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Stockhome On my last legs

At Doha airport, gate B10 is at the very end of the B pier, so essentially the furthest away from the lounge it could possibly be. I suppose I should be happy for the exercise but I'm not. I am feeling moderately human though at, like, 0655 local time / 0455 UK. Entering the boarding gate I'm greeted with zonal seating, but my boarding pass has no zone written on it. When boarding starts they say it will be done according to the zones found on boarding passes, but my boarding pass still has no zone written on it. Then they say business class folk can board at their leisure. Well, good.

Everyone else is told to sit down until their time is announced. Naturally, numerous people stand up and walk towards, in a queue-like fashion, the gate, and then stop - which means I have to squeeze past them awkwardly. But I'm on, almost first, and back in seat 3A as on my Oslo to Doha leg back the other week. With a bit of adrenaline kicking in and another fantastically friendly welcome from the Qatar Airways crew, who all seem to be very good tbh, I'm feeling chipper enough to ask for a cheeky pre-flight champagne. It arrives in a huge glass, like, bigger than on the other legs. Unless my brain or eyes aren't working, which is quite likely tbh.

Once everyone is onboard, we go nowhere. I'm asked if I want a refill so sure, why not? On the TV I put on American Animals, the movie I attempted to watch in first class en route to Sydney and failed dismally due to a combination of equipment failure and being way too hammered. Pretty good. I enjoyed it.

We continue to stay at our gate, being told that a passenger had been taken ill and was not going to be flying with us, so it was taking a bit of time to offload their bags.

Menus are handed out, and preferences taken. The delay is long enough that I'm asked "may I offer you another champagne?", which competes with "Can I wake you for cheese?" for the "question to which the answer is most likely to be 'yes'" award.

Eventually, about an hour or so later than scheduled, we're off and taking our place in the queue to take off.

I've almost finished American Animals before we're even in the air. But anyway, since we're moving I can start dicking around with the camera again.

Museum of Islamic Art

Doha looks Doha-y out of the window. I'd prefer there wasn't this permanently dusty look to the place but, well, it's a desert, maybe it always looks like that. Anyway, you can see my hotel from here. And that thing you could see from my hotel last week.

The zoom lens reminds me to lean back from the window as it extends out to 150mm, bashing into the glass, enabling a series of pictures of naff scenery. Hurrah!

Some things surrounded by water are strange shapes.

Soon enough I'm bored of staring at Qatar and Iran and stuff, plus the sun is shining on my sceen so I dim the windows – on a 787 you use a dimmer, there are no physical blinds – and get back to watching movies. Next up is Stephen King's It, a bona fide supernatural horror movie with Pennywise the Clown 'n that. I liked it. Also, food!

I reprise the granola-y compote-y thing from the previous leg's breakfast, and snarf the bread.

Scrambled egg with chicken skewers and potatoes is nice. I wash it down with ... wait for it ... wait for it ...

PRESSED CARROT JUICE. You heard.

Later in the flight I will recall that a couple of weeks ago I placed a pre-order online for a particular meal, and there was no hint of it today. I don't remember what it was, and I do know that the pre-order meal stuff disappeared off their website recently so maybe it just got abandoned as an offering.

Once I finish It I'm back watching episodes of In The Long Run. When clearing my table away the cabin service director seems not to believe that I don't want anything more, asking if I'm really sure... so y'know what, I'll have a whisky, thanks. And I'll get my keyboard out and finish the previous diary entry. Here, why is my keyboard rattling? Something's broken inside it, clearly, but nothing critical, since it seems fully operational still. Weird.

After 38 hours or so on Qatar Airways planes over the last 12 days I finally discover that it's possible to fast forward the pre-entertainment adverts. Wish I'd thought about trying before, because the two ads for 51ΒΊ East and QNB were DOING MY FUCKING HEAD IN by now.

