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Long haul

May 25, 2023

In November 1991 I was informed by my nearest and dearest relative in England that I had to come home for Christmas. Not a question of whether I could, but a demand that I did. Wasn’t planning on a Christmas trip, wasn’t sure why it was so important, but clearly it was. 

Anyone who’s ever travelled at that time of the year knows that the bloody airlines jack up their prices. Season of goodwill? Bollocks to that. I really could not afford a ticket, but I thought the nice ex-pat Brit couple who sorted travel arrangements for Greenpeace and other NGOs, might be able to offer some advice. And indeed they did. Turned out that if I was prepared to fly out on Christmas Eve and arrive on Christmas Day a ticket could be procured at a fraction of the price. Great, I said, and booked it. Of course, there’s no ground transport in the UK on Christmas Day, so I’d have to rent a car to drive up to my cousin’s place, but, with the money I was saving on the ticket, I could afford to do that. Told him I’d be there early evening on Christmas Day.

This was the first time I’d flown to the UK from Vancouver, where I’d moved the year before. The flight was practically empty, so after dinner I shifted further back in the plane and found a row of four empty seats, stretched out and went to sleep. By the time I woke up the plane was already descending. 

Turned out the reason my Christmas visit was so urgent was that, as a result of a very thorough medical exam undertaken before he took over as editor of the newspaper where he worked, it was discovered that Peter had a brain tumour. He’d had no inkling. The tumour was benign, but that’s about all they knew. The doctor said it could have been there for years, causing no problems. It might not get any bigger – or it might. They just didn’t know and would have to monitor, but the fact was it could be bad. In other words, this might be my last chance to ever see him. (I am happy to report that in the intervening 30+ years, the tumour has not grown.)

It was a lovely Christmas and a lovely New Year. On January 2nd I made my way down to London for a night visiting an old mate before heading back to Vancouver the next day.

The flight back was far from empty. It was positively packed. I was stuck in the middle seat. I knew the flight would be a couple of hours longer than the flights I was used to taking from London to New York or Toronto, but what was a couple of hours? A lot, it turned out.

This was still in the days when the inflight entertainment was a film on a drop down screen everyone watched from their seat. After dinner they started the film. Looked at my watch when the film was over. Blimey. There was still five and a half hours to go. Then they started a second film. When it ended, there was still three and a half hours to go. Bloody hell. Then they started a third film. There was still more than an hour to go when that one ended, but at least the remaining time no longer felt endless. And now I knew how much longer a couple of extra hours could take.

Why am I writing about that flight now? Because I was reminded of it by this.

Yes, more than three weeks since I started, I am still reading The Ink Black Heart. Okay, I had to put aside for a bit to read this month’s Bad Girls book. (James Kestrel’s wartime hard boiled detective novel Five Decembers which I would definitely recommend to anyone in the mood for a bit of noirish escapism.) Even so, I can’t believe how long this is taking. My nightly lights out calculation – still 600, 500, 400 pages to go – started to remind me of that flight the other night. As of last night there are still more than 200 pages to go. 

I have an appointment this afternoon for my biannual haircut. That should get me through a good chunk. Maybe by the weekend I will be done.

Fuck me, this novel really is a long haul. If they don’t, you know, before this is over, I am going to be very pissed off because I seriously need a payoff.

From → Reading

  1. Mariam Zama permalink

    Hope it’s worth it after all that. I have heard a lot of not good things about that book…

    • Not good in what way? Too long or…?

      • Mariam Zama permalink

        Too long, too on the nose about the online reaction to Rowling herself, many not a fan of the use of the chats in the text

      • Too long, deffo. And the chats are indeed a pain to follow, especially when there are up to three on a page. Bad enough trying to follow on the full size pages of a 40 pound hardcover. Friend who uses an e-reader nearly lost her mind.

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