1.2 hours from Melbourne, satiated by scramble eggs in that inimitable airline style and fortified by 6 hours deep sleep (I almost managed to lie fully horizontal by reclining my seat, sliding right down and sticking both legs under the seat in front – good job I’m short), looking out on a clear blue sky, we can see Australia. Miles and miles of red, flat outback with arteries (tracks? rivers?) threading their way across an alien, inhospitable landscape. Not long until we see Joe!
Anyway, I hope you’re impressed by the Hong Kong harbour shot. Yep, we managed to photograph a building site (not just once, I hasten to add, but seven times) but at least it’s proof – proof that Ruth and I have managed to secure staff room bragging rights for, let me see, at the very least the next term (and quite possibly the next year), about how we shared a jug of Pimms in China. We had finally managed to meet up at the Red Bar on the rooftop terrace of the IFC building, despite abject technological failure (Apple, please work out how to extend iPhone battery life beyond five minutes) and just a minor diary error (that’s it putting it mildly – Ruth and her daughter Beth rang me to say they were delayed whilst waiting for a short typhoon to pass before steaming ahead to meet us – unfortunately when I picked up the phone call, I was looking out of the bedroom window. In Taplow).
Last time I met a colleague in Asia it was Easter 2013 when Mairead and her sons, Ben and Chris, joined us for cocktails in Singapore, when our stopover was a generous 36 hours compared to the mere 12 this time (Tim grumbles that we have simply extended the journey, whereas I see it as extending the travels). On balance, though, there was no contest. We both agree that Singapore is far more impressive than Hong Kong, though to be fair we only managed a harbour tour of the latter. Both cities share that muggy, sticky, steaming climate of the Equator, with ominous clouds gathering at an alarming rate ready to chuck a few gallons of tepid water down your neck at any moment. Though to be fair, they didn’t in Hong Kong. We both felt the more compact harbour in Singapore, with its gleaming high rise buildings, stunning modern architecture, dramatic Grand Prix route and frenetic business centres dissolving into the old city still at the water’s edge, was both awesome and picturesque. The only ‘tradition’ we saw in China was the odd junk sailing past the stern of our crumbling Star Ferry, which seems somewhat overrated in Trip Advisor’s ‘fifty things to do before you die’ checklist.
On that note, the flights have gone smoothly, despite the horrors of MH17 constantly hovering on the edge of my mind. Every bump of turbulence (and on the Melbourne leg there have been many) has set me wondering ‘were they aware’ of the initial explosion when the missile hit? A truly horrific crime against humanity – the many variants of such truly brought home when I was roused from a deep slumber last night by a gentle hand lay on my arm. Tap. Tap. Tap. Initially swatting it away, I finally removed my eye mask to find a Cathay Pacific stewardess on her knees holding an iPhone in her hand, barely visible in the dim glow of the night cabin. Was it ours? Having found it abandoned, she was following safety procedures and steadily plodding her way through the entire plane trying to find the owner. Once upon a time this would have simply been good customer service. Nowadays it’s because it could be packed with explosives.
I will be relieved when we land.