We spent our last night in the UK in an airport hotel, one of those that looks exactly the same whether you’re in London, New York, Paris or Peckham (of course, only fools and horses would get that kind of reference, Rodney).
Our dear friend – whose daughter has always been one of our daughter’s best friends, and who had accompanied her dad on the journey to drop us off there – had long since left us. Another sad goodbye completed.
Our son, not quite a teenager, spent most of his time that evening asking for another pound for the Internet connection to be rebooted so that he could continue to chat to his friends on MSN. Our young daughter read stories and drew pictures. Pandaa (the cuddly bear dude) looked like the only one of our party who was remotely confident and relaxed about the whole thing. He had his leather travel wear, his little case and his all-important home made passport; what was the big deal, man?
We had intended to go and get a meal downstairs in the hotel, but in the end our spirits weren’t up to it. We felt exhausted and unsure for the future. We each wanted to be quiet and left to our own thoughts.Tomorrow marked the beginning of a new chapter for this little family of four, one that could only be played by ear as it went along.
An early start to the crisp, snowy day that followed heralded our new adventure. We were just four ordinary people, two of them only children, loading our cases onto the minibus to go to the airport; nothing out of the ordinary to any casual observer. As we later settled into our seats on the aircraft, I wondered how many of the other passengers might be on their way to pastures new as we were.
When the aircraft took off, we observed from above the pristine white fields that the snow had worked so hard overnight to achieve. We were leaving now – really leaving – and who knew yet what may lay ahead for us?
Anyone who has travelled from the UK to Australia will eventually realise that it’s a long way. Longer than you thought. An interminably, arse-numbingly, brain-scramblingly long way. All passengers who have attempted this flight have without doubt done ALL of the following (yes, really – all of them):
1. Watched all the in-flight films (even the ones they didn’t want to see).
– So, you’re a Jane Austen fan? Yep, the film entitled “Zombie Hairdressers from Mars” that you turned your cultured nose up at when you first boarded will be on your viewing list before this flight is over. No, of course you won’t like it but it’ll pass a few hours away and you’ve already seen The Vicar of Dibley nine times today.
2. Listened to the baby in the row 200 seats away from you shriek consistently like a tiny banshee undergoing a toe extraction. For the whole flight. Non-stop.
– Its parents (in their desperation) are the ones frantically looking for the emergency exits and the parachutes, but apparently not the child’s dummy.
3. Watched the in-flight journey tracker.
– Who knew it takes 23.5 hours to fly over India, and only half an hour or so extra for the remaining 10, 246 miles (or 16, 489km if you’re a Metric Mary)?
TIP: DO NOT use the in-flight tracker on such a long flight, or you’ll begin to imagine a life within the confines of India or Afghanistan as a very real possibility. Eventually though, you’ll reach the Land Down Under. Severely sleep-deprived and gnarly, but you’ll reach it.
And here’s where the fun begins….