Saturday, 15 May 2010

Be prepared.

Way back in December 2003, myself and three friends went for a weekend in Amsterdam. I am sure it is a lovely place, however we were staying in the middle of the red light district, so my views of the city were tainted by, to be frank, drug dealers and whores. Not my cup of tea to be honest, those drug dealers. And the closest we got to any kind of sex show was in Hooters, which was just ropey girls with huge knockers, covered by t-shirts. Nothing against that, they're not pieces of meat after all. But if I'm paying exorbitant prices for tepid lager, I would like a side order of at least a bit of nipple please. Especially when that glass of lager is only half full due to the other half being taken up by head (too obvious). Their refusal to top up our lager only led us to spend a lot of time in the hotel bar.

It was during one of these afternoons that I was casually gazing out of the window, across the canal. On the other side of the road, there was a bum. A tramp, not an anus. He was ambling along the sidewalk, staggering a little, clearly worse for wear. After stumbling for a few minutes, nature called and he slowly worked his way towards a covered doorway. I assumed he was just going for onesies, but he slowly pulled down his pants and squatted, and did his dirty business right there on the street. Impressed?? Of course not. Neither was I at the time. In fact up until this point I was positively disgusted. But then as he stood he slowly reached into his jacket and pulled out a full roll of toilet paper, ripped off a couple of sheets, wiped, discarded, pants up, staggered on. And as disgusting as the initial act of defecation was, I can't help but feel he redeemed himself somewhat by actually carrying a roll of paper around with him for such emergencies. I was pretty awestruck if I'm honest, it takes a special person to be that prepared.

Preparation has never been one of my strong points, which is how I found myself at Heathrow airport after travelling for around 40 hours, maybe a bit more, with a mouth that felt like I had spent the entire journey licking Amsterdam Bums bum. Once again I had loaded my bag with entertainment - laptop, more books than I could read in 3 lifetimes, magazines, iPod, camera, a huge bag of gummi bears thanks to the wonderful girlfriend, but no toothpaste, or toothbrush, or anything that would make sitting next to me on a nigh on 30 hour flight a pleasant experience.

The first 9 hours of travel was by coach, essentially the same journey I made from Christchurch to Queenstown almost a year ago but in reverse. From Queenstown to Lake Tekapo the driver was a chap I worked with during the winter, so the journey was filled with chat. Being an occasional miserable bastard, I would have been quite happy with the iPod in, but decided to be amiable for a while, however when New Driver took over at Tekapo he began by asking me a few questions about how I knew Previous Driver which I cleverly parried with one word answers, before settling in to listen to inane chatter on the iPod. And becoming silently enraged by a husband asking his wife rather loudly as they boarded the coach where the best place to sit for her travel sickness would be. Please. That loudly? Mentioning travel sickness? Sorry, would you like me to give up my seat at the front of the coach so you don't get all queasy? Or wait, is it because you want to sit at the front of the coach to get better views? I'm not moving, so I would suggest you just man the fuck up and deal with it. We are human beings, we were designed to move. Get over it.

As we entered Christchurch in the early evening, we became embroiled in the first traffic I have seen for a while. Given my ultimate destination - the United Kingdom - this just brought back memories of being stuck in four lanes of stop/start traffic, moving an average of 3 inches per millennia. This was no M25, this was New Zealand traffic, which essentially consists of more than 5 cars but less than 20, so we moved on pretty quick. My eyes lit up as we passed Warehouse Extra, then my heart sank as I remembered it's as disappointing as gearing up for a huge poo only for it to drop out in pellet form. My heart sank even further as suppressed memories of Masturbating Israeli reared their ugly heads again.

