Sunday 4 June 2023

Off home

I get up on time. I’m supposed to be seeing Andrew at 8:30. Just need to brush my teeth, ram a few things into my bags and I’m ready to go.

The bathroom is tiny. Larger than an aeroplane bog. But only just. I can only just about fit my arse on the toilet seat. Not a wonderfully comfortable experience. Andrew would have to bend double to get under the shower.

We check out and walk to the station. It’s not too far, even for someone as old and radged as me. It’s good we know exactly which entrance and staircase to take. Saves pointless fucking around.

After a bit of fiddling with the machine, we get ourselves tickets to the airport. I walk through the barrier and wonder why Andrew hasn’t followed me. I turn back and see he’s talking to a member of staff. Turns out we’ve just bought seat reservations, not actual tickets.

Ticketing issues solved, we go up to the platform. Where our train soon pulls in.

It’s around 45 minutes to the airport. With a pretty fast train. Which, on reflection, looks more like an airliner inside.

We can see a lot more than on the way in, when it was dark. It’s built up very differently than Korea. There, it’s just forests of high-rise blocks. Here, the majority is low-rise housing, with the occasional 10-storey block.

The further out of town we get, the more industrial it becomes. Oh look, there’s a massive Nippon Steel works. Cool.

“We used to have those things in the UK. Places . . .

“Where they made things. Factories. You’ve already done that joke, Dad.”

“Well, I only have a limited number of them.”

“I’ve noticed.”

A long bridge forms the last run into the airport. Which is on an artificial island. One of the largest in the world, Andrew tells me.

It’s all very well organised. The train runs right into the terminal. From there, it’s a few storeys up into departures.

The nice lady at the Korean Air check-in counter asks: “Is Seoul your final destination?”

“No, Amsterdam.”

“Do you want to check your bags all the way through?”

“Yes, please.”

Hopefully, they don’t get lost on the way. Though, as all that’s in them in dirty clothes, it doesn’t really matter that much if they’re delayed. Unlike on the way out.

She also prints boarding passes for the second leg. Zero fucking around needed in Seoul.

The annoying formalities are over quickly. A quick shuttle ride and we’re out at the gates. With almost zero walking involved. That’s what I call a well-organised airport.

The KAL lounge is small, but perfectly-formed. All self-service. I get myself a coffee.

“Where’s the beer machine?”, Andrew asks.

“Next to the coffee machine.”

As these things are quite impressive, I video it while it pours Andrew’s beer.

“Mmm, it’s after 10. Must be time for a whisky.”

“It’s always whisky time for you, Dad.”

He’s not wrong. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

There isn’t a choice. Just a bottle of Ballantine’s 17 year. It’s OK. Having just the one glass would be impolite.

The plane is pretty big for a short hop. A wide-body Airbus. We have two seats on the outside. Again, the legroom is dead impressive for standard seats. Even Andrew can sit comfortably.

Not bad food. Chicken with rice. Not spicy, but pretty tasty. I scoff pretty much the lot. No alcoholic drinks. That’s no biggie, as I’ve already had a couple in the lounge. And I’ll be having a couple more in the next lounge.

We need to go through security again. Doesn’t take long, luckily. Now all we have to do is to find the lounge.

Not as easy as it sounds. We spot one. But it clearly says, on closer inspection: “Not a KAL lounge”.

My back is killing me. I really don’t fancy random walking around in hope.

“Andrew, I need to sit down. Can you try to find the lounge?”

“I’m feeling tired, too.”

“Fucking brilliant. I’ll do it, then.” I’m a bit pissed off. To say the least.

I decide to find a gate with airline staff and ask them. After asking at a few desks, I eventually get directions. Now I remember where they were on the way out. At either gate 249 or 253.

I realise we’re in a different lounge this time when the bar isn’t where I expect. This is an exact mirror image of the other lounge.

What should I get? I know, what about a whiskey? And a beer for Andrew.

I’m going to have to pace myself. We’ve a long layover. A very long layover. As in a full eight hours. No need to go crazy shovelling down the booze. I’ve more than enough time.

Bits of food. Some of those will help. Fruit. That’s always a good idea. And cheese. You can never have too much cheese.

I flip out my flaptop and fire up some Early Doors. Soothing and entertaining. It fills the time like a smelly fart fills a bus.

A couple of hours pass reasonably quickly as I sip whiskey and nibble on cheese.

“Do you fancy some cheese, Andrew?”


“You can never . . .”

“Have too much cheese. I know, Dad. You keep saying that.”

I’m feeling a bit knacked after a couple of hours and decide to get my head down. The seat is comfy and I can stretch out a treat. The lights? That doesn’t bother me. I don’t need darkness to kip.

After an hour spark out, I feel much better. Now where’s that cheese?

I work away steadily at the Jack Daniels. Until Andrew returns from the bar tells me that it’s about to close. You what? I rush up to get in another and ask precisely what is happening. Yes, they close at 8. But the liquor bottles will be left out for us to help ourselves. There won’t be any Jack Daniels, though. I’ll have to make do with Glenmorangie.

There’s still some time left when I finish off season two of Early Doors. As with much of the best British comedy, they called it a day after two series.

Andrew starts getting panicky when he sees “Go to gate” next to our flight. Almost two hours before departure.

“I’m not traipsing down there to sit on an uncomfortable seat for 2 hours. I’ll have plenty of time for that during the flight.”

As a compromise, I agree to leave the lounge 15 minutes before boarding is due to start. It will still mean sitting around at the gate for a while. But I feel guilty about how fine we cut things on our previous flight out of Incheon.

Of course, we have some hanging around at the gate. Not too annoying, mind. As we have seats.

The flight is very full. Luckily, for reasons I don’t understand, the bloke in the window seat fucks off somewhere soon after take-off. Giving us a lot more room.

After nibbling listlessly at the food, I attempt sleep. Having tanked myself up well, I don’t even bother drinking any wine. I doze around ineffectually for a couple of hours. Then put on What We Do in the Shadows. To which I keep falling asleep. That sort of works.

I nod off briefly watching more TV. Outside there’s an amazing strip of dawn, a horizontal rainbow. Very pretty.

The breakfast omelette could be worse. Definitely needs some seasoning. And cheese. Everything is better with cheese.

We land at 5:20. Quite likely the first arrival of the day. On the way to passport control, groups of border guards keep passing us. Obviously, just starting their shifts.

No queue at passport control. I guess because we’re so early. Our bags are already on the carousel and Andrew whips them off, sticks them on the trolley and we’re through customs before the lazy arses have even got out of their office.

A cab has us home not long after six. Where Dolores awaits us with tea.


A Brew Rat said...

Thanks for the explanation regarding Early Doors. Mentally I was picturing you listening to Jim Morrison crooning "C'mon baby light my fire."

Anonymous said...

Wonderful account of the trip. I'm glad to see the boys are still keeping their dad in line.