Judging by the farts I was doing on Sunday night I reckoned I was in with a 75% chance of being crook the next morning, as I fell asleep I remember thinking…”probably miss the flight, won’t matter, plane might not make it.”
Such random and unbidden thoughts are a trifle disturbing but I woke at 05:30 next morning with no recollection of the thought but concern instead for the weather forecast, it was looking shite for the Hawkes Bay area.
But go I must so after the usual bout of standing in my office looking at nothing in particular hoping to spot some item I might have otherwise forgotten I patted Mrs Jafa, kissed the cats and stumbled out of the door into a still, clear morning.
Usual smooth run through to AKL
where I selected the long-term car park as I was in plenty of time for NZ8405, which would be boarding at 08:25.
To get from long-term to AKL
domestic, one has to follow the blue and white lines past AKL
International but I am an ardent people watcher and so usually choose to walk through the International terminal and see who is flying where.
At this early hour you are guaranteed a sizeable gaggle of pale-looking Poms, bewildered and smelling none to good, staggering off of NZ1, thinking “WTF?” and “TSA
morons”, some will be in tears after being fined $200 for being in possession of a foreign apple…apples are the axis of evil and the nearest thing we get to terrorists in NZ
, the Painted Apple Moth carries with it the seeds of destruction for a large portion of the NZ
economy….or the part of it that isn’t knee-deep in sheep poo that is.
There will be Kiwis, returning from their OE (Gap year travels), kissing the ground with a heartfelt “Yis” and declaring that it is “choice” to be home, away from Tony B Liar, warm beer, Pork Scratchings and ruddy-faced northerners with ferrets down their trousers, not to mention being back in a land where it is almost impossible to buy a Burberry cap.
Today we had all that and more, as I passed the check-in desks I came upon a group of fa'afafine, not sure if they have conferences for these people but to explain what one is……
“Samoa's social acceptance of fa'afafine has evolved from the tradition of raising some boys as girls. These boys, were not necessarily homosexual, or noticeably effeminate, and they may never have felt like dressing as women. They became transvestites because they were born into families that had plenty of boys and not enough girls.
In families of all male children (or where the only daughter was too young to assist with the 'women's' work), parents would often choose one or more of their sons to help the mother. Because these boys would perform tasks that were strictly the work of women they were raised as if they were female. Although their true gender was widely known, they would usually be dressed as girls.
As they grew older, their duties would not change. They would continue performing 'women's' work, even if they eventually married (which would be to a woman).
Modern fa'afafine differ in two fundamental ways from their traditional counterparts. First, they are more likely to have chosen to live as women, and, secondly, they are more likely to be homosexual. These days, young Samoan boys who appear effeminate, or enjoy dressing as girls, may be recognised as fa'afafine by their parents. If they are, they will usually be neither encouraged nor discouraged to dress and behave as women. They will simply be allowed to follow the path they choose. “
So if you see a gaggle of what appear to be drag queens (and these might have been) well, you learnt about it here.
There were a couple of women in the group and that is what made the fa'afafine stand out so much…like balls on a dog.
Further down the row of desks a Pakeha (white) woman was ferreting around in the cleaners sack, which was hanging off the bright yellow cart they use, she looked at me looking at her, whipped her hands away, looked sheepish and left abruptly through the doors…I wondered if she might be a “Freegan”, searching for sanitary towels or chewing gum to recycle.
Back in the outdoors I wandered past the serried ranks of aircraft, a cargo 747 having its belly emptied, plus the usual QF
and ANZ suspects, loitering with intent.
Over by the fuel tanks I caught a morning whiff of Jet A1 and subtle undertones of diesel (Air Chathams got some Junkers 88’s from somewhere??), this set me up for the day and I started to think about breakfast….
The express kiosks didn’t refer me to anywhere else so I took this as a sign that all was well in the Hawkes Bay, dumped my bags with the charming bag kiosk girl, who predictable asked if I had a laptop in the laptop bag I gave her and was happy to note that I didn’t, it was just “wires and shit”.
“People’s whole lives are in their laptops and they don’t take kindly to being whacked with an iron bar as they go through the conveyors”
I pondered this approach to baggage handling and wondered if there might be a gentler way of making it all fit in the hold.
I won’t talk about breakfast as I always do that, except that I took my bacon back as it was dry and scuzzy tasting, like the ear from too-old road-kill, but without the tyre tread marks.
I was rewarded with a nice pink new piece that was juicy and fresh.
I had a leisurely read of the paper and drank my hot vegemite until the time came to lurk up by the “40 gates”, I wasn’t there long before the call came but I just had time to catch a call to “all Wellington pax requiring land transport to Hamilton”….this meant that yet again Hamilton was weather-bound, we have a Board Member in Hamilton and he only makes 1 out of 3 board meetings due to flight delays and cancellations.
I was first through the entrance and strode out under the tin roofed walkway into the bright sunshine to ZK
-NEA, the longest- serving of all the new Q300’s at Air New Zealand.
As usual the fatigue hit me like a hammer-blow and I was barely conscious throughout the taxi and take off, we took off to the east and I just caught sight of the ubiquitous farms and rivers before I fell fast asleep.
I did some fairly active dreaming until the wheels came down and the Captain spoke:
“Good morning, we’re on our descent into Napier now, its quite low cloud down there but depending on which approach they give us, we should have you outside the gate a couple of minutes early”
Outside all was white, no up, no down, no sideways, just white but by the way the G forces were working I could tell we were heading down in a big wide spiral…this meant we were approaching from the landward side, this has a few hills and stuff to worry about.
