Flying home for christmas
The great escape… from heat and humidity and terrific storms.
Taxi at 9 pm.
A no-wait, painless check-in at Brisbane's International terminal: reassuringly normal service from Singapore Air.
But a new rule: a strict weight limit on hand luggage. Since the G20, they said. Carry your laptop separately, they said.
Departure just about midnight. Strange time to fly anywhere.
A full meal is served: I am not hungry but I eat. I get hungry on planes despite doing nothing. And not being in control of my next meal makes me anxious.
Timelessness: night or day will be largely irrelevant for 24 hours.
A couple of hours' disrupted sleep. Then bright lights, hot flannels and breakfast. Still two hours out from Singapore.
Smooth landing at Changi. Still dark.
Coffee, shops, half-hour massage.
Slight delay to board our Airbus A380.
We had reserved seats A and C in the vain hope of an empty one between us. The intruder is an Asian lady who doesn't want the window seat. I won't give up the aisle, so my friend and I sit apart for the duration.
Thirteen hours and 40 minutes to LHR… Sudoku, a second breakfast, 100 pages of Richard Flanagan (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), a little sleep, a film (The Hundred-Foot Journey), lunch, another 100 pages of Flanagan, a second film (Tracks), a further sleep. Interminable.
My new policy: sleep when the need arises.
Flight-path wiggle north of Delhi. To avoid a storm? I ask why but never get an answer. They're busy.
Unusual route over Europe, not across the Aral Sea and almost as far north as Moscow. Where is Ukraine?
Stacked over Essex. Twenty minutes late landing. Is there anything worse than stacking after a long long-haul flight?
Terminal 2 dysfunction. The longest walk to immigration. Vast queues. Passport scanner doesn't work for me. I am directed to a short queue specifically for scanning failures.
Massive baggage reclaim hall but not all carousels are in use. Our flight sharing with another. Cases being taken off by airport staff and piled on the floor. Not easy to monitor piles and conveyor belt.
No signage. Where are car rentals? Where are the buses to car rentals?
Lovely Turneresque wintry sunset.
Bus ride to Avis complete with cheeky-chappy-Cockney chatterer.
My friend's name is not on the Preferred list ready for pickup. The car is brought to us. Small, sporty and only comfortable enough for two. Aggressive red. Tiny boot; cases on the back seat.
How do we get out of here? Wrong way along the Perimeter Road. The M25 seems crazy-fast after Australia. But no variations in the maximum speed limit, yay.
About half an hour later we arrive at our destination. Dorking, Surrey. Beep-beep-beep. Big hugs.
It is 6 pm. That's 30 hours door to door.