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Limping home My Left Foot

Tell you what, it’s very hard to motivate myself to write diary entries once I’m more than, say, 2 days late. Hence I’m writing this a full 14 days after the events I’m about to recount, with my iPad resting on the painful, hot-to-touch histamine reaction next to my right knee, just generally not really feeling into it. But I do want to finish the whole trip, if only to stop people asking me where this is. You know who you are! So with all that in mind, adjust your expectations of the quality of what you’re about to read accordingly.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh that’s right, I’d just boarded a Qatar Airways A380 after a few hours in Sydney Airport. So. Seat 19A in a full cabin. The member of staff working my bit of the aisle comes along to introduce herself, hand out menus and amenity kits and pyjamas, and yeah I’ll have a champagne please. With the entertainment system working straight away, I avail myself of the opportunity to finish off the last 10 minutes of Bad Times at the El Royale while we’re still on the ground, then move onto a film called Win Win.

I’d made that choice on the basis that the system told me it was about wrestling. Picture my horror, then, when I realise it’s about proper wrestling rather than professional wrestling. Don’t I realise this stuff isn’t fake? Damn it. But I persevered anyway and it’s a pretty decent feel good movie. The bloke who plays the high-falutin’ lawyer or politician or whatever he is in Billions is in it, and I much prefer him in the film. He’s my least favourite character in Billions. What’s his name, Giamatti? Paul Giamatti? Something like that.

I dozed off a few times on the ascent, and the crew member decided it was the right thing to do to prod me and wake me up. I found it a bit startling tbh, but since she was also giving me nuts and champagne I was hardly going to complain.

The worst thing about the film was actually one of the funniest things too: the dubbing. Qatar Airways seem not to approve of swearing in English language movies, and whoever supplies these modified versions doesn’t try very hard to find voiceover staff who sound anything like the actors being dubbed. Reminded me of hearing an out of place “maggot farmer!” in Heartbreak Ridge when it was on pre-watershed once upon a time.

Food happened, as I went to my staple of Brooklyn Nine Nine in the comedy TV section – though I made a note of several “wrong person to fuck with” genre films that I might try to watch later. I didn’t want to bother with subtitles while eating though.

Small prawn thing arrives as an amuse bouche.

The parsnip soup looks like a badly drawn map of the world, but tastes like parsnip soup. It’s lovely.

The mezze is great.

And the butternut squash main is glorious. Probably the healthiest main course I’ve ever deliberately chosen on a long haul flight.

Since I kept dozing, the flight attendant suggested I get changed into my PJs while she turned the seat into a bed. I agreed, but boy do I wish the loos on these planes had more space. It’s really not a comfortable place to change clothes.

Back at my seat I didn’t go properly to sleep but kept on dozing until I thought, y’know what, there’s a bar just behind me. How about a nightcap?

I bloody love the bar on these planes. It’s only the second time I’ve been in it, and as before I am entirely alone except the member of staff who happily serves me large glasses of gin and tonic, moving onto whisky for my third. It’s great. One other person does come along to get a drink to take back to their seat but otherwise it’s just mine.

I don’t look anywhere near as happy in my PJs-and-gin selfie as I actually was.

Back at 19A I put headphones on and went to sleep, for probably 4 hours or so, I’m not sure. Woke up feeling OK but dehydrated, so from the amenity kit I took out some moisturiser. Thanks to the pressurised cabin, upon opening the cream virtually the entirety of the contents came out. I rubbed plenty of it into my skin but there was so much I was super paranoid about whether I’d left any visible and had to use my phone camera as a mirror to see. Bleurgh.

Anyway, alert enough it was now time for yet another movie. And yeah I’ll have a whisky and some olives please. The film I chose was MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY, which does not feature Ip Man at all as I recall. All throughout, I thought “hmm, that big bloke playing the Evil Westerner, he looks like a third rate Batista”. Lo and behold, during the end credits I learn that it was, in fact, Batista. Ha.

Fairly remarkably for me, I chose not to have the breakfast service on the plane. This confused the crew who asked me multiple times if I was really sure about that. Yes, damn it, I’ll eat on the ground. Pulling into Qatar at around 5am local time, the sun is just above the horizon, framing various tail fins quite nicely.

It’s a short transit here, around 3 hours or so. We’ve landed at one of the gates fairly near the main security concourse so I’m through fast track nice and quickly. The Al Mourjan lounge is considerably less crowded than it was 11 days previously and I’m able to easily find space in the small-ish eating area. A man takes my order almost immediately, and for reasons I could not and cannot fathom I chose the same disappointing ham and cheese toastie that I had last time. Huh. Never mind.

Upstairs in the lounge at the bar, I grab a gin and tonic and then spend the next hour or so massively eavesdropping/earwigging the conversation going on between the folk to my right. Immediately next to me is a lass with a Flyertalk tag on her bag, then there’s an Australian man and lastly a young English bloke who lives and works in Prague. They are talking a million miles a minute; she was full of stories about absolutely ludicrous flying. Her habit is worse than mine - she was there in Qatar as part of a 96 hour round the world jolly just for fun. Earlier in the year she’d been detained in India for not having proper documentation. She went all in on the Cathay Pacific error fare from Vietnam that made the news back in January, etc etc.

