Herne Hill, London
26th May 1986
… and beginning to recognise the fact.
Flying Pemplexpress (a very short-lived budget airline) from San Francisco to Bruxelles seemed sensible. $229 is such a cheap fare that one could overlook the cramped seats which were only reached after a six hour delay. Time in an international airport can only be passed with conversation: a 71 year old grandmother was visiting her expectant daughter in Singapore; a 21 year old Parisienne is a card sharp and beat me many hands down at rummy.
When we touched down everyone applauded; it was 3pm, although my body clock said it was only 6am. But Belgium was shut, a nationwide strike. There were no buses out of the airport and I’d intended to hitch along the coast into France and catch a cross-channel ferry. My only way onwards was to spend $170 on a first class seat on a British Airways flight.
I was feeling grubby, jet-lagged, pissed off at paying almost as much for flying over the Channel as I’d paid to fly across the USA and the Atlantic, and distinctly out of place sitting next to a commuting business executive. I felt even worse when after I’d told him that I was on the very last leg of a year going around the world, he advised me that I should have celebrated with the champagne: “It’s free.”
A welcome sanctuary is offered in Herne Hill, and a chance to sup a good pint for the first time since my last one in May last year. Jet lag masks any overt shock and sadness to be back in what is now an alien familiarity. There are fresh challenges ahead, sights and sounds yet to be explored, and much travelling ahead. For now I’m home with just the Sunday papers and this journal to remind me of where I’ve been, and a sense of the adventures, entertainments and insights I’ve had.