On a moonlit Thursday morn, we are up at 0130 and wizzed off to Perth’s International Airport in a luxury limo all part of our flight package. Aboard an Emirates Boeing 777, into Business class and off on an adventure to the Old World. France and Italy, eight weeks, crikey how lucky are we. This partly promulgated by my approaching milestone birthday. And yes, I realise that at my advanced age every birthday is a milestone. My life commenced on 12 November 1942 when my most wonderful mother Elsie expelled me kicking and screaming into the known world. At the time my garrulous, gregarious, gasbagging father Joseph was in the saloon bar of the Inglewood Hotel making merry with his brothers and mates.
Life in the 1940s and 50s when I was growing up was vastly different to today. The generational changes and mind sets having accelerated extraordinarily since due to technology. I was born into the planet of the Working Class but today its all Gen X, Y, Zee and LGBLTB stuff making it assuredly, the Planet of the Apps and Whingeing Minorities. Sorry Mum.
Its a long way from Perth to Dubai, over 9,000 ks and thats 12 and a bit hours flight at 900ks an hour. But let me tell you, this Bissy class the way to go. Expensive yes, but just do it once. Forget about the kids inheritance, the mortgage and fly where our hopelessly inept politicians spend our money when they travel. You will find your seated space the size of a small tent and theres enough gizmos to test your ageing intellect and patience. And the food and alcohol, ‘Ah, excuse me, an 18 year old Chivas and a 15 year old Glenfiddich please hostee – oops sorry, Flight Attendant’.
The seat is fitted with small motors and hydraulic rams designed by a very bright Chinese Midget named Fook whose family possibly are embedded in the mechanisms. The seat motorised such that it extends out into the resemblance of a flat bed and with my tent fly zippered, Im in a world of my own sipping Chivas and reading intellectual tomes. Susan the Smitten One, my lovely wife, is just there alongside me in her capsule watching movies, glass of French Champers, playing with her free Bulgari cosmetics bag, wearing the free slippers and socks and acting like a six year old in a lolly shop. Mind you, she has a seven year old alongside her.
If we choose, we can have an outing to the swish toilet, oops, Cosmetics Cubicle of which there are several choices. Here in the Cosmetics Cubicle its a far larger tent wherein one could easily qualify for the mile high club should one be so inclined provided they are willing to contort their frame slightly. A Hollywood mirror on one of the walls, has free cosmetics by that mad Polish person Bulgari who has them manufactured in Bangladesh. Adjoining are warm towelettes, disposable toothbrush and paste, botty wipes, six ply, and some mystery things of the feminine discipline. I think. An Arabic scroll on the wall, is I figure, musings from the Karma Sutra but then, I’m over 70 and in mental decline.
Looking out from my tent thru my large oval window framed in pleasant woodgrain with internal pleated blinds, approaching Dubai I gaze down at millions of square kilometres of nomadic desert wilderness interspersed with ranges, hills and mountains all devoid of trees and water and looking like folded cardboard origami. I can partially understand how this land shaped people and possibly caused Moses to go up onto Mount Sinai to see if there was any greenery about, somewhere for him and his Israelite tribe to escape to and claim refugee status. Unfortunately for him, God found out he was on the mountain top and ordered him to chisel out the ten commandments which Australia’s founding Fathers forgot to include in our thin constitution.
Right now at 4am local Dubai time, we are bivouacked in a hotel located within airport Terminal Three a monstrous curved slug of a building stretching forever. It takes 50 to 80 minutes to walk the slug’s length all dependent on whether there are tribes of white sheeted, gingham capped Bedouins and Sheiks strolling about with their entourage of 3 to 5 Burqa and otherwise modestly shielded wives several looking shape wise like small camels. Sorry. This somewhat confirming one of my Uncle Orlando’s sayings about Camels but its all a bit deep and possibly a mortal sin for me to harbour those thoughts. This slow moving ensemble of moveable sheets buzzed about by a flotilla of children wearing the latest Pumpkin Patch clothes.
Judging by the mass of humanity here, one could surmise that every race and culture on earth had one of their inmates at Dubai Airport in the past 24 hours. And we are all getting on surprisingly well, making space for each other and nodding hello with grim lips half smiling. Mind you, some of those obese white sheeted sheiks are like slow bulldozers with attitude and manners to match thus they plough ahead and one of slight build, like the Smitten One and I, just have to get out of the way. The collective of affluent Arab nations is nudging the United States for the most obese demographic on earth as the Golden Arches, Burger King and other Saturated Fat and Sugar purveyors take over the airport and shopping centre malls, and thus the stomachs of people breeding a new range of Arabic gut bacteria and people. The ancestral goat, camel, date, khubz bread and grain diet for centuries eaten by the left hand, the right hand is for you know what, is quickly being replaced by two handed Big Macs with the lot, large fries, Chook Pieces covered in 11 varieties of hitherto unknown spice varieties, followed by Creamy Custard Dessert all washed down with a Sludge by-product called a Thick Shake. The Arabic tents are being fitted with porcelain ponies with bidets thus freeing up the right hand for sexting, twittering, blogging, picking their boogas and cuddling their favourite goat.
