Date: 20 December 2016.
Location: Seat 12E, Air Canada direct flight to Vancouver.
I have nailed this Heathrow thing, I think, as I arrive at the airport at precisely the time I had planned, being precisely 2 hours before my flight, stroll into the priority check in, make one particular purchase from Jo Malone and buy my favourite guilty lunch (Leon's fish finger wrap, I'm so English now) and then the gate is announced and I take my bulkhead row seat and peruse the menu (one meal, 9 hours? Jokers). I had earlier managed to distractedly get off the Piccadilly line train a stop too early at the wrong terminal (oops) and then almost get on the Heathrow Express back to central London whilst trying to change terminals but, aside from those blips, one suavely seasoned traveller, right here.
I'm on an Air Canada flight and it is filled with so many Canadians, and just so much politeness! My neighbour is a little old man who is sweetly but alarmingly chatty. From snug in his seat he remarks to the cram of other passengers filing dutifully along the aisle, “I think there's a shoe horn by the door.” “So you can take your shoes off more easily?” the nice young Canadian guy asks, so sincerely. “So they can cram more people in!” 12D chuckles. Nice young 78A laughs along and compliments him on the joke. Oh Canadians, you're sweet like maple syrup and the perfect remedy to 2016.
It's so novel to me to be able to fly 'direct' to Canada. How is at a thing? In years past trips to Canada involved MEL > AUK > YVR and then maybe another flight to Kelowna. Unfun. This is a cheeky nine hour bounce over the North Pole. Barely time for lunch, if you ask Air Canada catering.
So, what's happened since we last spoke in September?
Well, the 2 Year Cycle of Revolving Friends has struck as it was always going to: Twiggy has gone home, as has Paris; Kitty left Leeds yesterday, Chandler and Monica go back in February. I haven't yet felt the shockwaves of their departure fully — but they are coming, sure as anything.MIf I was feeling pragmatic about it, which I am not just yet, then I would say it was simply time to fill up the front bench with a new side.
Work continues to try to devour me alive — I've slept 13 hours in the last three days combed and this is my first 2 week break in two years — but I do have legitimate work friends now. Real friends, guys. I have a trip planned home for January (how confusing that I call both Melbourne and London 'home', when it's the former that really feels that way). I'm coaxing myself back into hot yoga one sweaty classroom and next-day-pec-soreness-so-severe-I-can't-put-my-coat-on at a time. I continue to adore London and its crispy winter days, languorous drinking culture, bizarre class system into which no one can fit me, its people's inexplicable fascination with the weather.
But now, as we taxi down the runway, I'm thinking on Canada. This is trip is going to be mental. Thankfully, BC is a big place meaning there will be some long drives meaning I'll get some sleep at some stage. Otherwise, who knows. The rough plan — and it does remain rough, despite the fact that I've had a google docs shared planning document up and running since June proving once again that not everyone enjoy a well ordered holiday spreadsheet the way I do and they should — is Whistler for my mum's wedding this week (this week!), drive to Jasper for Christmas, drive to the Sicamous lake house for a few days then, finally, to Silver Star for New Year's Eve. Along the way we'll be mixing and matching, adding and subtracting, companions. There's my brother and my sister and my mum and her fiancée, the extended family (you met them back on my California road trip in 2014), Bunky and Powerjam, Flipper and his entire family and his new Swedish girlfriend whom he had met for a scarce few hours on Swedish summer day up when I last wrote about him and for whom he has now evidently fallen head over heels! Nicknames for everyone to follow as needed.
If I had to predict what the next two weeks will hold I would forecast: breathy joy at snowy mountains; intense private frustration constantly balancing my longing to play with the boys and duck through the tree runs with my terror of badly hurting my knee again; lots of family hugs, loads of poor Canadian beer and maybe even the classy 'cocktail' comprising shots of vodka in a 2L bottle of BC cider; naps, buffalo wings and nachos, my brother pouting about how cold it is, my sister sneaking cigarettes from boys, Bunky's slow but steady improvement on the slopes, more big hugs when we see Flipper's family, pecan pie and tourtières, wistfulness at stunning Silverstar.
Last week at work one of the guys ran a Christmas quiz. In preparation he asked each of us a bunch of questions — 'If you weren't a lawyer what would you be?' 'Complete this sentence: I really hope my colleagues don't find out that…' — and asked us each to bring in both a baby photo and a photo of our happy place. This last was the easiest one for me to get back to him on. Google, type: 'Silverstar and mountain and snow and blue sky'. Hit Enter.