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We were going to be flying to the carrier from the United States Navy base in Bahrain on a Grumman C-2A Greyhound: an ungainly propeller plane, more war- or work-horse than greyhound. There was nothing speedy or sleek about it. The sky was doing what it always did at this time: waiting for the sun to show up. The sun is the only thing that happens to the sky in this part of the world—that and the stars which were nowhere to be seen. The temperature was pleasant; a few hours from now it would be infernal. Sixteen passengers, all Navy except for me and the snapper, gathered round the back of the Greyhound — also known as a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) — listening to the safety briefing. Our luggage had been weighed and taken away for loading. Despite my protests, I had to hand over my computer bag as well, something I'd never let happen before. It had to be stowed because when we landed on the carrier, when the plane touched down and hooked the arresting wire, we would go from 140 mph to 0 mph in a couple of seconds: the trap, the first of many words that I heard for the first time, or rather the first of many times that I heard a familiar word used in a completely new way. I knew what the trap referred and pertained to—the hook, the arresting wire—but was unsure how to use it. Did we make the trap? Hit the trap? Come in for the trap? The trap: it existed in isolation from other words, abruptly and permanently arrested from the normal momentum of syntax. Then there was the word 'cranial': in this context not an adjective but a noun referring to the head-, ear- and eye-protectors that were handed out for the flight. Unnoticed, I noticed now, the sky had brightened from grey to blue. We put on our float coats, carried our cranials and filed onto the plane. There were two seats on either side of the aisle — all facing backwards — and two windows on either side of the fuselage, each the size of a dinner plate. It was not the sort of environment in which one could complain about the lack of leg room, though that was one of the striking features of this aircraft. Others were fumes and noise...