This, it would seem, is a blog. I’ve always been a little bit wary of blogs, not least because of the remarkably ugly phonetics of the term itself. /blᴐg/. But here I am, trying my hand at one – in the hope that people back home will read it and not forget about me, in the hope I can entertain people who choose to read it, and above all in the hope that intermittently I’ll come out with something vaguely worth reading. Like many people, I’ve often contemplated doing one of these, but my current quasi-isolation in Brisbane combined with the fact that quite a lot has happened recently have combined to spur me into writing. I hope you’ll read, enjoy, comment and laugh in the right places.
Hopefully I’ll continue to find the inclination to update this, and pour all sorts of foolishnesses into it – from idle mumbles about whatever book I’m reading at the time, through to reviews, skits and creative writing. Hopefully at some point I’ll understand CSS enough to actually indent the first line of new paragraphs. But to inaugurate the whole thing, and in recognition of the fact that my life has of late been at least passably interesting, let’s begin with some proper bloggery. What I Did on my Holidays, if you will.
It scarcely seems possible, looking back to my last steps on British soil, that only two weeks have passed in the interim. Much has happened, of course, not least the sudden imposition of a planet between myself and my point of origin. I’ve been homeless (ish), been worried (very), been jetlagged and confused and hassled and relieved. I’ve been through Dubai, Brunei, and numerous tree-lined suburbs of Brisbane. I’ve seen bush turkeys and ibises, needle-legged spiders poised menacingly in their webs, and little furry possums staring at me curiously out of a tree. I’ve found a new house, explored a new university, attended far too many orientation talks designed to welcome me to Australia through the medium of sub-par humour, and learned how to create a Tim Tam Explosion.
But first, of course, I got here.
I find it extremely hard to complain about flights with any great degree of venom. When I spoke to people of my forthcoming 24-hour flight prior to my departure, they would frequently react with resigned sympathy, as though I’d succumbed to the ‘flu. But let me elaborate for a moment – if I may. Let me describe the process of flying.
When you board an aeroplane, your goal is to get to another place, a very long way away, soon. This is the idea which you’re working towards. You didn’t book the flight in order to be pampered, fed, offered incessant cups of orange juice, have a nice nap or watch How to Tame Your Dragon. But when you get on a plane, you can do ALL OF THESE! It’s amazing! I realise I risk sounding like the guy off The Fast Show who describes things with great enthusiasm whilst saying “it’s brilliant!” a lot, but it is! Flying! It’s brilliant!
Doctors, according to my standard grade history class, used to think that the human body would be unable to withstand speeds of 30mph for a prolonged periods. Silly historic doctors! But apart from the cheap laugh that can be had at their archaic expense, there’s a serious point in this in relation to my spiel about planes. Planes get you places really, really quickly. I got to Australia from London in a day. Australia is a really, REALLY long way away. And yet not only was I able to shoot there in a magic metal tube that FLIES THROUGH THE AIR in perfect safety at, wait for it, over FIVE HUNDRED Miles an hour (maths check: that’s SEVENTEEN times the speed at which I ought to take poorly and die), but I get to do it in a secure little bubble of fawning servitude. I got three main meals – one beef, one chicken and one fish – over the course of my three-stage flight, all of which were at a standard that I’d quite happily munch on sitting in my living room at home, and between times lovely, tolerant, smiling people offered me drinks and snacks on a regular basis. Meantime, for any moment when I wasn’t stuffing my face (with the main course, or the salad, or the little potted dessert, or coffee, or juice…), I had a complimentary blanket and eye-mask to help me catch a little slumber, a bathroom down the aisle, a little reading light so I could flick through my Bill Bryson or Frank Herbert at any time they took my fancy, and of course the magic screen stuck into the back of the chair in front of me.
One fellow exchangee who I spoke to during orientation week who’d also flown with Royal Brunei stated – and I quote verbatim – that he’d been “really worried that the TV wouldn’t be on-demand,” and you’d have to watch according to a pre-ordained schedule. The degree of ungratefulness in this remark struck me as staggering. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that a seasoned flyer comes to regard as a basic human right, but to me the on-demand TV screens represented such a miracle that to be worried about their absence would be like worrying about not achieving nirvana on any given weekday. You get to watch! Or listen! To whatever you want! From a massive list! Or you can watch the plane’s progress and check where you’re flying over! And how fast you’re going! And the altitude! Or you can play! Silly little video! Games! Argh!
For the record, I watched Green Zone ft Matt Damon and How to Train Your Dragon ft Hiccup Horrendous Haddock and Stoick the Vast, a bit of Top Gear, and a lot of ooh look where I am now I’m over Liepzig. And then I got a nice little break in Dubai and a longer one in Brunei to break the journey up a tad, and then I got to Brisbane. And look, I’m not saying that cramped-up legs and sitting in one seat for ages and all the other things which make flying unpopular aren’t unpleasant, I’m just saying it’s like moaning about fleas instead of cuddling the puppy. And obviously there’s an ecological guilt burden to carry any time you step into a vehicle, but that’s a subject for another column, really. I’m just saying, well… Planes! Brilliant, aren’t they!?