Restless Magic

By allrite on September 26, 2019


Posted in: Durians and Jewels

This journey began with a durian. That giant spiky maggot yellow fleshed and putrid stinky so called king of the fruits, though it in fact calls to be deposed from its membership of that order by violent revolution. Is it a reflection on me that my wife loves both it and I?

Her brother-in-law brought some durian to a neighbour’s dinner, so my wife B desired more. Not wanting its pungent and cloying stench to pollute our abode, I suggested that I purchase cheap Scoot or AirAsiaX tickets for her so that she could eat it fresh from the source. After all, the prices for frozen durian, for some reason sold in the local supermarket, aren’t that much less than the cheapest fares.

Somehow this suggestion morphed into plans for a family trip during the next school holidays.

So here I am with my ten year old son Alex at the Stamford Plaza Hotel in a room overlooking the domestic terminals of Sydney Airport. My wife, B, will join us later after she finishes work, travelling direct from the city.

It’s a near perfect view for an aviation fan and, hey, there’s even a train line below the window. I should be excited at the start of a big adventure.

Instead I’m flustered, anxious and exhausted.

Every day of leave is precious, so I’m still nominally working. I have managed to get online only fifteen minutes late for our team meeting after giving up on the bus from home and driving instead. Tomorrow I have to drive back and do a do a dozen tasks before heading back to the airport to stay at another hotel.

And that’s still not all.

I like to say that holidays should begin with exhaustion to make them feel worthwhile. It’s been a massive six months or more. I’ve just delivered a massive set of projects, graded to second kyu in karate after up to nine hours a week in the dojo and much else besides. So I’m bloody exhausted now. And it’s going to take me a while to let go.

Meanwhile I’m worried about the dog, the house, turbulence and trying to ensure everybody has a good holiday, not just me.

The reason we are staying at the Stamford is not for me, but for B and Alex. They are flying up to Singapore via Melbourne a day before me as I’ve got a prior commitment. Their flight departs at seven AM. I could have driven them from home, but Sydney’s traffic is risky. Also, Alex loved our two previous early morning departures from this hotel, this is his dream as well.

Me, I would have loved to be able to sleep in, but we are up at a quarter past five and half an hour later are walking in the dark to Terminal 2. It’s not quite as early as for the Jetstar flights to Queensland and onwards to Japan, but it is early in the school holidays so we need to be prepared for a crowd.

Indeed there is a crowd, though it seems to be moving. I’ve already checked Alex and B in online and so we just need to print out bag tags from the automated kiosk. Then join the line for the bag queue. After that, the multiple long lines through security.

All done, we are into the shopping centre, err, airside of the terminal. The food court is stirring, but I have purchased the Plus package for B and Alex’s tickets and that means that get $10 credit each on the domestic leg and $15 on the international segment. That’s rather a lot for a one and a half hour flight, considering the selection. So they choose to wait for breakfast and we head to the gate. But not without stopping at the new Lego shop first!

The flight is delayed by about 45 minutes. On the plus side that means more time together. In the negative, no chance to go back to sleep in the hotel room. The dark sky brightens as dawn arrives and the crowd of passengers head aboard, including Alex and B.

I stand at the window, waiting. The last few stragglers head through the airbridge or cross the tarmac, depending on their location. There are final calls and threats of offloadings on other flights nearby and I wonder at the passengers’ excuses for their delay. Is it the congestion and failure that is Sydney’s roads and public transport? Perhaps it was the crowds at check in? Or were they selfishly just shopping and taking their sweet time? It’s none of my business.

Finally the rear stairs and airbridge are withdrawn and the Jetstar Airbus A320 backs away from the gate.

I walk to the circular end of the pier, where the Tigers and their prey lurk. I’ve never flown Tigerair. Never had much of need to that couldn’t be satisfied by their alternatives and the Tigerair branding doesn’t entice. I think they need a rebrand.

A mother and her two kids try to squeeze in for a selfie. I offer to take the photo for them, thinking of Alex and B as I do.

Their aircraft waits for its turn to taxi, lets other aircraft pass, then slowly trundles away, out towards the distant third runway. I silently wish them a safe and happy flight and head back.

I feel that I should at least inspect the shops. I have this fantasy, one that I have had in one form or another since childhood, of going to the airport with only the clothes on my back, my wallet and phone and making do with whatever I can purchase there or on the holiday. It’s a rather silly and expensive fantasy, because I have travelled so many times that I already have virtually everything that I could need sitting in wardrobes and cupboards at home. But there are a some things that I still need for this trip.

I couldn’t find my swimming togs at home. I feel like reading a book. Maybe constructing something craft or electronics related in a hotel room, calming the mind. Keeping a scrapbook of the trip instead of just a blog. I keep promising myself that I’ll do that. Never do.

I look in the Lego shop, the newsagent, electronics store. Come away with nothing but a couple of snacks for breakfast, but another half and hour has gone by the time I am walking back to the Stamford. Too late to watch B and Alex taking off into the sky.

Check out is not until 11 AM. I complete a few work tasks on my laptop, then grab half an hour’s sleep, drifting off to relaxing music played over portable stereo speakers. Small though they are, in the interests of minimising weight and packing I’ll have to leave them at home to be replaced by a single, lighter, version in my bag.

