Awaking to the drone of BBC Radio 4 on Saturday morning, I launched myself out of bed to begin the lengthy preparations for the flight which would, that evening, propel me for the first time from western society into the exotic and alien
In the bathroom, it was only after shrieking and snatching up the nearest potential weapon with which I could defend myself – in this case, a small bottle on spray deodorant to be utilised in lieu of pepper spray – that I realised the wide-eyed, shaven-headed escaped convict I was aiming at was, in fact, my own reflection. It came back to me in a rush; the downright reckless decision to purge my head of hair in an impromptu visit to the hairdresser the day before.
Several hours later, stuffed with a wonderful yet coronary-clogging brunch prepared by Grandma, I found myself jammed into a seat on the coach heading to Heathrow airport, seated next to a gentleman with arms so hairy, they could have been stripped from carpet. Every time this wolf-man’s arm would brush against mine, a disturbing rippling sensation would ensue, akin to the feeling endured when hearing the sound of nails on a blackboard, or perhaps the strangling of a cat. I swallowed the urge to dive into my bag and attack the man’s arms with my razor. I instead satisfied myself with scratching frantically at my stubbly scalp in a vain attempt of convincing my neighbour of a head lice infestation.
Arriving at Terminal 4 almost 5 hours early, I checked myself in immediately found departure gate 23. It occurred to me that I had come perhaps slightly too soon:
Here was the aeroplane 4 hours before boarding time:
Airports fascinate and disgust me in equal measures. They’re all the same: a melting pot of skin colours, cultures, and languages; a tiny world of their own – a small-scale gathering of world nationalities. Despite being located in
On the aeroplane, I was markedly delighted to find an entire row of seats to myself, until an air hostess requested I remove my legs so another passenger could sit down. Glumly, I prepared to meet an overweight businessman, but was cheered considerably to instead have two beautiful young Irish ladies take their seats.
The flight was long. Very long. 12 hours to be exact. I am still not entirely sure how I survived the excursion, possibly due to the mixture of movies and white wine, but I do remember a particular low point, weeping my eyes out at Yes Man with Jim Carrey at 33,000 feet, which I imagine would not raise such sentiment had I been watching it on terra firma. Tear ducts are especially susceptible to influence from low pressure and high altitude, it would seem.
Long after the flight attendants had ordered all windows to be blocked out and all lights to be switched off, I realised that not visiting the loos beforehand had been an unwise decision – I sat there in my window seat, gripping the armrest, teeth gritted, desperately attempting to concentrate purely on a film and not on my straining bladder, while the two Irish girls slept on soundly and undisturbed.
I amused myself somewhat with the challenge of sliding open a blind and snapping a surreptitious photograph of the eye-wateringly beautiful sunrise without a patrolling flight attendant noticing and telling me off.
As my fogged brain grappled with the concepts of time zones, I realised that Saturday had, at some point, melted into Sunday, and when it had occurred was not something I was willing to calculate. Somehow I eventually managed to drift into an uncomfortable, dreamless sleep, floating into a restless unconsciousness as the plane churned on, over the vast, dry stretches of the Middle East and onwards towards the luscious humidity of