Published: July 12th 2012July 2nd 2012
We boarded our plane from London to Melbourne
at 10pm. It was a packed flight, so there was no chance of stretching out over spare seats (we had 13 hours of flying ahead of us). We were pleasantly surprised with the Qantas dinner. I had Lincolnshire sausages with onion gravy and bubble & squeak. Ren had chicken and leek pie with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. I had a few South Australian reds before settling down to type up my trip notes.
As I listened to the music playlist I’d selected for the flight, I realised many of the songs were written 30+ years ago. This didn’t make me feel old in any way, but it made me realise that my taste in music has long since been distanced from popular culture. My playlist was as follows: Beatles (I Want You – She’s So Heavy / While My Guitar Gently Weeps); Deep Purple (When a Blind Man Cries); Dire Straits (Brothers in Arms); Eskimo Joe (New York); Gotye (Bronte); Nirvana (Come As You Are); Pearl Jam (Alive); Pink Floyd (Echoes); and Steve Miller Band (Fly Like an Eagle).
The Qantas food and service was great, although I
was disappointed at breakfast when they ran out of muesli just before the trolley reached me. We touched down in Singapore, disembarked, walked around Changi Airport for 30 minutes and then boarded the same plane for our seven hour flight to Melbourne. The dinner on the second leg of the trip wasn’t as good as the first. I opted for beef and mushrooms in red wine sauce with potato smash, while Ren went for steamed fish in mild coconut sauce with fried mee hoon noodles and choy sum. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. After our meal, Ren decided to sleep while I kept going with my trip notes. However, the journey was taking its toll, and after a few red wines I decided it was time to sleep.
I was secretly hoping the oud was lying secure and unscathed in the plane’s cargo hold, but I wasn’t overly confident. We’d hit some turbulence over the Bay of Bengal, and I knew the cargo hold would have been loaded and unloaded in Singapore. Still, my fingers were crossed.
We woke tired and smelly – we were well overdue for a shower. We touched down in Melbourne
at 5.30am, made our way through passport control and headed straight for the oversized luggage area where the oud was meant to be dropped off (by hand). I waited alone while Ren waited at the main luggage carousel. An announcement kept coming over the public address system that fragile items (including musical instruments) would be available for collection at the oversized luggage area. Ren watched in horror as the oud bounced onto the main luggage carousel with everyone else’s luggage – so much for the careful handling of musical instruments. We were mortified, but we had little time to spare. We eased our way through customs, wheeled our luggage to domestic departures, checked in, relaxed with a quick coffee and then made our way to the gate lounge. There wasn’t enough time to unwrap the oud to see if it had been damaged. When we got to the gate, I went up to the Qantas attendant and told her we’d been advised to take the oud onboard as priority hand-luggage. She shook her head and informed us domestic planes didn’t have the capacity for priority hand-luggage, so it would have to go with all the other luggage. She said she’d
mention to the ground crew that it was a fragile musical instrument...
We touched down in Hobart
at 10.15am. We grabbed the oud and our packs as they knocked around the luggage carousel, jumped into our car and drove to Mangalore to pick up Jasper and Oscar. They were bemused to see us, and a bit out-of-sorts – it was the first time they’d spent such a long time away from the schoolhouse. We drove home, fed Jasper and Oscar, showered, pulled on some warm clothes (it was freezing), unpacked and then summoned enough courage to unwrap the oud – to see how it had travelled. It was in perfect condition, although the hard case was pretty battered. What a relief! We had a cup of tea, ate the chocolates I’d collected from the flight and then slowly organised our way back into a routine of normal life. We were home!
We kept an eye on Jasper, as she seemed to be missing the excitement of the kennels. There was no need to worry about Oscar. He fell straight back into his endless routine of walking clockwise around the house. SHE SAID...
We arrived at
Heathrow’s Terminal 3 with trepidation. We were worried about the oud, and we were sad about leaving Romy and the kids. The Qantas staff were not prepared to let us take the oud as cabin baggage; however, they promised that it would be carried on board by hand, put in a secure cargo area and then hand delivered to us at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne
. All we could do was wrap it up in thick plastic, stick as many fragile
stickers on it as we could, and wish it well. It was now in the hands of the oud gods.
We had coffee and cake at the airport, waved a sad goodbye to Romy and the kids and settled into a very packed flight home. The Qantas service and food was once again really good, and it felt like the whole plane went to sleep at lights out. I had meant to watch a film called Salmon Fishing in Yemen
but I opted for sleep, and I woke only for meals. Before we knew it, we had landed in Singapore to refuel. I used to be a fan of Changi Airport, but in recent years I’ve begun to find
its staff quite rude, and the security processes seem quite clunky and over the top.
Anyway, after an hour of stretching our legs, we went back to the seats that still had our bottom imprints on it. I napped, ate, napped some more and then we landed in Melbourne. The flight was mostly smooth, but whenever we hit a pocket of turbulence my sleepy thoughts were with our little oud in the cargo hold.
I love Melbourne Airport, but this time that love was lessened by the fact that Andrew’s oud wasn’t hand delivered as promised, but was seen bouncing along merrily on the baggage carousel. I had to dash across the trolleys of all those annoying people who just HAVE to stand as close to the carousel as humanly possible, and rescue it before any of the larger luggage piled on top of it! Not happy! After clearing customs, we moved along to the domestic terminal for our third round of negotiations at getting Oliver oud on the plane as cabin luggage. Again no luck, and off he went to the cargo hold. And once again he was in the hands of the oud gods. I understand
that airlines have their policies about luggage sizes; however, given that the early morning flight from Melbourne to Hobart
wasn’t full by any means, we were disappointed that the ground staff weren’t more accommodating of a fragile handmade musical instrument.
We landed, picked up our packs and the oud off the luggage carousel and went to the valet parking booth to pick up our car. We were on the home run of our 24+ hours of travel. We were travel weary and smelly, but happy to be on our way to pick up the dogs. When we got to Mangalore Kennels
, we spotted Jasper playing with a large terrier in the exercise yard, while Oscar lounged in a day bed in the sun. It was fantastic to see them happy, and to get good feedback that they had quickly settled into the kennel routine. It was nice to know that our dogs are social and can play well with others.
We got home, fed the doggies, emptied our grubby packs into the laundry, showered, opened a months’ worth of mail and tried to settle back into ‘normal’ mode. We are very happy to report that against all odds, Oliver oud made it to his new home in one piece. The oud gods had been good to us.
We tried to watch the deciding State of Origin Rugby game that night, but we failed miserably and were in bed by 8pm. It's nice to be back home in our own bed.
We'll post our trip reflections in the next day or so...after we've gathered our thoughts and reflected on them.