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We are the bar Refill yer boots

Oof. I'm bloated. And time is short. Best see if I can knock this out sharpish.

I've just spent 9 days in Sydney mostly working and being ill. Did the smallest handful of noteworthy things - walked to Manly 4 times, visited one new brewery, took the Manly Ferry twice, saw some farm animals. Since I was wielding my new zoom lens, and occasionally the wide one, here's a quick pic-heavy-word-light slideshow summary, after which I'll flip it around for an exasperatingly wordy description of (spoiler alert) "flew from Sydney to Doha".

Bridge walkers now more than mere dots.

OK, that's that. Sunday late afternoon eventually arrived and I got a lift to the airport. At the Qatar Airways premium check-in was a lovely bloke ready to give me my boarding passes all the way to Stockholm (yes, ...) and direct me to the Qantas first class lounge. Now we're bloody talking. I've been aching to visit this place for absolutely ages.

You can only get in if you've got a top tier card with BA (or any oneworld carrier), or are departing in first class with any of those airlines or Emirates. None of those things have applied to me in ages. I recall coming in in 2014 and being totally unimpressed, but also how strange that was because my only previous visit had been amazing and it is regularly included near the top of "best airline lounge in the world" lists. So, in I went.

First impressions: it's quiet. I mean, it was 6.30pm on a Sunday and most Qantas flights have left already. There are very few depatures left where people may be eligible. I wander up towards the far end and sit at one of the tables already laid out for food; before I'm even properly settled, a lady approaches me, hands me a menu, and asks if I'd like a drink. Have you got any of that fizzy wine stuff, I enquire?

Oh, yes, they have. Four types, in fact. Blimey. OK I'll have ... one of those then.

I am pretty hungry, having had a huge breakfast about 9 hours previous and since then only a pile of cashew nuts and two cans of stout. Of all the fancy stuff on the menu I am most taken by the burger and chips. The burger is nice, the chips less so.

My champagne glass doesn't get empty, and the lounge doesn't really fill up. I'm on my third glass by the time I pick dessert, the rice pudding.

This is bloody delicious.

As I eat, I watch WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS CITIES WITH BEN ZAND: KABUL on iPlayer while also obsessively checking the Qatar Airways app to see if I've been upgraded to first class again. I sincerely doubt I will be but cannot help checking repeatedly, just in case I strike ludicrously lucky in both directions.

When a few more people start arriving to eat I opt to no longer occupy one of these tables, and go sit round the corner in a recliner that is broken such that it only reclines, listening to the sounds of jazzy-pan-pipey drum and bass being played as background music. After a couple of minutes the seat pisses me off so I walk all the way to the opposite end of the lounge where it's still completely empty, and have a shit bottle of beer just as Andrei pops up on Facebook messenger to tell me about the awesome beer he's having in Tokyo at that instant.

From my seat I can see the plane, because we're departing from a gate directly beneath the lounge. Boarding opens a little early so I wander down, still hoping for that magic beep at the gate, which alas never comes. Oh noes, mere business class for me, what a crying shame etc.

In seat 17A I am, as with my Oslo to Doha leg the other week, greeted with an entertainment system currently configured to Russian. There is a pink amenity kit there as opposed to the blue ones I got on the way out, but a cursory sift through the contents doesn't make it seem particularly womanly except for the breast cancer awareness flyer.

I get a glass of bubbly and some nuts and a cold towel from the member of crew that's mostly looking after this aisle today. Another one comes and hands me some medium pyjamas; I say, oh those will be way too small on me to which she's like, really? Er, yes, really. She comes back with large a few minutes later, by which time a third member of crew has come along to thank me for flying with them again and all that stuff.

But look, never mind all this attention, I want to watch Deadpool. How had the world been keeping Deadpool a secret from me for so long? Unlike on the way out with all that entertainment system grief in one way or another, here both the handset and screen work perfectly and I'm able to queue up both Deadpool and Deadpool 2 and start watching before we even push back.

Menus are distributed and choices are noted, including preferred time. I opt to eat basically straight away. The cabin isn't full which makes the service even better than usual, and as the drinks and food are served the lady is like "oh hey, you're watching Deadpool, good choice. Deadpool 2 isn't as good though, beware..."

Which oil do you want for dipping your bread into, sir? I'll go with chilli, thanks.

Not really sure what this pre-starter thing (amuse bouche?) was, but hey, it gave me an excuse to dick around with focus and aperture and stuff. Plus it tasted alright, for the half a second or so it was in my mouth.

