Blame Haneda I hate you Butler

Haneda airport is new to me. I've been to Tokyo once before, ten years ago, and not this airport. It's 5.23am when I first see a clock on the ground, which really isn't long after we landed. There's no Three "Feel At Home" deal here so I have to get onto free airport wireless, and while chatting to Helen and checking my email I almost walk past the connections route and head to arrivals. Oops.

At connections there is one person in front of me, and they're not actually going through connections. Instead they're trying to engage the staff, who fairly obviously only know enough words to help people through security, in conversation about whether it's feasible to head into Tokyo city for their 5 hour connection. The velcro on my bag is passively aggressive enough that he steps out of my way, and I am greeted with smiles.

I'm so primed for how to do security that I'm through in no time. The escalator afterwards takes me up to gate 112, which is next to the escalators further up to the lounges to which I have access. It's less than 15 minutes between airbridge and lounge. I quite like this.

The lounge is pretty spectacular. There are two beer taps, half decent views of the apron, and the food is not only very Japanese (OK, so there are Western options too) but you could even add them to because they include calorie counts. Blimey. There's only about 4 other people in the lounge. I guess 5.40am isn't a hugely popular time to fly.

My breakfast is some Japanese omelette, spicy cod roe, and mackerel, plus some spiced cabbage. Also full fat Coke, since there's no diet.

At 0602 I am escorted from the lounge. The lady who had welcomed me to the lounge originally came to find me, in the far corner, and greeted me again by name. She picks up my boarding pass and passport and says "Mr Foreman, the first class lounge is now open, please come with me". Fucking hell!

Past the main reception I get a greeting from another member of staff, apropos of nothing. En route I ask if the showers are now open and she says yes, and escorts me there. The shower is excellent and if I wasn't already feeling great, by now I totally am. Maybe it's time to get on the sauce?

That said, I don't know if sauce is appropriate, culturally or given the time. I mean, it's 0630 which sounds a bit early, but on the other hand I've been awake for 3 or 4 hours by now - so, like, being in the pub by 1pm when you get up at 10am on a weekend, which is fine, right? - and on yet another hand it's 2230 back home which is clearly booze o'clock. What to do?

Actually, what to do is explore the lounge. Because, fucking hello, this place is fantastic. There are only 2 other punters around so I don't feel awkward taking photos. A lot of the food is the same as in the business lounge I've been kicked out of, but the space is much nicer and just generally everything seems a bit less food hall, a bit more "relax before you fly, you fatcat motherfuckers".

What's that at the end? It says "Red Suite" and looks fairly cool, maybe. I explore and, oh, hello! It's full of aviation porn and luggage porn and chess porn and flight ap porn and table football and champagne and sake and everything's fucking fantastic. There's a shoeshine service but it doesn't start until 7am and besides, I don't have any shoes which can be shined. But I do have a phone with which to take a bunch of photos.

I feel a bit self conscious about taking photos, and even that it might be too early to get in on the champagne, and what's more, a tiny bit self-conscious because of how scruffy I am. But then a couple of people who I perceive to be local turn up, and they are scruffy, in shorts, taking photos of everything, and get on the champagne. So, fuck it, all bets are off. Laurent Perrier ahoy!

This lounge is awesome. I totally love it. The wifi is weird - I've been booted off numerous times, and reconnection isn't automatic at all. It's quite annoying because I'd like to blog. While I chat to Helen on messenger before she goes to bed, I manage to transfer photos and get online properly so the next half hour is spent typing constantly. Accompanied by champagne. God I love all this flying malarkey.

I was told by reception that boarding was 0810. At 0740 or so I think, maybe I'll go ask the chef guy for the cooked-to-order fried egg pancake thing. It's fucking fantastic.

Then I remember - oh shit! - I should buy stuff from some shops. Everyone at work turns back up to the office from a holiday with something from their travels, whereas I travel more often and further afield than most and come back with fuck all. This time, I decided I'd grab something - not Australian, since they have nothing worthwhile taking to an office environment - and also remember that I should buy Helen some of that blue Clarins stuff.

