Lardface Doesn't Want to Die of DVT

Auckland Travel Blog

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Despite my recent time spent in Patagonian bus bootcamp, 13 hours with my arse welded to an economy seat in a passenger jet still feels way too long. My eyes and fingers are happier than my buttocks though; the plane is fully kitted out with fancy-schmancy personal TV screens and remote controllers. I spend an hour playing the 2004 edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire before accepting that I'm not destined to go further than 250,000 quid. This is because I cannot answer questions such as: "In which year was Kings Cross train station opened?" I am a bad, stupid person. I require punishment and consider asking the Aussie bloke sat next to me to strike me around the head ten times with his brick of a Tom Clancy novel.

Unfortunately he's asleep and won't hear me so, putting my guilt temporarily aside, I instead run through the leg exercises designed to prevent deep vein thrombosis. I feel a bit of a plonker, but it's better than appearing on the regional news back home: "A Rochdale Man, David Salad, (Cue flashing up of horrendous gurning passport photograph) died earlier today when his ankles suddenly exploded on a passenger jet bound for New Zealand..." That would be very bad.

Exercises complete, I turn my attention to the films on offer. To kick off it's The Golden Compass, an adaptation of the first of the novels in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It's not a bad stab at representing what is, essentially, a kids' book. The special effects are more than adequate, as is Nicole Kidman's turn as Mrs Coulter. However, until I see what they do with The Amber Spyglass, a corker of a novel filled with a heady melange of philosophical, scientific and mythological ideas, I shall reserve judgement.

Pullman's books, lest we forget, were at one point burned by rabid bible belt red necks due to their anti-clerical and free-thinki... sorry, blasphemous, contents. I presume Pullman would not have sold the rights for the films without a guarantee that the themes would not be watered down for a larger (US) audience. We shall see.

Is it wrong to fancy Helen Mirren? She's probably well into her 50s now but she still has this aura of sexiness about her. Perhaps I'm just a deviant granny grabber like that teenager in Little Britain who lusts after his mate's Nan. I dunno, but Mirren is certainly the best thing in National Treasure: Book of Secrets. This is pretty much an identikit remake of the original, which I sat through on a bus a few weeks back. It's entertaining fluff, and at least has the decency not to take itself seriously. Nicholas Cage plays himself yet again and Ed Harris sleepwalks through a nothing bad guy role. Basically it devours flight time and that's all I care about.

When we touch down Auckland is grey and rainy, precisely how I left it seven years ago. That last visit was at the tail end of a 14 month work/travel jaunt in Australia and New Zealand. 9/11 had just happened and I was unsure how it would affect my chances of flying via Hawaii and LA to get home. In the event I wasn't delayed and ended up back in rainy Manchester right on time. This time round, Castro delays the receipt of my boarding pass. Not Fidel of course, but an airline pilot, Captain Castro, a Chilean who is moving to Vietnam to start a new life with his wife and son.

I stand behind Castro for half an hour whilst the Air New Zealand staffie, a bespectacled 50-something, fumbles his way through the various bureaucratic protocols to engineer him an earlier flight. There are no such perks for me; I have eight hours to endure before my connection to Fiji. I sit and read my book, The Kite Runner, and occasionally check the electronic boards for news of my flight. I kill a few minutes chewing my way though a couple of chunky, greasy sausage rolls. It takes longer than this to clear the sticky flakes of pastry that inevitably cascade down onto my trousers and t shirt.

I wander off to the toilets to ensure that I've managed to clear away all signs of the messy snack. The mirror shows that I've reached the greasy-skinned look that usually appears after 36 hours on the move without a proper wash. It looks and, when I run a hand across my forehead, feels like someone has scrubbed my face over vigorously with a stick of lard. I feel so sexy it hurts; I don't think I can take the rampant glamour of this jetsetting lifestyle much longer. I contemplate this for another 4 hours until finally, mercifully, my flight boards and the journey to Fiji, the journey to paradise, can commence.

Thank Christchurch for that. 
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photo by: Fulla