We sat on the pavement, 5 people, 10 massive suitcases and our hand luggage. It had all gone smoothly so far until the shuttle bus turned up, I had explained that there were five of us and we each had 2 huge suitcases and hand luggage, so they send something 2 sizes too small.
I phoned the taxi firm.
“The bus is too small”
“But there are only five of you”
“I told you we had heaps of luggage and we would need something pretty large, or a trailer”.
“I’m afraid there’s not much we can do, everything is booked”
“I will get another taxi firm to sort it, bye..”
“Oh! Wait, sir, we have a 20 seater round the corner, it is only picking up 3 people, put your driver on the phone please”
The big rig arrived and we took one last glance at our house in the mid-morning English sunshine. There were no tears, no fond farewells and no regrets and no-one to wave us off, the farewell parties had all been very drunken affairs, at one I drank so much tequila I started hallucinating, I think most of our friends were in no fit state go anywhere.
It was done, the ultimate life laundry, Mrs Jafa and I had reduced 19 years of marriage to 64 kgs each, the kids, 19 & 14 years of life respectively and for me personally, 42 years of life on this earth honed down into 3 suitcases (and a cardboard box, stashed at my mother’s).
Chas (father in law) had cheated and condensed his ¾ of a century into 3 bags and half a container but he had more crap than us.
It was a gloriously sunny day, the English weather Gods had turned on their best show for us and we were all becoming absorbed into our own private thoughts as we watched the Downside Estate slip by for the last time.
Chas was probably worried sick about whether he had made the right decision but he worries all the time about everything so I couldn’t take that on board.
Mrs Jafa, not a backwards glance, no regrets and no intentions of ever having any, the English class system had treated her badly and she couldn’t give a rat’s arse if England sank without trace the moment we took off, you gotta hand it to Mrs Jafa, she may spend a lot of time fence-sitting but when her mind is made up……
The Boy, who knows what he thought, I dare say he was expecting his immediate future to consist of lots of casual sex (not to be confused with causal sex, that’s something entirely different!) and cheap beer but he is a deep dark horse and it may be years before I ever find out.
The Hormones, 14 and a very sociable creature, she was imagining a house in the middle of nowhere with Maori’s on the beach and worrying about what her new school would be like.
Me? I was hoping the M25 wasn’t about to grind to a halt, emotionally I had switched off weeks ago, Feb 25th to be exact (it was now 6th May), the day I heard I had got the job and I was just going through the motions but life currently looked like it was shot on 8mm film and I could feel the memories being burnt into my brain.
It all felt very fated, the M25 traffic seemed to part like the Red Sea did for the children of Israel and we were soon in the manic hell-hole known as LHR
It really doesn’t matter where one is flying to, or why one is going there, a long queue to check-in at LHR
is the same every time you do it, seemingly chaotic and static but in reality a living entity of humankind, slowly and inexorably surging toward the weigh-in like a sluggish tide.
We had a minor hiccup due to ANZ having the wrong surname down for The Boy (he is my step-son) but it was sorted without any panic, we all headed off to acquire some food, I took the kids to “Muck Dees” and Mrs Jafa took her father off to somewhere that actually sold food.
I could tell The Hormones was nervous, she kept clamping her lips together and inflating the front part of her mouth, something she does in times of stress, it was harder to tell with The Boy as he hadn’t seen daylight for weeks and so looked dazed and out of sorts.
We tracked down the other two and joined the queue for the x-ray machines that lead eventually to the departure lounge.
Apart from two lighters, a craft knife and a pair of compasses, we emerged into the departure lounge basically intact; the melee of humanity was beginning to wear me out, so many people, so much happening!
We took turns guarding the hand-luggage as the entire family visited the restrooms in rotation, I spent my allotted time pondering on how many people I had left without saying goodbye to properly and gave up as my attention wandered to why airport loos always feel like airport loos even though they could be anywhere.
The Hormones needed retail therapy so I took her to look for bottled water, teenage magazines and something cheap and useless, we returned with the water, a copy of Just 17 and a wordsearch book.
Mrs Jafa looked ready to throttle her dad as he invaded her space and rambled on incessantly about some people we have never met.
The time to go to the gate arrived; our family shambled down the corridor and spilled into the lounge.
-NBU sat in the May sunshine looking well travelled and enormous, The Hormones was impressed, The Boy tried hard not to be and Mrs Jafa phoned her auntie in Milton Keynes. I struck a conversation with the woman next to me, who was also emigrating with her hubby and two kids, bizzarely enough, she ended up living round the corner to us in NZ
, we can see her roof from our deck!
But at this point she was just the mother of the little boy who had tried to run under the safety rail, which caught him smack in the forehead and I winced as his feet carried on forwards and upwards, his tiny body slapped down onto the carpet like a sack of dead cats, he wailed and wailed but showed remarkable resilience and the larger the bump grew, the quieter he got.
Boarding time!!! Row 56 became our temporary home, except for Chas who was tucked up in Business Class, hooray!!