The crab dish for starter-proper was really very nice indeed. Some tie-in with a celebrity chef I've never heard of.

Posh mac 'n cheese for main. When this was brought to me, with a large smile she said "we've tried to make it extra photogenic for you sir, to help with your pictures". I mean really, fucking hell eh? Pity she doesn't know how badly I wield the camera.

I have neither dessert nor cheese. You heard. I think by now I'm on Deadpool 2, and I know I'm starting to doze off a bit - long blinks, innit - so decide to pep myself up by going to the bar.

This is what I missed out on last time. Fuck yes, it's a proper staffed bar on a plane with seats for, like, 12 people or so - but I have it to myself. In fact when I first arrive there's not even someone tending the bar, but she shows up just after I get my first photo. Y'know what, I'll have a gin and tonic please.

Lounging on the sofa with a copy of National Geographic that I never open, because I'm either playing Bricks 'n Balls or using half hour free wifi to boast about my current situation like the prick I am, it's safe to say I am entirely in love with the Qatar Airways A380 business class bar. It's magnificent. The lass topping up my gin is happy to take a few photos of me posing, even dicking around with the lighting system to try and make it a bit better.

The second gin and tonic arrives before I've even finished the first. Some time later, there's a change of shift and I'm asked by Mrs Deadpool if I need another. I say no, not yet, probably in ten minutes - so she just comes and takes my first empty and fills the fucker up. Well OK then.

Eventually I am annoyed when someone from first class comes through and disrupts my space. Bah. But he fucks off fairly quickly, and I ask for a whisky on the rocks nightcap. Glenfiddich, since you asked. Once that's finished I figure, well, there's still like 11 hours or so of this flight left, how about I deliberately sleep. The loo is ridiculously cramped which makes changing into pyjama bottoms a clumsier affair than it need be, especially with all that booze inside me, but I survive. I turn my seat into a bed, lay down, pull the blanket over me and nod off for 4-5 hours.

~

When I wake, I feel like hell. I'm still ill, with what we were colloquially terming "5 o'clock fever" in Sydney - from 5pm onwards my lungs have been playing havoc and I just start coughing and coughing. In fact the cough started getting worse so I upgraded it to "5 o'clock emphysema". Anyway, it isn't helping, likely due in part to my "it's always 5 o'clock somewhere" attitude when flying which in turn has caused a bit of dehydration – but at least I can fix the latter by necking the bottle of water at my seat.

Can't get up and go to the loo though, since the seat belt signs are on. India is annoyingly turbulent. I browse through the films to see what takes my fancy - mostly I'm looking for stuff starring Dwayne Johnson, tbh - and I spot something called Walk Like A Panther. Holy shit, it's a British film about wrestling! And it's very very funny. Do like.

As the film finishes I'm back online chatting with Helen, who's about to go to bed. Perhaps my body isn't in the right timezone yet eh. She thinks the wrestling film is reason enough to avoid Qatar Airways, so I pacify her with a screenshot full of classics.

I get a whisky and coke pretty much as a reward for being awake. Hurrah! This accompanies Young Frankenstein on the box, though actually I make it last an age such that I'm still getting through it when breakfast arrives. Ooh breakfast!

Insubstantial and unsatisfying granola-y compote-y thing.

Phenomenal scrambled egg with avocado and salmon on toast.

By now there's not long enough left to fit in another film so I browse the comedy TV selection, settling on this Idris Elba sitcom called In The Long Run. I also go queue up for the loo, waiting about 10 minutes for someone to vacate (pick your favourite sense of that word) and as soon as I'm in there, the seatbelt signs come on so I figure I should hold it.

Apparently it's opposite day, though. Once the announcements come on that we're in our descent and the captain has put the seatbelt signs on, that signals to the rest of the cabin to spend a good 5 or 10 minutes standing up, packing and repacking their bags, etc. I swear I'm the only one obeying the instruction.

Watching the camera view as we pull in is mildly entertaining, and mercifully (plus surprisingly for Doha) we're at a regular gate, no bus required. But it's a long walk to transfers and I am completely exhausted. Once through security I again fail dismally to easily find the Al Mourjan lounge, and inside the lounge I fail to find the loos until I've done a full circuit of both floors. I change my shirt and underwear then go grab a seat and start writing this entry. Thing is, I only get as far as writing about Walk Like A Panther when it seems to be time to bugger off to the gate and get on another plane. No rest for the bloated.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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