Monthly Archives: January 2009

Rule Britannia

1-ujack

Today’s blog comes wrapped in a Union Jack made out of something like rubber, because it’s British and silly.

It has been lifted in its entirety from last week’s Friday edition of that great London institution the Evening Standard and is everything that is brilliantly absurd about this country.

It recounts an incident of dastardly foul-play involving a protector of the Royal Family, reported by one perfectly named Benedict Moore-Bridger…

A bearskin with a sore head loses his cool with joker tourist.

A guard outside St. James’s Palace attacked a tourist who was copying his distinctive marching actions, it was revealed today.

The Queen’s Guardsman, who is supposed never to leave his post unless there is a threat to a member of the royal family, was provoked into lunging at tourist Nick Ibarra, clipping him around the head and aiming a kick at him.

It is understood the guard now faces the prospect of a dressing down from his superiors.

The attack was captured on film by the 23-year-old’s friend Suzanne Cadosch. When the Colombian student began mimicking the guard he lost his cool and went for Mr Ibarra.

Mr Ibarra, who is studying English at Oxford University, also claims he was pushed away by the guard, who used his SA-80 semi-automatic rifle while letting out a furious roar.

Ms Cadosch stopped filming as she was so frightened. ‘I felt this huge hand on my collar and managed to avoid a boot up the backside but he was growling like a bear,’ he said. ‘I was worried because he had a bayonet on his gun and didn’t want that going somewhere painful. He pushed me away with the gun and I just ran for it.’

The guardsman, who is with the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards of the Guards Division, was on sentry duty. Clarence House where Prince Chalres lives is within St. James’s environs.

Ms Cadosch said, ‘I just thought ‘Oh my God, he’s got a gun and he’s going for Nick’. He grabbed him and tried to boot him.

‘You often see people pulling faces at the guards and marching along with them but obviously this solder didn’t find it funny. In hindsight I can understand the soldier losing his cool but it was very frightening.’

A fellow guard said: ‘You can understand him wanting to put a hobnailed size 12 up the guy’s backside. But he will be in hot water for losing his cool when he should have ignored it.’

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said it would try to identify the guardsman and ‘speak to him about his behaviour’.

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Jen and me

I checked my email one morning last month: accountants, a friend, the Viagra folks, Jennifer Aniston.

What?

I opened it up with a tingling sensation. This is what it said:

‘Hey Sophie,

Jen Aniston here. This is out of the blue, I know, but I heard you were good to hang around with and I could use some good at the moment. My love life is all over the place. Arrrggghhhhhhhhhh!

I was wondering if you would like to come over to Malibu to spend the week-end with me? Courteney might be around too, as her marriage is on the skids and she wants me to cook her a lasagne.

Do you think you could get a flight?’

Well, I read it over a couple of times and then I actually thumped the table with my fist and said ‘Excellent’ out loud.

Then I thought about how I was going to reply. I wondered if I should be mysterious or grateful.

In the end I opted for simple: a woman like that is busy.

‘Hello Jen,

Do Easyjet fly there?

Sophie x’

Well, they don’t but other airlines do so I booked myself one up.

I grabbed some magazines from WHSmith before I went, to do some background reading. As Jen’s not a fan of gossip I wouldn’t tell her that. But I felt I should know the word on the street.

It said she is still stepping out with John Mayer but her ex Tate Donovan wants her back- sorry, but he’ll have to change his name first.

Jen didn’t come to the airport to meet me but she sent a driver so I still felt special. I fiddled with the window controls and contemplated my catalogue bikini. I knew I didn’t need a designer body though; the pressure would be all on her.

When we arrived I was bowled over by her sumptuous pad but even moreso by her. She’s just everything she’s cracked up to be and very kind to her staff too.

‘Welcome, welcome,’ she gushed warmly.

‘You’re tiny!,’ I blurted out, somewhat inappropriately.

We went on to have a seriously good week-end, boogie boarding and chatting. And she’s not stupid either: she beat me at a variety of board games.

Courteney didn’t materialise in the end but Jen still made a lasagne. I prefer meat ones but it wasn’t terrible.

One afternoon Jen really opened up. She got up close and looked into my eyes.

‘Do you know, Sophie, I panic if I don’t exercise regularly. I’m terrified I’m going to get a fuller Greek figure and start to lose roles. And men. It’s almost a neurosis.’

