I've been doing quite a few long distance flights lately and they're something that I usually enjoy. Yes, they're tiring, but the inflatable pillow I bought some months ago has helped with that aspect. Like some sort of Jehovah's witness, whenever someone tells me how they can't sleep on a flight I go into a mini lecture on my inflatable pillow (IP) discovery and how I could never sleep on a plane before D day, or IP day. Of course it wasn't actually me that discovered inflatable pillows, Christopher Colombus did, but you knew that.
I'm not yet at the wealth level in that enables me to fly business class either. Economy, on a packed plane on a twelve hour flight, with a video screen that doesn't work and the seat in front that is always reclined because the locking mechanism isn't working is just plain unfuckingcomfortable. But, I haven't been on a packed plane for a while as it's only Sri Lankans and NGOs that want to go to Sri Lanka and there are so many flights a day from London to Singapore that they're often half empty, or half full if you're an optimist.
A wise man once said to me that the surest sign of real wealth is when someone flies business class and they pay for it themselves. I concur, though the fact that my parents do this throws the theory into chaos. Perhaps all those little tupperware pots in the fridge, each with one prawn or one piece of meat in them, all add up.
In recent months I've been on a couple of the A380s, which have, in economy, cossetted me in a level of comfort and space that has made me think the only benefits in going business class would be getting my luggage quicker on the conveyor belt. Flying to Lanka just before SAARC meant that I had two seats to myself and the girls had the other two seats in front of me to themselves. And you thought that SAARC provided no benefit to anyone didn't you?
I sit there, I read, I watch the screen, though rarely do I listen to the sound. I've now seen that film "Run fatboy run" three times but haven't listened to a single second from it, yet I can pretty much tell you exactly what happens. I read books, I listen to my iPod and I learn and practice songs. I do all of this without the stress of a phone, which is probably the single thing that makes it most relaxing.
Last week as I came back to London I took my seat on the plane. After considerable complaints from people I put it back and sat down, I'm good like that. Then the aircrew came round and did their thing, dishing out menus and headphones and telling people to remove the grain of rice that was on the floor in front of them and to put it in the overhead locker, you know the scene. I perused the menu, wondering why they bother printing and distributing them when everyone except me just asks the steward or stewardess what the meal choices are anyway.
I settled into my little den. The plane was a 747 and I was on the aisle seat of a set of three next to a window. The window seat in the trio was occupied by a Singaporean looking girl who took up slightly more space than the grain of rice that was now in the overhead locker. The seat in between us was empty.
My hand bag, as opposed to a handbag, was in the overhead minus the things I needed for the flight. Those things were my book, that Indian Tiger one I told you about here, my iPod and the pillow, though it was deflated. I mean that in a physical no air in it way, not in an emotional or motivational way as if I'd just told it that it's performance wasn't up to the required standard and was letting it go. Apart from the sort of physical pining feeling for Colombo that I often get I felt pretty comfortable.
And as I read the menu I thought how much, in general, I love aircraft food. I'm not sure if this is normal or just plane weird. I did that "plane" thing deliberately there by the way. There's something I find so fascinating about the way they fit all the little rectangular plates into the tray. How it's just so organised and how the people who work in the aircraft food places, whose job it is to put it all together, must have really high IQs and be great at doing those shape puzzles.
I'm not too fussed about the bread rolls that are always hard on the outside, soft at some point inside and warm. The dessert, when it's one of those rectangular spongey things with the tiniest puddle of something that vaguely resembles custard but isn't, doesn't excite me much either. Like lager, custard should be served by the pint, not by the teaspoonful.
A flight is more or less the only situation in which I eat cheese and biscuits. The cheese is such a small portion that it would fit inside an Indian condom. Careful cutting of cheese and dividing up of the butter portion is all well and good and part of the fun but then, as the butter comes into contact with the cream cracker, the thing explodes into a mix of crumbs and tiny little biscuit pieces. These cream crackers must be specially designed to explode when they touch butter. I end up stuffing the whole mess into my mouth and savouring and loving the taste anyhow.
The salad starter thing, usually with some pasta and a prawn or two, is actually quite nice and gets me revved up and ready for the main course, the bit I almost always love. Like any good Sri Lankan I always opt for the rice and curry type dish. The portion is tiny, about the amount I'd lick off my fingers after I've eaten a proper rice and curry, but it always tastes divine.
Last week I had an airborne mutton curry with some vegetables and yellow rice that was comparable with the best mutton curries I've sampled. And I've done some serious sampling I tell you. If I'd been served this in a decent Sri Lankan restaurant I would have complimented the chef, after complaining about the portion size. The return flight saw me piling into a beef steak thing with some vegetables and potatoes that was quite the gastronomic treat. It was a rare occasion on which I hadn't chosen the Eastern fare over the Western blandness.
On Singapore Airlines, or SQ as those of us in the know like to call it, the food is served on the most high tech and sexy trays I've ever seen, and I've never even thought of a tray. let alone written about one, with sexual overtones before. They're plastic things with silvery edges, but the surface of the tray is made from a weird blackish rubberised grippy thing, obviously designed to grip the plethora of rectangular plates that go on it.
Nothing slides around on these trays. I want to get hold of about ten of them and build a big ramp with them, then put things at the top of the ramp and see how steep it needs to be before they slide downwards. Or maybe just to eat my dinner from as I watch Walker Texas Ranger.
The love of plane food has given me an idea and I'd like to know your opinions on it. I plan to open a restaurant, probably somewhere in Colombo. We're going to serve aircraft food on SQ trays. You'll get a choice of about three main dishes but one will be always be unavailable, red wine will be served cold in a small water glass, it will be almost impossible to open the cellophane wrapper that your cutlery will be in and after you're finished you'll be trapped in your seat by the used tray while bursting for a pee for about half an hour.
When you finally can get out to go for the pee there'll be a long queue at the toilet and you'll have to stand with your bum next to the ear of someone who's trying to sleep.
The food will be scrumptious, but served in tiny portions.
We'll call it the Mile High Grub Club. Come.