Sleep is wrong Ozfest

Just woke up for the third time in 14 hours. Feels like the real deal this time. I've managed to get a whole ton of sleep, which was incredibly welcome after the day I'd had.

So, let's rewind. Last time out I said I'd folded away and packed the ostentatious "first class" bag they'd given me, so as not to appear too special inside the terminal. Seems that was a bit in vain, since upon disembarking I (and every other first class passenger) was met at the plane door by two Garuda staff, dedicated to helping me through the terminal. Honestly I forget their names, but a lady took my passport and boarding pass for the next flight while a man took my bags, and they escorted me through the transfer process - thoroughly seamless, helped by there being no-one else around and I was first among first anyway - and all the way to the first class lounge.

As with the little room within the No1 Lounge in Heathrow, except this is a bona fide full lounge for the only airline using this terminal right now, it was roped off. Every member of staff we saw bowed at me and wished me welcome. I was shown the lounge and directed to pick wherever I wanted to sit; I chose a little private cubicle with a table and big screen TV.

They kept my boarding pass and passport, telling me they'd return when my flight was ready. Fair enough. A waiter brought me some water and poured some out, then showed me where the loos and showers were. I washed, got changed, brushed my teeth and felt lots better. Back at my seat a plate of fruit had arrived, and before I touched it I was asked if I wanted some other food. Well, sure - so he led me through to the buffet in the business class lounge (through the unlabelled magic door). I picked up some chicken, rice and vegetables and the guy took my plate and walked me back to my seat.

There were only 3 other people in the first class lounge, so it's nice and empty and I can explore for a bit and take photos, which all the staff are happy for me to do. There's a variety of seating: lots of tables-for-two set up for eating, plus armchairs and recliners for one. Also a big piano that's playing itself. At one point I want to play Dynamite Dan on the ZX Spectrum, at another I want to sing along with the words from Derek & Clive's The Horn.

The waiter pops by regularly, topping up my water and I ask for a whisky. I like the service, but tbh I wouldn't mind being able to get my own drinks but I haven't seen any. Perhaps you can't get your own? All the attentiveness is actually doing my head in a bit. I had no idea that having upgraded the flight to first class, I'd still get the treatment on the ground given that the next leg is in business class. It's great, but I really have to stop experiencing things and sit down to write my blog. So, I did.

That killed an hour or so. I guess by now I'd been off the plane for 2, maybe 2.5 hours, which meant I still had 4 hours left to kill. That's a lot of time. I stretched my legs with another circuit of the lounge, seeing precisely no other people - I think the other 3 passengers had gone off to Amsterdam - and then to the front desk. The only member of staff there was my personal host, the lady who'd met me from the plane and had my passport and boarding pass. I said I'd like a wander around the terminal and she offered to accompany me, sure why not.

She summoned a lift and when the door opened, the 4 people inside who had been howling with laughter all stopped immediately. It was quite uncomfortable. Down on the first floor, we're in a brand new though unfinished terminal. I'm not that impressed. It's clean, but cavernous and mostly empty. Not just of people, but the choice of shops is pretty poor and there's just nothing to do. Only a few places to eat or drink are open. I wouldn't be pleased if I had 6 hours without lounge access here!

We walked most of the length of the terminal, at least the bit which had shops etc, largely just to keep my legs working. I asked a bunch of questions - how would I get to and from terminal 2, mostly - and after 15 or so minutes we're back at the first class lounge. I'm still the only person around. The waiter comes back and asks if I want anything. Champagne, please? OK.

He comes back. Sorry, we don't have champagne, only regular wine. What! This is a disaster. What kind of first class is this? Etc. So instead I opt for whisky on ice. Do I want some nuts? Yes please. Fruit? No thanks.

I start to feel a bit wobbly. Think it's a bit of exhaustion and dehydration and maybe being a bit drunk. The TV is showing some rolling African news TV, and there's no remote control. I wonder if it's touch screen so tap where it says "Channels" at the top left, but nothing happens. Turns out I'm watching a channel called "Channels TV" and it's their ident. D'oh.

Starting to get bored now. Still got 2.5 hours or so to kill. I'd really welcome some self-service in here actually. I know that being first class is all about service and exclusivity, but now I come to think about it there is nothing here you can do yourself, except sit. There's no menu telling you what's available even, you just have to ask for stuff kinda randomly. There's also no dedicated first class food - if I wanted more, I'd have to be walked through the magic door into business and back, which is a bit "hey, look at this important guy".

The piano stops self-playing. The TV stops working. There's really nothing to do but kill the time messing about on my iPad and wondering why FlightRadar24.com didn't seem to think there was a Melbourne flight this evening.

Had a last look at the seat map, it looked full. So does the flight back next week. Whatever. I'm starting to doze off, which bodes well for the flight ahead. Eventually I pack my stuff up, and GA716 is announced. The same two folk who met me off the last plane come and fetch me. She says something about my boarding pass, I think it's just that she reprinted it and already tore off the small bit. The guy grabs both my bags, and I'm led to the gate.

There, I bypass everyone, even the premium line, and am waved directly through. No-one looks at my passport or scans my boarding pass or anything. What? Turns out they've already done all the formalities for me, without actually needing me there. Whoa! That's amazing.

There are two airbridges, one for business and one for economy. At the end of the business one the lass bows, bids her farewell and wishes me a happy trip and hopes to see me when I return through the airport next week. The bloke takes me all the way to my seat, puts my bags in the overhead bins and offers to retrieve anything I need from them. I need nothing, and he also bows and wishes me farewell. I'm the only person to. have got this treatment and can feel everyone staring at me, so when I sit I kinda slink into my seat feeling a bit sheepish. Mind you, it doesn't feel quite as bad as that time in Addis Ababa when staff kept fetching me and dragging me to the front of queues, seemingly because I was the only white person there. Eek.

Aaanyway. I'm in seat 6G, which is the front row of this plane, in one of the two middle seats. This is the old generation of business class: 6 seats to a row, 2-2-2. I deliberately chose a middle column seat so I wouldn't have to climb over anyone, or be climbed over. It's a night time flight so I wasn't concerned about missing out on great views. A dapper member of cabin crew asks if I'd like a drink, so I ask for a champagne. He smiles so much it's almost laughter.

Warning: I believe all my photos on this plane are awful. Look at how badly I focused this one, for example.

With boredom replaced by "yay! Flying!" I'm feeling better than I was in the lounge, and still hopeful of good sleep. Then the cabin fills up and I am surrounded by a family with small, very loud children. Oh dear god.

Some last minute - where I am - birthday wishes arrive in the UK by SMS. My phone is roaming for free with Three, but without data, which is very annoying. I debate briefly with Mike about where my birthday was: I will have spent no time inside the legal borders of any country for the entirety of the day, being either in a plane or airside here at CGK. Huh.

I connect to wifi, since I've still got a few hours free left from the last flight, only to discover that these planes use a totally different service and all I can get is 10mb to use within 15 minutes, which an iPhone eats up in no time at all. Bah. I decide against tethering to some member of crew's phone.

The loud kids remain loud. The parents seem to have brought in about 15 pieces of hand luggage and are doing all kinds of I don't know what. Doors close and the safety briefing starts, during which I learn the Indonesian for oxygen is "oksigen".

In the air, the dapper man asks what I want for breakfast, and whether he may wake me should I be asleep. I order scrambled eggs and say yes, of course. I also get another champagne right now, plus a Vietnamese spring roll which is nothing at all like any of the spring rolls I had when I went to Vietnam. There's a TV in my arm rest, with a great responsive and hi-res touch screen. I shove on "Sporting rivalries: Ali vs Frasier" and recline a bit.

Another refill arrives. Go on then, last one. This is only a 6 hour flight to a timezone 3 hours ahead of Jakarta, so sleeping would be a very good idea. Unfortunately, despite nodding off in the lounge I'm now nothing like as tired. I watch "Sporting Mavericks: Seve Ballesteros" by the end of which all cabin lights are dimmed and even the screen at the front is off. I turn my seat into a bed, put on some quiet music, and have a bit of kip.

I really don't have much kip. Maybe 45 minutes or so. I wake up needing the loo, but the seatbelt signs are on due to yet more turbulence. Grr. But everything is so smooth I chance it, hoping not to get shouted at. It's fine. Back in my seat I think there's no way I'm going to sleep, so with the brightness down and angling the screen so minimal light escapes elsewhere I watch the movie Suffragette.