‘I understand you, Jennifer,’ I said at just the right time.

‘Really?’ she replied, eagerly.

‘Yes. I worry that if I don’t run every day I won’t sleep very well.’

Jen sat up straight and looked at me for a while without speaking. I couldn’t read the expression on her face so I quickly added, ‘I love Greek yoghurt.’

I think it must have resonated with her because after that she said she needed some air and went onto the terrace.

Presently, I’m In The Mood For Dancing came on the sound system and Jen ran back in to turn it up.

‘This song is awesome!’ she exclaimed. And with that she jumped onto the glass coffee table and started shaking her perfect bottom around.

Oh, God, no, I thought. This is not how I want to remember this trip: awkward rhythmical movements to The Nolan Sisters. I want to recall the beach volleyball and the wink she gave me when she put the umbrella in my Schnapps cocktail.

I disappeared into the bathroom and came out when I heard the song fade.

‘You look like you’re about to tell me something you don’t want to,’ she said perceptively.

‘I’m not sure about John Mayer,’ I confessed.

‘Do you know him?’ she asked, alarmed.

‘Not exactly. But I know his type. Too young and pleased with himself. Rank old tattoo too.’ (I laughed at the ‘too too’ at the end of my sentence. She looked at me the way people look at mime artists in shopping centres.)

‘I appreciate your honesty but I’m in love,’ she whimpered a bit drippily.

‘Yes, I know. And tick-tock,’ I said, squeezing her hand.

Then I asked her if she wanted another twiglet but she said no thanks, she was full.

When it was time to leave she said she had a surprise for me and came back 10 minutes later on a vintage Ducati motorbike with a spare helmet.

It was one of the coolest trips I’ve ever taken. I felt like Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, even with the sidecar buckling under the weight of my lugguage.

She might have done it to avoid any heart-to-hearts about Brad but I’m too sensitive for that. Plus I’m hoping Angelina may get in touch one day.

Or maybe she’s fed up talking about Friends but I doubt she knows much more about the cast than I do.

‘I like you, Sophie, because you’re real,’ she said when we kissed goodbye.

‘And I like you, Jen, because you’re not,’ said I and spent the flight home re-living my perfect riposte.

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Westfield

westfield

In an area the size of Kazakhstan, in a faraway land called White City, a mystical dome has sprung.

Filled with the promise of a fragrant bathroom, a smaller rear, a set of peepers without shadows underneath, it sends out an echoey whisper to every sentient being in Europe with a wallet:

‘Cooooooooooeeeeeeee… Come to paradise… Credit cards are not real money…Yes, you can buy love…’

For only wretches devoid of hope or filled with fear can be immune to its charms.

Those are not eyes in the heads of the warm bodies being sucked into its vacuum, like extras from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

They are swirling pools of bar-codes and gift-wrapped boxes and Wagamama lunch specials.

More than that, they are the torches of dreamers, of believers, of women who know they can drop a dress-size traveling up and down giant escalators.

On its marketing website this capitalist behemoth spews statistics at you like a fat man who has gorged on one too many cheeseburgers: 265 retailers! 13 million man-hours to build! 50 exciting eating concepts!

Still not convinced?

Construction used enough concrete to fill 117 Olympic swimming pools!

Well, in that case…

Squeeking cleanly only months into this world it rises Phoenix-like out of the ashes of a dazed and confused Shepherds Bush, where a hoodie who has lost his way would be forgiven for thinking he has died and gone to Dubai Heaven.

Housing futuristic runways of glistening tiled flooring and pod-shaped roof-panels it is Woody Allen’s orgasmatron, Huxley’s missing novel and SJP on steroids all rolled into one.

On a par with thinking too hard about the solar system its offering should not be contemplated in one sitting.

In fact, it is possible to walk 23 miles in a circle and never see the same outlet twice: at one point I ended up in Norway.

Holding up two fingers in the shape of a crucifix to the likes of Brent Cross, this mall is Different From All The Others.

It’s got no McDonalds and curvy minimalist touch-screen map computers so stylish they sneer at giving directions, forcing you to grab one of the mall slaves polishing glass panels and make toilet gestures at them instead.

Around the artfully scattered central sofa systems satellite the Enablers- shopping assistants who represent a greater density than the population of Tokyo and talk on average x 3.8 more bollocks, through sheer mind-warping boredom.