Diary done, and In The Long Run finished, I move onto alternating between staring out of the window at clouds and watching EXTREME FOOTBALL RUSSIA, some hour long puff piece about how amazing Russia is and all the weird ways communities across the 11 timezones play the game. Some of them play it on motorbikes. Loons.

It's cloudy over Romania, or wherever the hell we are. A while later there's a bizarre, at least to my eyes, formation – the cloud levels drop like a shelf, reminiscent of how the sea changes colour when the water depth changes suddenly.

Wtf?

Because I haven't slept there is no need to wake me for cheese. When it arrives, I also sneeze and wheeze and don't know why suddenly everything is rhyming.

I can't finish all the cheeses because I am once again bloated and full from such ridiculous (but predictable) over indulgence. Thankfully the port, being liquid, can still find space to fill.

5 hours or so after take-off and Sweden starts to appear, piecemeal.

The Swedish archipelago coastline is a beautiful sight, but facing the sun is ruining most chances to admire the view properly.

The Swedish countryside, likewise. I realise I have no clue where Arlanda airport is in relation to the city, and discover through observation that we're not going to fly directly over it or anything. Bugger.

Around 2pm, an hour late, we land at Stockholm Arlanda (ARN) airport terminal five. As soon as I turn my phone on the Qatar Airways app impresses me with the notifications you get.

Bag made it onto plane, go get it.

By now I'm pretty tired, and walking through the terminal I'm overtaken by a fair number of people. Nonetheless at the 4 passport desks there's not that many in front of me, and I take my place in a short queue at an "All passports" desk.

Within a couple of minutes the queues at all desks are substantial, and moving fast, except for the one I'm in. Fuck knows what's going on, maybe everyone in front of me is claiming asylum or something. After 20 minutes I finally snap, leave my place and get waved through by one of the now bored police manning an EU desk with no queue any more.

The wait annoyed me, but needn't have, since by the time I get to belt 6 the bags still aren't coming out. Once they do and I grab mine and set off on what I discover is a long, long, long, long, long walk to Terminal 2 (confusingly named "Terminal 2 3"). When I'm finally there, a full half hour or so later - though I am not speedy - there are signs to intra-airport transport to Terminal 5. Why couldn't I see any signs at the other end? Grr.

At some empty benches I stop to repack my suitcase, as my hand luggage is bursting at the seams with two new amenity kits and a pair of pyjamas. Qatar Airways broke one of the things on my case, making it almost impossible to lock properly and a pain to even close. Bah. But I manage it and then go into the terminal proper. The BA desks looks about ready to close, because there's a flight in 40-odd minutes, but he's OK to take my bag for the 6.05pm flight I'm booked on.

Fast Track security is an embarrassing experience; it's just a separate bar-code scanning gate which deposits you in a bit where you just filter into, aka jump, the main queue - which at the time was very very busy. I hated it. It felt like a Scandinavian anti-pomposity measure and if so, it totally worked.

I was a little surprised to learn that the lounge BA use here is a shared lounge, because they have like 4 or 5 flights a day which I thought might justify their own thing. But no, it's a Menzies lounge called Aurora. To reach it you have to walk right through the middle of a faux Boston Irish pub. Not Irish, but specifically Boston Irish. Odd.

Inside I get on the wifi, have a plate of disappointing food, and pour myself a half pint of nothing but froth from the self-serve beer tap. Fucks sake. Why does this ALWAYS happen? It's not like I don't know how to pour beer! Grr. Anyway I get online to publish the previous entry, then change seats to something inadvisably comfortable.

For the next half hour or so my blinks turn into mini-sleeps, and I really don't want to sleep and miss my flight. So I pack up and leave way earlier than necessary and go through passport control to the gate. Thankfully the border to leave is way quicker than the border to entry and I'm 20 minutes or so before boarding, listening to a wrestling podcast. The movement has perked me up enough to stay open-eyed until boarding starts and I plonk into seat 2K.

