I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

All The Way Home

Oh good lord my sofa is so so comfortable. Shame my living room lights have gone tonto again. And, for fucks sake, I was going to call this post "Singapore sling your hook" but upon searching to see how common a phrase that is I discover that I used it on here in 2006. Damn it!

So anyway, I wandered up to the gate in Colombo airport, which had a single security checkpont for two flights leaving very close, timewise, to one another. There seemed to be a bit of a panic on as someone was walking along the line shouting "anyone travelling on Singapore Airlines?".

I'm flying Singapore Airlines. This is the most ridiculous ticket of the whole itinerary, one "bought" using miles purchased during a half price promotion from a Colombian airline's frequent flyer scheme, put towards a "part miles part cash" purchase. Singapore Airlines business class seats are really really hard to find available with miles from other airlines, and Sri Lanka to Singapore to London is not remotely direct. But somehow I managed to find spaces which fit my dates perfectly and guaranteed my last leg would be on the very latest iteration of their long haul business class seats. Huzzah!

But first, my connecting flight. The family in front of me made a fucking huge meal of getting through the x-ray machine and having zero awareness that there might be someone else behind them that isn't quite so rubbish at it. On the plane I was warmly greeted by name and escorted to my seat. It wasn't an awful seat, but not comparable to the other services I've been on (Gatwick-Jersey and v.v. notwithstanding). The legroom is more than acceptable for a daytime flight but this is a red-eye from hell: my first eastbound flight, departing at 0120 and landing at 0740 (local times) but only taking 3 hours and 20 minutes. So really no time for any proper sleep, especially on a seat that doesn't turn into a bed. Curse you, regional SQ equipment!

The staff were so so friendly the whole time. A pre-flight chamapagne arrived and then the cabin rounds were done, in an order which looked random so I assume was done on the basis of frequent flyer status etc. I was asked last, the questions being "what do you want to drink after take off, and will you be wanting to eat?". Champagne, and no.

I intended to try and sleep but then, par for the course, chose not to, instead watching 3 episodes of Family Guy and then a film called Pi. My mind wandered quite a lot as my brain deemed it appropriate to ruminate on everything, enumerating the things I get out of a manic trip like this and pondering whether I needed to justify it to myself, let alone anyone else. I don't remember coming to any conclusions as I kinda nodded off.

There was no amenity kit beyond a weird pair of hybrid flight socks and slippers, which I didn't bother using. After Pi I watched a terrible documentary called Dangerous Journeys, and then OH MY GOD, an episode of classic 70s racist British sitcom Mind Your Language! I wholeheartedly enjoy the festival of accents and stereotypes and appallingness.

Arrived at Singapore to what the captain said was a "surprising" 23c, and absolute pissing rain. I had 5 hours 'til my last hurrah, a long haul Singapore Airlines flight in business class - something I've been trying to get on for years and years, I even had such a flight booked 5 years ago but ended up cancelling in appalling circumstances. Very very excited to finally be trying it out.

But, yeah, 5 hours to kill. We'd landed at T2 and I was flying from T3 so, first, a monorail trip. These are rubbish in bad weather. The SilverKris lounge is at the complete opposite end of the terminal, a good 20 minute walk made a few seconds longer and blood pressure points higher by the expert hinderer stopping dead at the top of the escalator in front of me. Twat.

The lounge is massive, elegant, has utterly giant flatscreen TVs dotted around the place and a very big food buffet. It's about 9am by the time I've picked a spot and plugged my phone in and I crack on with a giant breakfast plate and a diet coke, followed by a second somewhat smaller plate. I chat by SMS with Chris, the man who I've managed to talk to the most since he's almost always awake in the middle of the night, the unemployed arse. (Someone give him a job, in Nottingham, preferably involving lots of travel?)
Singapore Airlines SilverKris business class lounge, Singapore T3
Soon I had an itch to scratch, and went to get a champagne. You have to ask a member of staff for it, so that's exactly what I did and she brought a glass to me. With still 2.5 hours to kill and fuck all to do, I find a dodgy stream of WWE Monday Night Raw and watch that, interrupting only to pour myself a Tiger lager from the self-service tap into a lovely frosted glass. But other than that my lounge time is spent lounging.

My boarding pass said boarding time was 1215 for my 1245 departure. I was in a Singapore Airlines lounge and expected boarding calls but only ever heard last calls, so after Raw finished I set off for the gate and spotted "last call" on the monitors. Eek! But, for fucks sake, how have I STILL not learnt that this means fuck all? I arrive at gate A12 and boarding hasn't even started yet.

However, there is pretty much nowhere to sit. I just about find a perch only for first and business class boarding to be announced, so I walk onto the plane - there are no desks to show the pass to, no-one doing any kind of checks, just a few people get up and head onto the plane. This strikes me as very bizarre, that there's nothing to stop a stampede. Huh.

