I’m arriving on a jet-plane – eventually

This is the email I sent to Wittertainment, but didn’t get read out. It’s an overview of the flight from Melbourne to London that started on 24 March. I’m not going to re-type it, so sorry, (not sorry), for the in-jokes and Witter vernacular…

Dear Captain Kramer and Captain Oveur,

I get to watch your bad selves on the live stream this week, for the first time evs. because as much as I love you and Jason, I ain’t getting up at that time of night in Australia. I’ve been listening to you since Radio 1, and Viggo Mortensen answered a question of mine in an interview.

Thank you for keeping me sane over the past few days. I’d stockpiled some podcasts and redownloaded, (is that is a word??) some old favourites for my trip back to the UK from Melbourne. When it all got too much, your witterings, bickerings, dulcet tones and the rants kept me grounded (hysterical laughter).

On Friday night, my husband, son and I had dinner at Melbourne’s Airplane Station. The boys went home and I checked in to fly to the UK for my brother’s 40th. After a busy week, which included Adele’s concert on the Sunday night, I was shattered and fell asleep straight after take-off. I woke up after ten hours (unheard of) and watched La La Land; the enjoyment of which was somewhat disrupted by rather a lot of cabin announcements.

What happened on the journey is either a farce, or a Monty Python sketch, I’m still working it out what comedy genre it fits into. However, in terms of flight bingo, does this clear the board?

  • Late departure by half an hour.
  • Gate given at Dubai, Captain excitedly explains “It’s very unusual not to be put in a hold pattern at Dubai, but we’re number three in the queue!”
  • “We’re being put in a hold pattern”
  • “The weather at Dubai is terrible, we’ll circle for a while”
  • Two hours later, “We can’t keep circling, we’re running out of fuel, we’re checking our options”
  • Diverted to Muscat in Oman.
  • We circle around Muscat for another hour.
  • We get a bird strike on our way to land in Muscat. They’re also still building the new airplane station. The A380 that we’re on is much bigger than the planes they normally see. The pilot edges us around buildings carefully, construction workers are taking pictures on their phones and watching in awe.
  • On the tarmac in Muscat for three hours, “While we’ve been refuelled; we can’t take off until we know we can land in Dubai, and the weather is too bad.”
  • “Now the weather is heading towards Muscat.”
  • “The crew have run out of hours.”
  • “There’s a replacement crew coming in on a private jet.”
  • “We’ve got to cancel the flight. We’re going to deplane you, put you in hotels overnight, to come back here in the morning.” We all pile off the plane, onto buses to the old terminal. As we’re heading down the stairs, the Captain explains that 30-odd flights had been diverted to Muscat’s airplane station.
  • We get into the terminal, are directed upstairs to the arrivals lounge, then get asked to go back downstairs. We need to complete visa paperwork, to leave the airport, to go to the hotels. One man begins to hands out carbon paper copies to 400+ passengers, we run out of forms.
  • We wait for more forms.
  • We wait for a bit more, as we don’t know where we’re staying so we can’t complete the forms.
  • We have forms.
  • We wait for our stamps at immigration.
  • We wait for a bit more. The staff were great, just completely overwhelmed with the amount of people.
  • We have stamps.
  • We wait for buses.
  • Nearly eight hours after landing at Muscat, I’m put on the last bus.
  • Arrive at the hotel to be met by amazing Manager, who assesses the bedraggled state we’re in “Some of you check in now, some check in later. Lunch is all ready and waiting” (it is nearly 5pm). I’ve not eaten since the last meal serving on the flight, which was about 6am – I’m coeliac – all the snacks on board have gluten in, I could have eaten my arm off.
  • The next morning we get told we’re being collected at 2pm from our hotels to fly out at 5:30pm.
  • A whistle-stop tour of Muscat is arranged through the front desk, including a visit to the Grand Mosque, which was stunning. While we’re out and about, my flight to the UK is confirmed for 9am the following day – I’m being put up in a hotel again in Dubai overnight.
  • 2pm we’re collected in a bus, head back to the airport. All our boarding passes have been printed A-Z by surname, we rattle through collecting them and head to the gate.
  • 4:30pm we start getting on the plane, again being bused out as we’re miles away from the terminal. The Captain has his window open and is hanging out waving and posing for selfies. People are standing on the tarmac taking pictures.
  • 6ish we take off and head back to Dubai.
  • We land and are advised to head to the transit desk to sort out our flight details. There’s 400+ passengers, all waiting for boarding passes, individually printed off with connecting information on. More by luck than judgement, I’m in the right place at the right time and hear London Heathrow being called; my hotel booking is written on my boarding pass.
  • Head up to the hotel in the airport, we’ve all been booked on the same reference number, that the hotel staff have no record of.
  • We wait for a bit more.
  • An hour later, I have a room! My meal voucher is also given to me, it’s now 9pm, I’ve not eaten since lunch. But I have to get a train to another terminal to eat. I’m now in sense of humour failure.
  • I head back to the hotel room, have a shower and fall into bed.
  • Up with my alarm, I collect another meal voucher for breakfast, this time I can walk there.
  • I find the gate for the flight, we’re boarding – yay timing!
  • I go downstairs to wait a bit more in another lounge. I might have another sense of humour failure.
  • On the plane, I put on Singin’ In The Rain [Oi kaan’t stand it], raise a glass to the venerable Debbie Reynolds and suffer uncontrollable AALS and guffaw through my tears.
  • “Is there a doctor on board?” We have a medical emergency on the flight.
  • We get closer to Heathrow, we are told we’re landing without going into the usual holding pattern. We come screaming into Heathrow, to be met by ambulance, a mere seventy-two hours after we left Melbourne.
  • When we get to the baggage hall – you know where this is going already – they’ve lost our bags too.
  • And I’m Not Even Joking.