As Lionel Richie croons encouragingly each neon sign propels you forth along the yellow-brick road, eyes wide in wonderment, torn between a stop at the karaoke bar, a gawp at an electric vehicle or a scoop from the overflowing baskets at The Nut Hut.

Shall I sample a golden dog’s trotter at the juice bar emporium? Do I need to stock up on a wardrobe of coloured false eyelashes? Or shall I cut the crap and admit that I have come to roll in an orgy of fashion so promiscuous and deviant it makes Jordan look chaste?

Because if there is one thing Westfield does NOT do it is birthday suits.

Whether your look is faux peasant, retro goth or pixie whore you cannot fail to find something comely to drape on your frame: H & M even has a travel desk, where you can book a week-end mini-break to its Accessories department.

Or if it’s lingerie you’re after why not skip along to M & S, where the briefs alone could clothe the population of Spain in Winter. With material to spare.

Cut-outs of an ecstatic Myleene Klaas with an enormous head lure you towards banks and banks of bras for every occasion: Floozie by Frostfrench for that kitsch forty-something revivalist feeling; Star by Julien McDonald for the West London prostitute vibe; Fuller Bust, Magic Body… what, are these requests or promises?

Several hours later you emerge from a time bubble, glugging furiously at a caffeine concept with bagfuls of a sexier you draped around your feet.

And suddenly there’s a bitter taste in your mouth not altogether linked to stale coffee beans.

It’s one that argues strongly for the students of Central Saint Martins to re-train in the art of making wicker baskets.

A feeling that your happy buzz may not last as long as the hours spent earning the lucre to pay for it.

Because Westfield is unavoidably a Truman Show of consumerism of the sort that makes you want to invite Walt Whitman and Hugh Fernley Whittingstall to meditate on its rank motivations, their faces contorted in paroxyms of misery as they clutch at each other gasping, ‘Why?’

What’s that noise?

It’s me tumbling into the dark abyss- arms flailing with glossy carrier bags- the peroxide blonde Alfred Hitchcock heroine of Blind Consumerism.

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Father Christmas: the Interview

Pancho Claus Texas

I have to admit I’m disappointed with Father Christmas. We meet at the bar of the Fasano hotel in the Ipanema district of Rio. He is dressed in a pared-down version of his trademark red suit, topped off with a pair of sunglasses. His beard is trim. His hair is tied back in a ponytail. He’s got a bit of a tan.

But it’s not the bobbly red hat I’m missing. He’s relaxed-jolly even- and I sort of hoped that beneath all the ‘ho ho ho he’ might actually be a bit of a grumpy bastard.

‘I’m never late,’ he tells me. ‘It’s unprofessional and there’s no apologising to kids. The little buggers stay wide awake all night. I couldn’t justify it.’

He arrived at the week-end with a Louis Vuitton bag (who does he send his letter to?) on a Virgin Atlantic ticket- no reindeers in sight. And I suppose this is what intrigues me most about him. Even without the carols and the trappings, he’s still Father Christmas. How is this?

‘It’s in my blood, not my beard,’ he winks cheekily.

But this is not altogether true. Born to a grocer and a housewife in Lapland in 1941, the last of four children, he had a happy if unremarkable childhood. Average at school, he still knew he was destined for something special. Sure enough, one day a silver-haired old man appeared at the gates and said it was time.

‘I knew immediately who he was. It felt right.’

But on the particulars of his training he is unapologetically reticent. The toy factory is the public face of the festivities but one senses that there’s more to the Christmas tradition than a bunch of elves on a production line and a large hessian sack. The reindeers, for intance. Is Rudolph really so well-loved by his peers?

‘There’s always a thirst for dirt,’ says Christmas. ‘People want to hear the reindeers are bitching or I’m downloading porn. One day I’m kissing married women under the mistletoe, the next I don’t even exist.

O.K, maybe I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t asked a few gals to sit on my lap and tell me what they want for Christmas. But I was a lad then and learning the ropes. Still had to wear padding.

Only round my middle, mind- make sure you leave that in,’ he adds.

This gets me thinking about the future and who he’s showing the ropes to now. But he sees it coming and heads me off at the pass, wanting to talk instead about his work in Africa. Or rather lack of it.

