be secret, of course, that way I wouldn't have to come up with anything groundbreaking at all. However, after revealing to him that I was pleased because the flight cost me just £176, I had a change of heart about that groundbreaking technology story told from the cheapest seat in coach-class.

Despite the golden opportunity to invent a far more interesting life, I elected to tell Nick the real reason for my journey. I'm going to see friends for Christmas and the New Year. Atlanta isn't my final destination. While Nick is kicking back counting his newly acquired air miles, I'll be trying to find that 'comfortable position' on a plane bound for Charlotte, North Carolina.

I still love traveling by air though. The whole discomfort and lining up to use the 'restroom' is all part of the adventure for me. Even now, I still get a buzz when I touch down in America and look out of the tiny plane window. The cars are different, the accents are different, the weather is different, it's all different and yet nowadays familiar enough for me to feel at home.

I'll be spending Christmas somewhere in Virginia I think, although the itinerary for this Christmas vacation is not entirely clear to me. I have left myself at the mercy of my friend Karen. All I can tell you is that on boxing day (the 26th of December, which isn't a holiday in America) we are taking to the air again and flying to Boston before heading to New Hampshire.

So for the second year in a row, I leave behind all the old traditions and routines that were once so familiar. I won't be heading down to Essex in a car that stands less chance of getting there than it does of not getting there. I won't be joining old friends in the Endeavor pub on Springfield Road in Chelmsford for the usual Christmas eve drinks. And I won't be making all my traditional house calls on the parents of the kids I grew up with who now have kids of their own.

I guess though, that the majority of these traditions had reached their conclusion anyway. These days my car would make it to Essex without the once expected drama and excitement. It would most likely be a trouble-free trip accompanied by music from my car CD player. My parent's home, the house I grew up in, was sold in 2000 and with that went the tradition of staying there over the holidays. And as for the trip to the Endeavor pub, I don't think that is particularly observed anymore either.

I do indeed feel a little sad at the fact that old familiarities have disappeared. Old habits die hard, isn't that what they say? Perhaps these seasonal stateside jaunts are for the best. Those old Christmas traditions can now pass gracefully into the realms of fond memories, unblemished by the changes of time. And as I near Atlanta I can look forward to another Christmas that will be unique and memorable because for me at least, it will be anything but traditional.

Have a great Christmas everyone.