24 September 2006

Chapter 2 - The Journey Continues

Friday 22nd September.

At 9 a.m. I find myself sitting in the bar at Gatwick Airport, washing down two painkillers with a glass of vodka and coke, and smoking what will be my last cigarette in 20 hours. At this stage, I don't know it will be my last cigarette. If I did, I might have torn off the filter, hidden it my pocket and sucked it during the flight.

My brother is drinking a pint of lager and chain-smoking my cigarettes because he's "got to get some later". This will become a regular theme throughout the holiday.

His eyes are red and swollen due, mostly, to a long term eye infection but certainly not helped by three enormous joints and sizeable lump of cannabis-laced chocolate that he consumed in the van on the way here. Fortunately, Mark the driver was not in the same state. He only smoked two.

I stared the devil in the eyes on that journey, let me tell you.

Two hours later, we're on the plane. It is, without doubt, the best journey I've ever had. We're seated by the emergency door so have enough room that we could lay on the floor and make snow-angels if we so desired. We also have flat screen TV's that swivel out from the side of the seat, with a small control pad that offers you a choice of over 100 movies, countless TV programmes, music on demand, games and in-flight information including a satellite-type picture showing the position of the plane in relation to the rest of the world. This is everything I have ever wanted in life. The cabin crew bring you food and alcohol; blankets and pillows. If I could smoke here, I'd move in.

The air stewardess who tends to our every whim is, quite simply, beautiful. She has something of a middle eastern look about her. Dark - almost black - eyes, a strong yet cute nose, that fine, fluffy baby-hair at the top of her forehead. I must have her.

She walks past and I smile. She returns my gormless grin with a look that is a curious mixture of barely-concealed loathing and cheerful professionalism. Her forced smile seems to say "the muscles of my face have moved into this position which vaguely approximates happiness as that is what I'm trained to do. However, smile at me again and my composure may well falter to the point that I find myself blankly stabbing you in the eyes with a plastic tea stirrer. Think it over, tubby."

I look back at my TV screen.

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