Sunday, January 2, 2011

Heathrow, Milan and Tokyo

After a week in Leeds for Christmas catching up and catching colds it was time to leave again. I think both me and my close friends and family are now starting to get used to me leaving. The first time i left for an indefinite period of time we had a big party in my parents back garden that lasted almost a day. Now we all seem fairly happy if we get a pint and good luck hug.

As you’re probably aware i’ve done a little bit of travelling here and there over the past few years so you’d think that it was within the realms of possibility for me to able to buy a plane a ticket without a hitch. Think again. I bought a cheap one way ticket from London to Tokyo via Milan. No problems. Until i checked the itinerary and realised that i’d paid for a ticket that, although going via Milan, would actually arrive and leave from different airports. On different days.

I had to get to London first. The bus journey took six hours and the vehicle seemed to contain everything modern England has to offer. For a start it was stuck in traffic, going nowhere and being driven by an Eastern European. The passengers were an eclectic mix of bored teenagers with headphones glued into their ears, old women constantly looking as if somebody had just pissed in their handbags, the ever-friendly jovial chirpy types (you know the ones, only from the UK, always happy, would have sung Row Row Row Your Boat if they’d have been on the Titanic as it hit the iceberg) and a few families of happy immigrants who couldn’t speak a sentence of English. All of this was wrapped up in green fields, thick damp fog and old towns and cities trying to throw off 1960s architecture with 1990s memories and 2010s debt. And then I arrived at Heathrow.

Airports are shit. Most of them should come with some kind of health warning and they all seem to be the same. They’re too hot, there are never enough seats, the food is bland, soggy and expensive, you always see people sleeping no matter what time you arrive or leave, elderly people look utterly lost, small children have only two states - hyperactive or crying, there are lots of designer shops selling expensive jewellery and handbags to absolutely nobody (how do those shops make any money?) and the cleaners are always immigrants. As you can probably tell, i’ve only ever flown economy class.

My ticket landed me in Milan Linate Airport on Wednesday night and flew me out of Milan Melpansa Airport on Thursday afternoon. The plan was to find a cheap hotel somewhere in Milan but my flight from Heathrow left late and so the airport was completely shut when i arrived. There were no buses, no shops open, no hotels and the taxi drivers were asking 80 Euros for a trip to the city centre. I found a bench for the night and copied the homeless people and other stranded travellers and tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep before getting a bus the next morning across the city to the other airport where i flew from that afternoon.

I only spent a very short time in Italy and Milan but here’s what i noticed:
1. The orange juice is red.
2. The chocolate bars are rubbish.
3. It seems that it may be compulsory for all the women to wear tight fitting jeans and knee high leather boots.
4. It seems that it may be compulsory for the men to look completely disinterested with everything but do so with perfect hair.
5. Most people greet each other as if they haven’t seen each other in decades. Even if they’re strangers.

The flight to Tokyo was almost empty which meant that i curled up on three seats and stole fragments of sleep from various different time zones during the night and woke up over a wintery sugar-coated Korea on Friday morning and then landed in Japan. I got on the metro train at Narita Airport to take me into Tokyo. When it pulled into the station, there was a man slumped, fast asleep on one of the seats. Nobody moved him or troubled him. The train doors closed and off we sped into Tokyo where he’d just come from. He’d probably been on the train for a few hours going backwards and forwards from Tokyo to Narita sleeping off the beginnings of a hangover. I looked up and down the train, quietly giggled to myself and almost left like i’d come home.

I’ll be in Japan for a year as i start a new teaching job in the next few days. I’ll try to write more inane observations and useless stories as and when i can. Thanks for reading. Happy New Year and best of luck with 2011.

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