“Daddy I missed you. I was crying.”
Saying goodbye is so hard. I feel like crying too.
Then a train approaches on the opposite line and sounds its horn as it arrives Wolli Creek Station. Alex hears my surprise and giggles, pretending to scare me with more horn sounds over the phone. Suddenly we both feel a lot better.
I am off to Japan tonight, alone. Unfortunately the good fortune that lead to the flights did not extend to the rest of the family and neither did our finances.
I waved goodbye to Alex and B at Sutherland station, then returned to Wolli Creek, where the Moon is rising above the airport. As I change platforms I feel the chill of the wind. A spooky wind is how Alex describes it over the phone. Another train carries me to the International Terminal.
I have already printed off my boarding pass and my backpack can pass as cabin luggage, so I go straight through immigration and security. Some of the Sony deals at Duty Free are tempting, but no, I go straight up to the Business Lounge thanks to the kindness of a friend in Qantas.
As I have come straight (well, almost straight) to the airport from work I am glad for the opportunity of a meal and a shower. Thai red chicken curry, an amazing sweet potato, yoghurt and pomegranate salad and chocolate brownies make for a wonderful dinner. The heavy raindrop shower washes away the day’s sweat in preparation for a long day tomorrow.
But if you want evidence of the excellence of Qantas’ lounge it is in the gelato bar and the cup of fruit cocktail ice cream to complete the experience. Yes, I can understand the allure of the lounge.
Boarding has already commenced by the time the announcement is made to leave the lounge, so I join the queue at gate 10. As I walk down the airbridge I catch the special scent of flight. Tonight I am flying another old bird, a Boeing 747-400, my favourite type.
I am disappointed to discover that this aircraft still has the old blue interior, old five years ago. No A380 interior here. I was hoping to be able to charge my devices with in-seat power.
Oh well, plenty of memories and character in this aircraft. I sit down in a row to myself. When confirming my seat the system showed the other two seats to be empty, but near the end of the boarding process an African-American bloke is lead to the aisle seat. Oh well, no lie flat bed for me tonight.
It takes a while for us to depart. Outside is dark, the last few flights are getting ready to leave, the freight aircraft are being loaded in the harsh amber light.
The crew look mostly of an older persuasion. One man is unsmiling and his loud orders to raise the window shade to the elderly Japanese couple behind me brought back some unpleasant memories of culturally insensitive crew members on Qantas years ago.
The captain welcomed us to the flight, saying it should be mostly smooth except for possible wind gusts in the first hour.
We trundle down the length of the main runway for a northerly take-off. I am very tired and the blue light of the Novotel Brighton Beach looks so welcoming, but it is too late, we are already rolling faster and faster.
As we take off I turn the entertainment system to the only true soundtrack – Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy. Jeff Bridges’ voice talks of computer networks like a city grid and indeed that’s what I can see below, the street and house lights of Sydney forming a jewelled pattern upon the ground. Despite it being almost 9.30 pm on a Tuesday night I am surprised by the number of sports grounds still floodlit, green patches in the dark.
Once we reached cruising altitude menu, immigration form and water runs were done, then supper was served. I chose the niku jaga, Japanese beef stew. Nice, but somewhat too rich for me at that time of night. The dessert was once again the star, smooth chocolate mousse with the current fad of salted caramel sauce. Then the lights went out and I attempted to sleep before giving up and watching a movie.
I tried watching Burt Wonderstone, but wasn’t really in the mood for a Steve Carrell comedy with a very standard plotline. Instead I eventually switched to the very tense action flick Olympus Has Fallen, which was a pretty good, if mindless, action adventure. I attempted to sleep, mostly unsuccessfully, watched the three episodes of Little Britain also on the entertainment system.
The entertainment system seems to be a bit crippled compared with earlier experiences, even in older cabin 747s. No longer is it possible to listen to a playlist while watching the flight map only the “radio”.
Outside the window the full Moon meant that detail was visible, or would have been if there had been anything to see but a blanket of cloud.
The flight was mostly smooth, but for some high equatorial cloud.
Sometime in the night one of the babies in the bulkhead cot stood up precariously while the mother slept. I pressed the call button but there was no response from the crew within a couple of minutes – not good. Fortunately, another lady was walking by and woke the mother.
With a couple of hours left of flight the lights were switched on for breakfast. I enjoyed my eggs and bacon in hollandaise sauce, but it made me think of how much Alex would want to eat it.
Daylight brought a smooth cruise above the clouds, until it was time to descend into Narita. We discovered that the clouds stretched the whole way down, making for a very hazy runway – no great views of Mount Fuji or anything else today.
Then it was quickly out of the aircraft and through immigration. Back to Japan!