ACROSS THE WORLD 2009 – Week 6

Monday 14 September.

Back to the Tent and Van to say goodbye to the mob and to the realisation that the carnival is over. Festivals are like that. New friends made on Friday are long lost best friends by Monday and the partings are sad occasions. I’m sure we’ll see Philippa again but the others, we can only hope.

And so back to the motorway and sadly, reality, if you call holidaying in the UK reality.

On the way back to Rebecca and Lawrie’s we find one of the UKs massive “Service Centres” which feed and water the motorway motorists. This one has about a dozen tourist buses in the carpark, mostly old people all attending “Britain’s Biggest and Best Festival of the Bladder” and I make it just in time to avoid making a nasty scene as the latest sewerside bomber.

Back at Burcott in one piece, we go for a walk to the Norman Church in the adjoining town of Wing (which we can see from Rebecca and Lawrie’s place) only to find it is a 1300 year old Anglo-Saxon church. It is apparently mentioned in all the English publications of historic churches. I still find 1300 years too hard to comprehend. It has what must be a very old pipe organ and I must find out when pipe organs first appeared.

That night we meet up with ballooning friends, Patrick and Robyn for dinner at a pub beside one of the intriguing English Canals. A good night was had by all and on relating the story of the “gold rings” in Paris, Patrick suggests we should look it up on the web. Maybe one day. I suggest that I had overlooked the fact that she may have been heading toward a marriage proposal. Maybe another day.

Back at home Lawrie is able to point out to me the Polar Star which I hadn’t seen before. I have to say it looks very much like any other star (joke for today) but for some obscure reason, it’s great to have seen it.

Tuesday 15 September.

Patrick meets us at Barista Bay for a coffee and then Rebecca and I head to Trentbridge, Nottingham, about a two hour drive for the fifth one day international between England and Australia. Australia had lost The Ashes but has gone four – nil up in the One Day Series.

Okay it’s been said before but cricket crowds are funny. The Brits always give Rick Ponting a hard time, I guess for his serious demeanour, but after he was dismissed for 126 runs, the Brits were on their feet with a standing ovation within a matter of seconds. Ponting, furious with himself for getting out, finally raised his bat in a gesture to the crowd only when he was a few metres from the boundary line.

You can’t help but wonder how his obvious successor Michael Clarke will be accepted, he with the ever present grin on his face, pleased that they have let him out from the under–15’s to play for Australia. Clarke is apparently a leader of men – he just doesn’t look like it.

Ponting hit consecutive sixes to move into the nineties, the second of these offering me a chance at fame but I allowed the two blokes in front of me to catch it. However I did have my hat off ready.

At the end, one group of Brits were singing “5-Nil to the criminals” (as in convicts) while another was advising “They’re all English anyway.”

Wednesday 16 September.

So it’s goodbye to Burcott, and at Heathrow it’s goodbye to our Ford Fiesta and hello to an Airbus A321 (definitely no Austin A21) to Helsinki, and MD11 (McDonnell Douglas) to Bangkok, a Boeing 747-400 to Sydney and a Virgin something or other to Canberra. Denise does a fair bit of movie watching, which is continually interrupted on one of the legs of the journey by being stuck next to a bloke who is a leg-jiggler. I do a fair bit of day and night dreaming, a little journal writing, and sleep from Borneo to the Great Artesian Basin according to the tracking screen.

Wednesday (I think) morning has arrived and the ablution parade has begun. A parade of bleary eyes and slept in hair staggers up and down the corridor. The man who was drinking and talking all night has now gone to sleep. He sounded like the sort of bloke who would get off the plane at Bangkok, become President of Thailand and immediately solve all of that country’s problems. The only pauses in his performances had come when Dustin Hoffman, addressing a best canadian casino court room on the video screen above, occasionally paused and glared down at him. Even with the sound turned off, Hoffman’s performance was powerful.

The breakfast trolley is clever enough to wait for the ablution parade to subside and my triangular scrambled egg is delivered by a hostess with a perfume that smells strangely like insect repellent but she doesn’t repel me. Tea and coffee is delivered, followed eventually by a male hostie (sorry, cabin attendant) announcing ‘Mortein’ which thankfully turns out to be ‘More tea’.

From my seat I can see ahead of me a sea of heads above the backrests. I try to guess the age of the high gloss red-orange synthetic hair, a few rows ahead of me. To her right is an impossible blonded bun, held together by a single struggling rubber band, and which Greenpeace will probably see as a wilderness area worth saving. A contrasting coiffured middle-aged sculpture sits, or at least poses, a little further ahead, probably heading for a wedding. The woman’s hands constantly appear, prodding, gently shaping, holding, and checking that no rogue hair panels have wandered out of place.

I ponder the fact that I have tried those shampoos which promise “more lift and bounce” but to no avail. I am suspecting that the chemicals in the sunscreen rubbed into my scalp have cancelled out the lifting agents in the shampoo.

Spread throughout the cabin is a platoon of G I Joes with their shaved heads reflecting the cabin lights. If I was their age again, I would have mine long and flowing just to prove I could do it.

Up in the toilet loitering area is a bloke aged about 25 with his black T shirt biceps on display, his best James Dean smoulder casting its gaze around the cabin in search of any Hollywood scouts who might, just might, be eyeing him off. He doesn’t seem to force the scouts into any rushed decisions.

A young mail cabin attendant has one of those very latest hairstyles, a construction of carefully coiffured chaos featuring ridges, valleys, peaks and sharp points all held in place by a high grade oil and resembling the reed beds in the local wetlands after a flood.

However the first prize in the “Look at Me” competition goes to the young man with a style that would have been created by firstly dyeing his hair jet-black, then standing in a powerful updraft at the top of cliff and once all the hair is vertical, shaving off all hair below a contour line four centimeters above his ears. The next step would have been to somehow trim the top of his hair to a horizontal plane about three centimeters above his head, as one would trim the top of a hedge, and then fix the hair in this position using a powerful glue or oil or fixing agent.

If he stood on his head, his hair would break.

From this point on, I find myself a traveller who has travelled too far, not knowing anything about time, space, the universe or anything, knowing that somehow I will arrive home because there are people somewhere who are flying our aeroplanes to the appropriate destinations. Somewhere along the way I find myself looking at the tracking map and wondering who put the bend in the International Date Line. Somewhere along the way I realize that I don’t care anyway. Somewhere along the way I wake up and find I’m in my bed and I’ve been home for a day.

Best holiday I’ve ever had.