With bridesmaid duties calling me on the other side of the world, the only realistic way I could afford to get Down Under at Christmas, competing with the hordes of travellers in search of their loved ones, was to hop on a plane on Christmas Day itself. Bearing in mind I'm past the age (just) of worrying about bumping mid-air into Santa's sleigh, this seemed a savvy way of saving several hundred smackers and having quite a lot of Christmas for my cracker, into the bargain.
Because I'd waved the sympathy card on the winter side of the globe, I'd already polished off turkey plus trimmings on Christmas Eve. Additionally, my friends Down Under had very hospitably bumped their big dinner to Boxing Day to accommodate the weary wanderer, so another fine meal awaited. Spoilt for festivity, some might say.
So I was feeling as yuley as a log when I stepped on the plane, ready to toast St Nicholas and curl up with some mile-high EastEnders. Of course, this turned out to be a hopeless misfire. The very reason I'd been able to nab a cheap ticket was because this Middle Eastern airline was suitably immune to an Albert Square party, and also to any tipple stronger than mango. (One could argue that this could all have come out in the planning, or lack thereof. I was in a rush!)
But I was happy enough, despite lack of televisual baubles. I had an old episode of The Mentalist to keep me company, I didn't really need The World's Strongest Man, and when a throng two rows behind struck up the chords of 'Happy Birthday' to one of its number, I realised it could all have been a lot worse.
And then, lunch arrived. And, bless them, it was a perfect pocket-sized serving of the usual fare - with trimmings. And a mince pie. And the cherry on the cake, a chocolate reindeer. Here is some photographic evidence of how big your 'plate' COULD have been on Tuesday...
A pit stop in Dubai offered the chance of some quick 21st century Christmas comms. I admit it, I composed one of those "Season's Greetings from Dubai - yawn" text messages, definitely a qualifier for #humblebrag's next collection, got carried away and kept firing them off until we were called back on the plane.
Now I'm at another pit stop in Brunei, and there have been two small challenges to my Christmas cheer. I was thoroughly expecting to find a good dozen or so impressed text responses, but the first one has sent a Santa-worthy shiver.
It was that boring one you get when you land on foreign soil, except it was a late-delivered one from Dubai. Telling me of the delight of sending foreign texts back home. For the right middle-eastern royal sum of £1.45 a throw.
I daren't tell you how many I've sent, but it's safe to say I may have just cancelled out the bargain of the ticket. I'm chuckling, because I've remembered my friend Russell who only ever drank on long-distance flights, when he would tipple AT LEAST to the sum of the airfare, to ensure 'you get your money's worth' - the same man whose being carried off the plane kickstarted his otherwise romantic elopement to Vegas. Fortunately/unfortunately, I won't be able to match this, or even get on the pitch.
The other cloud is that I got my timings wrong, so it turns out I actually arrive in Melbourne at 11pm, exactly 10 hours after everyone sits down with the bird. The season of goodwill will be surely tested by this PR disaster, but nothing I can do now, sadly. Hopefully, there'll be a spare drumstick in the fridge.
Looking on the bright side, it'll still be warm on the terrace on a Melbourne summer evening when I finally get to toast St Nicholas. There have been no silent sulks over presents for me this year, nor ear-piecing battles for the remote control, nor cold potatoes to moan about - very impressive when you consider the numbers being fed. It's all been very civilised. Time now to head back up to 30,000 feet for the final furlong, and fulfil my own festive duty, of eating (again) and having a snooze in front of a (very small) telly. Well, it is Christmas.
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