Far, far away
And so I fly from Sydney to Paris via Singapore and London. There are delays with all connections; one of my bags disappears and joins me after three days. Mais, voila, I am in France and who could be too downcast.
Well, the driver booked to take me from the airport to Bordeaux has disappeared and I really don’t blame him, as my negotiations with the lost luggage desk have been complicated and time-consuming, involving a rubber stamp, triplicate forms and a chap in a peaked cap. The driver has my mobile number and texts me “Sorry, is now lunch”. Of course.
Eventually we meet up and hit the road. By now, I have been travelling for more than 30 hours and am a tiny bit fractious. My eyes are red and small like those of a fox and my hair has unravelled into corkscrews, which seems madly appropriate as I slide out of the vehicle at our destination and almost fall into the arms of the chateau’s winemaker. “How was your trip, Madame? You are not tired, I hope?” I explain I have been flying for ...
But now he is out of earshot, greeting other journalists who’ve arrived from closer climes.
“Ah, Susan, meet Melanie, she is exhausted, just like you!” Melanie has flown from Gatwick and needs to lie down. The man from Prague has a headache. The photographer from Marseilles can’t possibly start work until he has had a shower and a change of clothes. Alors, there is time to freshen up. “Ten minutes, Susan and Melanie!”
I emerge on the dot. Melanie sashays in about half an hour later. “Oh poor Melanie, you are still tired?” asks our concerned host. “Please sit down. More champagne?” She looks at me accusingly as I snuffle a snort.
It is impossible, I reckon, to explain to people who live in more connected lands (Europe, especially) just what an ordeal it is to fly long-haul. Those carefree continentals cross borders for breakfast, sashay from London to Paris for lunch, speed about on terrifyingly fast trains.
When visiting my relatives in Cornwall, they are riveted by matters of distance and duration. The notion of Australia is synonymous with Mars. “It took you HOW long?” they ask, every time, and always with fresh wonder. A neighbour drops in. “You remember our Susan?” say my aunt and uncle. “Oh do I ever!” replies Mrs Next Door. “That’ll be your Susan who flies 24 hours.” The conversation rarely advances. They all stare at me, nodding, as if I am an exotic species just landed, blown off a migratory course.
Back at the chateau, the wine weekend is turning out to be a companionable hoot. Melanie eventually forgets to yawn extravagantly and the photographer from Marseilles perks up considerably after wine with lunch.
I am enjoying the odd notoriety of being the one who has travelled the most hours until I am introduced to Denise. “Come far, have you?” I ask, a trifle smugly. “Heard of Invercargill, New Zealand?” she mutters. “Have you any idea ... “
Touche, as they say thereabouts.