Holidays, part 5 – flying lessons

My daughter Ella is very special.  Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

She also has a somewhat ‘relaxed’ relationship with gravity.  As a ballet dancer, that’s a pretty helpful talent to have.  She can jump and spring like a mountain gazelle.

There’s something else she can do.

Fly.

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In transit

Travelling always sounds so exotic, but the fact of the matter is that the actual travelling bit sucks.

Blows goats, no less.

First, you have to endure check-in.  The airlines and brochures present you with an idyllic view of check in, of smiley gorgeous women on the counter, handsome travellers all with $10,000 watches and smiles to match.

or of wonderful machines that take all the pain away

The reality of check-in is usually more like this:

Which, frankly is my idea of hell.

Now to be fair, this process has improved substantially with technology – I checked in online a few hours before my flight, chose my seats for the whole trip and printed my own boarding cards (with Opera in the end, after a fight with Firefox), meaning actual check-in for me was a 2 minute affair, wandering past the line of economy class hopefuls and straight to the internet check-in bag drop.  Not bad.

Next, there’s security.  Actually, in Australia, you first have to be quizzed by immigration (would it not be emigration on the way out?) as to why you are leaving the Lucky Country at all.  I mean, how very dare you!  These guys are ok – the Aussies are a friendly bunch (listen up TSA in the US..) and it’s no big deal.

But then there’s the line for the x-rays and scanners.  The experience here is totally dependent on location. Leaving Perth is a walk in the park – the international terminal only has 5 gates and security takes 3 minutes, but 9 times out of 10 leaves you hopping across the room post scan carrying your belt and shoes whilst trying to prevent your trousers from heading down around your knees by the mind power alone.   Coming back though –  Heathrow is a *nightmare* – security can take an hour.  Or more if they are having a bad day.  Dubai is also terrible – massive queues which most people think think they can ignore and just walk to the front.  Yeah, that’s always fun.  Not.

And then, once you’ve been ritually de-bagged and generally made to feel like a terrorist, you have to endure an enormous wait before boarding the plane.  And airports are universally miserable places.  Actually Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are ok, but even so, I’d rather invent a way to reclaim those 2 hours of my life.

Which brings me to boarding.

The staff patiently announce that boarding is open for parents with small children, gold club and first class passengers (who must be ushered away from the riff raff and into their upmarket cocoons as fast as possible) and anyone else ‘who needs more time with boarding’.  This last bit is actually translated by a strange airborne wave effect in the confines of an airline gate to mean ‘everybody stand up and attempt board now even though you have been clearly told to wait’

Semingly intelligent businessmen put down their copy of the New York Times and shove toddlers out of the way to get to their seats first.  The staff attempt to instil some order by boarding by seat row number, starting at the back of the plane first, but again, that seems to be lost in translation and basically ends up as ‘CHARGE!!’

So, once on the plane, smacking all the smug first and business class passengers about the head with your bags as you walk through the impossibly narrow aisles, frotting with the stewardesses (or stewards, depending on your preference), there’s the lottery of who’s sitting next to you.  There’s always a gargantuan fat person in every departure lounge, and everyone is thinking the same thing.  Please god, don’t let them be sat next to me. – I think the airlines employ these really fat people just to fuck with travellers heads.

And when you do get to your seat, there’s nowhere for your bags to go because everyone except you has ignored the ‘one piece of hand luggage’ rule and the entire plane’s overhead luggage capacity is full up before 1/2 the people have even made it through the door.

What is supposed to be this

ends up as this

Once you have stashed your bag at the opposite end of the plane, placing your valuables at the mercy of people who could well be a troupe of serial pickpockets on their way out for the summer season, the waiting starts.  The hours and hours of being crammed into a small seat with the ignoramus in front of you reclining his seat an inch from your face the split second the fasten seatbelts sign is switched off after take off, the not being able to sleep, of endless edited movies, of that annoying moving map thing which shows you in perfect clarity exactly how much misery is still left.

And I’m not even going to write about the horrors of getting off the plane and collecting baggage once you land. I prefer to pretend that bit doesn’t exist.  La-la-la-la.  My fingers were in my ears then – you’ll have to imagine that bit.

