Soundtrack: A loud, constant whine.

Google Fit stats:

  • Activity: 42 minutes
  • Distance: 1.6 km
  • Calories: 361
  • Steps: 3,633

I don't like travelling.

I like being in other places, I just don't really like getting there.

There are 11 hours still to go on this flight. This does not auger well.

I hope to share a lot of photos and memories of this trip, and I really hope it isn’t as down as this post is going to be. There may even be a few videos.

The itinerary is:

  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Rotorua
  • Christchurch
  • Arthur’s Pass
  • Lake Moeraki
  • Queenstown
  • Invercargill
  • Stewart Island
  • Auckland

It’s the trip of a lifetime for us – and it’s the second such trip of a lifetime we’ve done. The first one was 10 years ago, when we went to New Zealand to get married. For our 10 year anniversary we plan on being in the same place.

Right now though I’m cramped on an Airbus A380. I'm cramped, so that generally means people around me are cramped. I'm in an aisle seat so that means only one other person is affected - SWMBO. She's very good about this and insists it isn't a problem, but it can't be easy for her sitting there with me encroaching on her territory.

20151006_111857The double-decker A380 in question.

Things have gone smoothly so far today. We got up at a silly hour, and got the taxi we'd booked for 5am. I was only 5 minutes late. This is an achievement. I'm not usually a late person, or I try not to be, but leaving the house for a flight is difficult. I hate it, so my brain plays tricks on me. It's not just like having a checklist of things to do before you leave, it's like having a checklist and not being able to check anything off it. It's one of the things that makes me not want to fly.

We got to Belfast City Airport in time - before the check-in had even opened. So we waited. Waiting is horrible. Waiting just gives me more time to go through my checklist of things that may not be right even though I've checked them. Anyway, enough of that. Check-in opened, we used the automated check-in terminals, and dropped our bags off to go all the way through to Kuala Lumpur.

I'm not at all sure the bags will be there when we arrive at Kuala Lumpur. (Another thing to fret about!) Checking bags through to the destination is great, and I've never had a problem with bags not turning up, but I do know others that have. And it used to be much easier - nowadays it seems to be rarer that it's an option. When it works it's great though.

We went through security easily enough. Channel 2 was sending everyone through one of those awful backscatter X-ray machines so we avoided that by going for Channel 3. (Not obviously avoiding it, not enough to single us out, but avoiding it nonetheless. We'll get enough x-rays on the flight to New Zealand without adding to the problem, and just because they say they think they're safe that doesn't mean they're safe - remind me to tell you about the fight to end x-raying pregnant women some time.) Channel 4 opened and we skipped a few people by joining that line, only to then be told Channel 4's machine was broken and we had to re-join Channel 3, a few places behind where we left it. Technology, eh?

The flight to Heathrow was quick and easy. The Aer Lingus plane was surprisingly roomy. Roomier, I think, than where I am now. That may be the fondness of hindsight, but I don't think so. Maybe they’re trying to make an effort on their fairly-new route.

Off the plane, caught a bus to Terminal 4, had to go through security again. It was easy this time. There was 1 person in front of us in all of security, and when there are so few people around there's much less pressure. Everything went fine for us but the only other person wasn't so lucky. Let's call this person American-Sounding Racist (ASR). (I guess I’ve been lucky that most Americans I’ve met have been genuinely nice, warm individuals so this was a surprise.) ASR's stuff was selected for further screening, and he wasn't happy about that, or the fact that, well, I'm not sure what he didn't like but it was down to the supervisor not being English. He said it was as bad as Seattle, where 'they were all Ethiopians'. I tried to do the minimum interactions to get away.

Then the hard part. We had to check in at a Transfer desk for the flight to Kuala Lumpur. This should have been nice and straightforward (the constant checking of the checklist sees to that) but after a long wait we discovered:

  1. Someone had helpfully put a note on our journey from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland, to ensure we had a visa.
  2. We don't need a pre-arranged visa for travel to New Zealand.
  3. The note prevented the check-in person from printing our boarding cards until it was dealt with.
  4. The check-in person couldn't see the note because it wasn't for the London flight - the only flight she had access to.

