“Please turn off all electronic devices” – why?

For all of you who travel regularly by airplane you will hear this phrase on each and every flight.  Do me a favour, the next time the cabin attendant asks you to do so personally (as they always do to me), ask them why.

Here is the thing.  They actually don’t know.  They have been told to say this, but they have no clue whatsoever as to why.  it makes for an interesting conversation if you can draw them into one.  Some background.  When mobile phones began to come into popular use, there is documented examples of interference in the navigation modules of the airplane if people were sitting in certain areas of the airplane with their mobile phones switched on.  However, in modern airplanes shielding has improved so I don’t think it is really the issue, however I do agree that electronic items that have transmission capabilities (they send as well as receive) should by suspended by being put on airplane mode.  If that was the case then I wouldn’t have an issue at all.

But no, it is this general all-encompassing – all electronic devices must be turned off.  I travel with my Amazon Kindle and the arguments have no begun.  There is absolutely no logical requirement why I should stop reading.  It doesn’t transmit anything and the electronic signature of the device is negligible, so why turn it off?  When you ask, no one knows.  Its one of life’s “Just because I said so” moments, but it frustrates the shit out of me. 

For me, it is the sad reflection of the dumbing down of the general population.  More and more people seem to be losing the ability to think independently.  Personally I think it begins at school, it is then continued via a life of most folks becoming electronically lobotomized by their steady diet of reality TV.  Anyway, this is digressing.  just try it when it happens to you (as long as you are not holding a mobile phone of course).  Challenge it and watch the response.

Coming home to NZ – weird!

I don’t know about others, but each time that I come back to NZ it creates a very real sense of weirdness for me.  I was born and grew up here, but through divine providence I worked for Air NZ after leaving school which gave me the freedom to begin to travel.  When I look back at this now I sure that the job at Air NZ was more than divine providence, because as soon as I travelled outside of NZ, I knew in my bones that I would leave probably never to return permanently.  The wonderful thing about hindsight is that when you look back everything is very clear and obvious, but even living through my earlier years in NZ I knew I never fitted in.  I always felt that I was viewing my life from a parallel, slightly disconnected viewpoint.  it was all happening “over there”.  When I left permanently 25 years ago it was with no regrets, it was clear that I HAD to leave.  I don’t come back here very often, which is a conscious choice.  I was here 2 years ago and this trip was certainly not planned. 

The weirdness started as I sat on the airplane from Singapore to AKL, reading the weekend edition of the NZ Herald, the nationally distributed newspaper.  Front page – nothing of any real note, then I turned to the second page.  To put this into context, the weekend edition must have something like 200 pages and weigh 1.5kgs, so there is clearly a lot to write about. Well not really as it transpires.  So, I turn the first page of this significant document and there on page 2, the top 50% of the page is devoted to………………

– if you thought about the monetary crises in Ireland (wrong), the events in Nth Korea (wrong), educational challenges in the developing world (wrong), human rights (wrong) – no, in fact you could read about some NZ girl called Kate who (oh my god) is getting married on the same day as Kate & William (heir to UK throne).  Are they planning a double wedding? Nope the royal couple get married in the UK and NZ Kate and her partner get married here.  Holy shit, has that made a difference to my life.  Now I understand why they gave it the top 50% of page 2 along with colour photo’s.

It is the smallness of the place that does my head in.  I always see it resulting in ‘small thought processes’.  I know this is unfair because there are an awful lot of people who love living here and millions more who want to live here, but I just can’t because it feels like I would commit mental suicide.  This of course is my own very personal perspective and I know for my friends who live here their reality is of course very different.  But when I go through the local newspaper it does reinforce the feeling of – ‘I am only here 10 days, just make sure you don’t break a leg which keeps you here a day longer’.

I do have this feeling that in the future my 2 daughters could very well end up living here, which of course will be karma giving me the middle finger.  Lets see what happens over the next few days and I will keep you posted.

Amsterdam to Auckland

I had honestly forgotten how hard it is to sit on your arse for 24 hours on an airplane seat.  Yesterday I travelled from Amsterdam to Auckland with one 3 hour transit stop in Singapore.  Fortunately Singapore Airlines provides the fastest connection, but it means that you sit on your butt for 24 hours.  When I reached Auckland, I had had enough.

Now that I am here there are 2 things that I need to physically adjust to.  The first is that I am exactly 12 hours ahead of Europe so when I talk with K, she is going to bed at around a similar time that I get out of bed.  Over a period of time I think it will definitely add to a sense of dislocation with her rhythm at home.  The second thing is of course the weather.  Yesterday as I flew out of Schiphol it had just begun to snow and here this morning it is bright, beautiful and on the way to 25c.  I think it will take a couple of days to get rid of the jet lag and to start to slot in to NZ.

Going home – finally

I am about to board a flight from London, going back home to Amsterdam and I cannot wait.  The last few weeks have been crazy.  This is how it has been;

Go to London for 4 days for meetings.  Come back to Amsterdam and then leave on a Thursday night to go to Scotland for a long weekend with friends.  Come back on the Sunday evening then on Monday fly to Rome for a week-long workshop for work.  Return on Friday night from Rome and then leave for Brugge on Saturday morning to celebrate K’s birthday.  Come back to Amsterdam late Sunday afternoon, have a drink with our neighbours (and good friends) and then out to Schiphol again to fly to London for an early Monday meeting. 

So I am going home – thank fuck.

Mind you I get on another aluminium tube with wings in 2 weeks time to go to NZ, but that is another story.

Abject Misery

I am really trying to understand why some people who are in relationships feel that they have no option but to lead an utterly miserable life and not change it.  Let me explain.  This weekend I was in Brugge in Belgium.  K and I had dinner at Brassiere Raymond (excellent in case you were asking), and beside us sat a couple that reached interesting depths of misery.

I noticed them initially because they were on a table for 4, both sitting on the same side.  Initially I thought that it was so they could sit closer together.  But no, it was so they didn’t actually have to look at each other all evening and could watch others in the restaurant instead.  Both were in their 50’s and both were grossly overweight.  As the evening wore on it was clear that both are trying to eat away their individual unhappiness.  When not eating, he sat with his arms folded resting on a significant stomach and she sat staring at the ceiling (largely).  On the few occasions that they spoke, they didn’t turn towards each other, instead they continued to stare straight in front.  It was as though they believed that if they should look at one another they would turn to stone.

It was an amazing demonstration of pure misery and a resignation that they had completely missed the boat with their lives.  I can never understand why people choose to waste the potential of having a fulfilled happy life, achieving their dreams by settling for early oblivion.