Travelling tittle-tattle, tall tales and shameless name-dropping by Jon ‘Don’t Call Me’ Norman

About Me

Monday, 14 April 2008

How far would you go?

Being jet-lagged at work is fucking horrible. But you might already know this. Somewhat naively I just thought I’d go to work a bit tired, struggle through and go home. Just like when I’ve got a hangover. But it’s not like that at all. It’s like going to work inside out and back to front whilst suffering a crack comedown. Apparently.

I flew back into London on Saturday afternoon to be greeted by typical English ineptitude. Left shivering in the cold for an hour waiting for a cab I despaired at Fulham’s shocking 3-1 defeat at home to Sunderland. Welcome home Jon.

After a twelve-hour flight back from South Korea it was exactly what I didn’t need. But considering the fun and games Heathrow had been experiencing while we'd been away, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky. On another day we’d have had our luggage misplaced and caught MRSA.

As it was we got home around 9pm, ate some food, partially unpacked and collapsed into bed. The following morning we were both wide-awake at 5am and happily watching a DVD.

I felt pretty depressed to be back. So, god knows how Fe felt, having left her family and most of her friends on the other side of the world. But our early start enabled us to capture a glimpse of something that cheered us both up. For while we’d spent Thursday sunbathing on Shelley Beach in Sydney

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Sunday morning in Clapham Junction saw this.

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On a normal weekend we’d have been asleep when the heaviest was falling but because of jet-lag power we were wide awake.

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For Fe it was her first experience of urban snow. It doesn’t feature much in day-to-day life in Sydney or Auckland. So she was pretty taken by it. And it didn’t take long before she was practising the art of hurling snowballs at a defenceless boyfriend who stupidly wasn’t wearing gloves and was holding a camera.

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By midday most of the snow had disappeared in much the same way that our early morning energy had been sapped. An early night waited, and continues to, before we found ourselves watching ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ at 6.30am on Monday morning.

Sitting in a daze at work gave me plenty of time to feel thoroughly depressed that my holiday was once again over. It had been a typically frantic week in Sydney to cap off a largely relaxing month in New Zealand.

The last week of the holiday had started with my dash across the Tasman Sea. And possibly the only time I’d flown with my overriding anxiety concentrated on something other than a crashing plane.

As mentioned in the previous post the window of time wasn’t exactly in my favour. But I was suitably geed up and excited when I awoke on my final day in Auckland. Fe’s dad was throwing a farewell BBQ where I could meet more of Fe’s relations. And we got there around midday with my flight leaving at 5pm.

After saying my goodbyes I was driven to the airport by Fe’s sister Lizzie. While they parked up I went through to check-in. As I approached the Emirates section a senior official approached me and begun speaking to me. I’m not sure exactly what she said but I was aware that next to her was a book of vouchers and a pad that had several figures next to dollar signs. She then began speaking

Emirates official: blah blah because of earlier blah something happened in Melbourne blah we have put you on another flight with Qantas
Me: (interrupting) what time does it leave?
Emirates official: 6pm
Me: I have to get on this flight. I have to get on this flight. There is NO WAY I can miss this flight.

She just looked at me and something in her brain obviously took on board the glint of madness in my eyes because she didn’t even try and argue. She just edged out of my way and let me through to the queue for check-in.

As starts go it didn’t bode well. And the problems that led to passengers being moved to another plane were also affecting my flight. With a huge backlog of people still to check-in and take off only an hour away.

After saying goodbye to Fe and Lizzie I went through to departures. And sure enough it soon became apparent my flight was delayed. All of which meant the window I had to land, get through customs, store my baggage and get my cab to the gig inside an hour and a half. Phew.

I still wasn’t too concerned but that had more to do with the beers I had drunk at Fe’s dad’s house, and the vodka’s I’d consumed waiting for my flight. A couple more brews on the flight whilst watching ‘The Simpsons Movie’ and by the time I landed I was in a pretty good mood.

The pilot had obviously pressed the ‘turbo’ button on the dashboard of the cockpit as the plane landed only fifteen minutes behind schedule. And fortunately I was one row behind first class. So that meant I was in prime position to dash off the plane. Which I duly did, passing all the toffs on the way to customs where, amazingly, I found a queue of precisely nobody. Not one person. Result!

All of which meant that I was waiting for my luggage within ten minutes of landing. And even a discrepancy with my visa didn’t break me into a sweat as while I waited for the Customs woman I had a clear view of the baggage carousel.

The clock read 7.15pm by the time I’d collected my bags and located the storage facility and I had so much time I even managed to sneak a bit of food at the airport. I was laughing. I was reasonably confident that Centennial Park was just a 20 minute car ride away so that gave me an hour til gig time.

So I was slightly perturbed to get into my cab at the airport to find out it would take nearer to 40 minutes and the cabby didn’t know which entrance to the park to aim for. Several frantic telephone calls to Tom ensued and by the time I’d got dropped off I was sweating slightly.

And I was sweating protrusively by the time I’d ran all the way to the entrance gate. It was 8pm and the Pumpkins were due on in fifteen minutes. And it was dark. For some reason I hadn’t considered this. And that it was getting more and more difficult getting through to Tom. And I hadn’t really considered how many people would be there. So when I approached the stage from the entrance I realised it wasn’t going to be quite as easy as I thought to meet up with Tom. Him being, pretty much, the reason I was there in the first place.

I stopped off to get a beer and then started to get a bit frantic. All the adrenalin of the past four hours, the mad dash to the entrance, the backpack on my shoulders, the numbers of pissed up people milling around started to come together and get to me. The roadies were on the stage tuning up the guitars and I couldn’t get through to Tom. His last text being along the lines of ‘I’m behind a barrier, text when you get here and we’ll wave our arms.’ Brilliant. The texts were obviously not getting through to him, he didn’t know I was in the Park, every time I tried to call the phone network failed, it was dark, there were thousands of people there, I didn’t know what sodding barrier he was talking about and as for him waving his arms in the air to attract my attention, who was he kidding?

And then, just as I was starting to see the unfunny side to things, Billy Corgan strode onto the stage, the band kicked in and the oh-so familiar opening chords of ‘Today’ washed over me. And, suddenly, everything was all right with the world.



Ah, it was good to be back. Back in Australia, back with the Smashing Pumpkins, back in the day. Brilliant. In the lead up to the gig I’d texted Tom asking him for the three songs he’d like to hear above all others. A tough ask. But in the end we’d both agreed on ‘Stand inside your love’, ‘Cherub Rock’ and ‘Hummer’. And it was the latter that was playing as we finally got through to each other. And shortly after it was high fives all round and as Tom kept repeating throughout the gig. “I fucking made it, man!”

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And so the night panned out as we’d hoped. They played some classics, including the other two songs we’d wanted to hear so much. They played some shite. They played some tunes we didn’t know but still enjoyed. They played for an hour and a half. And then it was over. And the $300 I’d spent on tickets, flights and cabs was done and dusted.

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