We’ll skip ahead now gentle reader to the return commute as it won’t hold much interest in comparison to once you have read about my time in England. I was scheduled to leave Heathrow 22:35 local time CZ 0304 travelling 5911 miles in 11hours 10minutes to Guangzhou. I noticed this was a shorter flight than the one I took over and put it down to the aircraft now being a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 787 is a newer aircraft but not the true successor to the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. Boeing instead designed this to replace their 767s with technologies that made the plane weight less and travel more efficiently. The Airbus A380 is the biggest passenger jet now as the Boeing 747 starts to be retired out of service and even it is in a battle to draw a profitability for Airbus. That makes me very sad. We used to build grand things, now we just build efficient ones but as a passenger who knows nothing I was happy to catch the 787 to get home faster but probably enjoyed being on the A330s more.
Upon boarding I noticed I was now on the right hand side facing the front and the side rows were 3 abreast and the seats had coverings that were more purplish than blue. Alas no Angry Birds. I was seated between two young men in the centre but they couldn’t have been nicer. We did fine accommodating each other but barely spoke. People don’t get names or make small talk anymore, if they ever did, everybody locks into their screens and politely gestures to each other and that’s about it. I had my meal which was lovely and then tried to sleep but I couldn’t, my legs were stiff and sore and I just couldn’t nod off. So I went to the bathroom and stood outside for half an hour stretching and generally just standing hoping I didn’t look weird. Eventually I returned and did manage some sleep, I think at some point Daddy’s Home 2 (I hadn’t even watched the original) and The Foreigner with Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan were watched and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Or maybe that was the last flight. The windows were tinted out blue rather than needing actual shades to be pulled down, the kind of technological breakthrough that amuses some and befuddles me.
I’m a strong believer routine makes new realities lived in very quickly and I was coming off the end of a long week where a large part of it I had been a passenger with Southern China Airlines and I was getting used to it. The ads you couldn’t skip that ran before each movie for Lexus in Chinese, the safety videos at the beginning of the flights and the terminals at Guangzhou. I was going to miss it you see.
We landed 16:45 local time and I promptly went to the toilet after clearing customs. Changing my socks and undies in a vain attempt to make up for a lack of shower facilities I charged my phone and read my Michael Caine biopic. I returned to the shops to pick gifts for loved ones, my only regret is that I had to limit myself due to carry on weight and money, Chinese pizza will have to wait for another time too. In my earlier trip I had noticed a smartly dressed Panda and fell in love with the idea of getting it for Karen. I have since discovered her name is Pia.
The airport made me think of a real cool idea for purgatory. I don’t mean it was unpleasant to be there, the place was sleek, modern, glass and steel with planes lifting off into the heavens outside. Brightly lit stores and eateries beckoned and small nooks of carpeted corners made me think of cool hiding places for kids. The smog outside and the unfamiliar surroundings were very atmospheric to me along with all the strangers that surrounded me. I was alone but there were clearly families and couples. What if there was a way station like this in heaven? There is a film from the 80s called Heavenly Kid which has a subway station as purgatory, why not an airport? Once again reading Michael Caine made me sleepy so I went for a walk but this time I was only in China for 4hours 45 minutes and they start boarding before then. To be quite honest it struck me that 5 hours was a perfect break for such commutes rather than racing to your next flight to save a couple of hours in transit. Again I recommend China Southern Airlines and the Canton Route although I was grateful I had not been there for a 17 hour stop over.
We were scheduled to fly out of Guangzhou at 21:20 in an Airbus A330 with CZ0381 to cover 4388 miles in 9 hours and 5 minutes. On my fifth and final flight I got the window seat with a young Asian woman sporting heavy make-up next to me. We didn’t talk much either but she didn’t get grumpy when I had to wake her to get past her. Before we left we were told there was a hold up due to some kind of activity around Hong Kong. I started to nod off and continued as we taxied but managed to be wide awake as we flew down the runway and up and away. The meals offered for dinner and breakfast are usually of a Western and Asian bent. I had tried them all and enjoyed them but decided to pick the Asian ones after getting a noodle soup for breakfast on the Dreamliner. I had previously been worried there would be too much liquid and was worried about spilling it but this wasn’t the case at all and it tasted fantastic. When I got the meals this time the flight crew member serving me smiled and said “You always go the Asian one.” approvingly which just tinkled me pink for some reason. Maybe that was unusual.
As the sun rose I took some photos and also as my homeland finally came into view making use of my window seat.
When we reached Australian shores a lot of the flight was still to come which gives you a sense of the distance you have to cover in Australia to get anywhere. In an afternoon I had walked over 10kilometres, last year in a day I had driven over 900 kilometres and in my last plane flight I was covering 7061 kilometres in about the same amount of time as the driving to Newcastle took. The Captain apologised for the delay getting us to Brisbane but these things happen and again I was very happy with their service.
During our descent at 4,000 feet we went past the airport and banked right the 240,000 odd kilogram passenger jet over Moreton Bay with me looking right out the window at a sea of water. I quite enjoyed that and then we came into land.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning and I looked out the window to see aircraft personnel loading and emptying cargo in shorts and polos with bronzed arms and legs. How Australian I thought. There was something that felt very Chinese to me in Guangzhou, very Dutch to me in Amsterdam and very English to me in Heathrow too. How to describe it I don’t know but I find something comforting in how all of those airports and all those people were the same and yet through some kind of quirky thing different. It’s something we should celebrate too and one of the joys of travelling far and wide. But I was home now as I got into my car with Karen and drove to our apartment.
Total distance traversed within the week in planes was 20,607 miles or 33,163 kilometres. I had been in London just under 58 hours, my total commute time was easily over 32 hours on the way over and close to 25 hours on the way back or roughly I spent 57 hours travelling to London and 58 in it. I’m actually surprised by that, I was assured my commute would be longer than my hours in country so I’m embarrassed to have come up short. Still my brother in law was right; Nadia was in Australia from Friday morning to Monday morning. 3 days and 3 nights. I had been in London 3 days and 2 nights with a slightly longer commute. If she wants to take back the title for craziest commute she is more than welcome, I’m just glad we got to go to each other’s weddings. I’ll tell you more next time about Bexleyheath, an Australian in London and one of said weddings.