That there is a seat letter K on this plane betrays its size. Once a day (until BA retires them all next month) a Stockholm service is operated by a wide twin-aisle Boeing 767. These are clapped out old planes but viewed by some with misty eyes. I'm on it by accident rather than deliberately having picked it, but there are some advantages over the smaller short-haul planes.

Sitting in row 2 is not one of them. On the sides of the plane, row 2 is the first row, meaning put everything up top that you can't store in the magazine rack - so basically the iPad. Thus I can't keep access to my camera, which I regret massively as we taxi around the tarmac and I'm treated to spectacular clear views of a huge moon. Oh well, never mind. I'll just read the menu instead.

I'm totally running on fumes now, completely exhausted yet still wanting to stay awake. Once in the air I'm asked what I'd like to drink, and opt for a champagne like some kind of Pavlovian response. It comes, in a small plastic glass but poured out from a full bottle (what happened to the personal quarter-bottles?), along with some almonds.

A top-up arrives unbidden. Uh-oh. This is all starting to feel like a terrible idea. I just want to sleep, I don't really want to drink or eat but I can't seem to help it. The prawn thing is nice, the salad pointless, the bread and cheese and dessert all particularly good.

After the meal I'm given another top-up, and then "y'know what I'll get you a fresh glass" - she disappears to the galley and comes back with two, because "they're so small it seems daft to have eto keep topping you up".

Oh my god. So now I've got loads of champagne and I can barely keep my eyes open and the turbulence hits, so I pretty much down the existing one just so I can keep my hands on the other two and avoid spillage.

The air calms down a bit. I am struggling to keep my eyes open. No, scratch that, I am failing to keep my eyes open. With virtually every blink I am falling asleep, at one point doing so literally while I am taking a sip of fizz. Amusingly, this results in the drink going down the wrong pipe and triggering a massive coughing fit, followed by the realisation that I could very well have just died by drowning in free cheap fizzy plonk handed to me in business class on a plane. What an apt way to go that would've been.

Seriously though this is really problematic. I'm so tired, and have eaten and drunk so much, that I just want everything to stop. Emptying the final glass the cabin attendant pokes her head out from the galley again, sees the state of my glass and goes to get the bottle. No, please, no more, I say. I have to stop with this one. Aww, really sir? she says. Stop bloody serving me!

Mercifully, London is near. My phone, the shakes, and the crap window conspire to create terrible pictures of Tower Bridge, London Bridge and station, etc.

I can see my work from here.

Throughout the descent I'm still falling asleep with every blink. I don't think I've ever felt so tired before in my entire life, including every single time I've actually just gone to damn sleep. But there's still lots to contend with. I give the Lord thanks when we pull up at an A gate meaning a short walk to the long queue at immigration, a process which is slowed down somewhat by several people tutting and moaning at the machines not letting them through but directing them to the manned desks. Top tip, fellas: when it says remove your glasses, remove your fucking glasses. I do so and am let straight through.

Bags take ages to appear, but I manage to stay awake if not alert by talking with Helen on Facebook. When my case comes out I grab it and bugger off to the short stay car park, level 1, row R, aka the LHR T5 Uber pick-up point. My driver calls me up to confirm he'll be there soon. 10 minutes later he calls me up asking where I am. Level 1, I say, like I'm meant to be. Oh, he says, I'm on level 3. Not sure why. I'll be there soon.

A couple of minutes later he calls again, saying he's at level 1 but still hasn't seen me nor I him. Turns out he entered via a slightly different route that avoided the bit where I was waiting, bloody hell. But anyway, he's here now and instantly talking loudly and excitedly at me about cricket for a good 60% of the journey. This is good, because (a) I like cricket (b) it keeps me awake.

Come 8.30pm or so I'm in Surbiton, and Helen is ready to answer the door, and I'm so so very glad to be home. Hi sweetheart, I'm back and viciously exhausted and off to bed, talk to you in the morning. Night night.

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