Flight A188 CDG to Hong Kong
14/15 November 2018.
On plane from Charles de Gaulle to Hong Kong.
An eleven hour flight squished between 2 older Chinese men. I have no idea how old. Both wearing baseball caps. One is grey. He is sitting in the window seat and all the way through the 12 hour flight he looks out of the window. Despite the cabin crew telling him not to keep opening the blind, flooding the dark cabin, (it’s a night flight) with light. He doesn’t watch anything on the screen except to follow the flight path. And occasionally looks at some sort of dinner invitation with a menu typed out, that he is carrying with him.
The man on my other side, the aisle seat, sings to himself, and does a massive version of a Rubik’s cube. Click click, sing sing, click click, sing sing. And I’m sat in the midddle in my jack wills onesie with buttons that don’t do up properly so revealing more than is absolutely ideal for such a situation. I look like a little old Chinese woman, wearing too few clothes – I do have my silk nightie on under, but the straps never stay up for that long. Oh and I forgot
to say they are both wearing their coats and these remain on for the whole of the flight, a grey hooded anorak – Nike, and Aisle, Rubik’s cube singing mans is a beige waistcoat affair with lots of pockets for when you go fishing, which I guess he does between the flying and Rubik’s cubing and the singing.
What a fine trio we make. I realise that, although its a million to one chance we could be related somehow. We all have matching eye bags. All look a little weird. And I’d like to strike up a conversation, but I dare not. I’ve already had the thing with the air hostess who tried to talk to me about dinner, at first in Cantonese and then in Mandarin, until I said “I’m English” and saw that look, I’ve seen it before, confused, bemused, whaa, look on her face. Compounded when she tries, and fails to, find my pre ordered veggie option.
So if I can’t talk to the two fellow passengers, what’s it going to be like in a my homeland city, full of people like me, but not like me. There’s a little bit of me beginning to think maybe this is a big mistake. But we’ve begun our descent now. Got to stow my hand baggage. I’m told it’s a no smoking terminal, passed over when it comes to being given an immigration card to fill, and I’m told to collect my baggage from carousel no 5. The full irony of this instruction hits me much later. If only that was all the baggage I was carrying. Some of the emotional baggage I’ve carried for years that’s coming up already, the so familiar themes of belonging and not belonging, I’d rather leave going round on carousel no 5.
Afternote. As we landed the ‘look out of the window man’ suddenly began earnest conversation in broken English. Turns out he lives in Edinburgh. A retired restaurateur. Coming back to HK to get his ID card (Just like me) and visit his brothers. His wife coming out Saturday. Asks me lots of questions, doesn’t get concept of being born and then adopted. Doesn’t know where Cornwall is. I struggle to understand his English. He’s been in Edinburgh 48 years. Just kept telling me in the bit of Mandarin I do understand that everything is too expensive. House, food, ……’
So my Mandarin for ‘do you have anything cheaper?, will come in handy, maybe……