For the first time this whole trip, I have to walk through a cabin better than the one in which I'm flying. The AA flight last Tuesday had a first class cabin but I didn't get to see it. But now I am instantly jealous because Singapore's first looks incredible. I swear their TVs are almost as big as the one I have at home.

However, Singapore's business is also very fucking decent. The seat looks at first glance to have similar or even more room than that Qantas or Cathay first class seats, though I discover as soon as I sit down to take the obligatory legroom photo that, actually, my stumpy 5'9" legs reach the wall in front of me. Whoa. But it's wide - the overall "suite" effect is quite nice, being a much squarer space than the other seats I've been in.
There is loads of storage space, loads of slots to plug stuff into including power, USB and, bizarrely, HDMI. The seat is comfortable and I'm super-eager to use the inflight entertainment system but it's not turned on until we take off. A member of staff introduces themselves to me, refers to me by name and asks to confirm that they're pronouncing my surname properly. They also bring me a champagne, of course. I'm gobsmacked that I - the heavily ginger bearded scruffy dishevelled bloke in shorts and a grindcore band t-shirt - am far from the least business-classily dressed person in the cabin when the seat across the aisle is occupied by a bloke in (what looks like) a basketball kit and flip flops.

As always I'm asked what I'll drink after take off and I pick champagne. They confirm with me that I booked my food in advance and so don't really need the menu, though obviously I've read it and noticed that holy shit they have onboard Guinness!

We push back from the gate early and the inflight system comes on. The remote control is the best yet - a full touchscreen colour doohickey, operated by swipes and taps. It's like a small PSP and really responsive, the inflight moving map is on there too. I play with it for ages, and then add a couple of films to my playlist - Blood Ties, and Bag Man.

Mealtime starts and god help me, I've even impressed by the table - because you can control the angle and height. I said the seat is wide, and actually this means it's possible to sit diagonally and then the legroom really does match all the other carriers. Some satay arrives and the lamb is fantastic. Chicken and peanuts for me don't work though. I watch Blood Ties and it's ... meh. It doesn't make me cry. It's boring is what it is.

My main dish is Assam fish and it's nice, but I barely get half way through it. My stomach is angry, I think finally 9 days of absurd indulgence is catching up with me. I brave my way through a diet coke and one last champagne but refuse dessert, cheese, wine, tea, coffee, until finally the hostess gets the message and says "I'll just hit 'do not disturb' for you so no-one else offers you anything". A couple of minutes later a different member of staff offers me dessert, and I explain that I want to but just can't :-(

I start Bag Man, and fall asleep through most of it. So I stop it and put on an audiobook, turn the screen off and try to sleep. I actually manage around 6 hours or so of decent quality sleep, and although I wake up around 15 times or so I'm actually refreshed by the end of it. So I start Bag Man again and it's decent, better than Blood Ties, but still nothing wonderful and the ending is pretty shit. John Cusack rarely goes wrong though.

There's loads of turbulence throughout the journey, outside and in; my stomach remains angry. I am briefly tempted to try out the inflight wifi, and intrigued by the apparent inflight GSM service but resist both. Instead, I watch an Irish film called Life's A Breeze which is a half-decent feel good comedy "aren't we a bit crap, eh?" romp thing. I look jealously as 11F gets his food service, then realise my Do Not Disturb sign is still on so I turn it off.

The second food service comes with about 2.5 hours of the flight to go. Again, I'd pre-ordered, this time Nasi Lemak. The attendant was complimentary about my choice and she was right to be so, because it tasted fucking lovely. But again, I barely finished it and turned down two other courses. My stomach, my stomach... 2 cans of Guinness helped though. This I accompanied with 3 episodes of Silicon Valley, which is quite funny but kinda not much more than a very late and less offensive US version of Nathan Barley.

We're told by the captain that we'll land a bit late, maybe 25 minutes or so, because the headwinds have been unseasonable. I love arriving at Heathrow and am karmically rewarded for this by a stellar journey home - there's no point in using the Fast Track coupon when you're a British citizen with an e-passport. We touch down at 1928; taxi, park, disembark, immigration, a shit, baggage reclaim, and walk from T3 to the bus stop takes under 40 minutes and the express bus to Kingston is perfectly timed, and as soon as I'm onboard I get an SMS asking if I fancy a pint tomorrow. Heh. I'm on my sofa only 80 minutes after the wheels hit the tarmac, using public transport.

8 days of madness.
Final stats are: 23,000 miles flown in 9 days, comprising 8 flights taking 49 hours and 15 minutes with 5 airlines through 7 airports. I hit up 12 lounges in 4 countries, and got 1 new passport stamp (taking my country tally to 48). Bloody hell.

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