After I check out I find that my car is blocked in by another in the basement car park. The concierge sorts it out and I drive out of the hotel. My intention is to go to the shopping centre at Miranda for my swimsuit and other things, but the roadworks around the airport make everything confusing and I miss the ideal turn-off. So I just head straight home. B and Alex call me from Melbourne. They made it safely and without hassle, but their onwards flight is delayed.

Alex is a bit upset that he didn’t get to use the Qantas lounge. After our Europe trip he made Silver frequent flyer status, which includes a complimentary lounge voucher. I could have gifted B mine as well, but judged the connection to be too short. Unfortunately, they need to be pre-booked 24 hours or more ahead.

At home I repack bags, bring in the washing, throw rubbish, monitor incoming work tasks, eventually switch off electronics and lock the doors. Finally free to go!

I lock the doors and step outside into a warm sunny day. My journey starts now. I should be excited, soaking up the quiet suburban atmosphere, gazing down the Georges River valley towards the city and airport, feeling the anticipation of adventure.

No, I’m still tense. I have to hurry to make the bus, the wheels of my roller bag clattering rhythmically against the concrete path, disturbing the midday silence. I am rushing to the airport, but not towards a flight.

Bus, train, they are just a commute. They could be more. They are not. I step out at the International Airport station, take the escalator up into the light and cross the road to the Rydges Sydney Airport hotel.

This is the same hotel that we had such a horrible sleep on their so-called “Dreambeds” last year. They only have to cope with the weight of one tonight. Despite me booking online, the hotel appears to have mixed up my dates of stay. Fortunately, I have proof and status and I get my room with a great view of the runway.

My flight tomorrow morning is late enough that I could probably have gone direct from my home to the airport. But I have a concert to attend tonight at the Sydney Opera House: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in Concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and won’t be back until late.

Besides which, I always like staying in a hotel near the airport before a flight. It can be difficult to relax at home, whereas once at the hotel you are already packed and without all the options and distractions of your own house.

Almost already packed. As I did this morning, I go down to the airport shops and try to find that swimsuit, to imagine that I am here without any luggage with the intellectual challenge of making do with whatever is available.

Modern big city international airport terminals are rather like shopping malls, but with a more eclectic range of goods for sale. On the any-can-visit land side are the more regular shops, the post office, the pharmacy, newsagent. Last minute souvenirs, luggage for those that arrive and suddenly need to pack more.

There is a surf shop, but it doesn’t have the style I want. I’m both hungry through a lack of lunch and feeling queasy due to anxiety and stress. In the end I just eat a couple of rice paper rolls and watch passengers and crew stride through the glass corridor between the food court and the tarmac, silhouette shadow stories silently staged against a backdrop of big jets arriving and departing, carrying them away to distant sets.

Small vignettes abound in airports. Families saying their farewells to loved ones as they set out on adventures or return home. Tourists young and old carry stories back with them or setting out to make new ones. Tour groups dutifully playing follow the leader. Business passengers determined to reach the airline lounge as quickly as possible, resigned to the interruption to their lives and business that is flying.

I can’t find my own story here right now, so I head back to my hotel room. Though compact, the room is clean and comfortable. The window has views of the northern end of the main runway, overlooking the gates where the big A380s and Boeing 747s dock. Imagine being one of those passengers, scurrying down those long corridors, about to board a very long flight to the Americas or Asia and Europe.

By the time the aircraft pass my window they are already rising into the air. I stare into the windows, try to put myself into the heads of the passengers. What are they feeling now? Nervous? Excited?

Much as I’d like to just relax here and watch the planes take-off, I’ve got business in the city to attend to. A train takes me to Town Hall station, the journey mostly underground. There is a greater selection of shops in the city than in the airport and I find my small satchel to replace the one that broke a few days ago. I guess people really are going cashless as none of the outdoor stores seem to sell travel wallets anymore and the shopkeeper at Kathmandu is rather surprised to see the old wallet I had bought from them a few years ago. Thankfully the Japanese still use a lot of cash and Muji has something suitable.

Despite this being the middle of winter, Rebel Sport still sell swimsuits, and I am now all set for the trip. I hurry through the darkening city streets, still crowded though the offices are closing for the week. I want to catch the pre-concert talk and the Sydney Opera House is quite far from Town Hall.

There is no pre-concert talk. I have a lonely hour of gazing over the harbour through the big windows at the rear of the opera house. The gigantic structure of Sydney Harbour Bridge is lit blue in support of the New South Wales rugby league team in their State of Origin match against Queensland and beneath it is the dazzling amusement ride lights of Luna Park.

All these elements are part of my imaginings of a perfect trip. I’m still not feeling it.

The concert is wonderful, the Harry Potter movies an excellent distraction, although they feel so disconnected from the upcoming trip, for Hogwarts is definitely not part of Asia. During the interval I use the Flight Radar app to track B and Alex’s descent into Singapore, watching them arc across southern Malaysia. The elderly couple next to me think I’m checking the State of Origin score!

My return to Sydney Airport is just before the 11 PM curfew and so too late for spotting anything, but as I exit the building there is a great roar as a rather delayed A380, QF1, heads up into the sky, bound for Singapore and London. I hope it doesn’t herald any problem for my own Qantas flight to Singapore tomorrow.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *