13 April 2014

The following is a post I began writing on 13 April 2014 to recount my dramatic journey to London earlier this year. Although I’m only publishing it now, it seems fit to keep the original entry date – as a keepsake, if you will. Here goes:

Good morning London,

What a journey this has been.

First, a location update: I am now waiting to pass immigration at Heathrow. So technically I’m not yet in London. The queue is the longest I’ve ever seen, and it feels like I’ve been walking round and round this snake forever.

Which, of course, is an overstatement. Though it is long. To give you an idea, it’s so long that after 5 lives of candy crush I still have so much left to go I decided to write this blog post.

One observation: they removed the ‘mobile phone prohibited’ signs in the immigration waiting area. I guess it got to the point where the costs of flagrant disrespect for the rule outweighed the benefits of… What was the benefit of banning mobile phone usage in immigration in the first place? I never quite figured that out. Anyone care to venture a guess? An informed guess?

To be fair to the UK border police, they’re doing a magnificent job of keeping the queue moving. This is a far cry from the severely understaffed border control of a few years back, where three manned booths equalled a really, really long wait.

Though actually, as circumstances would have it, I’m not too keen on passing immigration too quickly this time around.

Why, you ask? It’s a long story.

Then again, I have plenty of time on my hands… so let’s have it:

As usual, my carrier of choice to fly me to London was Emirates. It’s a flight with a stopover in Dubai, which suits me just fine – time to stretch my legs, primly sit at Paul’s in the Dubai airport, and pretend to read (while actually playing candy crush) for an hour.

Also, I love the Airbus A380 that routinely flies the Bangkok-Dubai route. It’s so luxurious… the starry ceiling, the majestic staircase leading up to the upper-class bar decked with neat rows of liquor and shining glassware. Not that I’ve ever set foot on the staircase or tasted the perks of upper deck travel (land of the first- and business-class people). But a girl can dream. In short, I guess I always choose to fly the A380 because it’s so aesthetically pleasing, something I’m sure you’d also appreciate when strapped to a seat for six hours.

And funnily enough, it was none other than the A380 that landed me in my present predicament.

More specifically, its fuels system.

My EK flight (EK for Emirates) was scheduled to depart from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 9.20pm. As usual, I have a few hours’ stopover in Dubai – I always choose my flights so that I have at least 2 hours to make my connection – to switch from the A380 to the Boeing 777-300ER that will deposit me in London at 6.45am the morning after.

Essentially an overnight flight, thanks to the 7-hour time difference. Don’t we love flying back in time?

As always, I had picked a seat in the front row of the A380. The very first row in the plane. So that (1) I can gaze up the staircase and pretend I’m not in economy, and (2) I am among the first to get off the plane at Dubai. Twice now, I have been the first transit passenger to go through security at Dubai. It’s a little challenge I set myself every time I make this by-now-routine flight.

One I feel ridiculously proud of for achieving.

*awkwardly clears throat*

Wow. I just looked up from my phone (yes I’m still in the queue) and there’s even more people now.

Let’s get back to the story.

There I was, all buckled up in my seat, as yet blissfully unaware of the events about to unfold. Unbeknownst to me, my front-row seat was about to acquire a whole other meaning.

I may be over-generalising from my limited experience, but the many times I’ve flown with Emirates, I’ve found them to be quick and efficient with boarding. Especially on the A380 with its multiple entrances.

So I was surprised when, after half an hour, the door was still open and the gangway firmly in place. They are waiting for late passengers, I told myself.

And I would have believed it too, if not for the amount of ground staff and technicians continually streaming in and out of the plane, and occasionally into the cockpit. The secretive whispering among the crew, more and more of whom were congregating on the staircase leading up to the bar, also kind of gave it away.

Then came the first announcement from the captain: the plane is refusing to pass some final technical check, so they’re running the check again. But not to worry – this will only take 15 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, the activity continued abuzz. Serious-looking technicians and ground staff continued to sneak in and out of the cockpit. At one point, the captain himself came out to talk to the crew on the staircase. I did my best to eavesdrop, but I just wasn’t close enough.

More time passed like this, with cryptic captain announcements at 15-30 minute intervals. We were served the first refreshments (a drink and crackers), then a second (only drinks).

Oh, did I mention that there was also a fault in the AC? As we were informed by an earlier announcement, the main system wasn’t working, so we were on some back-up option that meant the cabin wasn’t very cold. It felt like sitting in a room where someone had just turned off the air conditioning, which after an hour was just not very comfortable.

By this time, I was starting to fear for my connection. If things continued at this rate, I was going to miss it. So I started mentally preparing myself for the scenario where I had to catch another flight to London. No big deal, just some hassle. I made a mental note to text my flatmate to let her know I would be delayed, so she doesn’t worry when I don’t show up at the flat the next morning.

