My mother accompanied me to the airport – which spooked me, for a start. In all the years I’d been travelling abroad, she’d never felt the need to accompany me before. It meant that this goodbye, felt like a ‘proper’ goodbye. It had a real weight to it; like we might never, ever see each other again. I hoped it wasn’t some kind of omen.
As I began snaking my way up and down the security line, I turned back to see her face just one last time: big mistake. She looked so small and sad – the closer I got to the baggage X-ray, the smaller and sadder she became. I’d never seen her look like that in my entire life; it was unbearable. But I couldn’t turn back now. So I smiled until my cheeks spasmed and gamely waved as she disappeared out of sight.
That haunted look on her face stayed with me though, twisting my stomach into knots. Part of me (the crazy part) started wondering whether she – or I – might die during this silly escapade, and I was gripped with irrational fear. A huge wave of emotion came crashing down on me; my throat felt like it was closing up. And as I started placing my belongings into the grey plastic tray, I suddenly doubled over and started sobbing hysterically. No-one present could have been more shocked than me.
I was in a right state. There were hiccups and howls and large, noisy gulps of air as I fought to stem the waterworks and reopen my airway before I fainted. My clothes were soon soaked with sweat and tears and my eyeballs were darting all over the place. I had to stand like a prat in the body scanner – shoeless on the yellow footprints, hands on my head – shaking uncontrollably as I tried to stop muttering and swallow everything in and avoid making a scene (ha!). To make matters worse, I stepped out of the body scanner, and instantly set off the alarm in the metal detector arch. By this point, I was practically having an asthma attack.
Friends – please believe me when I tell you that the airport security zone is not the best place to have an emotional meltdown. Had they tasered me on the spot I could probably have forgiven them because I literally couldn’t have looked more suspicious if I’d tried. Visions of being strip-searched whilst my plane took off without me ran through my mind as I was led aside for further examination (no latex required – thank you, Jesus).
It’s pretty hard to console someone whilst simultaneously molesting them for drugs and explosives, but my attendant made a valiant effort. “Don’t worry – you’ll be reunited before you know it,” she soothed as she manhandled my boobs.
Thus began my great adventure: hyperventilating, humiliated, and homesick before I’d even reached the departure lounge. What a shambles. Needless to say, I made full and liberal use of the bottomless bar once I finally boarded the plane – which is when the real torture commenced. Nothing to do with the airline, mind; Emirates was on point. We were fed and watered constantly, the food was delicious, and the entertainment options were endless. Rather, it was the endurance test of the flight itself.
Flying to Australia is a bit like watching a kettle. A kettle that takes 1,380 mind-numbing minutes to boil. That’s an awful lot of time to kill – no matter how many distractions you throw at it.
I watched Bohemian Rhapsody (about the life of the ridiculously talented singer Freddie Mercury and his band Queen – 10/10); A Star is Born (the one with Lady Gaga as a rising star and Bradley Cooper as an alcoholic has-been – 10/10); Can You Ever Forgive Me? (starring Melissa McCarthy as a literary forger selling fake celebrity letters – 8/10); and something dreadful with Sarah-Jessica Parker in it that never really got started before it finished and was so forgetful I can’t even remember its name.
But 23 hours – regardless of the drinks and meals and movies and magazines and even a brief pit stop in Dubai – moves ever so slowly when you’re stuck in economy (trust me, that 3cm ‘recline’ on the backrest really doesn’t cut it under these circumstances). On the bright side, our leisurely amble through space and time gave me the chance to fully appreciate just how far away Australia really is. I felt like a kid in the car wondering ‘are we there yet?’ every five minutes. At one point, after a marathon session of eating and drinking and watching and reading, I fell asleep for a full eight hours – and when I woke up, we were still in the air!!!
It. Was. Painful. Literally (I kept stealing passengers’ pillows to tuck under my thighs to ease the pressure of what felt like early onset deep-vein thrombosis. My sister says I should get that on a T-shirt: ‘I went to Australia and all I got was DVT’ – lol!!).
By the time we touched down in Melbourne, I didn’t know if I was coming or going or heading to A&E to defibrillate my lower limbs, which I could no longer feel. My left calf resembled an elephant’s leg and my feet looked like inflated rubber gloves. But as I hobbled through the exit, I saw the excited little face of my beloved Joe and his gorgeous fiancée Theo waiting to greet me (and the rest of their UK contingent – some of whom I’d had the pleasure of meeting on the plane) and take me home. They’d even made a bright pink ‘welcome’ banner, with Kylie and tassels and everything!
I could barely speak as we trundled to the car; I felt shattered and delirious and slightly apprehensive about being on my own in the apartment I’d booked. But just getting to Australia felt like a victory in itself. I remember basking in the warm glow of my achievement – crying fits and blood clots all but forgotten. The kettle had finally boiled: I WAS IN AUSTRALIA!!! And boy, was I gasping for a cup of tea.
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