‘I’d like to take my sleigh to the Third World but there are serious logistical issues, as you can imagine. The chimneys I can work around but my big mincemeat belly is who I am and I can’t go thrusting that into the faces of deprived children.’

So Christmas intends to test-drive an initiative in 2010 whereby he downgrades the more ambitious of the Christmas wish letters, passing on the savings to a Secret Santa trust fund for the needy.

‘I don’t like to interfere with dreams but I can’t say I enjoy dropping ponies off in whopping great mansions and it’s not just because they’re heavy.

It seems an outrageous idea but the parents may have to buy some of the presents themselves.’

This balanced attitude seems to sum up Christmas well. He’s a large man with no greed. A snow bear who likes to catch some holiday rays. A larger-than-life character with a humble outlook.

Before we part I want to ask the biggie. The one about his impossible Christmas Eve workload. But somehow it seems the wrong question, like asking God how he can be 3 people in one. Should we even want to unravel the man from the myth?

Father Christmas takes a long sip on his Caparinha.

‘Just let yourself believe,’ he smiles, looking me in the eye.

And I’m not disappointed any more.

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O.E.D Omissions

The word to describe the filtering of real information when elderly relatives ask how your life is, so that they will not be traumatised.

The word to describe the feeling when you are a waitress looking at a table that is waiting for the coffee you have forgotten to bring them.

The word to describe the feeling when you are advantage up in a tennis game and hubris causes you to lose it by making three excruciating blunders.

The word to describe the expression on the face of the park attendant with the leaf blower standing in the rain in his McIntosh watching 3 year olds re-arrange his large heap of leaves into smaller, considerably less tidy heaps.

The word to describe the pathetically sad face made by a person causing a traffic jam by sitting on the yellow hatched lines.

The word to describe the hideously moralising face of the person being blocked by the person sitting on the yellow hatched lines.

The word to describe the peculiar ache in arms that have carried shopping home from the supermarket that is too heavy.

The word to describe the aimless straightening of objects while on the telephone.

The word to describe the peculiar crawling of the flesh when someone says the phrase,’Credit Crunch’.

The word to describe the faux-lascivious look the extremely gay male dancers gave Rula Lenska when she played the fairy in the Worthing Christmas pantomime performance of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.

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Full Body Massage

ayurvedicman1

If you scamper to Sri Lanka, to a quiet Southern beach
Mount a bike and ride the back roads and eventually you’ll reach
A tiny unlit building where resides a man of charm
Vending magical sensations with his lotions, oils and balms

Quiet and unassuming he’s a very literal guy
When he says
Full Body Massage I can confirm he does not lie
Using fingers ten and elbows and at a fairly modest price
He doesn’t offer round the world just straight to paradise

He warmed up with the usual moves, none of them too taxing
Some gentle pressure here and there, indulgent and relaxing
Perhaps I should have sensed in which direction things would go
When he stopped and asked me solemn-faced,
‘You want it hard or slow?’

‘Can’t it be both?’ I asked, wide-eyed, trying to be amusing
But he didn’t speak much English and found it all far too confusing
‘I want it hard,’ I motioned, ‘Don’t mistake me for faint-hearted’
Whereupon he took a deep breath, briefly closed his eyes and started

The push and pull between my toes should not have felt intrusive
Yet the way he moved his digits was distinctly all-inclusive
With expert manipulation he made the toe-to-head transition
Persuading me with manual ease into yogic positions

My bikini briefs did not relieve my bottom of attention
On which the energetic pummeling deserves a special mention
After which he flipped me over with the passion of a lover
Conscientiously proceeding with the nurture of a mother

He chopped and rubbed with urgent hands- no part was not addressed
Kneading like a body baker on my stomach, arms and chest
When he reached my head and pulled my hair he straightened out the curls
Tugging firmly like a teenage boy re-modeling a
Girl’s World.

My eyebrows raised I can’t deny it felt somewhat suggestive
His energy all over me not quite what I expected
But as vital as the session proved he showed utmost restraint
Some scratches running down my back perhaps the sole complaint

Though flesh was bared and bodies touched it yielded no disgrace
The happy ending of this story just a smile upon my face
For this man, he was a gentleman- professional and true
And though I may not be a lady, I’m essentially a prude.

