After battling it out with Mr Bigg - see photo - he decided I could go (something about a twenty four hour flight in economy for a two day trip not being all it's cracked up to be...) Before I'd even launched into the second verse of the Sound of Music, I had replied to the invite and had my ticket booked and confirmed. Rotax, near Wels, just north of Salzburg, would accommodate me (and several hundred others from the aviation industry) for the two nights over the junket. Around that, I decided to build a trip....
My daughter, Bird (13), was studying the Renaissance and so it seemed only fair she joined me, at least to visit Italy. And then, I have my cousin Jody in Vienna, and, ooooh, looky, an invite from Diamond to tour their factory in Wiener Neustadt. And, here's another from Pipistrel in Slovenia....
And so, drawing upon my Inner Austrian (my mother is from Villach) I made it happen. Bird would go to Cardiff for the work portion of the trip, and we would reconvene in Venice (with my best friend and her daughter) for the holiday portion of the trip.
The world laid out on an atlas seems titchy. When you're sitting on a fully booked-no-upgrades-available 777 for twenty four hours, it seems massive. What a ridiculous choice of aircraft to use on the longest possible distance across the earth. Rotax had booked me with BA, and I'd forgotten how dingy a carrier Birdseed is. Nonetheless, something about gift horses and mouths made me crack open a packet of Restavit, swill it down with a double Bloody Mary and attempt a semblance of sleep to blot out the hour upon hour in a rigid seat blocked in by a large Scottish lady over whom I had to vault for my two hourly visits to the loo. The only time I count my blessings for my short straw in the genetic height lottery is when I'm on a long haul flight...
At Singapore, I was a zombie, falling asleep on lounges and showing an unusual lack of interest in duty free shopping. Bird kept a vigil when I declared we should lie down for a bit, lest we missed the next fourteen hour portion of the flight. When we boarded for the second leg, the Restavit truly kicked in and I passed out for seven hours, only to be woken by Birdseed's sick idea of breakfast.
In the nick of time, when you declare you cannot take another minute of air conditioning, the smell of bowels and eggs combined and that irritating video detailing the distance to run, time at origin and OAT, the captain gives you a minute's voice time to tell you we're landing in twenty minutes, ahead of schedule in London where the weather is cloudy and three degrees.
It's a strange feeling returning to your country of origin - where you understand every nuance and dialect and custom - and not leaving the airport. As we landed at 04.10, whomever is in charge of employing customs officials obviously decided paying overtime to get more than two to process the morning's flights of four hundred plus people would be an indulgence. At six am, after queuing for an hour and forty minutes, eight officials arrived and processed the entire line in ten minutes. The customs official was suspicious of my length of stay and asked what kind of person would come all the way from Australia, not actually visit Britain and then dart around Europe for six days? One who grew up in Wales and would rather see Italy than the tired and familiar shores of Blighty, perhaps?
Having cleared customs to put Bird on the coach to Cardiff, we waited at the bus station for the national express, taking in the various accents and layers of clothing, with me trying to remember who declared the British a "Nation of Anorak Wearers"?.....and Bird declaring she'd never felt cold like it, and me repressing the parent-like comment of "cold? This is not cold. You don't know cold til you've grown up in a council house without central heating having to sleep in a bobble hat.."
Luckily, at that timely moment, the bus drew into the bay and the chirpy Welsh driver grabbed Bord's luggage, telling her to keep the ticket "by her" and whisked her away to Cardiff, leaving me free to find terminal five and my onward flight to Munich.