Tinkerty tonk old fruits. x

I just can’t even 2

Australia has been sent reeling by the death of Phillip Hughes: I do not use that term lightly. This exceptional sportsman would have been 26 years old this weekend. I’m not going to rehash all the coverage here, but I’ve had some thoughts rolling around in my head since his death was announced yesterday afternoon and want to try to clarify and share them with you as some food for thought. Before I do, I would like you to also think about Sean Abbott, the bowler, for a minute. Because he’s also lost the sport he loves. Imagine the next time he begins a run up to bowl, all he’s going to be thinking about was the last ball he bowled. The poor boy is going through hell.

Phillip HughesThis picture of Phillip Hughes is of him celebrating his maiden century in a One Day International against Sri Lanka. A game I watched at the MCG with Hubs. I love cricket. Mum and Dad took my brother and I to see a match in our home-town to watch Worcestershire vs. Sussex. Ian Botham (when he was bigger than God) and Imran Khan were both playing; well Imran Khan was down to play – he actually arrived too late to get on the pitch. Never to mind, from then on, going to watch cricket was something we did as a family.

Hubs also loves cricket; he plays it still, I’ve spent many a happy hour watching him from a deckchair; we named our son after a cricketer; there are Wisdens and balls and bats and memorabilia all over our house; in the back of both cars are cricket sets, you get the picture.

I’m not concerned with all the stats; in the USA I guess the closest sport for statistics and averages would be baseball, but I do like reading the scoreboard and looking at the run rate while the game is playing. My one and only criticism of the MCG, as the ground is truly beautiful, is that for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, there isn’t a static scoreboard. You have to remember to look up at a big screen, before it gets changed to an advert. I get frustrated with the dire TV coverage of matches, now televising sport just seems to be advertising things with the odd bit of sport thrown in.

I told a colleague who’d come over to check in on everyone after an off-site meeting that Phillip Hughes had died. He was a bit nonplussed, he doesn’t do cricket, and said that ‘It is very sad that someone has died, but as a country the things we do to asylum seekers is reprehensible and the country is going to go crazy over a cricketer’. He walked off shaking his head.

You know what, I get it.

The sport that I love is rocked to it’s core. Children could end up being wrapped in cotton wool, there will be review after review, analysis after analysis to try and prevent it from happening again. Yet the head injury was so rare, the hospital had not even seen it before. Ducking and turning away to avoid a ball is an instinctive reaction, the whole situation was an accident.

So far I’ve managed to avoid seeing the coverage, apparently not turning the cameras away out of respect for someone who was obviously critically injured wasn’t thought of. I hate how we get slow motion replay of injuries. I just don’t understand it. Why are we seeing someone’s knee pop, shoulder give way or leg break time and again?

Cricketers are on very high pedestals here in Australia. Any fall from grace, should they have one, is a long way down and the bump at the bottom is often harsh. Think about the uncomfortable press conferences that have been arranged for them to voice apologies for being young men, making bad choices and stupid decisions. All of them stand up and front the press; whether this is done for them to be made examples of, I don’t know the full reasoning behind it, but the Baggy Green is one of the most iconic symbols in sport. Being presented with your cap admits you into a very small club of Australian Test Cricketers, and you do not wear that cap lightly. A group of men, who when they walk onto any pitch carry the whole nations’ eyes on their backs and everyone’s expectations on how they will play in their hearts.

Who will be in the Test side is a matter for national debate, on the news, in the lunch room, in the papers, by the water cooler. Everyone has an opinion, everyone thinks the selectors are getting better/worse/or have no idea. The Bodyline Tour is infamous because England built their whole Ashes team around to try and stop one man, Sir Donald Bradman. Phillip Hughes’ averages were on a par with Bradman – that’s how good he was.

The whole country is talking about a cricketer, but since the Liberals have come into power, they’ve shut down the media around asylum seekers. They refuse to answer questions, respond to comments and are so proud they’re stopping the boats, they’re ignoring the fact that a baby who was born on Australian soil to asylum seeker parents apparently does not have the right to claim refugee status.

Because we don’t hear about, see anything of, or are allowed to have an opinion on how our fellow human beings are being treated in (lets face it) little more than concentration camps; all the while the asylum seekers are trying to justify why they’re fleeing from their country. Imagine if I picked you up now, in the clothes you were wearing – no you can’t stop to get your bag or wallet, you need to leave now. Then I dropped you anywhere on the planet – how would you prove who you were? I don’t have anything in my pockets like my birth certificate, or passport, or driving licence. I saw a great quote a few months ago, I’m paraphrasing here but it was along the lines of ‘Asylum seekers aren’t coming to Australia because we have good TV, they’re coming here because they’re being shot at’.

I’m devastated that a sport I love, with a star at the heart of it, who was just coming back into form has passed away, will be forever changed.

But I am more devastated that as a country, Australia are rapidly being seen as xenophobic, shut down, flouting the Geneva Convention and ignoring the UNs calls for a little more tact and diplomacy. My State, Victoria is going to the polls this weekend, it is compulsory to vote here, it’s your democratic responsibility. I hope Victorian’s put people into power that have more tact, diplomacy and heart; elect politicians that recognise that we’re all members of the human family; that the situation causing people running from fear, poverty, war and famine could so easily be reversed, could so easily be us. We’re acknowledging the hundred year anniversary of World War I, it wasn’t that long ago remember?

I hope that the politicians that are elected recognise that life is fragile, it can disappear in an instant, not just in a war zone, but even on a playing field.

Picture credit