With more than 2 hours left to go the cabin lights come on. What? Holy crap, they serve breakfast way too early IMO. For a 6 hour horribly scheduled red-eye they'd be better off waiting until about T-90 minutes, even T-75. But since I'm awake anyway I'm more bothered for everyone else than I am for me.

Orange juices and hot towels are distributed, then breakfast, during which proper turbulence hits. The food is nice but I spend most of it worried about impending OJ spillage fail because the guy in 6E is ignoring his drink and it seems at almost any moment it's gonna spill all over one of us. I have pastries and fruit and yoghurt before the eggs, and everything is lovely.

Breakfast is really nice, again.

The tubulence gets worse, seatbelt signs are on and numerous "stay sat down" announcements are made. None of this deters the other folk in row 6 from spending their entire time either standing up or doing stuff with their kids (getting them changed?) or packing and repacking their enormous amounts of hand luggage or visiting the galley or loo. Might as well not bother with the signs really.

I've been watching Hidden Figures, but by the time I have to stow my TV there's still half an hour of the film left. Descent starts, throughout which the kids are endlessly and piercingly loud. It's so unpleasant. Just before taking their seats for landing the cabin crew bow towards us all.

We land, touching down at 0916 and it's a pretty short taxi to the gate. I'm first off the plane and walking as fast as I can to get away from the noise of the kids behind me, but it's echoing all the way through the corridor of the terminal. I speed up, eventually mixing in with all the passengers who've just got off another big plane from China.

At one corner there are two electronic immigration machines, where you put your passport in, answer a couple of questions and are given a voucher for the gates later. The machines have big queues, because people do that thing where they queue up for the first machines they see. I recall from last year that there are loads more machines further up the way, so power past everyone and hey presto - there's 16 or so machines with people only at about 4 of them.

No, I don't have tuberculosis nor any criminal convictions nor have I been anywhere with communicable disease outbreaks. Voucher comes out, walk through the last chance duty free shop and to the electronic gates. Voucher goes in, photo taken, I'm through the border. At baggage reclaim I stride past everyone and find the entrance to the "express path" lane for which I have a voucher. It's not as express as it might be, since 3 or 4 people ahead of me are carted off for extra inspection. I'm waved through, and a minute or so later I'm outside.

I can see a hotel called the Park Royal, plus signs on how to reach it. Good, because I have a room booked there. In the lift a lass repeatedly hits the "keep the doors open" button and wonders why we're not moving. I point out to her that the buttons are arranged unlike most lifts, with door controls above the floor numbers. She's full of "oh my god how dumb am I!" bubbliness which I don't really need. On the 4th floor I check in to my day room and ask for a wake-up call at 1.30pm, which I'm already terrified I'll sleep through.

On the 7th floor I try my key repeatedly in a room that isn't mine. Jesus christ I'm tired. It works in the correct room though, and I'm in. The view is nice from my room, if you like looking at airports.

From touchdown to bed in less than half an hour is some pretty impressive going. Before nodding off I connect to the wifi, which offers me a variety of plans. I can have 1 hour "complimentary", 4 hours "complementary", or 24 hours "complimentray". Top tip: use cut and paste.

My phone's alarm jolts me awake at 1.15pm, so I've had about 3.25hrs sleep. I feel wretched, much worse than when I got here. Not hungover, just my body screaming WHY DID YOU WAKE ME UP BEING ASLEEP WAS SO NICE WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME. The shower does nothing to make me feel better. The wake-up call comes and goes, I'm out by 1330 and down to the 4th to checkout then the 2nd to walk across the bridge into terminal 1.

There's a fast track security line but without any staff or other check that you're actually eligible. Nonethless Australians seem pretty good at self-policing, so it's quick. My bag gets chosen for secondary security because of that damn selfie-stick-holster thing which I forgot to take out.

I make my way first to the Qantas Club lounge (you can buy membership of this), then into the inner Business lounge (which you can't). There's a spare seat by the window looking out at the planes 'n that. I get a banana and a beer and sit down. I'm still so utterly exhausted.

Some flights to Sydney are cancelled, but mine's still going. It's on a Qantas B737-800, which is disappointing. This route has a plane every 15 minutes throughout most of the day, with this plane type being by far the most commonly used, but I'd deliberately booked one of the times when they use a different model with fancier seating - flat bed etc. Just like last year, if you remember from that blog. But a couple of weeks back I'd got an alert that the plane type had changed. Boo!