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Long-haul flight schedule

12.10: Stuff stuff in overhead lockers, trying not to expose midriff.

12.12: Limbo into seat and appraise allocation in terms of proximity to: the seat in front; the toilet; the children; the likelihood of the chicken preference running out.

12.15: Suspiciously monitor people getting on board. Jump to wild conclusions about their lifestyle; lineage; unfeasible tan; ability to cope in confined quarters.

12.20: Take stuff down from overhead lockers.

12.25: Familiarise with plane seat landscape: positioning of substance-less pillow; storage of blanket; shoe situation (on/off/socks).

12.30: Test facilities: chair recline; food table axis; screen tilt; remote control functioning.

12.35: Arrival of passenger in adjacent seat. Quick Terminator assessment scan: weight; odour; personality type. Give economical smile. By the end of this journey you will know more about me than my gynaecologist. But embark on a conversation and I will assume the brace position.

12.40: Feel bored. Wonder how long is left of the flight. Realise it hasn’t taken off yet.

12.41: Liberate Inflight magazine. Flick through. Study world map with route arrows connecting capitals without knowing why. Read an article about week-ends in Barcelona. Replace magazine.

12.42: Accept cleansing tissue. Watch how many people use it to clean crevices only usually reached by hot towels in Indian restaurants.

12.43: Liberate Duty Free brochure. Question how popular the ‘his and hers’ matching sets are. Of anything. Question if you are bored enough to purchase a pendant for the birthday of an elderly relative. Decide you are not.

12.44: Elect to sleep before take-off. Close eyes.

12.44 and 3 seconds: Open eyes.

12.45: Look at film options. Get excited you can watch a recent release. Manage disappointment when you realise you are not flying to Buenos Aires.

12.50: Eat Bombay Mix, despite swearing you wouldn’t before you got on the plane. Dread the rest of the food resolutions you know you are about to break.

12.55: Listen to the Captain speaking, on the look-out for signs that he is pissed/hungover/ playing a pre-recorded message. Wonder why he sounds so goddam relaxed.

1.00: Rummage around for cosmetics bag, knocking over bottle of water by feet.

1.05: Apply face cream to already freeze-dried skin. Look in small mirror at bloodshot eyes and desperate hair. Know it’s only downhill from here.

1.10: Feel grateful for the distraction of the emergency landing instructions. Appreciate the hostesses also find them deeply ironic. Consider how attractive hostesses are. Wonder if you would like to be/nail one. Take no notice of nearest exit.

1.15: Examine emergency landing card without registering a single piece of information.

1.20: Pointlessly adjust seatbelt. Take off. Feel nostalgic.

1.25: De-click ears by swallowing 10 times.

1.30: Sigh and prepare for the onset of terror-suspect sleep-deprivation.

1.40: Rummage in bag for book, knocking water over again.

1.45: Read 2 pages of book. Feel bored. Stow in magazine pocket, stretching it to capacity.

1.50: Moniter progress of hostess with drinks, with mounting fear she may miss you out. Consider spirit/wine/ sensible water options. Pluck up courage to ask for more than one. With ice. And lemon. And saucy bits, if it’s a Bloody Mary. Manoevre unwieldy limbs to safely transfer beverages to table. Just miss hostess trying to hand her back the spent refresher towel and empty Bombay Mix packet. Shove down the side of the book in overstretched front pocket instead.

2.00: Drink drinks. This is great. This is like being in a bar. I’m almost enjoying myself.

2.10: Finish drinks. Feel cold, dehydrated, nihilistic.

2.15: Adjust air flume above head, which is pointing the wrong way. Play with light on/light off. Accidentally press hostess button. Sorry. Sorry. No, sorry, it was a mistake.

2.20: Play a computer game. Try to get to grips with how to hold the remote control to move the caveman around the maze. Derive inordinate satisfaction from zapping pursuant elephants after ingesting power-enhancing carrots.

2.30: Study menu card. Try to deduce meal least likely to mortally offend palate. Wish you had pretended to be a vegetarian. See vegetarian option make a funeral march past. Feel relieved you didn’t pretend to be a vegetarian.

2.45: Receive meal and contemplate dolefully. Then set to work making the necessary adjustments: transference of less weary salad items to main tray; swapping round of sauces/vinaigrettes; roll placed to one side- no, sod it, roll reinstated and lavishly buttered. Crackers and cheese placed in reserve. Dayglo pudding laughed out of court.