Technology, eh?

All of this held us up a while, but on a brighter note ASR was behind us so it held him up too.

I think we were able to reassure the check-in person that we didn't need a visa because she just went ahead and printed the boarding passes after her supervisor had fixed the note. And she assured us that the tags were right and the bags were checked through to Kuala Lumpur.

I wonder if we'll ever see those bags again.

This got us through to Terminal 4 in time to buy neck pillows for the plane, carabiners to attach them to our bags, and not much else. The gate opened and we had to head there because boarding was starting soon.

Boarding did not start soon.

We declined to eat in all the fancy places Heathrow offers just so we could get to the gate in time, only to find out we needn't have bothered.

It's a big plane so the allow 1 hour for boarding it. 20 minutes before we were supposed to take off, they let us on the plane. Once on the plane, we waited some more. With all this practice I'm getting you think I'd be better at waiting. But no, I'm not. (What if we really do need a visa, and the web site is wrong or out of date?) We took off about 1 hour 10 minutes late.

I hope we're not too late arriving, or I hope J notices the updated arrival time. I don't want her wasting time because our flight was late.

I think one of the reasons we were late taking off (apart from losing our slot) is the safety demonstration. They have a fancy prerecorded safety demonstration that plays in the video screens in every seatback. It didn't work. Even after they rebooted it. The cabin crew had to go to a 'live demo' which felt wonderfully underpracticed. Seriously - there was nothing wrong with it, it just felt a bit unrehearsed. Everything else the cabin crew has done has been so slick, it's nice to see they're human.

And since this is a long haul flight, there are a couple of regulars we've been allocated. The regular Screaming Child is in the row in front of us. The regular Sneezer is across the aisle on my right. In preparation I brought some Boots Cold Defence Nasal Spray. I wonder if it’ll work. Guess we’ll find out in the next few days.

We've been served a few drinks and a meal so far. I asked whether the chicken dish had mushrooms but didn't really get a sensible answer, so I went for the beef curry. It was nice - quite mild, made for people like me who don't like curries too hot. SWMBO had the chicken. It didn't have mushrooms in it.

And that's up to where I am now: typing on a Nexus 9 with the folio keyboard, with small keys and the carriage return key where I expect the apostrophe to be. (That takes a lot of annoying editing.) The Nexus 9 itself started acting funny when I paired the keyboard with it last night, and when I went to turn it off in Belfast City Airport it was sitting at the bootloader screen. I don't know how long it had been like that, but down to 50% battery. I have a USB charging cable and the seatbacks these days have USB charging points on them (or at least this A380 does). My USB port isn't charging though, so I've had to plug in to SWMBO's seatback's charging port. Good thing I brought a long cable.

Technology, eh?

About an hour left of this flight, and it hasn't been super.

The lights were turned off and it was night out there, but we didn't get a lot of sleep. I think I managed about 20 minutes of sleep, twice. I don't think SWMBO managed as much. Neither of us are good at sleeping on planes.

That means I'm tired, but SWMBO has it much worse. The lack of sleep and the discomfort of her neck and back while trying to sleep has given her a bad headache. Usually when she gets a migraine it's a matter of sleeping it off or going somewhere quiet for a few hours, but there really wasn't much opportunity for that with Screaming Child. I just know she's sitting there fretting about our 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur now.

And I have a toothache. Just as we were taking off on the first flight of the day, from Belfast, SWMBO gave me a chewy mint. As the plane lifted clear of the runway, the chewy mint got a bit crunchy... Turns out that crunchiness was a bit of temporary filling. I already had an appointment to get that filling done properly, so I'm not that worried about it.

That's not the tooth that's sore.

The tooth that's sore is on the other side of my mouth, where I just had some root canal work done. Given the root was taken out, I'm not sure why it's sore. I'm hoping it's because of the air pressure in the cabin here and not something more serious. The bite does feel a bit different on that side of my mouth but there's nothing sharp or jaggy there so I'm hoping it's OK.