The only shop selling Clarins stuff doesn't have the right Clarins stuff. I'm strictly instructed that only one type of Clarins stuff is acceptable, so unfortunately she's getting fuck all. Worse, she doesn't even know until she reads this very sentence that I gave away some first class Qantas pyjamas to Sally. I wonder if she'll forgive me?

The shop selling stuff I could justify taking into the office has a queue way too long, not only for frustration reasons but actually I'm pretty sure the flight is boarding soon. But a different shop looks to have better food and no queue, so that's cool. If any colleagues are reading this before I get back to work (Alex? Mauro? Joel? Mike?), make sure you get in quick -I think the box of randomness only has 14 pieces.

Anyway, here's gate 145. There's a lady marshalling the priority queue, holding a sign saying FAST TRACK, and she's bowing really low towards everyone. It looks totally apologetic. She sends a third of the queue to the non-fast track queue, another third stay put but don't board yet, and the remaining third get to jump this queue. It's very confusing. She stops doing that when an announcement is made and I give up trying to understand.

While in the queue, I have a monstrously first world 1%er lament. Once upon a time I would queue up at the gate and hope for a beep which would tell me I've been upgraded, and it was a wonderful feeling. But these days it's simply not possible most of the time, because i've found a way to fly in the best cabin onboard. I mean, what a prickish thing to feel, but still...

At the gate, my boarding pass makes the machine beep differently to everyone else, and the light goes red. I'm told I have to step aside, behind the counter, and someone will come see me soon. What? Don't tell me I've been downgraded! Grargh! GRARGH!

My boarding pass and passport have effectively been confiscated. I'm standing with a big grin on my face, as other people board. A lady bows numerous times as she collects my paperwork from the desk and taps some buttons on a computer and I am reassigned to seat 1K, from 2K. She says this is because the video screen is broken in my original seat. Obviously I don't care, but she's so staggeringly sorry I think maybe she'll cry.

Onboard and I'm greeted by two giant smiles. Mr Foreman, you're right across the aisle! The second member of cabin crew asks how I am and we have a bit of a chat.

Mr Foreman, how are you? I'm very well thanks, how are you? I'm good, though it's very early. Is it? I'm not even sure, I've come overnight from Sydney. Oh really? Do you even know what time it is? You know what? I think it's time for a champagne. It's always time for champagne!

I do love BA first class. I know it's not the best in the world, but there's definitely an aspect of "I'm British, the service is British, and therefore I feel at home here" to it. The seat is great, I have muchos legroom, and the staff are smiling and treating me as I want to be treated. It's been a while since I was on a 777 and at first glance I'm like, whoa, is this old? But the second I sit down I'm like, actually I think I might prefer this to the A380. But maybe that's because I'm drunk. I mean really, who cares? First class is first fucking class!

Pyjamas and amenity kit arrives. I'm offered, but decline, slippers. Just as I'm noting down that, hurrah, there's no-one in 1F so I have complete privacy, a member of ground staff asks if I've seen anyone turn up in 1F and then a few seconds later someone is shown to the seat from further down the plane. 1E is moved. I have no idea what's going on.

Once airborne, I have even less idea what's going on. There's someone in 2K - my chosen seat - watching TV, which is clearly working. There are 4 or 5 empty seats in the 14 seat cabin so why I was turfed out from seat 2K into 1K is totally mysterious to me. But really I don't care.

We take off. Obviously. I'm a long way from the window and once again my atttempt at good time lapse photography fails dismally. Whatever. In the air more champagne arrives, and then more. Apparently the staff can read minds. On the ground I've added 4 things to my "favourites" so inflight entertainment is sorted.

First up, a documentary about the diver Greg Louganis. It's fantastic. I don't really give a shit about diving as a sport, but I'm a sucker for documentaries about people who are the very best in the world at what they do whatever the sport. Throughout, I drink champagne and, oh, here's breakfast.

Bircher muesli followed by a Japanese main - mackerel and all kinds of other stuff. I dunno, it's on the menu. It's fantastically gorgeous though, and I'm very glad I actually held back a bit in the lounge.

