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Long haul flying


Excuse the long silence. This has been due to a highly decadent escape for a long weekend in England sans husband and children. I was overwhelmingly flattered to be chosen as a godparent for the son of a close friend and felt I should certainly take the first of my duties seriously and attend the christening, which was absolutely lovely.

It was a whistle stop tour and, as usual, much of my focus was taken up with doing as much shopping as is humanly possible in the 24 hours I had in London. Every time I go back to England, I regret my shopping obsessed behaviour. I even go so far as to speed up a leisurely coffee with an old friend who I haven’t seen for a year in favour of a quick and usually fruitless trawl through a sale rail in a random shop. Pathetic really, but time is always horribly short and I’m such an incurable craver for all things retail that are not available in Kenya.

I did two night flights in four days. In my view, a real down side of being an expat is the long haul flying. We only go home as a family once a year, but the scars of the homeward journey cut deep as I recall flights when I have been struck down with vicious food poisoning (the air hostesses were not sympathetic), flights spent doing circuits of the plane chasing after a toddler (again, air hostesses unsympathetic), and flights spent trying to cajole small children to go to sleep and stop screaming, being on the receiving end of foul looks from fellow passengers, being covered in spilt drinks and caked on baby food, trying to change nappies in the shoe box size aeroplane loos and memories are still fresh of delays, lost luggage, check in staff imposing fines for overweight bags and similar frustrations. Each time I fly, I gaze longingly at the business class section with flat beds and champagne before the thick curtain is drawn firmly across after take off but sadly after nine years I never seem to get upgraded from smelly old economy.

Sleeping whilst sitting bolt upright (or as near as damn it) is impossible for me and I envy all those who managed to do it. Last weekend, the thrill of travelling without children meant that I couldn’t resist uninterrupted channel surfing through the available range of films, in spite of the fact it was 2am and there was mainly fuzzy noise coming out of my earphones. One ear had no sound at all. The lady sitting next to me resembled Mma Ramotswe from the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and I had to quietly burrow under the folds of her coat to find the TV controls located in the central armrest while she was sleeping.

Finally, I thought I must also turn my attention to sleep, but found that my tiny seat was filled with sharp edges and there was no room under the chair in front to stretch out my legs as there was a fixed metal box there. The ‘wings’ on the headrest that are designed to support your head while sleeping, kept limply falling back into their original positions when I tried to pull them forward in an effort to get comfortable. I tried stuffing the plastic bag that the polyester plane blanket was packed in behind the headrest wings, but nothing worked. I ended up spending the night taking ten or twenty minute snatches of sleep between changing position in a quest for comfort for a few hours, shifting around like an oversized dog in a tiny basket. Then all the lights are snapped on and you are served breakfast two hours before your scheduled landing time. In my view, night flying is like a form of drawn out torture.

Having removed my pointy zip up boots, in the morning I found it nearly impossible to jam them back onto my swollen feet. All the economy passengers are then finally spat out at the other end of the flight all with matching red eyes, dazed expression, tangled hair and a furry feeling in the mouth. All this agony is largely made up for a total change of scene at the other end and the excitement of seeing family and friends. However, it always takes days to shake off the hungover feeling that resembles having attended an all night party but without any of the fun bits.

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