Ground Zero in this monstrous slug of an architectural and structural masterpiece, is the Shopping Mall which overspills into the Saturated Fat Mall and it is not just one long event as there are Side Show Malls running parallel to the main glitz and glitter. Here the smaller chains and cafes sell food having a kinship with Selleys Products. Squeezed in amongst all this, are bars, taverns and pampering areas where one can divest themselves of their hard earned in the blink of an eye.
At the main Shopping Mall area, Duty Free reigns supreme where alcohol, cigarettes and perfumeries are the Holy Grail. Smiling pleasant service staff in soothing powder green uniforms await your petty whims to take your shekels, surplus wife or goats in exchange for goods that do your health no good at all. Adjuncts to the main attractions, are humidified cigar rooms, dimly lit cave like rooms where exquisite organic, free range, environmentally sourced Chocolates made from cocoa beans processed by ten year old Buddhist trainee monks are sold for the price of a small tractor. There possibly a small cubicle where for a small fee, one can test ride a camel or goat in preparation for marriage.
Its all a floor show of its own operating 24/7 and only functions due to the staff, the majority of whom are temporary refugees working for subsistence wages and living in near poverty. All the sounds are overtaken by the frequent call to the Prayer Rooms and the Wailing of the faithful as they pay homage to their God. Its all a tad disconcerting and I wonder whether a dram or two of Jamesons Whiskey may help. Our hotel room just so well thought out and fitted including a window which overlooks a restaurant. Possibly why it was reasonably priced. The room includes on my bedside table, a patterned prayer map should I decide to have a wail of my own. At the moment, the only wailing I am capable of is from my bomb bay where these flight and country dietary changes are playing havoc with digestive tract bacteria which have been trained up on Sue’s cooking to behave.
We slept fitfully as the previous night, due to the early rising, we only had some three hours sleep and thus our humour, body clock and harmonic metronome is out of kilter. But not yet at the grumpy stage.
Our next leg of trip to Paris entails 7 hours on an A380-300 a huge whale like flying machine of several floors with lifts, staircases and cages for the Cattle Class. It takes 489-517 souls its seating configuration depending on how many Australian Pollys with ‘family’ on a taxpayer junket plus Sheiks with families having the shekels to fly first and business class. The cabin crew have the capability of conversing in 11 languages and Bissy class is even more opulent tending towards ‘intergalactic’ on entry far more so that the Boeing we travelled on from Perth. Once in the air, and thank God and all the other Earths religious Deities for that, I am off exploring leaving the Smitten One to fiddle with her control panels, sip her single origin coffee and make a decision about which blockbuster movie to watch. Here in the refined rarified atmosphere of Bissy Class, down the blunt end of our cabin, theres a small Tavern of the sort that would take several years of bureaucratic red tape and several reams of paper just to get planning consent in Australia. Seated on a curvaceous sofa are young Brad and Jolo look alike’s wearing Rolex’s, Hilfiger shirts and Pierre Cardin pants sip cocktails with umbrellas. I feel ill at ease and not my usual Ernest of the Hemingway stock.The LED’s set into the bar bulkhead I just know are showing up my Walter Matthau look as Hemingway was left back at my Fook designed recliner bed. Theres olives stuffed with yellow stuff possibly an anchovy, warm olives and what looks like caterpillar crackers curled up all set out on the bar top. The bar attendant or technician, Fatima, awakens me from my musings and I somewhat awkwardly ask for an 18 year old Chivas just as Ernest would have asked. I poke a toothpick into one of the olives and confirm the existence of an anchovy and wonder about that anchovy going from the ocean to 35,000 foot. Perhaps theres a best selling book in that line? Fatima senses that I am a man of Letters, perhaps distinguished as well or perhaps she wants to get rid of me as another Chivas appears at my elbow.
Behind the bar, theres a commercial kitchen that would put to shame many of the restaurant kitchens about Perth. Eight or so staff prepare lunch in a symphony of movement and grace in the restricted aisle area they chatting away in one of eleven languages. This not your normal kitchen but one of all shiny stainless steel ‘pick a boxes’ all aligned floor to roof, poked into warming and cooling devices designed by that bright Chinese Fook.
Cripes, this is all another world and I am not of it nor want to be as a regular. This once off is really special. I straggle back to my loved one and my small tent to find that my buffet bar has been replenished and includes several bottles of Perrier mineral water. One of those looks from Susan tells me that I should partake of the Perrier rather than the Chivas. I do and being a sticky beak I read the label on the bottle which states that the water ‘is sourced from a secret spring in Vergeze France and is fortified with gas from the spring’. In my partly inebriated condition, I begin to doze off seeing Frenchmen farting into bottles of Perrier water to provide the sparkle.
Ooroo from Odd Bod 🧐