As expected, the flight home is a tough one. At 13 hours straight, it’s the longest flight yet. The airplane is a massive beast with two levels and at least 100 rows of seats. It seems that our previous luck with seating on airplanes has run out. While there are a lot of rows with only one or two people in them, ours is full up with a prim and proper English woman at the window who thankfully does sleep through a lot of the flight, but has a tendency to prod Brodie in the ribs every time she moves. He gets his revenge when she needs a toilet break and pretends to be asleep while she asks me to move so she can clamber over him and back. Things can get petty on a long haul flight.
The only thing to distract us from the boredom of the flight and our badly cramped muscles is the video on demand system. Unfortunately this hasn’t been designed to be fault-proof. The number of passengers complaining that their set has frozen grows to the point that the backup tapes are brought out and some of the films are set on endless repeat on the news channels. Not the good films though. In between the green screens and power outages I get through The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Hurt Locker, The Other Man, 500 days of Summer, and half of The Boys are Back. They’re not very gripping as distractions on a long haul flight, but suffice to help with keeping drowsiness at bay. When you’re not going to be able to actually sleep, the more drowsy you get, the more torturous it feels. Brodie turns into Rip Van Winkle and snoozes for parts, wrapped up like an old man, blankets tucked in. I wish in vain for the same ability.
I’ve never been so glad to see England below me as when the plane approaches Heathrow and starts its descent. We make our way through the transit maze and get through customs and security still clutching our box of doughnuts from Bangkok. After a quick freshen up we get some overpriced tea and demolish the remaining contents of the box. The 40 baht donuts would be considerably more expensive if we were buying them in Heathrow and are just what’s needed to give us that extra bit of energy to see us through. Heathrow’s disembarkation process seems designed to generate delays as they usually only display your departure gate at most 30 minutes before you’re due to board. Finally the board lights up with a gate number assigned to us. As most of the gates are between 25 and 30 minutes away, it doesn’t leave much spare time even though we’ve been sitting around twiddling our thumbs for four hours. We make our way through the labyrinth of tunnels that eventually takes you to the Aer Lingus departure gates. This whole section has few displays and the gates are prone to changing often. We’re determined not to get left behind for the very last flight and make sure we get boarded as soon as possible.
We join the endless queue of planes crawling along the tarmac in the hopes of finally getting the all clear to approach the runway and escape from Heathrow. As usually happens with Heathrow, we take off very late. As the airlines know this, they’ve immensely exaggerated the journey time to take this into account so our theoretical 1h 20m flight time is already reduced to 50 minutes by the time we get in the air. It’s not long before we can see the green green grass of home spread out below us. We fly through immigration and customs, and after over ninety days together on the road, we split up for the homecoming. Brodie heads off with his family to get acquainted with his new nephew while I meet up with my mother who has been encumbered with our dog. The poor thing is somewhat dazed and confused when I suddenly appear at the side of the road out of nowhere after such a long absence but is soon over it.
I’m delighted to get home and finally have the opportunity to rest and relax. The dog is snuffing around taking note of any new smells in the house from the last three months. There’s a mountain of mail to process, most of which will have to wait until later. My mother has stocked up the fridge so we can enjoy home-cooking without actually cooking ourselves for a couple of nights which is a huge relief. Everything seems to still be in order, but for some reason two of our three bins have disappeared from outside. We leave the search for replacements to another day. Brodie eventually surfaces to the dog’s delight, and we’re all back together in the house once more.
22 flights, 32 different accommodations, 12 boats and 7 countries later, we’re finally home.