I was about half way through my journey, sitting on the toilet (don’t worry, that’s all the detail you’re gonna get), when it occurred to me that this was probably one of the worst journeys I have made.
Leaving the Philippines was the tough part: I had assumed my ride to the Port would be late and factored that in; I was prepared for some consternation at Caticlan Airport regarding the amount of luggage I was carrying and had bought extra pesos and a bright smile in preparation. I travelled on an early flight to ensure I would have plenty of time to sort out potential problems at Manila... unfortunately I lost my head start due to the airport shuttle being so late. Incidentally, the airport shuttle was run by two, very cheerful, Black Sabbath fans. So my journey to Terminal 1 was accompanied by Paranoid at full volume, complete with singing along and air guitar (yes, from the driver), which was quite surreal.
The problems started at Manila check-in. They couldn’t check me in because I had too much luggage, no it wasn’t about money, and they might not be able to allow me on the flight. They had to check with the BA representative... who wasn’t here. This was not good.
"Come back later," they said. I hovered next to check-in looking anxious. Finally the BA Rep arrived; he said he would look in the Operations Manual. I suggested it would be quicker to ring Head Office in Hong Kong. He was quite rebuffed; he said he would find it in the Manual. The Manual looked suspiciously like a coffee table. I pointed out that it was already nearly 5pm and my flight left at 5.55. He looked hurt. 20 minutes passed.
"Is diving gear a sporting equipment?" he asked.
"It could be..." I replied warily,
"Because you can get extra 23kg allowance for a sporting equipment"
"Of course it’s sporting equipment!" I said "Great! So can I check in?"
Then, he wanted to call Head Office to confirm. I finally checked in at 5.10 and hurried through to join the queue at Customs. It was a long queue and when I got to the front I was missing one form. Curses. I was sent to join another queue. My paperwork was quickly sorted, but the Official wanted to reprimand me for forgetting the correct paperwork. I grovelled, she lectured... at 5.35 the man behind me in the queue leaned over,
"Excuse me," he said to the Customs Official "but they are calling her name, she has to go!"
"I do really have to go!" I said apologetically, "Do I have to queue again?"
"Yes" said the official, finally giving me passport and steely glare.
"No," said my new friend, he pointed to a small gap at the side of the barrier, "run through there" he said, "they won’t notice."
So I ran through a small gap in the barrier and no one stopped me. International terrorists take note. I reached the Gate at 5.45pm and the Airline staff also reprimanded me. I responded with a steely glare and requested a large Gin & Tonic, which helped.
When I arrived at the Transfer desk in Hong Kong and showed them my ticket, they laughed.
“Oh that flight isn’t going,” she said happily. But they put me up in a hotel (I’ve never stayed in a proper hotel before, it was quite exciting) so it wasn’t too bad. Needless to say, the housekeeping staff were falling over themselves to lock my mini bar - it seems they had me sussed. My stomach problems started that night, oh joy.
The last 12 hours to London actually weren’t as bad as they could have been! I had three seats to myself. That's practically Business Class!
Upon arrival in Blighty, I managed to stay awake until nightfall and woke up the following morning, confused and jet-lagged, to the strangest sound. What is that? I wondered as I slowly regained consciousness. It was loud and unusual, but strangely familiar... it was birdsong. The island, where I’ve been living, has no birds! It’s not something I’ve thought about in ages, and birdsong is something I’ve forgotten to miss. But here it is and it’s lovely.