The man with the scanner extracted a silver-coloured tub from her case.

‘What’s it for, if you don’t mind me asking?’

Miriam pulled her gold-framed spectacles to the end of her nose, and eyed him over the lilac lenses. ‘It’s an emollient,’ she whispered.

The man looked blankly at her. ‘Is it for medical purposes?’

She leaned over so her mouth was uncomfortably close to his ear. ‘Let’s not make a scene, young man.’

‘We don’t allow this volume of liquids on board.’ He gestured at the sign beside them.

‘Well that’s fine, then. Because it’s not a liquid.’

‘I’m afraid we do class it as a liquid.’

‘Can we bypass the burocracy please? I’m sure you have better things to do than get in the way of an old lady and her sea view in Cannes.’

The guard sighed. ‘Madam. If it’s not a solid and it’s not a gas, it must be a liquid.’

‘Look, I’ve been using this product for fifty years, and I’m telling you, liquid is one thing it is not. It’s a very light cream. Light as air. Voluptuous. Velvety. A mousse, if you like. Enriched with colloidal silver. A liquid is something you pour, and you can’t pour this.’

‘I’m sure you could.’ He went to unscrew the lid.

‘Don’t -‘ She stretched a cold, ring-laden claw out to stop him.

‘Don’t what? Open it?’

‘It’s… it’s sensitive to light. Anyway, I don’t want this airport air getting to it. Full of nasties.’

‘Lady, I can’t help you if I can’t inspect it. Look, whatever it is, you can’t bring it in the cabin if it’s more than 100ml.’ He studied the label. ‘This is 500.’

‘But it’s not full.’

‘I don’t make the rules. End of the day, you can’t take it on board.’ He held out a black bin.

She took the container from him and clutched  it to her chest. ‘Well, I shan’t be boarding then.’

‘Can’t you travel without it? Less to carry.’

‘Oh yes, you’d like me to leave it here, wouldn’t you? You know how much this pot is worth, I bet. My precious crème d’argent. Well you’re not getting your hands on it. I’ve never been so patronised in my life, least of all by… by staff.’ She looked back toward the conveyor belts, the scanners and the people snaking through them. ‘Now, how do I get out of here?’