The interior of NZ
jets is all pacific looking, with those bluey-greens (Paua?) so you feel relaxed and on NZ
The Boy looked at our row of 4 seats and asked horrified: “Is that all the room we get?”
I reassured him that there were no hammocks in this end of the a/c, he wasn’t too happy, a restless sitter at the best of times and awake during daylight to add to the sins of his parents and this wrench from his comfort zone!
I gave him the aisle seat, Mrs Jafa the other and I took centre-left, so that I formed an insurmountable barrier of flesh, bone and attitude between him and The Hormones, they have given me 14 years of back-seat hell in various cars…”Dad! He’s sitting on MY
side…no I’m not you bitch…I’m in the middle!....Waaah, He pinched me….well she started it!.....” You know the drill, well I wasn’t about to inflict that on my fellow pax, I like to travel unobtrusively, except for my divine aftershave that is!
came in with The Boy’s correctly named ticket, as a family we loaded the seat pocket with bottles of water, sweets, magazines and books, I had “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” a very apt leaving present from one of my more high maintenance staff members, who believes it is every girl’s divine right to be so…and I am not about to argue the point…I have two daughters!
The Hormones isn’t massively keen on take-offs, she has only flown twice before, once to Guernsey and once back again, her tiny hands gripped the arms of her seat, all pale and delicate, The Boy shuffled about and looked uncomfortable (a look he managed to sustain for the next 26 hours), Mrs Jafa sat there impassive, regarding the flight to be a minor inconvenience on the way to paradise, I sat there, head twisted to the side like a demented bouncer (I have the right beard for it) gawping out through the window across the aisle.
That wonderful thrusting I had experienced for the first time….is this the right story?....only two months before, hurled us skyward, family Jafa heaved a collective sigh….we were on our way, only a stroppy incident at LAX
could stop us from getting to NZ
I started reading “8 Simple Rules” and for the next few hours laughed my ass off, I kept nudging the Hormones, tears rolling down my cheeks with laughing, she tried to pretend she understood and laughed politely.
At one point I went forward to check on Chas in Business Class, back in Feb this had been no problem. A sweaty ginger-headed boy of an FA
barred my ingress through the curtain.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked in a Scottish accent and none too politely I might add!
“To check on my father-in-law, he’s 75 you know” I answered politely.
“Well you can’t!”
“They let me last time we flew”
“People pay a lot of money to be in there away…” He checked himself
“Away from people like me do you mean?” I pressed home the advantage, not because I need to win but because the opportunity to win had arisen.
“Well I’ll have you know that I am a relative, I won’t use the loo, sit down, breathe the air or in anyway upset the splendid isolation these people find themselves in but for your information, money is not a guarantee of good breeding, now will you let me go through or would you like me to ask the purser?”
I must add that this is the only time I have ever had dealings of a sticky nature with an NZ FA
, they are almost all utterly marvellous and understanding.
“Ok sir, but don’t be too long, or make a habit of it.”
“I can assure you that I never spend longer than is necessary in the company of my in-laws.”
He tried to smile but his face started to crack so he sucked it up, nipped his butt cheeks a few notches tighter and went and reported me to the purser.
The purser was a frosty bugger too but when I explained that I was related to the person I wished to visit and mentioned that other crews (NZ2) had had no issue with the arrangements she softened a touch and said (and I am paraphrasing) that riff-raff like me were normally not allowed through the curtain but as I hadn’t punched the FA
or raised my voice she would allow us to visit the old sod at will...but don’t touch anything!!!! Of course, if I had mentioned just which member of an old and powerful European family was at the head of the organisation I allegedly work for, she may have been less fusty but I don’t name drop unless the police are involved, and even then I try to avoid it.
I went to see Chas, the FA
on the other side of the curtain (the posh side) was a sweetie, she had no problem with me being there (I apologised profusely for the intrusion), offered me water and indicated where the loo’s were; now that IS
Chas was fine, he was fairly disorientated and called me by someone else’s name but that isn’t so unusual, he was happy, comfy and not too bewildered.
When Greenland had been and gone and we were over Canada I was out of my seat, the others followed; we gawped at the tundra in unison while Mrs Jafa took the opportunity to lie across all four seats.
It all looked a bit different to last time, the thaw had progressed and there were lots of slushy swampy bits, I could only wonder at how bad the mossies were down there.
The landing in LAX
wasn’t super-smooth but you won’t find me complaining, 300 tons of metal, beggars belief how they get the thing to land without just going “Splat!” and bending.
!!!!!!!! The air looked pink, I don’t know if this is a result of light refraction or pollution or the time of day but the air was most decidedly pink…which was nice.
What was nicer still was that the rumours were true...the Transit lounge was open again!!!!!! Yay!! Oh joy of joys!
We staggered in, seedy and bleary, grabbed the Air NZ
coffee and cookies and dodged the people with their heads down the toilet hauling an a crafty ciggie before someone shoved a truncheon up their arse and hauled them off for “Anti-American Activities”, one guy found a stray power outlet near the loos and plugged his lap-top in to charge up, arms folded, defiant as if to say “No, I wont unplug it” or even “I am sooo cool, I have a laptop!”.