Another captain announcement: regretfully, yet another check was not passed. Due to conditions on the plane (namely the faulty AC), they would be obliged to disembark all passengers if the fault isn’t resolved within the next 30 minutes.

Now this was getting interesting. In all my years of flying, I’d never had to disembark from a plane. New experience! Having resigned myself to the near certainty that I’d miss my connecting flight, I sat back and let myself be washed under the positive rush of entering the unknown.

And sure enough, thirty minutes later, another announcement informed the by-now universally restive passengers that they would shortly be disembarked. The captain profusely apologised for the inconvenience this may have caused. No more specific information was given as to what was preventing the plane from taking off.

Luckily, I was in the front seat. So I was easily within eavesdropping distance when one of the upper-deck passengers who, of course, were the first to disembark casually asked one of the flight attendants what the issue was.

Fuels system. It was the fuels system.

Damn you A380 fuels system.

So it was that two hours after boarding the plane, I was back in the gate along with a planeload of frustrated passengers, entirely uninformed as to what would happen next.

I found a spot next to the toilets, inflated my travel neck support (I refuse to call it a pillow), and settled in. A quick call and some texts later, I had informed all concerning parties of my delayed flight to London and assured a worrying dad that all was fine. Many of the passengers asked to leave the gate area to smoke. Some left to have dinner. All the on-board crew had also been disembarked and were quick to congregate in a corner, presumably as far away from the inquiring passengers as possible.

More time passed. More passengers left. No more news was given regarding the status of the immobile A380. My stomach started to rumble – of all the days, my flight had to be delayed the one time I decided not to eat before.

I was on the verge of leaving to get some food when the ground staff called for passengers bound for London. I rushed to the counter along with a dozen others, and was informed that we were to be transferred to a direct Thai Airways flight scheduled to depart in half an hour. Our passports and boarding passes were swiftly collected and checked. And soon we were racing across the airport, led by a tired-looking yet efficient and amiable ground staff.

I had never been more thankful for my indecision. If I’d been quicker to leave for food, I would surely have missed the call, and the Thai Airways flight. Irrefutable proof that there’s a time and place for everything. Even indecision. Ha!

And thanks to the ground staff’s efficiency (she was amazing. I wish I remembered her name…), we were successfully put on the TG (for Thai Airways) flight. As it was a direct flight, we would arrive in London in the morning, only an hour after Emirates’ scheduled arrival time. Needless to say, the dozen of us were extremely pleased. I didn’t even mind the disapproving glares from the TG passengers who undoubtedly thought we were irresponsible late arrivers as we made our way through the boarded plane to our freshly-assigned seats.

Let me tell you, I had never been more relieved to hear the “cabin crew, arm doors and cross-check” announcement. Everything was finally going to plan. Dinner would soon be served (I was starving by then). And I’d be in London in the morning.

With one catch: our checked bags were still on the faulty A380. No one could say on what flight the bags would travel, but they certainly weren’t on our TG.

And that’s why I wasn’t too eager to pass immigration too quickly. One part of me was naively hoping that I’d be able to wait at Heathrow for my big suitcase to arrive. And if I had to wait, I might as well spend some time waiting on the other side.

End of story!

I did say it was a long story.

Thanks for staying with me.

Love,

Val

p.s. in case you’re wondering, I filed a report for ‘lost’ luggage at Heathrow, and my suitcase was delivered to my flat the next day.

p.p.s. and yes, I’m still flying Emirates. My love affair with the A380 isn’t over. Not just yet.

 

 

 

 

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25 April 2014

It’s Friday night.

No. That’s a lie. It’s actually Saturday morning.

But seriously now, everyone knows morning doesn’t happen past midnight. Morning is when you wake up. #fact

So what am I doing blogging on a Friday night? Two things.

First, I’ve never really been big on Friday nights. Which isn’t surprising, really, considering I’ve spent the large part of my last seven years as a student.

Students don’t have to wake up to go to work the next day. We just sleep. At least I did. I had some morning lectures here and there, but two per week was the maximum. So, really, almost every night of the week could be Friday night for me.

I did get a taster for what’s in store during my time working in Bangkok last year. And I don’t think I’m going to do very well staying up on my feet on Friday nights come August (when, fingers crossed, I will be putting my myriad capabilities to lucrative ends). I’ll probably fall asleep over my drinks given that I will have been waking up at 5am five nights in a row.

#Bangkoktraffic

We’ll see how that works out. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, every night can be Friday night.

The second thing is that, exceptionally, I’ve actually already been out this evening.

Exceptionally because, as I’ve just said, I don’t really do Friday nights, and also because, not counting dinners, I haven’t been out on a soirée in a while.

My boyfriend wanted to do something after work. And since he’s the responsible one with a job and I’m the final-year student who’ll do anything to procrastinate from revision, I did some googling and found a comedy night in Shoreditch.

