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From Bangor...

Thursday 18th November 2004

It was 6am and after only four hours of sleep I wasn't the sharpest tool in the box. Which explains why, when I fell on the toilet seat, (breaking it!) in such amazement that our bill had listed on it a Carlsberg lager, I actually started to think that the Sheraton Heathrow had installed CCTV in the mini bar!

We didn't arrive until 11:30pm last night after a thoroughly unpleasant five hour drive of high winds, heavy rains and a dark starless night. The cunning plan was to stay awake as late as possible, then wake up as early as possible, so that we fall asleep on the flight; but it never works. It just makes us tired and emotional!

We're not very good in the mornings, Julie especially. We both barfed as we swallowed some soluble aspirins to help prevent DVT. Although to be honest Julie doesn't sit still enough on the plane for there to be any risk of that happening! And despite sitting upright with our eyes open we were still asleep inside as we struggled to pull up our incredibly tight flight socks. It felt like I was trying to squeeze my size eleven feet into the socks of a five year old!

Within no time we had caught the hopper bus to Terminal 3, checked-in, somehow got through passport control despite Julie's severe fashion faux pas of ¾ length grey trousers, white trainers and those funky black socks; (she looked like she was dressed from a charity shop!) and were sitting in Chez Gerard enjoying a decent breakfast. We ate here four years ago before flying to Thailand and the plane didn't crash that time so naturally we should be safe this time. Or at least that was the angle I was using to try and convince Julie that everything will be fine! "We're even on the same flight, TG911, and it's a Thursday." I said. But Julie was having none of it. She couldn't extract an ounce of comfort from these coincidences. She's only seems superstitious if they are bad omens, like if you walk under ladders, put your shoes on the table, or your field mushroom was undercooked, then you're all doomed!

An understanding doctor had prescribed sufficient medication to calm Julie's nerves before and during the flights but the two vomits and three (and I quote) "nasty dumps" was proof that the diazepam only masked the visible symptoms; it didn't cure the chronic fear within. She had already taken 20mg with breakfast but when the gate number appeared she reached out for another two tablets.

She phoned her big sister and was having quite an emotional "I love you" conversation. I could see tears glazing over her 'I'm going to die' eyes. She then uttered the words that I hoped I would never hear whilst sitting at a departure gate. "Colin, I don't think I can do it."

"Oh, shit" I thought and was struck mute.

I should have said kind words of support but I was selfishly dealing with my own issues. I just nervously smiled and gave her a hug. Then, in a Dynasty moment, behind her back, as soon as my chin rested on her shoulder, my smile flatlined as I was seriously looking at the choice of having to stay at home with Julie or going on my own. She was near rigid with fear and I was being a complete tosser unable to offer any words of comfort for her. I was just on the verge of saying something insensitive like "Take another 30mg you'll be fine" when she saved me from making a callous and heartless fool of myself. The gate opened, and from the deepest pit of her courage she stood up, wobbled, and then walked through and onto the plane. I couldn't begin to describe how relieved I was!

Unfortunately for Julie getting on the plane is only the beginning of her ordeal. She spends the entire flight trying to distract herself from the fact that she was 39000 feet up in the air and could plummet to the earth at any time. The excitement of reaching the £250,000 question on the "Who wants to be a millionaire" game was some respite from her anxiety but other than that it was twelve hours of pure undiluted worrying.

The hostess service was excellent. As soon as we reached the cruising altitude, the seat belts sign switched off, and down came the drinks trolley. We had a Singha beer each. Ah, the vacation has begun!

The food arrived and it was remarkably tasty for plastic airplane food. A vegetable terrine, a lentil mousaka and garlic cheese with grapes. More drinks were served and we had a wine with the meal, another Singha beer, then another glass of wine, and then finished off with a glass of brandy. This was vastly different to the flight we had before with Thai air. The plane was half empty so perhaps they had more refreshments to go around. 90 minutes in Julie said that this had been the most enjoyable flight so far. I think now the alcohol had kicked in!

Once the food was cleared our feature presentation was the awful "A Cinderella Story" so we played some more "Millionaire". We never did reach the million pound question. It followed a familiar pattern. Julie went as far as she could before turning to me for the next question which I consistently got wrong. Nitrogen and what makes Ammonia? I knew this from my A-level Chemistry at school but the memory is very blurred eighteen years later! I said Oxygen but the answer was so obviously Hydrogen.

After a few hours, 3pm GMT, it was already dark outside. They turned the cabin lights down to persuade us to go to sleep as if we had already entered Thai time. (It was 9pm in Bangkok.) We tried our best to have some shut eye but we couldn't. Julie suggested administering some of the duty free champagne we'd bought to help but decided against it. We were worried in case it contravened regulations and we were asked to leave the plane!

As I mentioned, it was far from full and several passengers moved seats to claim a whole middle row then sprawled themselves across the four seats. I was envious of the fact that they were probably going to have a really good night's sleep; the lucky bastards! Another film started and it was "I, Robot" with Wil Smith. I was surprised to find myself giving it my undivided attention. It was really good! We also enjoyed post movie Hummus sandwiches and orange juice. Top quality service!

It still didn't change the fact that the flight felt so laboriously long. Hour after hour we played the gameboy, consistently failing at the £250,000 hurdle. I was constantly popping to the toilet. With all that I had eaten I was brewing up such a nuclear reaction that I had to release some gas before my guts exploded! I've heard of frequent flyers but I was most definitely a frequent farter.

I'm sure I'm not the first to confess that I found the toilet flush to be amazing! Not only did it suck away my deposit but also all the air out of the small cabin, which caused such a huge draft as it sucked in air from outside the closet. I wondered has anyone flushed whilst still sitting on the pan? Has anyone ever been sucked stuck? I imagine it being strong enough to do so!

I also mused on the idea of the Mile High Club and thought, "How the hell can you do it in here?" A couple of dwarves could manage but two fully grown groaning adults? You really must have had months of serious training under your belt before you even consider an attempt or you could really hurt yourself. Perhaps a night class in 'The Art of Covert & Confined Lovemaking' would be useful. Grade 1: Storeroom in a busy office, progressing to Grade 2: the back of a Mini Cooper in a public car park, then finally Grade 3: a wardrobe in the middle of IKEA.

Not that I've given it much thought but you can tell the boredom's getting to me though. It's true. The Devil does find work for idle minds!


Thursday 18th Nov 04 >>

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