3.00: Start to eat meal. Believe it to be so packed with lard it could walk off the plate singing a lardy song.

3.05: Start to love meal. Experience lard endorphin rush. Proffer little glass for wine. This is great. This is like dining out. I’m almost enjoying myself.

3.10: Finish acceptable parts of meal.

3.11: Start on unacceptable parts of meal. Re-introduce the Dayglo pudding. Resolve to try just one bite. Eat the whole thing, followed by the mini Dairy Milk. Panic you’re taking too long and there will soon be tea and coffee and you won’t have finished.

3.20: Balance hexagonal cup on tray for hot drink. Spray little milks over neighbour. Try not to feel like a giant.

3.30: Hand back empty tray, wearing the pleading eyes of a seal-clubber negotiating with Jesus at the gates of Heaven. If I could turn back time. If I could find a way.

3.40: Carry on with Caveman Crunch filled with self-hatred. Commit suicide by deliberately walking into elephants.

3.50: Watch a film. Laugh manically at anything remotely funny. Weep inconsolably at anything remotely sad. Make thumbs up/thumbs down gestures at traveling companion. Wonder if you also look like someone whose mind is on the turn and is obliviously sitting in their own shit. Wearing headphones.

5.20: Finish film. Look at watch. Look at passengers slumbering under their blankets. Want to kill them or wake them up by doing loud elephant noises in their ear.

5.25: Hear girl chatting vigorously. Locate her kneeling back-to-front in her perky seat. Want to clamp her mouth shut using any left-over pudding as glue.

5.30: Need toilet. Consider escape. Execute it. Stretch in aisle. See other scared eyes peeping out of hollow faces, looking to you for answers.

5.40: Eek into toilet, side-stepping wet bits. They’re just water. They’re just water. Flush toilet and think about large woman who got her bits sucked into the vaccuum and had to be removed by paramedics at the other end. Look in mirror under the cruel orange glow. Feel empathy for Michael Jackson. Feel kinship to a maltreated animal. Avoid squeezing actions AT ALL COSTS.

5.50: Return clumsily to seat trying to wake up traveling companion to ensure you are not the only person who has not slept for 72 hours straight.

6.00: Start new film. Weep all the way through. Even through comedy. Especially through comedy.

7.40: Accept glass of apple juice from hostess with the grateful wince of a galleon rower being spared the lash.

7.50: Try to sleep. Recline chair all 2 1/2 inches. Inflate neck pillow. Settle down to dreamland.

7.52: Admit you have never been so angrily, preposterously uncomfortable ever. Drift into a delirious state of half-existence, praying for unconsciousness or death.

9.00: Give up trying to sleep. Wonder why ruminating on the gaping flaws in your life surrounded by the husk of humanity in a pressurized capsule didn’t take you there. Look at watch. Try to cry but fail to do so due to dehydration.

9.10: Watch Friends. The One Where Rachel and Ross Get Together. The One You’ve Seen Five Effing Million Times. The One In Front Of Which You May Actually Evaporate If The Plane Doesn’t Land Soon.

9.40: Switch to radio. Anything. Claire Sweeney. Michael Bolton. Whatever. Take me Lord. Take me now.

10.50: Nod off for 5 minutes.

10.55: Awake refreshed. Renewed. Take out mirror and try to stick on pieces of face falling off, in case you frighten other passengers on disembarkation.

11.00: Enter The Twilight Zone. Play solitaire. Order a gin and tonic.

12.00: Watch a film. Laugh all the way through. Even through tragedy. Especially through tragedy.

2.00: Accept meal without prejudice. Eat the whole thing immediately. Eat the cake. Eat neighbour’s cake. Ask hostess if there is any spare cake you can eat. This is great. This is like being ever so slightly insane. I’m almost enjoying myself.

3.00: Get violently hauled into reality by the cabin lights. Examine surrounding wreckage. Wonder if you crashed and didn’t realise. Wonder if you will ever walk again.

3.40: Gather personal belongings worth salvaging, like a tramp being asked to move on.

3.50: Touch-down to collective whinnying of cabin inmates. Exchange the grimaces of a shared ordeal with those brave enough to make eye contact.

3.40: Exit plane planning motoring holiday in Wales for the next 10 years.

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