Part One: The wonder that is modern technology means that I can begin my first blog of this World Club Championship from considerably higher up in the air than I have ever been before. Some of you may recall that, earlier in the week, I may have made a flippant comment about being “not very good at flying”. Well, that was more or less the understatement of the millennium. The fact of the matter is that I am absolutely petrified of it, to the extent that I spent most of the morning (the flight was at 11.50 from Heathrow) in or close to tears. I’m going to gloss over what passing strangers may have thought of a man on his own with a cigarette in one hand and a passport and boarding passes in the other, sobbing quietly to himself outside Terminal Four at London Heathrow airport this morning.
Part 2: The journey is in two parts. The first part, London to Amsterdam, was not quite the breeze that I had expected. Quite asides from the fact that, if you think about it, it’s very easy to not get on an aeroplane if you don’t want to, they’re almost completely non-smoking, which is not a great deal to an already hyper-tense smoker like myself. Heathrow has a very cunningly designed smoking area that looks like an ice hockey rink with air vents built into the walls of it. It combines the twin aims of so much smoking-related technology – the air vents are sufficiently effective to all bar the dedicated smoker to realise what it’s there for, but on the inside it reeks to high heaven and is about as unpleasant a way to spend five minutes as I can imagine. We hit some rather unpleasant turbulence about fifteen minutes after taking off, but I was becalmed by the fact that there was a pilot sitting two rows diagonally ahead of me to the right. I knew, deep down, that if he didn’t panic, then I had no cause to either.
At Amsterdam Schipol, there was a regrettably quick wait for my connecting plane. They were already boarding for Tokyo by the time I stepped off my first plane. Having negotiated my way through customs (it’s one of my more abiding fears that I will make an exhibition of myself in front of a customs official and end up being subjected to the sort of intimate search usually reserved for Colombians with silver suits with rolled up sleeves and a cigarillo behind their ear), I was delighted to come across a large posse of Internacional supporters, wearing red and white shirts and, in some instances, pleasingly stereotypical rice-gatherers hats and those eye masks that the Kamikaze pilots wore during the Second World War. They were certainly in a boisterous mood, reacting to a call over the airport public address system for “the supporters of Internacional from Brazil to please sing us a song” with a rousing chorus of “ole, ole ole ole, Inter”. It was, as ever it is with Brazilian supporters, good natured. When one sadly misguided Japanese girl said, “ah, Brazil – Ronaldinho!”, she was met with a barrage of good natured boos, but was she to know that Goofy Ron started his football career with Inter’s fierce Porto Alegre rivals, Gremio? They merely reacted with laughter to the public address system woman’s statement to this effect: “Ladies & gentlemen, I would quickly like to take the opportunity to remind you all, especially our visitors from Brazil, that Netherlands will win the next World Cup”.
The second part of the flight was altogether more comfortable – at least it was from a turbulence point of view. In fact, the main problem of the second part of the journey was the sheer lack of things to do. I sat glassy-eyed through three films, read about a hundred pages of a book, listened to all the hits of 1956 and 1966 on KLM Radio, and still had time to spare. For vast, long periods, it didn’t even look or feel as if the plane was even moving. Touchdown was a relief. I managed to get the bus to the hotel and got my room. A quick shower and a lay down later, and I was ready to face the outside world. I only went round the block, but a mixture of driving rain, a strange alphabet and too many flashing lights sent me straight back home after I’d achieved my initial aim, to purchase a USB cable. From a proper Japanese shop, and everything!
And that’s about it for now. I’m off for a nap. Toodles!