Out Of The Formicary (1) – Leaving Is Such Sweet Sorrow?
This is essentially another ‘what I did on my holiday’ submission. My intention had been to submit once a week from Thailand. That did not happen. Each ‘episode’ was either fully written in the time period it is related to or written up from notes made in that period. To make full or any sense of the ‘episodes’ it is (I’m afraid) probably necessary to first read Nanathana Is Dead.
On February 3rd this year something happened to me that I thought might not happen again. No, it was not another kitten and stapler incident. Look, will I never live that down? It was an accident, right. Get over it.
No, no, I was at Heathrow with a ticket to go to Bangkok.
It was early morning and cold. I was leaving from Terminal Four – never done that before. It is much better than Terminal Three.
#Travellers’ Tip Number One. There are airports in this world that should be avoided at almost any cost even if it means taking a bicycle, yak or simply walking to your destination or indeed not going to the given place / country at all – however pressing the reason for wishing to go. I’m not mean spirited so I’ll share. Dacca and Rangoon (yep I know that it’s not called that anymore. So?). These ‘International airports’, gateways to their respective countries are just plain weird. I’ll leave it at that. OK, I’m bad, these are poor countries but the third on my list is Heathrow Terminal 3. There is no possible excuse for the sorry chaotic mess that is Heathrow Terminal 3.
But I was at Terminal 4. A haven of order and ‘peace’.
Take off was to be at 10:15 AM. I was early – maybe 7:00 AM.
I checked the luggage which included one large bag of stuff to be delivered to Ant’s sons (Ant is my legal wife, remember, and she has two indolent sons).
What to do? OK, forays to the cold outside for a cigarette (I AM A SMOKER – OK, I know it's wrong and crucifixion would be too good for me, but there it is). Pick up some money from the ATM – I knew I was underfunded for the six months ahead but what can you do? For a cheap country Thailand always proves to be very expensive.
I contemplated whether having a drink was a good idea – after all it was only 8:00 AM.
I had a pint of cider. It was neither a good nor a bad idea.
After another couple of cigarettes, I could put it off no longer. Through passport control and into the waiting area. My leg was hurting very badly – not the one affected by the ‘S’ thing but the ‘good’ leg.
Time to board. You know how it is, often you can see your plane before you go into the tunnel thing. Some planes have names written on them at the front. I maintain that the craft I was to board had been named “The Sloop John B”. I guess it could have been worse and it could have been called “The Mary Celeste” or “The Enola Gay”. But then the latter might not have been so bad.
Some dude said something like, “It’s the journey not getting there that is important.”
Apparently Ernest Hemingway took time off from scribbling and watching bull fights to say, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
#Traveller’s Tip Number Two. There is a TV channel in Thailand devoted to bull fighting. This is real – bull fighting. Two bulls fighting each other in a ring that has been purposefully made very muddy. Large crowds attend. Another channel is devoted to cock fighting. Enjoy! Thailand is a strangely violent, vicious and uncaring country. But then who am I to talk? Show me a lamb and I think mint sauce.
Anyway, I agree with neither quote and neither would you if flying Jet Airways to Bangkok via Bombay (yep, I know it’s not called that anymore. So?). The goal is to get to Bangkok, not the journey.
The plane took off, climbed, levelled out and flew. Good.
Jet Airways is not a budget airline but it sure is a no frills airline. Cabin crew walk the isles only when they have to – my god, you might ask for another drink or packet of peanuts that they would be obliged to hand over.
We flew for eight hours and fifty five minutes and did not crash land at Bombay. Good.
I have often wondered if each country has a hand-book outlining how its citizens are to behave. What am I talking about!! We have culture.
On leaving the plane we were meet by an army of airport staff in different forms of officer-style ministry uniforms and ushered towards whatever the control is that you have to pass through to get into the airport proper.
We had been lead into…..chaos. A seething mass of humanity. Apparently it was not only ‘our’ plane that had recently landed. Queues almost formed and then dissolved. Every person for themselves. I at one point got to where hand-luggage was to be scanned and was told, “Women only”. I considered a sex change.
My leg was hurting VERY badly. Perhaps I could simply turn around and take ‘The Sloop John B’ back to the sanity of Terminal 4 Heathrow? But OK, try again – making sure I didn’t get into the transsexual ‘queue’.
Look, what can be so difficult? Presumably the airport knows when planes are going to arrive and can at least take a stab of a guess at how many people are going to be on board and then make appropriate arrangements to process said passengers. Not at Bombay. Just what can I say? Perhaps and for all I know planes appear at Bombay unexpectedly or unpredicted times; some empty, some so full that ‘passengers’ are hanging off the under-carriage. This would be an explanation for the chaos.
#Travellers’ Tip Number Three. Again this is real. As part of the process of getting into the airport proper at Bombay you will be searched and any cigarette lighter you have taken from you. I have wondered if this would apply to Cartier or similar – but of course the usual stuff is plastic lighters. Being a smart arse I had come prepared – I handed over an empty plastic lighter. But there must have been something about me. The processing guy indicated he wanted the other one I had. I let him find it in my jacket.
The strange thing is once inside the airport proper there is a smoking area!!!
My leg hurt too much for me to want to find it. Anyway, why bother – just a bunch of bemused people in it. Doing what? Chewing their cigarettes?
Board again, the plane took off, climbed, levelled out and flew. Good.
We flew for four hours and fifteen minutes and did not crash land at Bangkok. Good.
OK, I am in Thailand. I don’t actually like Thailand but have been backwards and forwards for 14 years now. So why go you may ask?
Look, we are all trying to get over Nanthana’s death in our own ways. You may know her as Na, her family call her Nang. I call her Nang and I was not getting over it in the UK. In fact it was all getting worse – thinking of her for maybe ten hours a day, reading past emails and sometimes but only sometimes looking at the only image I had of her – an emailed video clip of her and a guy called Tom making out. This felt very wrong. (All ‘photos of Nang had been discovered by Ant and destroyed – I for sure don’t blame her). Of course we landed on 4th February – Nang’s birthday, she would have been 50 maybe (Nang was a woman of mystery – when we meet she said she was 34. Later she ‘admitted’ that at that time she was 42. If so she would have been 50 ‘today’. Who cares? Any age, I would love her.
I felt that maybe I’d do better in Thailand and be able to give her daughter (Auy) and her son (Esso) a holiday. That was why I had come to the benighted country again.
Alright, through passport control and get the luggage, then into the airport proper. I went to meeting area B where we always meet but she was not there. I had a beer in ‘our’ café. She was not there. I lingered in the airport. But…OK time to get a taxi.
“Nana Hotel, please.”
What had been strange is that I had found nothing strange! Am I now so used to Thailand? Also, I had not seen one woman that I even found vaguely attractive. What is going on?
After a drive through the concrete canyons we finally docked at what ‘The Great One’ has named ‘The Mothership’. I checked-in.
Nang was not there.