The others had far less interesting (to me) contributions, but I was desperately amused by the English lad. He was drunk enough that he couldn’t commit her name to memory, referring to her alternately as Catherine and Cathleen. He was also hopelessly trying to flirt, with many many attempts to get her to agree to stay in touch with him. He would build her a website or app for one of the ideas she had! Honest! It was SO NICE TO MEET YOU Catherine, we really should stay in touch Kathleen, promise me you’ll email right? I’ll follow you on Instagram. Etc etc.

The Aussie guy had left quite a bit earlier, and the lass left just before me. This time there was no requirement to use the monorail, or even opportunity, since the gate was on a different pier. I’d left with plenty of time in hand since my left foot was even more fucked than it had been in Sydney, with all movement being a very painful struggle. By now I was starting to wonder if I’d actually done some real damage to it.

By the time I got there, the displays were saying “Last call”. This was a lie. Nonetheless boarding was open and I made my way down the airbridge, even slower than my gammy foot would’ve taken me thanks to some expert hindrance from a family that didn’t seem to understand which direction to go... in a corridor with only one direction available.

This flight, QR159 to Copenhagen, was a 777 but not fitted out with Q Suites. Rather, it has the old-ish version of business class, laid out 2-2-2. Very different seats to those on the previous 3 flights, but I’m not wholly unfamiliar, having flown this cabin from Perth a few years ago. Having been checking the seat map repeatedly over the past few weeks, when I saw someone had occupied the seat next to me in row 3 I’d changed to row 5, hoping for a bit of privacy.

And oh boy, I got privacy alright. On this bird there are 4 rows of business class, then loos, then another 3 rows of business class. I’m in the front row of that second mini-cabin and there was no-one else at all. I basically had 18 seats to myself! Holy shit! The staff commented on it and how lucky I was as they served me the first of what would be three champagnes before we even got moving. I think I’m gonna enjoy this flight!

First things first, I need a bunch of electronics out. It’s a real faff to find the plug sockets on these older seats, and one of the crew takes a good 3 or 4 minutes to plug the charge in for me in the seat next to me.

I don’t even get a safety briefing, which is a bit of a surprise but not exactly a hardship. As we taxi and take off I’m talking to myself out loud, because why the fuck not? I have all this damn space to myself!

My personal member of staff is called Sue Anne, or perhaps Soo Ann. Something like that. She’s super smiley and proactive and service is wonderful, which I guess is obvious when there’s no-one else around. To make things even easier I’d pre-ordered my breakfast online, and it had worked (it doesn’t always). I ask for a Whisky Sour to go with it, because I’m an idiot. Didn’t enjoy it at all. Unlike the food, which was delicious.

Cheese and whisky and port please!

The seat here is wide and comfortable and being in the front row I have unlimited legroom. Once food is done and dusted I put Futurama on the TV and then write two diary entries back to back, all while being well kept in booze. It’s a fantastic flight. Once I’m done writing I shove on the first few episodes of the most recent series of Luther, and just generally feel very content with everything.

Denmark starts to appear out of the window, frankly too soon for my liking. Good things come to an end though.

We land at Copenhagen on time, I think? The rest of this diary is likely to be even worse than what you’ve read so far, since I didn’t even make any notes and am having to conjure up memories from two weeks ago.

On the ground I hobble to immigration, limp to baggage claim, and retrieve my bag. My scheduled departure to London isn’t for, like, 6 hours or so - a deliberate safety net in case of delays. But, amazingly, I’d had the foresight to book a changeable ticket. So I took the long walk to the BA check-in desks and asked to be moved to the sooner departure. A few taps on the keyboard, a phone call, and I’m asked to step to the side and wait a bit. OK then. Other people are checked in, the phone rings, and I’m beckoned back to the desk. All done, here’s your boarding pass, we’ll take your bag, off you go.

Hurrah! That was spectacularly painless, apart from where my foot is concerned. So I head back to security and immigration and this time into the Eventyr lounge, which had been shut on my way out. Last time I flew BA from Copenhagen to London the lounge was a fucking horrible place, but things have changed. For a start, the self-serve beer taps work fine.

The wine ones probably work too.

There’s a bunch of greenery in the lounge, and nice views out onto the apron and runway and that. I’m running on fumes, worrying that I won’t even stay awake until the flight.

A poorly constructed hotdog doesn’t help. Again, thanks to the foot, I bugger off to the gate early and stumble down the aisle to my seat, all the way back in row 30 or something. Such is the wonder of changing so close to departure. But no-one sits next to me. They are still loading luggage when I get seated.

It’s a sunny day above the clouds, because dur of course it is, how can it not be? I remember precious little about the flight, spending most of it struggling to stay awake. I do recall seeing all the reservoirs as we came into land though.

Back in the UK, my bag comes out pretty promptly and I opt to get a cab home. Except Addison Lee won’t send me a car, and Uber likewise tells me nothing is available. That seems like bullshit, but if I can’t get the apps to work then fuck it, I’ll go get a tube to Hatton Cross and the bus to Kingston then bus to Surbiton.

This ends up being a pretty quick route, and also takes exactly as long as the final three overs in the Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand, plus the virtually unprecedented and stupidly entertaining Super Over which decides it. I step off the final bus just as England are confirmed winners by about as close a margin as AFC Wimbledon retaining their League One position last season.

I am delighted to be home, and doubly delighted that I’m booked to work from home the following day. It’s great to be back with Helen and Buster, and to spend a good few hours rolling my foot on spiky massage balls so that by Tuesday I’m able to walk properly. But best of all is that it’s only 7 weeks or so until my next trip abroad.

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