Sunday, 21 December 2008

Travels with Muriel I

I'm in the UK, specifically in a very pretty area called the Hogsback, where my friend Ruth lives.

Getting here involved 26 hours of travelling (via Dubai), the first half of them in a plane that was built for about 300 people although there seemed to be about 1 500 on board. The seats were so close together that only one sitting position - hips facing forward, feet together on the floor - was possible, and until you've sat in the same position for 10 hours straight you don't know how uncomfortable this can be - it actually borders on pain.

To add to my misery the man next to me was suffering from such eye-wateringly bad halitosis that every time he opened his mouth to speak to his bud on the other side of him, he triggered my gag reflex. Although I was hugely relieved when he finally drank so much whiskey and Coke that he passed clean out, this was shortlived: in his drunken slumber, he relaxed completely, allowing his legs to fall open so that his thight ended up resting with considerably too much intimacy on mine, and his head slowly sank until it was resting on my shoulder.

Dubai airport is bizarre and wonderful architecturally. It was clearly designed by someone who's travelled a lot because its main purpose - that of moving passengers around - is fabulously well realised, although its secondary aim - that of selling as much high-priced produce to as many people in as short a time as possible - is also very efficiently achieved.

I had about an hour to kill before my London connection and was just fantasising about my bed - or anywhere, really, I could lie down; by then I hadn't slept for 24 hours - when I walked into the travel section of the airport and saw, to my disbelieving joy, serried ranks of loungers, many of them holding sleeping passengers. Now that's what I call a REAL airport! I bagged one of them, lay down, put my jacket over my head and went immediately to sleep. When my flight was called about an hour later, a kindly airport official came and gently woke me up. I have seldom been so impressed in my life.

The second leg of the journey was on the new A380 airbus and it was great - the seats, even in economy, are widely spaced and there's lots of legroom and the touch-screen TVs are new and work properly and the food is edible. I wish all planes were like that.

The purpose of my travels is to catch up with friends. Ruth kindly agreed to fetch me from Heathrow so she was first on my itinerary, and she took me for lunch at Wagamama in Guildford (luvverly Thai food), then shopping (an experience which, like all shopping experiences for me, made me immediately exhausted and weepy), then to a typical English pub for a glass of mulled wine (which perked me up). Her husband Julien cooked us a dinner of roast duck and Brussels sprouts (a vegetable I think should be put to death by the Taste Police, but which I ate because my mother raised me right), and we drank a LOT of wine. We also wrapped a lot of Christmas presents, very badly.

Later, we braved the chilly English outdoors to furtively smoke two Malboro cigarettes each. Smoking has become so infra-dig in England that if you are a puffer, you guard this knowledge closely, almost as you would a stash of S&M porn mags you might keep under your bed. (Ruth is an occasional smoker and she suspects several of her friends of being secret smokers too.)

I'm now off to Hitchin, where my friends Michele and Kevin live. I'll keep you posted.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great snapshot of your Dubai airport experience.

Surely Wagamama is Japanese?

Keep on truckin'

meggie said...

We had a Wagamama here in OZ, but it closed. I thought it was something to do with steak? a breed of cattle? Just thought I would let my ignorance hang out!
I would love to experience Dubai airport.. I am a hound for air travel.

Muriel said...

V likely Japanese, Anon, well spotted - I whimped out and had a Thai curry with sticky rice so didn't do the authentic thing. Altho that was a bit of an ask in Guildford High Street where fusion food is, apparently, still in vogue. My eco London pals tell me Dubai is one of the most environmentally unfriendly places on the planet - why does style always come with such a big price tag??

Muriel said...

Hello Meggie! Nice to have you back. Merry merry to you and yours! x