I arrived at Christchurch airport with approximately a third of the gummi bears left, and began the epic flight back to England. I am completely torn as far as flying goes. It's clearly a necessary evil, and I would rather do the entire New Zealand to England in one trip without breaking it up, but it's a lot of time to sit in one place a zillion miles in the sky. Sure, they try and make it as comfortable as possible by supplying you with a fibre-glass blanket and a pillow made up of 4 sheets of A4 paper folded in half, pritt-sticked together and stuffed with shredded paper, but there is no getting around the fact that the person in front of you will always recline their seat as fast and as hard as possible at the exact moment you are taking a sip of molten coffee. I'm not worried about Deep Veined Thrombosis, which is another thing that just requires people to stop wearing stupid socks and running on the spot for 10 minutes out of every 15, and just manning up a smidgen. I'm not too worried about major incidents either, after all whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. What does concern me is who I will end up sitting next to. Will they smell? Will they be fat? I paid for this seat, I don't want half of someone else spilling over into it. Snorer? Frenchman? The horrific possibilities are endless. The last thing I want is what happened on the way to Canada a few years back. A French-Canadian woman who insisted on talking to me instead of her husband, but only when I was eating. Asking me questions as my fork was nearing my mouth. Irritating to the nth degree. And French-Canadians are the worst kind of person. These guys are Canadian, but they actually want to be French. Imagine that.

But on the plus side, and this is what I really look forward to about flying, I have pretty much an entire day where I don't have to worry about food. The only critical decision I have to make is do I want chicken or beef. Or lamb or chicken. Or chicken or fish (chicken; as a seafood-phobe the thought of sitting in an aircraft cabin filled with the aroma of fish disgusts me almost as much as sitting next to a French-Canadian). I don't have to stand in the supermarket going back and forth over what I want for dinner, what I already have to make the dish, what I need, oh no. For a day I am told when to eat, pretty much what to eat, and that to me is utter bliss.

Another plus side? Oh yes, I am completely on a roll here with the positivity, I was flying back via Hong Kong. Hong Kong airport is great. L.A. is terrible. At L.A. when you alight the plane they usher you into a room for a few hours where you have to sit and wait for refuelling, with no opportunity to do anything else but sit there and concentrate on not looking like you are about to do something bad for fear of getting shot by an over-zealous gun-toting cowboy who clocked you as a potential fundamentalist just because you have a little bit of a beard. In Hong Kong they let you back into the departure area. You can walk around, check the Internet, have a Starbucks, and more importantly have a smoke. There are still smoking rooms in Hong Kong airport which is phenomenal in my opinion. Sure, they have glass fronts which I assume is so that you can sit in there and watch the world go by still feeling like a part of it, when in fact it actually makes you feel like a monkey in a cage, a relic of days gone by, a window for children to point at and ask their parents what those creatures are doing? For the parents to reply that they are smoking, and that it used to be a really cool thing to do in the old days and that it used to be good for you until science got in the way. But still, breaking up the journey with a smoke? Awesome. Yes please.

When I got back to Heathrow with rotten-arse-mouth, I was collected by my Father and taken home where I have now been for a little over a week. And it has been a manic week of catching up with people. My time is limited, and I have spent a lot of it writing this fetid nonsense, but I am catching up with who I can, when I can. It is difficult to get everyone in as for some reason people have jobs which means their days are filled with essential activities, but I have been doing what I can. And there is a lot to catch up on and a lot of things I have done that I didn't realised I missed so much until now.

That list includes, but is not limited to family, friends and everything that has happened in all of their lives while I have been away, good curry, McDonalds breakfasts, breakfast in greasy spoon cafes filled with gypsies, proper pubs, black pudding, Wensleydale with cranberries, pickled onion Monster Munch, Space Raiders, Pork Scratchings, Chocolate Caramel Digestives. So apart from the people I love, I have mainly missed food. It seems there isn't much about the U.K. itself I have missed. I haven't travelled too much on the motorways so the traffic I touched on earlier hasn't been much of an issue. I have used the Underground a few times which is always a great experience if you like every inch of your personal space occupied by the founding members of the London Halitosis Society. And I have also tried the train too, and enjoyed one half of a chavvy conversation from a lardy chick whose clothes were way too tight, which went along the lines of "Nahhh, but oi'm ahhnly entoitled to a two bedroom haaarrsse innnooiii".

So despite the general public getting on my tits a bit, which was nailed on to be honest, it's been a great trip back so far. It's been great to catch up with those I have managed to see so far, and I hope to squeeze in as many as possible, but please accept my apologies if I don't get to see you as my time and funds here are limited, it doesn't necessarily mean I don't like you.

And you'll be glad to know the very first thing I did when I got back was stock up on tiny soaps, toothpastes and deodorants in preparation for the journey back to NZ. As it transpires I can be prepared if I really put my mind to it.

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