After breakfast I change into my newest sleeper suit, but tell the cabin crew member when I get back that I actually don't want my seat turned into a bed - I'm going to power through rather than sleep. And so, while watching the move Spotlight, I doze off. God damn it! This also apparently gives the crew licence to take away my champagne glass. Boo!

Eventually I finish Spotlight. I'm not convinced. It's a good genuine story, but a fairly meh dramatisation of it. I thought that, given I'm in the air and a few drinks in, I'd be in tears at the emotional ending but no, nothing.

Next up, 10 Cloverfield Lane. The rest of the cabin have gone to sleep and all the window shades are down. I enjoy the film, a lot, until around 20 minutes before the end and I start spitting blood. A few years ago - in 2012, I think - I went to the cinema alone and watched a Sigourney Weaver/Bobby de Niro film called, umm, Red Lights? And it was my least favourite film of all time. Not because of its entirety, but because its ending was so dreadful it made me literally shake with anger at how bad the ending was.

Well, step forward 10 Cloverfield Lane. I mean just fuck off. It all started to go wrong literally a couple of minutes after I caught myself beaming, and wrote "this cinema rules" in my notebook. Fucks sake.

Bourbon, nuts, and a bad film

Throughout the flight so far I kept wondering, how long is left? Unlike other airlines, there's no dual display - as in, no display on the handset - to let folk know about time or distance or map or whatever while they've got films or shit on the main screen. Thankfully, there being someone in 1F now comes to the rescue because the person is asleep but the screen is on and shows me journey progress. Huzzah!

There's only one item left in my "video favourites" menu. I'm on my 3rd bourbon - crew came to ask if I wanted anything while I was clutching the menu, looking at the drinks page, and then kept refilling me. "London Has Fallen" has a description that reads like it should be a fun action film, right?

I've seen Plan 9 From Outer Space. I've seen Red Lights. I've seen Monkey Shines, Frankenhooker, The Rock, The Core, Keanu Reeves's directorial debut, that Jet Li film where his revenge mission fails, and Friday the 13th part 8. What I'm trying to say is: I've seen an imperial fuckton of bad movies. I'm OK with bad movies, because I like movies in general. Also, I'm a man who knows how to suspend disbelief. I'm a huge mark for WWE fer chrissakes. But...

Oh Jesus Henry Christ, London Has Fallen is something else.

Less than half an hour in and I'm scribbling notes about how bad it is. Gerard Butler's accent. CGI explosions. The "Mind Your Language" style stereotyping. It's all so appalling, yet somehow I can't take my eyes off it. Bourbon isn't doing the trick so I switch to champgne, but even that doesn't make it better.

I'm laughing pretty hard - not like I'd laugh at, say, Will Ferrell, but perhaps how I'd laugh at a cancer diagnosis because it's the only way to stay sane. It's so hilariously dreadful. The plot, the script, the acting, the accents, the geography, the racism.. and even after all of that, somehow, the actual ending - as in, the last couple of minutes - manage to be genuinely offensive. What a movie. What a terrible, appalling, godawful movie. Ladies and gentlemen, I've found a new benchmark.

Champagne is again flowing without question. I already knew I was breaking the "no drinking if working tomorrow" rule but fuck it, man, fuck it. I'm totally in the mood to be on the sauce the whole flight. Breakfast arrives, accompanied by even more "in a clean glass - that one looks grubby".

So. Now I'm a whole bunch of booze in, Just before starting this sentence I was asked if I wanted dessert, to which I responded yes - I'd like a cheese plate and some port. It's only 1030 UK time, mind you I say "only" but that means 90 minutes until landing so I should probably change back into civvies. Though they do keep bringing me champers, so perhaps not just yet...

The bubbles stopped. They had to, I guess. We landed early, and before I knew it I was waiting for a tube and then a bus home. It's a moderately ignominious final stretch, but more suited to how I really am. I think flying via Japan is my new favourite route home, but I'm honestly not sure if I'll be able to get in first class again. Suppose I'd best start working on 2017.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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