We were doing this for ages it seemed, nothing like a white-out to confuse one’s perspective regarding time.
I peered out of the windows and eventually caught sight of some houses, the cloud was quite low and the weather was utterly grim and foreboding….
With a roar and a whine the pilot cracked open the throttles and cranked up the landing gear, below I could see the control tower but we had emerged way too high and too far down the runway, clearly visibility was not up to a low approach from the land.
“Sorry about that, we are going to make another approach, just need to get in position to approach from the sea.”
I have done this one before in a SAAB 340 and it takes ages to get into position on the glide slope, so we sat there, wrapped in the white cocoon of nowhere, the cabin was silent and a tense air filled the plane.
“We’ll go to Palmerston North if we can’t get in this time” said an old lady behind me who was clearly an old hand at this. Some other pax opposite me called the FA
down as the were a bit concerned, they had been on the go for ages, their journey having started in Perth.
After the FA
departed I got talking to the 3 pax nearest me and I was able to reassure the Perth couple that a firey death on a damp runway was not really on the cards, the crew would play it safe.
Looking back out of the window I noticed a Jade tint to the swirling murk just below us, the sea! And as we descended to seagull height I saw a gash of darkness...land!.. a ribbon of solidity, swinging in and out of focus with the shifting veils of cloud.
Things were considerable worse than our previous attempt and much thicker than a couple of years ago when the pilot pulled off a similar stunt to the rapture of all pax.
No, this was looking very dodgy to say the least, we came in low and the waves looked eager to pluck us from the skies and suck us down into the suffocating embrace of the restless green seas.
I imagined the conversation up front:
“F*%$# this for a laugh, let’s bugger off out of here”
Seconds later, as the first line of bedraggled and huddling beach-front houses hove into partial view through the dimness, the familiar surge of the engines and the rapid retraction of the landing gear signalled that the pilots and I were of the same mind.
We pulled our way up through the whiteness, turbo props bellowing with rage and indignation at such an ignominious end to the mornings work.
The cabin was deathly silent, people braved the sloping floor to use the lavs, me included, whilst I perched in the tiny cubicle the Captain spoke over the PA:
“As you can see ladies and gentlemen, things have become much worse than predicted, we’ll be back to you soon, we’re just working out what to do next”.
I fervently hoped that “what to do next” would include a nice, safe landing somewhere sunny.
Lurching out of the lavs and back down the still sloping floor (we were climbing hard) I stopped to ask the FA
what she thought:
“Not sure as I haven’t had an abort at NPE before…but I do know that Palmy has been shut since 06:00 so it won’t be there….”
I smiled through the insecurity as I don’t like not knowing, and judging by the “D-Day Dawn” looks on my fellow pax faces…neither did any of them.
Presently, as I was falling asleep again, we burst out of the cloud, due to altitude rather than an improvement in the weather and the Captain, back from looking at maps and scratching his head, came back on:
“Ok ladies and gentlemen, thank you for you patience, we’re on our way back to AKL
, sorry for that, when we land go to counters 3 or 4 and you will be told what your alternatives are, thanks, we’ll update you on our descent.”
With that there was a collective exhaling of breath, people came alive again and started chattering excitedly, as if a comet had just missed the Earth and the future was no longer an abstract concept.
I did some sums, my 12:30 appointment was a no-go as it would be 11:00 by the time I got to AKL
my 15:30 would have to be scrubbed but if I left on arrival (my car was at the airport) I would still be there in time to run the training event, which started at 18:30…it is 5-6 hrs to NPE from AKL
To attempt another flight and not make it would be folly, I believe that in such situations one must take the first guaranteed way to your destination….maybe a later flight would make it, maybe not but if it didn’t and I didn’t have time to cancel..well, that would not be a good look.
I mentioned this to the people from Perth, who asked if they could come with me, I agreed and we all sat happily munching the complimentary biccies and swilling the free tea and coffee until, on the descent, we saw a line in the sky, east of this line was a living hell of angry clouds and rain (where we had just come from) west of this line was open skies, blazing sun and the green fields of the farms south of AKL
Swooping in to this wonderful sight was like merging from the Bermuda Triangle, the mood became positively festive.
Arcing over AKL
in the sunlight I felt restless, ready to grab my refund, load my pax and hit the road but on the ground thing weren’t quite so simple, phoning 0800-Jessica went well enough, Jess advised me that my 15:30 was cancelled anyway and my 12:30 had heard on the radio that a flight couldn’t land (not a lot happening in NPE today then) and assumed it was mine but we had 7+ for the training.
I got a voucher for my cancelled flight and looked for my pax….they were in a corner looking very hacked off.
“Yes our luggage went back to Perth”
“They’ll courier it”
“His medication is in it and we need it as soon as we can get it”
“Absolutely…you better go, don’t wait for us, we’ll cope”
And with that I turned on my heel for the car park.
In the end I got to NPE in 5 hrs 15 mins, arriving at 17:00 on the dot, just time to lay down and go “uuuuurrrrrrrggghhhhhh” before heading 5 mins up the road to the training venue.
As it happened the 12:50 flight didn't land either, the next flight to land was at 15:00 and by that time there would have been 3 plane-loads of people vying for seats...I was glad I chose to drive.
Ho hum, another day, another adventure!!!!
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....