Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Glitter For Brains' World Tour! Part I

The most horrific thing about aeroplanes is not the fear of the wing falling off. Nor is it the mystery worthy of Jonathan Creek where they bring you menus describing delicious pasta and lamb dishes that are somehow stolen in this tight, enclosed box and substituted by brownish gruel in a tiny foil-wrapped bowl. By far worse than this is being squeezed next to indignant old people for fourteen hours.

Meet Martha and George, as I did, on the 14-hour journey from Singapore to London, the coda to my fabulous world trip. They were not travelling together, but had already bonded over the drugs they were taking and the fact that they had both requested the isle seat. That I had also requested and got.

Now, I do enjoy the isle seat. I enjoy the freedom. It’s a statistical fact that there’s a wailing infant somewhere on the plane, so I take the opportunity to travel to first class and prod the tike up there while everyone is asleep. The stewards don’t mind; they are in the galley enjoying a good toke on the top-notch ganja they scored in Japan. I also enjoy the nominal leg room the isle seat offers. Both Martha and George had been through the boil wash that all old people go through and were now a compact five-foot-two apiece. They didn’t need the isle seat, they just like complaining about it, with Martha going the full gamut and ordering ‘special meals’ because she couldn’t be bothered with the inedible slop they were feeding us, instead getting other inedible slop and thinking she’s special.

So. She tutted and fussed, and George made a great show about his leg seizing up simply because he couldn’t put it out in the isle to be run over by the duty free trolley. “You’re a strapping young lad,” said Martha, pointedly, which was the obvious point I was meant to immediately relinquish this possession, scatter some rose petals on the lumpy seat and usher onto her new throne.

“Why thank you very much,” said I. “I do like to work out,” and gave her my best winning smile that would hopefully remind her of her grandson. You know, the one that never married and decorated his whole house himself.

In retrospect, the whole thing was thoroughly ridiculous. It was becoming like an Italian turf war, over something so trivial. But as you’re cramped into this death-defying tube at 30,000 feet, somehow what little space you have becomes frighteningly important. From Martha and George, the resentment came in waves. So I hunkered down, popped on some headphones and listened to some classical music - at which point the war took a dirty turn. Martha did something that I initially thought was below her from the semi-cordial chat we had at the commencement of the flight. She played the incontinence card.

Every thirty minutes, she tapped me brusquely on the shoulder like the pecking sparrow she so resembled, and announced ‘I need to go again’. Be it in the middle of a movie, or – criminally – during meal times, up I had to somehow get to let the old battleaxe past so she could split the whiskers. The finer points of Rowan Atkinson’s over-egged ‘comic’ performance in Love Actually were lost to me as the duration was spent letting Martha get enough space to manoeuvre her squat little frame to the toilet.

And the whole time she’d been there, there had been a very familiar smell emanating from her; a sweet, cloying odour that clung to the back of the throat. I later recognised it on her fifth trippette as a feminine hygiene product - mainly because it had failed completely by this point. And with Martha being completely unable to ‘dab the lettuce’ on her exit from the toilet, she was beginning to smell very ‘little old lady’. Add to this the way she stayed sitting in my chair a lot longer than she had to before shuffling herself along, and the dirty tricks were now in full force. Well, one simply has to fight back, and I called in my last resort. Before I had left, Sue had given me a variation on tamazapan to take in the hope of actually getting some sleep on an airplane. Oh bliss, if I took it, I’d be out like a light for at least two hours. You wouldn’t be able to move me, rouse me or prod me awake.

I just waited until she’d had the fifth cup of tea from her thermos, strapped on my sequined eye-mask and popped it.

I stirred just under an hour and a half later, gradually becoming aware of a pain in my shoulder as if I’d been attacked by a woodpecker. I languishly raised my eye-mask and looked at my watch.

“Oh, thank goodness!” came the sotto voice beside me. “Any longer and I would have had to have used this bottle!”

My eyelids drooped again, with the tazzie swilling around for a second go. A second kick of the warm and fuzzy feeling, and I slowly pulled down my eye-mask once again. Just five more minutes.

Oh, just five more minutes.

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