French Connections And Reflections
20.09.2012 - 20.09.2012
The actual ‘journey’ part of any travelling adventure is often overlooked. And it is true that on a personal level, I have become so used to airports and flying around the world that the novelty value has truly died out. It is a sad fact of life that once we have done something so many times it inevitably becomes routine and boring. Dawkins will say it’s something to do with how we have evolved over millions of years; women will say it’s men that overvalue new conquests and a constant upgrading of adventurous experiences; men will say it is women who have become unrealistic and too expectant of romance and passion in a world necessarily filled with boring day to day chores; other men will say women are just never happy, ever. I say that there are just not enough people saving up their well-earned pennies for a fancy spaceship or hovercraft in order to cater for their casual trips abroad (and that men and women alike are just never happy, ever). Whatever the case, any flight is often never written about; making way for the common shared experiences of famous landmarks, cultural insights and memorable foreign foods. Thus, I feel it my duty, as a young writer – the voice of a generation some might say (no?) – to once again give life to the marvellous human feat that is air travel! I can already feel your goose-bumps rising…
I guess the main theme should be the fact that I am arriving home after 15 months away from home, family, friends, and all that I knew as normal in my life so far. But as the voice of a generation – and such voices must be spontaneous, memorable and in this case very modest – I shall save that for later. So it’s 20 hours before my flight and I am still stuck on Bangkok’s famously tacky and touristy Khaosan Road. At this point I would like to make a big shout out to all the street-foodies, bracelet makers, souvenir salesmen and prostitutes that allowed these last 5 days of my trip to be some of the most depressing, confusing and thought provoking so far. If it wasn’t for the social rollercoaster that is Matt Taylor, I’m not sure I would have had any fun, or even survived, at all to be honest. But I did, and just as I am casually double-checking my suspiciously cheap flight details online, I realise that the world famous Aerosvit Airlines (they’re Ukranian for those of you not studying at the University of Bath) have decided to cancel my flight less than 24 hours before departure and haven’t even bothered to email me. I assume that they do have the internet in Ukraine. Just because I’m too scared to go there it doesn’t mean I should be punished for not knowing the technological development of their country.
After 5 laborious phone conversations with expedia flight ‘experts’ (all of which are different ethnicities, ages and therefore of a different ability to hear and speak the English language every time I ring) I finally get a new flight direct to Paris. No unnecessary change in Kiev (the capital of Ukraine, again for those non-Bathians) and no stupidly early flight time. Although I was looking forward to trying their chicken, travelling straight up and over Kiev should make for a much smoother and quicker journey home. God bless you Aerosvit - I pay for trash and instead I get last-minute rearranged convenience. Although I couldn’t count my chicken kievs quite soon… I still didn’t know which airline I was flying with. It could be American for all I knew; with an unannounced stop over the Middle East to quickly pump some world peace out of the ground on their way back home. They probably nuked Aerosvit Airlines deliberately, or accidently for that matter, in order for the opportunity.
I arrive at the airport to find out that Air France will be responsible for my safe return home. No business class upgrade though; damn it, I knew I should have got married in Thailand and lied about England being the start of our honeymoon. That surely would have warranted the upgrade. I read my book until it is finally time to board. Aisle seat, empty seats beside me, entertainment unit in the headrest in front, and ridiculously kind French air hosts; perfect. I have never understood the stereotype that many people associate with the French (that they can be miserable, unsociable and totally unwilling to speak English). I can honestly say that I have never met a French person I didn’t like. Although, I liked the lady-boy cabaret show in Bangkok too so maybe I am just way too easy to please.
I watch the Hunger Games whilst eating my incredibly delicious airplane dinner. Air France really know how to do airplane food; I had wine, port, pasta, bread and cheese, and some kind of French cake thing that I have never seen before. I had come to love bread and cheese during my time in Melbourne and so it was a welcome luxury and reminder of the many good times I had had over the previous 15 months. Dinner was followed by juice and coffee as I rolled onto the next film; American Pie: The Reunion. Not the best American Pie but still just as easy to watch and mildly funny as the others. As I turned back to my book (which I was truly unable to put down), 2 English lads along my seating row comment on it. They too had read it and so we spend the next hour discussing male and female behaviours; whether it is wrong to manipulate people; the ethics behind changing your own personality and appearance for the pursuit of power and women; and how interesting and entertaining the book was (the main themes throughout the book).
As I eat my next meal (8 hours into the 11 hour flight) I try a few other films unsuccessfully. The Road refused to start properly and when it eventually does appears to be the most laborious and boring film ever made. I am usually one for a good, long, compelling story, but even this was too much effort for my current situation. I instead decide to watch a rom-com that I end up actually enjoying (The Five Year Engagement)! The only one I had enjoyed previously was 50 Days Of Summer which in hindsight I think I just like because it has a realistic and I guess slightly sad ending; so therefore in protest of the cheesy American rom-com genre I would have to tell myself and others that I liked it. We land 5 minutes before the end of the film which I interpret as a blessing. Wouldn’t want the corny ending changing my mind on the movie now would we. I leave the plane in Paris CDG airport, remembering how jealous I am of people who are able to spend 2 hours of their lives enjoying something that is of no intellectual or artistic benefit to them whatsoever. But are instead able to accept it as leisure and time to just relax and accept what they know is about to happen on the screen in front of them. I am of course referring to almost every Romantic Comedy ever made. Maybe one day I will discover the ability to relax, and the patience, necessary to also enjoy them.
3 more hours of reading and a surprisingly tasty Mcdonalds later, and I am on my last flight home to Luton. I hate Paris for making their Mcdonalds burgers actually taste good. They truly are naïve, heartless people the French. How on earth are we supposed to rid the world of such evil when the food actually starts to taste good! It’s hard enough as it is, with the sweaty buns and plastic meat. I know they need to live up to their title of having the best food in the world but this was ridiculous. I finally now know why English people dislike the French…
As my book, written by Neil Strauss, comes to a close and my final flight comes in to land I feel a wave of excitement at the thought of seeing my family, my friends, my house, the kitchen cupboards full of food, my comfortable bed and my hilarious, brainless dog. My concluding thoughts that I read and interpret before I land are fitting for my week ahead and the last 15 months I have spent abroad. Strauss writes about how the alpha male, their relationships, sex and interests are driven by power, dominance and, consequently, the subordination of others (primarily females). It is largely part of our evolutionary make-up and the way modern society has even allowed this trend to continue. But, men are still human and also require love, intimacy and security. This cognitive dissonance inevitably causes many serious social problems. However, it is the female that holds the key, and always has done. For true love and enduring peace to result, it is equality and the male’s sacrifice of such primal interests that is needed; for love is the opposite of power, of dominance, and of sex. Once this happens, new social dynamics can result; men shine through their sensitive, selfless side; and women can bring out the animal they always had inside. Maybe this is what truly makes a man; for those who are truly powerful do not need it.
“The man never chooses the woman, he only ever gives her the opportunity to choose him”
I think everyone can relate to these ideas; and i know i certainly have learnt and gained from such realisations during my recent past. It is amazing how much you learn and question, and re-learn and question once again, when you travel; especially when you travel alone. I leave the plane and carry my bags outside where my mother is waiting for my arrival. She smiles gloriously as we embrace for the first time in well over a year. Everyone needs someone. Every man needs a woman. Every woman needs a man. At this time, I also needed a family and a home in which to recover. I would travel much more in the future, and I have a million places to go, things I want to try and fail, and goals I want to achieve. But for now, I was the happiest I could ever be.