Friday, July 15, 2005


8,500 miles of one's own company

Faced with a big-ass plane trip to England via Thailand, I hit upon the idea of preserving my sanity as best I could by writing down my observations in my trusty note book throughout the flight.

It didn't work particularly well, but here are some of the highlights:

kankuu: Step one, flight to Thailand. The departure lounge has more than its fair share of Americans, making their connections from the LA flight. One strikes up a conversation with me, tells me that his family are going to Thailand to live with his wife's parents "for a while." I nod approvingly; my mind, flying on autopilot, conjures images of a failed business venture, mounting debts, repossession, and all that remains is standing in front of me: another exile.

My phone buzzes in my pocket; I take it out. Mail received reads: " word for the day: introspection."

I smile as I flip the phone shut. Word for the day, indeed.

akero: I was amongst the first of TG727s ill-fated passengers to book in, meaning that I got my favourite seat: the emergency exit row seat.

The advantage of this is two-fold: firstly, significantly enhanced leg room. The ugly bulkhead sticking out in front of me is a bit of a fly in the ointment, but it's still a big improvement on the normal seats. Secondly, everyone on board is at my mercy. If I decide to open this thing, we're all going to be on the news tonight.

The in-flight movie had better be good, for everyone's sake.

o-sake: I make my first ever in-flight duty free purchase: a bottle of Yamazaki single malt whisky. The flight attendant seems a little taken aback when I produce yen to pay with, although I think this perfectly normal as I embarked in Osaka. Perhaps she presumed that I'd come from LA and made my connection in Osaka. She gives me the whisky and departs with my money.

A few minutes later, a different flight attendant appears, clutching a slip of paper and 500 yen.

"Thankyou for waiting," she beams; "here is your receipt and this is..." Her brow furrows and she makes a vague beckoning motion with the coin in front of my face.

"My change?" I suggest. Normally I avoid finishing other people's sentences for them, but I find it a bit offensive that someone is waving my own money at me whilst trying to remember their English from school. As far as I'm concerned, this is not integral to the transaction. I know full well what you're holding. Money. My money. Hand it over.

The would-be linguist graciously agrees that it is, indeed, my change. She asks if I want it exchanged into another currency (not those exact words.) I inform her that I will be returning to Japan so it's ok.

Her winsome smile remains, but her eyes are suddenly wary; I know this expression: the look of utter incomprehension.

"Oh," she says, then, mystifyingly: "have fun."

Maybe she is expecting me to get started on the whisky straight away.

itadakimasu: Dinner on Thai Air: after nearly two years living in Japan, any reservations I may once have had about sniffing food before deciding whether or not to risk putting it in my mouth are firmly a thing of the past. The chicken looks like it didn't make it across the road in one piece and the best thing that can be said about the bread is that it's marginally more spreadable than the butter.

As for the salmon- well, I'm not really a fish person. I'll usually at least try a bite, but I draw the line at Thai Air sashimi.

gaijin: It's been a year since I was in Coventry and I worry that I may have become a foreigner, that I'm going to be continually bowing to people or saying "sumimasen" to bemused bar staff. I also worry that my sandals are not going to last the journey.

Whatever; England is still my country, regardless of what bizarre mannerisms I may have picked up in Japan. What will be will be and what has passed cannot be undone, only accommodated. I am going home and sandals will be provided.

jikan: Ways to pass time on an aeroplane: pretend to be asleep, and keep muttering thing like "Allah Akbar" and "burn the infidels"; try to start songs; go to the toilet just after dinner and stay in there for twenty minutes while people are crossing their legs and tring to visualise the Gobi desert outside; ask the flight attendant for a glass of milk, wait a second for her to repeat the order for confirmation, then get very defensive and shout "I just like milk, ok" at her.

Track down a drunken rugby player and dare him to do any of the above.

Write arrant gibberish.

asagohan: I think the grey stuff's supposed to be potato.

eikoku: On the bus, heading for Coventry. The anticipation should be mounting, but I cannot imagine my home, all I have in my brain is the memory of the seeming eternity that I have been travelling for. It's not even 9 am yet.

the gorilla brought me a bento today and instructions on how to get to Tottori prefecture. then she pulled out two printouts from your photo blog. i think the bride who wore whizz found it online, the gorilla was ranting too fast in osaka-ben for me to catch on. you better make sure you don't leave fingerprints, son. big brother is what it is, big brother, the internet is not a sanctuary.
Cheers for the heads up- my hotmail address just mysteriously vanished from my photo pages. Funny that.
When are you going back?
Arrive back on the 30th.
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