The story so far

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

UK to Thailand

I've been in Australia seven days now and am only just getting prepared to write about our trip out of England. I made some notes as we went around Thailand and reading through them now, I realise it's a good idea. I had forgotten about half the things that had happened already. I am finding it hard to find time to write now though. When at work, a bit more work seems to fit quite well, but the thought of getting my computer out while on holiday really doesn't appeal.

The taxi took us to Heathrow in what seemed like no time at all. The girls were excited, Hannah sitting in the back with them, with me in front talking to the driver, Richard. It all seemed a bit surreal, what we were doing just seemed like a dream and the feelings were just not what I expected.  It was very relaxing, I didn't feel excited, or sad, just exhausted and ready for a rest.  Not the best place to be when you are about to embark on an eleven hour flight with two small but very energy sapping children.

On arrival at Heathrow, about two and a half hours before the flight, we rushed to the check-in desk to get our bags on the plane. I think everyone gets anxious before a long trip, myself included. We were in such a hurry we forgot to wrap up the child seats properly and ended up just putting them in a plastic sack with some gaffer tape for good measure. One aspect which had worried us was behind us now, the concern that our luggage would be overweight. We were underweight by a kilo and as Hannah and I walked away from the check-in desk, each wearing boots, two jumpers, a hoody, and a thick winter coat, I couldn't help but wonder if the weather in Thailand really called for it.

We went for dinner at Garfunkles, thinking it would be better to eat stodgy food on the ground than wait for the delecacies that the Queensland And Northen Territory Air Service would serve up. I was keen not to eat on the plane, especially the mashed potatoes which appear to have been designed along with the air conditioning and forced inactivity to block you up for two days after the flight. One interesting aspect of eating “air side” is that they are not allowed to give you anything sharp that you could use to Hi-jack an aircraft. Rather than cutting your food, you have to beat it with a blunt instrument. It took me ten minutes to deal with Esme's pizza and by that time we were beginning to get anxious about the flight again.

Hannah is scared of flying to a certain extent, but tries to hide it to avoid Zoe catching on and adding it to her increasing list of phobias. I however have no fear of flying, so why do I get so worked up?  I tried to think of a reason why I needed to get to the front of the queue. I wondered if it was the need to get a good seat. No, we had already been allocated seats. I wondered if it was the need to get overhead locker space. No, because there would be plenty on the 747 and even if their wasn't, we had two kids whose feet barely hung over the seats, we could stash the bags under their seats if the worst came to the worst. It is definitely an irrational feeling and it seems to affect everyone.

One chap with sandals and a beard, sat there obviously trying to look cool.  I have this theory that anyone who looks cool must be affecting it, how can you get through life without getting flustered, especially in airport situations.  Anyway, you know the type, he was reading some kind of high-brow novel and clearly making the cover obvious to everyone. He wanted it to be known he was reading this book and he also had one of those over the shoulder record bags. I wondered why he was taking his 12” vinyl on a tour round the world, I wasn't convinced that sandals were suitable footwear for a DJ so I decided he was just trying to create an image. I myself was wearing all my new Fat Face clothes we bought for Australia and also a rather nice pair of new shoes. I took out my high brow novel, “A Suitable Boy” that Shankar gave me for the trip. This book is about six inches thick and seriously impressive. The trouble was that my forearms could not cope with the weight and I ended up with it on my lap in a slightly slumped position. But still cool, I thought.

I did not read, it was maybe less obvious because progress through that book could be measured in weeks rather than minutes.  I kept an eye on the fake DJ in sandals; he kept looking at his watch and at the departures board and he opened his bag and took out a travel pillow. Not so cool, I thought, but if even if this guy, who seemed to be quite focussed on looking good, was obviously nervous, it must be a feeling that runs deep, even though my analysis makes this neuroticism irrational.

I know there is no such word as neuroticism, it should be neurosis I think, but there is such a word as Eroticism and I think that Neuroticism sounds better.

My theory for this feeling is that everyone flying out of the UK on a trip to Australia is very likely to have flown on "one of those budget airlines" in the past few years. I no longer take these options on principal, but I am still scarred by the memories of not having paid the £10 priority boarding, or not having enough money to take a piss on the flight. I don't like these companies, but I have never seen them in this light before. They have made air travel unbearable, not only when you travel with them, but they have also caused such pain to people that it triggers PTSD every time they set foot in an airport. As I say, only my theory, but a good one I think.

Over the PA system, they called our flight and guess what? Result! They called people with disabilities and small children first. That made it worth while that we had paid full price for the children's tickets and had had to throw away our beach towels in case the15kg Esme blew her 23kg baggage allowance by 2kg and incurred a 30 quid a kilo excess baggage charge. I've always thought that all air fares should be charged by the kilo, person plus bags. That way it would encourage people to lose weight.

We settled into our seats, and Esme immediately unpacked the socks, earphones and eye patches and put them all on. She obviously found some good music because, as I looked over to see her, she had the socks pulled up to her thighs and was swaying to the music with her hands clamped over her earphones in a Geldoff-in-band-aid style.

About 30 minutes after take-off the food arrived. As usual, Hannah and the girls were served about fifteen minuted before me because they are “special”. I was so agitated when my food arrived that I spooned in a whole dosage of mashed potato without thinking. Anyway, in the words of Magnus Magnusson, I'd started, so....I finished.

Not long after the meal, the lights went out and would you believe it? I woke up about an hour before the plane landed in Bangkok. The girls had also slept like angels and we felt fairly refreshed, or as well as you can do with half a pound of araldite laced root vegetable wedged deep within your stomach.

As we stepped off the plane, I wondered if our decision to wear so many layers had been a good one. I did think that maybe the insulating properties would keep the heat out, this thought did not linger as the sweat started to pour off me. We quickly de-robed, found a trolley for our garments and set off in search of the bags.

This would be the start of our Thailand adventure, the subject of the next article.

1 comment:

  1. i totally agree with your comments on low cost airlines. I'm currently reading a book called "ruinair" and it keeps reminding me of very flight i have taken in the past 8 years, none a pleasant memory.
    Glad to see you are all enjoying the beginning of this exciting adventure. Take care.