Then, once you’ve had every ounce of energy, patience and tolerance and ability to extend human kindness extracted from you, you are free to begin the whole point of the journey, the destination.

And I’m here, in England, with my kids, and they are awesome and worth every second of the trip.

and there was more..

More Kitesurfing action from Safety Bay, Rockingham.

Standing in the middle of the lagoon might be good for photos, but is also way too good for toe nipping crabs!

update

Well, whats been happening in the world of me?

My trip to England went well – the flight over was actually pretty painless, despite being sat next to a borderline Neanderthal on the plane from Perth to Singapore – he was laughing out loud to stuff on the entertainment system.  I mean really out loud.  Not good.  When I asked him something, he spoke like he had experienced a very bad head injury – I don’t think he had though, he was just very odd.

Anyway – Singapore Airlines – 5 stars from me – good food, good aeroplanes and excellent service.  Managed to sleep almost all the way to London too.

Went to collect my kids via my old local supermarket – I needed to buy jeans as for some reason, jeans in Australia are only available in one length to cater for all – so the legs are always 6foot too long, meaning I have to pay to have them taken up too.  Its maddening.  2 pairs of jeans and some stripy coloured socks later (you can’t buy coloured socks here either) and I was at my kids front door.  Its always so good to see them, they end up doing a little dance and their smiles blow away the travel fatigue in seconds.

We drove back to my parents house – was good to see them too – last time was when they were here for our wedding.

We had a nice week – the weather in England was shit though – what the hell happened to warm summers that I remember from when I was young?  It barely made it to 20C all week and rained loads 😦   We did still get out to the park, take a trip to London to go the Natural History Museum (never go in the summer holidays – it was packed full of rude johnny foreigners who have never heard of waiting their turn) and spent a load of time with my family.

It was horrible to have to leave them again, but they were ok and missed their mum.  I stopped off at Hotel Chocolat to get some goodies before flying home again.

miraculously, I didn’t get sick this time!  I have a load of photos on film which are at the lab for developing right now – hopefully they’ll come back soon – I want to see how the Hasselblad did with taking photos of moving children 🙂

New Years Eve

NYE was the last day in Oz for my kids – the flight out wasn’t until 2am (yeah, I know..) so we had a full day to have fun.

We drove off to Mandurah for a walk, a play in the park, an explore and a coffee – its only a 30 min drive and its quite pretty on the board-walk.

The kids had loads of fun exploring, looking for fish in the harbour, cleaning up litter (yeah, we have a bunch of conscientious environmentalists on the books) and playing in the park. We went for a longer walk over to the marina which was nice – its looking like its going to be a much nicer version of Hillary’s Boat Harbour (which I hate with a passion) – somewhere I might actually want to hang out. Hopefully they don’t spoil it.

It was a lovely afternoon, really relaxed and a good finish for the kids.

We scooted back to Rockingham to get fish and chips and scoffed them on the foreshore and listened to the NYE entertainment starting up. After a good feed, we had a little play and then headed home to pack 😦

Here are some pics from the day 🙂

Some tearful farewells later, I drove off with Ella and Henry to get the plane back to Singapore and then onto Heathrow.  Its a shame we live so far apart as we had such a lovely time all together.   I get to see them much more often as I’ll fly back to the UK a few times a year, but we simply can’t afford the AU$10k+ it costs to get them all here to Perth or for us to go to the UK en-masse very often.  Ah well..lottery win, where are you?

The trip back was uneventful – its a bloody long way – the kids were shattered by the time we took off and were asleep for a good chunk of the trip.  They were good as gold really given how tired they were and how much they just wanted to either stay or get back depending on how they were feeling.

We picked up the hire car and drove to my mum and dad’s place on New Years Day where their mum and her parents (my ex-wife and ex-inlaws) came to collect them, saving me a 4 hour+ drive there and back.  It felt a bit odd, but we all get on ok and I like my ex-inlaws.

Was sad to see them off cos it was so lovely having Ella and Henry here for 10 days, but I know we’ll manage to do this again sooner rather than later.

After an very short sleep, I was off back to the airport and despite having to change terminals for Malaysian Airlines, I was uneventfully back off to Perth via Kuala Lumpur only 15 hours after I arrived.

Jet lag, what jet lag?

And so ended 2009 and began 2010.