And that’s what we did: comedy night in Shoreditch. It’s a place called Comedy Café just off Shoreditch High Street. I’ve never been, though as it turns out my boyfriend has. Oops. He said he liked it the first time round though, so no damage done there.

It’s actually quite a nice place. Cozy. Not too dark. Not too loud. Relaxed atmosphere. Great backdrop for comedy. Of all the places I’ve been to in Shoreditch so far (4-5), this was my favourite.

As for the comedy, well… There were 3 acts, and I happened to like the first act the most. The second guy was clearly not as good as the first. Having googled the headline act beforehand, I was quite excited about it (an experienced Swede comedian). And I really did try so very hard to like him.

To no avail. Tobias just didn’t do it for me.

Not that he wasn’t funny. All three were, in different ways. I just happened to like the way of the first guy the most. So much so that he totally eclipsed all the other acts. Ah well. Can’t have it all.

Observation: it was an all-male line-up tonight. The other comedy night I’ve been to (also in Shoreditch) also had a male-dominant line-up. Female comedians, where art thou?

But yeah, I had a fun night. And now I’m back, all snug under my cozy blanket, blogging away.

It’s 00.30am. I must now go to bed with the delusion that I will wake up early and have a productive morning.

Have a good night everyone,

Val

 

 

 

 

23 April 2014

I shouldn’t be calling this a daily blog anymore, should I?

It has been almost 2 weeks since my last post. I am deeply ashamed.

Let me catch you up with what’s been happening:

– first, a rather dramatic flight to London from Bangkok. I had begun writing about it but never got round to finishing the post. I have a feeling 13 April will stay a draft for a while. Ah well, one can never save up too many exciting stories!

– I am in London. For almost 2 weeks now. Time does fly. Apart from London, I’ve also been in Lake District. I spent the Easter bank holiday weekend there. It was great. Breakfast in the garden with a view over Lake Windemere. Rowing in Derwentwater. I couldn’t have asked for more for a relaxing weekend away from London. *reminiscing pause*

– I’m settling in nicely in my new flat. The thing I love the most is my working desk. It’s in the living room, facing the large window overlooking the communal garden. Light, airy, green. A bit chilly without the heating on, but apparently low temperature is correlated with higher productivity. Or so I’ve been told.

– I’ve met up with some of my friends from university. And I must say, again, that time really does fly. Some of them I haven’t seen since I was in my second year… which is 3 years ago. Damn. And I must also say, it’s nice to see where everyone is in their lives; we’ve all chosen such different paths. I think I’m starting to understand the meaning of ‘catching up’.

– Revision has been intermittent. Four-day break to go to Lake District. And while I’m in London I’ve been going back and forth between my place and my better half’s. Which is good in the grand scheme of things, but doesn’t really contribute toward exam preparation, as I must reluctantly admit. But I’m back in my flat now. Bag unpacked from Lake District. All revision material at arm’s length. Enter the final stretch!

And that’s about it, I think. I could tell you about my indignation at the outrageously expensive groceries shopping for my flat. In fact, I think I just did. Ah, London prices. At least it has been mostly sunny and warm. So I can’t complain. *knock wood*

Now for miscellaneous thoughts/bits that I want to put in writing but am too lazy to organise into a coherent whole:

Before going on my Lake District trip, I was quite apprehensive about losing 4 whole days of revision time. In retrospect, though, I think it was a good decision to go away. I had been revising non-stop for – 3 weeks was it? – before coming to London. A well-earned break was due. And now I feel fresh and motivated to get back on my revision track. (Euphemism for exams fast approaching and increasingly feeling the pressure)

Oooh, I got an e-mail from UCL today. An essay that’s going to count toward 60% of one of my modules has been marked and is now ready for collection. I’m going to go pick it up tomorrow. Excited? Yes I am. I’m always excited when I pick up my essays. It’s an essay/writing pride thing.

It’s 10.45pm. I should go to bed. I’m trying to get my biological alarm clock set at around 6-6.30am. It’s perfect for going on a morning run. Which I’ve done once since I got back to London. 9k. Yes, I’m extremely proud. I froze my hands off though.

Which is why I bought myself a running jacket/jumper/top (can you call it a suit if it has no bottom?) for cold weather. It covers your hands and has holds for your fingers to come out. I haven’t used it yet. I’m hoping to soon. Maybe tomorrow…

Goodnight,

Val

 

 

 

 

11 April 2014 (2)

And I am back!

I am on a blogging roll today.

My flight to London is tomorrow. And it’s finally hitting home that in less than two days I’m going to be in London. I’ll be going in the tube, walking in the streets, trying out this coffee shop and that restaurant.

It’s fascinating how 14-15 hours of flight can transport you to a different world. Different weather. Different architecture. Different system. Different people. Different smell. Different everything.

