You know how it feels when you hit the target but miss the point?Well, a recent journey to address a health conference in Europe was, to my mind, the perfect example of this.

Since the conference was in Athens, and the issues that put my mission off target began in Paris, let me refer to it as "my Greek tragedy, with a French twist".

It was an open and shut case really. Not just my case, but everyone's. They all went missing.

Perhaps I should have known something might happen. On the Manchester to Paris leg of the journey, I had just read that it was the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Maybe the French were getting their own back as the baggage handlers at Charles De Gaulle airport called an unofficial strike just as the British flight landed.

All the passengers made their onwards flight - mine being to Athens - but we were sans baggage. When we arrived - I know this is stereotyping - but the British queued magnificently, while others became quite agitated.

Not so the American evangelical group, who were on a mission to restore an ancient monastery on a far-flung Greek island. They were an example to us all. With good humour and Christian forbearance, they carried on regardless, their monastic calling overcoming any thoughts of short-term inconvenience.

Come prepared

I don't want to appear holier than thou, but being an old hand in the lost luggage department meant I had a small hand-carried case containing my speech and a change of clothing. So, like the evangelical group, I was able to take the high ground and pretend I wasn't in the least bit irritated.

However, it left me musing that although the airline no doubt recorded that their target was fully met, in that the flight landed bang on time, the whole story was not laid bare for all to see, let alone examine.

I suppose the moral of this story is that it is essential in life to take steps to mitigate against potential damage, whether you fly people from place to place or deliver healthcare. There is always something that will put a spanner in the works, preferably when the aircraft is on the ground.

After all the mayhem on the flight out, the conference went wonderfully well. Delegates from throughout the EU seemed quite impressed with our efforts in East Lancashire to make serious inroads into health inequalities. They seemed bemused that we had put a figure on our targets in the endeavour to save a million years of life by 2011. If it helps to do the same in downtown Dusseldorf or in rural Carpathia, then it will all have been worthwhile.

Incidentally, on the return journey home, I was just beginning to coast along in my stratospheric comfort zone when I was brought down to earth with a bump. I had been informed that 50 minutes was ample time to change terminals at the huge complex known as Charles De Gaulle airport. It wasn't. Two and a half hours wait for the next flight to Manchester.

But, of course, being on a mission myself, I took it in my philosophical stride and smiled sweetly at all around me. Happy holidays.