It'll be really nice to get off this flight.

Tags: Personal
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‘Too Obscure For Me’
Score: 2/5

Simon Ings

I suspect there’s a nice plot in here somewhere but I’ve no idea what it is.

I spent most of the time reading this book a little unsure what was going on. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m still not sure. I’m not sure what to make of some elements of the story – why were they there, and what were they supposed to add?

The whole thing felt too obscure to me. It’s possible it’s one of those literary masterpieces I just don’t get. It’s possible (even likely) that some bits of it are supposed to represent something or other and I just don’t see it.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Dry Towards The End’
Score: 4/5

Neal Stephenson

I get the feeling that the last third of the book is what the author really wanted to write, and the first two-thirds were just to get us all to that stage.

Unfortunately, it was the first two-thirds of the book that I preferred.

There’s a lot to like throughout the book. It’s quite imaginative, and the research from companies he’s worked with also really helped. There are, as always, a few good yarns too.

The last third of the book felt less like a story (or part of a story) and more like a dry non-fiction history that just happened to be of a fictional universe. I preferred the more direct narrative approach of the first two-thirds.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Imaginative And Thought Provoking’
Score: 5/5

Cixin Liu

The follow-up to The Three Body Problem is just as good. It’s quite different in setting and tone – I’m not sure how much this is to do with a different translator – but it’s just as imaginative. Very thought provoking.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Nice History Of Typefaces’
Score: 4/5

Simon Garfield

The details of typefaces aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but for some people they are an obsession. Some of those obsessed people are the ones who create new typefaces, so we have plenty to thank them for.

If you’ve ever wanted to know the history of Comic Sans, why there’s a backlash against Arial or if you thought Ikea should have stuck with Futura then this book could well be for you.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Alien, Hard Science Fiction’
Score: 5/5

Cixin Liu

This book describes a world quite alien to me: China from the 1960s onwards. I knew a little of the history, but not very much. This book gave me more of an appreciation of what went on.

I’m not a fan of translated books. They always feel a little clunky to me, which is understandable I suppose. Here the translator says it’s deliberate – the translator deliberately wanted to give readers ‘a glimpse of another culture’s patterns of thinking’. It worked, but I think I’d still prefer it if the text flowed a bit better.

The book itself is quite imaginative, and pretty ‘hard’ science fiction. I wonder where it’ll go next.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘MacGyver, Stranded On Mars’
Score: 5/5

Andy Weir

If you liked the technical stuff in Exo, you’ll love this.

Someone described it as making an entire book of the intense scenes in Apollo 13, where NASA were trying to figure out how to power up the Command Module. Or a book length episode of MacGyver.

That’s all true, but it doesn’t really cover how well the central character is drawn. His sense of humour really does come through.

The movie is now showing here but I haven’t seen it yet. I wonder how well the book will translate to a movie. I hope it does the book justice.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Techie Details And Fun’
Score: 5/5

Loved this book. Very easy to read and a nice story.

Steven Gould

It covers one of the first things I’d have wanted to try if I was a Jumper, and given some of the details I hadn’t considered I’d likely have wound up dead very quickly! Nice technical information but also fun.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Silly Title, Nice Storytelling’
Score: 4/5

Daniel H. Wilson

OK, so from the title it’s another ‘War Against The Machines’. What makes this one different?

Well, like many of the books it talks about our increasing dependence on technology and how we’d cope when that’s taken away. What’s different is the tone of the story, and the way it’s told. It’s similar to the way World War Z is told – that one is an oral history and this one isn’t, but the multiple viewpoints is similar (even though there’s more repetition of viewpoint characters here than WWZ).

I really don’t like the title though. It’s very Sharknado-like, and that’s not a good thing.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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‘Rich Details And Setting’
Score: 5/5

Jeff VanderMeer

I thought this book was wonderfully rich, both in the details it provides and in the overall setting. I’ve no intention of spoiling any of it for you but I do think it well worth checking out.

Tags: 4 Word Book Reviews
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