I don't wait for boarding to be announced, instead heading off to the gate a bit early. There's already a big queue in both lanes, but they move fast. I seem to have by far the biggest hand luggage and am fairly sure it wouldn't actually fit in the bucket if I tried, but no-one challenges me and it goes in the locker easily.

Out of the window I see people descending stairs and walking across tarmac. Turns out if you're up front you get a bridge, but if you're down the back you're not quite so mollycoddled. I'm in seat 2A, a big leather armchair with old school comfort controls and no seat back entertainment except a thing to hang your own tablet on.

I'd downloaded the "Q Streaming" app to my phone, which connects to the onboard wifi network that's not for internet access, but connection to their Netflix-esque version of inflight entertainment you watch on your own device. It's clever enough even to alert you when there's an announcement being made and pause what you're watching. Neat. They have Hidden Figures, so I watch the last half hour of that.

We climb out of Melbourne and things look sorta kinda pretty.

Sorta.

Kinda.

OK perhaps "pretty" is the wrong word.

At cruising altitude, service starts. This is only a short flight - scheduled for 1hr25min - but even so it doesn't seem hurried as everyone is offered a drink, and their choice of 3 different meals. I get a beer and opt for the cheese box, which is a box of cheese. It comes with bread and a bar of dark chocolate too. Very bloody nice.

After eating and finishing the film, there's an episode of Futurama to watch plus clouds and coastline to take pics of. Same coastline as last year, of course, as we descend over Cronulla and Botany Bay into Sydney.

Warning: bogans.

We land, early. In fact we're at the gate with doors open by 1615, a fact my brother is unprepared for, being still at home. Not that he was meant to be picking me up here, but he'll now be later than me in North Sydney.

Quite a bit later, it turns out. I buy a ticket and get to the train station platform just a couple of minutes before the next service, 3 stops later I'm at Central with only 30 seconds or so on platform 16 before the North Sydney service comes in. The sun is setting and it's not even 5pm yet, I'm glad to have escaped British summer even if it was a week late to avoid that horrid 30+c nonsense. Here it's about 15c which is basically perfect.

I'm at North Sydney by 5pm, pretty ludicrously quick. Everything about Australia so far (this time) has been very efficient. I send Helen a selfie from the station, she says I look bedraggled. Can't say as I'm surprised.

"Bro! Bro!" I hear, and see a hand waving at me from a car across the way. That'll be Kevin and my nieces Harry and Alex then. Into the shiny new car and we're away, to Neutral Bay for some food at Maisy's 24hr diner.

Kids are crazy and loud. I forgot that. Harry says I look really different from last time, but also that she doesn't remember me. Alex says I'm definitely allowed chips this year. Harry struggles with the concepts of "yesterday" and "tomorrow", when I tell her I turned 43 yesterday because it was my birthday so she's, like, you'll be 44 tomorrow! No, no I won't.

At Maisy's the girls order nachos and lemonade, Kevin gets chorizo and eggs and I'm on the wagyu and pork meatballs. I'm trying to do the catch-up-with-everyone thing but feel internally like I'm a total autopilot zombie. Are you sleeping over? I'm asked. What, you think I'd fly thousands of miles not to spend much time at the destination? What kind of crazy uncle do you think you have?

Yes, I'm your uncle. Just like I was last year. They figured as much, since apparently I look just like their dad in almost every way except a bit taller and a bit fatter.

Back in the car and through rubbish rush hour traffic to Seaforth, to home. There's Pepper, the dog that doesn't seem to have grown much but is a lot heavier than last time. And there's Sal, last seen in Paris in March. And there's some birthday gin! Hurrah!

I have a Tim Tam, because everyone has Tim Tams. I've never heard of them before which is apparently remarkable. And a beer! An American IPA I've not had before, which is good because newness makes up a bit for it not tasting that nice. Didn't put me off having a second though.

I remain upright in the kitchen as long as I can, shooting breeze etc and with the kids running around like crazy people before they go to bed. Me, I'm aiming for 9pm, if I can just last that long then I should be able to sleep right through and escape jet lag right? So, after watching a clip of Playground Insults I call time. Let me get put my head down and see if I can be more human on Friday.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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