Australia, July 2015 Part 1: Stockholm SYndrome

I figure holidays officially start the second you leave the office. So I've been on holiday since about 6pm yesterday. Went to the pub in Surbiton with Helen before going home, both because we wanted a pint but also because I had a present to buy for Kevin. This I failed at, because they were out of t-shirts, sorry bro.

Pizza and beer and a 6am alarm. I'd booked a cab for 0645, after much faffing with various options. Gett wanted to charge me £77.50 for a trip to T5 but only £34.50 to get to T1-4. You what? In the end I used a local firm with a 20% discount code and the driver turned up early, though not annoyingly - he didn't knock on the door or anything. In fact he was literally in the process of sending me an SMS saying he was outside when I left the flat and approached the car.

I chose a cab because the weather is just too damn hot. I deliberately booked a trip to Australia in July to avoid the worst of English weather, and the week so far proved me right, if not actually a few days late. I figured this airconditioned transport was better than arriving an already sweaty mess off two buses. Traffic as pretty empty and the half hour drive was mostly spent telling lies, me telling him i was off on holiday to Sweden. Well, I was flying to Stockholm...

The approach to T5 is so great for plane spotting. No clouds in the sky we got cracking views of numerous early arrivals coming in from the west, and I walked to the edge of the terminal to get a photo or two before entering.

The Lounge has pretty good views too.

There are giant signs in T5 giving an indication as to the relative crowdedness of the two security areas. It said clearly that this was 5-to-2 in favour of South, so I walked up there and got through (admttedly, with fast track) really pretty quickly. But I wanted to go to the north Galleries lounge and wandered past that security which was indeed a zoo. I wonder why those folk didn't heed the warnings?

The lounge for 7.30am was pretty empty and I got a seat overlooking the runway and low numbered A gates, next to the most Geordie woman alive. Had a 3 course breakfast - bacon roll + emmental omelette roll, fruit salad with strawberry yoghurt, and a pain aux raisin. Mmm. Opted for cranberry juice rather than any alcohol and got vaguely panicky about not getting an assigned gate until quite a lot later than I'd expect for a 9.10am flight.

I already told you: because reasons.

I'd actually been pretty fidgety all week. This is quite a stupid set of flights even for me. Until Wednesday morning i had an economy seat on this 9.10am flight to Stockholm but then managed to snag a business class seat, 1A no less (which is the only way I can get into the lounge, being bereft of shiny card since March). This would, on schedule, get me to Stockholm Arlanda for 1230 and give me just over 3.5 hours to swap from T2 to T5 and my Qatar Airways flight. This doesn't sound tight, but if it's cancelled or significantly delayed... and I'm not familiar with Arlanda...

A 6 minute delay popped up, then it corrected back to being on time and a gate was assigned: A3. I'd actually been sat directly above A3. So a quick loo break and then down to the boarding area. Nothing much happening, then some announcements: they want people to volunteer to check their hand baggage in for free, because the plane is totally full. A handful of people do so.

A queue to fast track forms so I join it. Some "don't you know who I am?" types try to ether jump to the front, or just storm straight to the desk and are horrified to discover they need to queue up. Eventually the gate opens and I am in my seat come 0905. Boarding takes forever and people still have insane amounts of cabin baggage.

The captain then proceeded to make one of the greatest announcements I've ever heard on a plane. He comes on to tell us that the T5 baggage system has crashed so they currently don't know what bags are loaded, and this is bad, so there might be a long delay while things get unloaded and loaded back on manually... and then prepares us for the "festive pageant of mime and animation that is the safety demonstration". He understands we might find our phones, or books, or tablets, or some drops of condensation on the windows more interesting, but could we please take a moment to imagine how bored he is talking about it, and how bored the crew are giving the demonstration, multiple times a day? So can we at least watch it? He then plays with the seatbelt sign.

Now, up here I have a switch and above you is a light with a picture of a seatbelt. I have no idea how this works but look what happens when I flick the switch. Magic happens. Light goes on, light goes off, on, off. Being a boy I'd love to play with this for the next 2 hours but I won't, I'll only press it when I really need you to be sat down.

He finishes off with "you should never trust a pilot". Fantastic. The round of applause he got was well deserved. We left late though. An hour late pushing back. I'm not totally panicky, but a bit. As it goes the BA magazines were plenty interesting and then we're in the air, an almost entirely cloudless journey meaning I get great views of patchwork Suffolk - East Anglia looks the same shape as it does on maps and everything! - the Netherlands, Denmark, and then Sweden. I'm intrigued by straight line "roads" (i.e., not roads) carved through forests, and finish the 580th and final level of the iOS game WordBrain, which is excellent and I am sad it's all over. Me and Helen have really enjoyed playing it together. There should be more levels..

England, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden from above

Breakfast is an OK-ish full English with a derisory amount of fruit and soggy croissant. There's no booze offered but I could have asked for some; I chose not to. I spend quite a while pondering the old advert I'd seen for 9 hour journeys to Budapest. Is it even possible to fly that slowly? Maybe Paris, Vienna and Prague (on the same poster) were stops. Even so, that's a long-ass time these days.

Takes longer to reach Budapest than I spent there.

I spent more money and miles to get in busness class and am glad, because i figure being in row 1 is more comfortable than being in the back (it is) and I will be able to get off very quickly This proves true. I zoom off and through the terminal and am pretty much waved through passport control. Baggage reclaim is a mess and my hand luggage only strategy makes me smile. I'm in Sweden! Time to head to T5.

Being in a Three "feel at home" country I had data so was all over facebook, soaking up the likes and comments and, oh, hello, there's Sweden Paul asking how long I'm around because he lives close to the airport. I grab him on messenger as I walk and explain I'm just between flights - leaving in just under 3 hours in fact. So, y'know...


... he comes to the airport. Emergency Dons beer! Paul is an AFC Wimbledon fan I've known since the late 90s but hardly ever see or speak to, for mostly obvious reasons - he lives in Sweden and I'm an antisocial twat. Last time I saw him was in summer 2013 when he turned up at the main railway station with a consignment of alcohol for us on the Great Circular European Railway Challenge. This time we sit and have a couple of drinks in a bar on the arrivals level and talk football and flights and stuff for a while. He has a go at me for not having heard of Swanage until a few weeks ago.

Despite his exhortations that this airport is not one requiring a panic, i get a bit panicky, so with a mere 65 minutes until take off I say goodbye and head towards security. Enough Sweden, let's go to Doha.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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