The kids found their way to the TV
and watched American Idol as Mrs Jafa and I curled up together on the floor, behind the security desk, spooned together like tired and worn out porn stars, blissfully detached from the filth and shite that inhabited the carpet, the ability to stretch out and lay horizontal overcame all other considerations, decorum, dignity, risk management and health issues, all could go to hell as we grabbed the most longed-for and therapeutic 45 minutes of sleep that any man or woman right back to Adam and Eve ever had……..
We awoke because the vibe had changed; stuff was occurring, or about to occur. As we swam back into consciousness the strip lights seemed to be brighter, the carpet redder than before and the pungent smell of ground-in dirt became noticeable. We sat up, groggy but rested, sought out the Kids, made sure Chas was alive and with our numbered plastic paddles in hand started to re-board.
Push back, take off, woosh and away we go, a meal was served, quite what meal it was I cannot recall, sort of brunkfastupper or whatever, it was yummy though and I had The Boy’s brown thing as he never eats what he can’t identify, yet he likes Pizza….hmmmm, curious…..
is a long, long haul, all this talk of 18 hour ultra long-haul routes you see on a.net…you can keep them. Doing LHR
for the second time in 8 weeks just makes it worse, damn it’s a trial.
I did my usual wandering about the cabin, blagging water off the FA
’s or hot chocolate, staring out of the window, hiding in the toilets and reading but my butt just couldn’t cope, it really was hurting.
After a prolonged session on the rear door jump-seat I managed to stay in my seat long enough to watch “About Schmidt” or something like that, Jack Nicholson film, he’s always watchable. During this time The Hormones curled up on my lap, head by my knees, bum in my stomach and feet on Mrs Jafa, thumb in gob, Slipknot hoody pulled over her head, bless….oh to be so small that you can do that!
This new team of FA
’s were a very jolly bunch, going home you see! They let us go see Chas whenever we wanted, brought round water and were so accommodating I wondered if the boss had phoned them up……….
You know, the FA
’s make or break a flight, especially long-haul, it must be hard to be nice when you probably feel like shit and can’t just kick your shoes off, scratch your belly and have a good fart whenever you please, this bunch were a credit to the profession and I stood by the kitchen area in the middle and had a long chat with one of them, she was genuinely interested in our move, asked about the kids and made hot-chocolate.
Well, as with all ordeals it ended, the oxygen was turned up, breakfast was served, and we made to descend.
This is when The Boy’s delicate constitution really came into his own, he started a nose bleed as soon as we made headway into the descent, not just a little bleed, he was pouring the stuff! We patched him up with bog-roll but it just dissolved in his hands, a very kind person across the aisle gave him some “real” tissues and he at least managed to stop making a total mess of the upholstery. FA
’s came and gave him advice on how not to bleed so hard and apart from looking like death on a stick he survived the descent.
Mrs Jafa had a bout of “Landing ears” so I did reflexology on her to alleviate the pressure and pain. The Hormones was practically vibrating with anticipation and we all retreated into our private thoughts again, in 20 minutes the dreams, the worries, the plans, the fantasy would all become reality, the wondering was about to end and The Jafa’s were about to integrate themselves into Kiwi culture, The Boy was more hoping for some form of impregnation I fear, The Hormones was hoping the neighbour’s had a 15 year old surfer-dude son with blonde dread-locks and nice legs, I was hoping to make my mark within the organisation and hopefully take over the CEO’s job at some point (15 months later it actually happened) Mrs Jafa was hoping the curtains were nice and already plotting to paint the living room walls a combination of “Paprika” and “String” (now there’s an amusing story, some other time maybe).
We landed, smooth landing, soft and gentle, like the breeze that greeted us.
As we rambled into baggage-claim I sidled over, with Mrs Jafa in tow, to the free coffee stand.
“G’day mate! You back again?”
“You were here a couple of months back; I recognise that jacket of yours” (A Lowe Alpine Climbers Hoody).
“Cool bro, that’s amazing!”
“You back to stay?”
Customs was a lark, I had 32 kgs of Crampons, Ice-Axes, Ropes and assorted paraphernalia and MAF
wanted to clean and repack my tent and my walking boots, this took no time at all and was free! And they made a damn good job of packing the tent!
None of us had any apples stashed so we escaped further scrutiny.
The shuttle was waiting for us and we cruised through the dawn, up Highway 20, East along Manukau Rd and onto Highway 1 at Gillies Ave. We stopped to ring the Real Estate Agent, who was not properly awake and carried on for another 36 kms to our new house, we pulled into the drive and Mrs Jafa exclaimed: “Is this our house?”
“Of course, you saw the photos”
“Didn’t think it was this big!!”
“Bet you say that to all the boys”
Half an hour later as we sat on the deck, eating pies, waiting for the keys to arrive, The Hormones piped up: “This is like so weird Dad…it’s not like we’ve gone anywhere, it doesn’t feel strange…its like we’ve come home…….”
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....