And I’m finally starting to look forward to it.

I discovered a few hours ago that Regent’s Park will be within running distance from my flat, and that’s one of the first things I’m determined to do when I arrive.

Now, that’s me being optimistic. More likely, I’ll just have enough energy to clean my room, unpack, get myself cleaned up, then plump onto the couch/bed/soft item in the flat. Then make myself a cup of coffee and try to get some revision done.

Yes. That sounds like a more realistic plan.

Talking about plans and being realistic, I must get on. That French exposé (oui je parle français, un tout petit peu) isn’t going to write itself.

I’ve sorted out my carry-on, checked the TfL website for travel disruptions, mapped out my jogging route, printed out all the revision notes I made over the past weeks. Yep, that’s pretty much everything productive I can do to put off writing this exposé.

Oh yes, I’ve blogged too. Twice.

#forshame

I highly doubt I will have time to write tomorrow before my long flight, so I guess I’ll ‘see’ you in London.

Take care,

Val

6 April 2014

Val’s list of priorities as of 6th April:

1. Revise.
2. Exercise.
3. Socialise.
4. Write.

It’s my last week in Bangkok before I jet off to London, where my final undergraduate exams will begin in less than a month. *shivers* Given this imminent departure, I’ve tried to schedule in seeing all my good friends this past and coming week. And since I can’t do two things at once, I’ve had to revise my priorities list from 25th March.

To be completely honest, though, in my head, the priorities seem to be: revise, revise, revise. At some point this week, I suddenly realised that I’ve officially entered the final stretch of revision.

It’s funny. The middle stretch never arrived. One day I was in my early stretch (25th March would be one of those days), then suddenly I was in the final stretch. There doesn’t seem to be a middle stage where you’re just revising merrily along. You’re either super cool and collected, thinking ‘I’m way ahead. I started so early’, or a wreck of nerves, with ‘OMG I’M NEVER GOING TO FINISH REVISING IN TIME. THERE’S LESS THAN A MONTH LEFT‘ on repeat in your puny, overworked, and overstressed brain (which pretty much describes the me of the past week).

My solution for this surge in anxiety has been to exercise like mad. I’ve gone to the gym more often this week than any other week. Having my imminent departure as an excuse to spend more time with friends also helps. The exercise and the company distract me from the stress of revision, but the latter is never far from my mind.

I wonder what it’ll be like once I arrive in London. I can already foresee my stress levels shoot right up. It’s a good thing I’ve got that Lake District trip planned. God knows I could use some away time to clear my head.

On the other hand, though, it’s four whole days where I won’t be able to revise. And there’s a lot you can revise in four days.

This is really not a productive train of thought, so I’m going to stop myself there.

Objectively, I’ve done a lot this week: substantial revision progress was made, visa was acquired, friends were met, body was subject to rigorous exercise. I just don’t feel like it.

And that’s the problem.

It’s all in your mind. It’s all in my mind.

If only the mind were easier to tame.

Maybe I should start meditating.

But now I should get started on that French exercise, so I have time to wash my car before it gets dark (and the mosquitoes come out to play).

Thanks for reading,

Val

p.s. I meant to write a post about how flexibility and duty are inherently incompatible concepts. I’m not sure what happened. I started writing and this came out.

p.p.s. This is quite therapeutic. I should really write about more substantial things though, more concrete topics, with analysis and insight. And there goes the over-exigent mind again.

 

 

29 March 2014

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many slices of bread in one day.

That’s what happens when you stay at home: you eat. Everything and anything you can find within a 5-metre radius.

Four slices for lunch. Then another one just now to soak up all the salad dressing. So much for having salad for dinner!

I love bread. I really do. I always have.

Even now I am struggling not to grab another slice from one of the two loaves (whole wheat and fluffy white) sitting very temptingly to my left.

Hmm… I can smell it, the buttery smell of bread. I can almost taste it.

Speaking of bread and breakfast, there is nothing I love more than the smell of fresh toast and coffee in the morning. I distinctly remember, one day in the summer of 2012, I was in London. I had got up super early to get to my work shift. I put a slice of bread (multi grain) in the toaster, and popped my moka pot on the stove. Then, as the smell of toast filled the kitchen and the coffee started bubbling, I realised how much I loved that moment.

How happy I was. I felt at peace. At one with my surroundings. Content with my life.

It’s a great feeling. It’s easily the most memorable breakfast I’ve ever had. I remember nothing of the day that followed, but that moment in the kitchen is as vivid in my mind as if it were yesterday.

Hmm… I’m already planning getting up early tomorrow morning to have a slice over coffee before I go for my morning run.

Yes. Let’s do that.

If I wake up early enough, I might even get some reading done before I leave the house.

So that’s it from me for today, short and sweet,

Good night,

Val