Half the world away. Episode 1.

Australia is very much like Hull: you have to really want to go there to go there because its not really on the way to anywhere else. Ok, I suppose a cynic could suggest that you might just hop on and off the back of Australia to get to New Zealand but after that you really are on the way to nowhere. Head further east and you hit a series of more remote islands, facial tattoos and morbid obesity and head further south and you end up in a frozen wasteland where you can pass the time chatting with seabirds and feeling your balls slowly creep up your spine in search of warmth. Not so much with the balls if you’re of the fairer sex.
Anyway, since I didn’t fancy the idea of Christmas (or any time between now and my death) in Hull we ended up in Australia, hit by a 40 degree belch of heat which after driving past shitty monuments of black, decaying snow for the previous week was a welcome distraction. I’ve never had a huge issue with coming to Australia. I’ve always assumed since most of the properly annoying Australians already live in Britain that the one’s left over there must be delightful. Turns out they are.
By the way the difference between Aussies and Kiwis in Britain is quite simple. Kiwis like fucking around doing the Haka at every inappropriate opportunity and keep telling you how beautiful the country they’ve left behind is; and in that sense they actually end up sounding like an overly patriotic Welsh man blowing his horn all over a pub in Knightsbridge. Aussies in Britain on the other hand come with an untouchable belief that they and their country are unquestionably better that you. Full stop. They’re not romantic about it, they just know it.
They may well be right. The only problem I’ve ever had with going to Australia is the going bit. There are many wonderful things that have had me transfixed for decades but I’ve always dismissed them because the thought of flying all that way seemed so brutally masochistic. Then I met ‘the wife’ and was beaten down with her unquenchable enthusiasm to travel and now here I am, sitting in a kitchen in Adelaide at half six in the morning as she scours the guide book to find solutions to my inherent idleness.
So all is well but boy was that a crap journey. Airports, even the nice ones, are all pretty much awful but they are only one joyless part of the modern long haul odyssey. It’s bad enough having to eat food with some daft stunted knife in case a terrorist goes on a stabbing spree but once you’re on board it’s structurally questionable plastic all the way. Planes are little more than trans global transfer units for bacteria, farts and aggression so it’s little wonder you rarely hear anyone sober laughing on one. Our flight took us to Hong Kong in just under 12 hours and then to Adelaide in another 8 and a bit. Not one minute of it was a pleasure and only a small proportion truly bearable. The reasons are manifold.
The flight from Heathrow was delayed, of course it was. Why wouldn’t it be? Why should you, the humble consumer be expected to pay £2000 for the penultimate flight out on a Saturday night and then be allowed to hope to dream that it might leave on time? Such idiots are we. Things got worse. The chap we sat next to was a Hong Kong native who appeared to be harbouring some kind of bubonic cough but I managed to sidestep this threat by using ‘the wife’ as a virus buffer. No doubt she’s pass on some crippling lurgy before long and get me right back.
Every other aspect of the excruciating banality of flight was firmly in place. The lingering trundle of the runway ‘taxi’. The still highly improbable physics equation that this, plus this, plus that is all it takes to get thousands of tonnes of metal and flesh and appalling food into the air and keep it there. The insincere smile on the face of every steward that shushed past. The constant exchange of suspicious, competitive glances with your fellow passengers; the people you saw in WHSmiths and again at check in, and again at passport control and in duty free and then just in front of you as you boarded the plane. Fun.
I watched four films which were:

Logan Lucky – fun, clever, silly, good. Would watch again, though only when not on a plane.

Logan – good, hard as nails, bleak, relentlessly violent (even for me). Would watch again only not on a plane.

Spiderman: Homecoming. Good (ish), silly, fun. Would watch again, but not in a hurry and definitely not on a plane.

Baby Driver. Good (but not as good as that), fun, fast, not as clever as it thinks, weird watching Spacey (who is the best thing about it, which is even weirder). Might watch again if it was free and if Spacey hasn’t been airbrushed out and replaced by Danny Dyer.

I also passed out once. I could have omitted that but what’s the point. It’s not been the first time, but it is only the second time so it isn’t quite a habit.

More to come.

G B Hewitt. 19.12.2017

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