Leaving Europe Part 2

Wednesday, June 12, 2002:
I was woken by the phone ringing. It was Ann wanting to know if I would like to meet her down the road at a pub called the Hermit’s Cave, so I had a shower, threw on some clothes and followed her directions.

It was a typical smokey English pub with a selection of ales, and wooden decor. Ann and some friends were sitting around a table by a window so I wandered over and joined them. They were a very nice bunch of people, well and truly into the spirit of things and generously bought me a few beers. A little later on, the majority went home, while myself, Ann and an Irish guy, whose name I forget, went on to a seedy late bar called Red Star. This got pretty boring after a while and was fairly quiet anyway being wednesday, so the three of us went home to Ann’s.

The music went on and Irish bloke produced some hash. Ahh Great! We talked for hours and enjoyed the music among stacks of books and CDs. Ann eventually went to bed while the Irish fellow and I stayed up, chatted and got increasingly stoned. He turned out to be a very smart lad and it seemed that we did not leave any particular deep topic unaddressed. I was feeling much better, though despite my better mood, I still couldn’t help myself and called Erika back in Spain. Whoops.

I awoke the next day with a sore throat, a sure sign that I was coming down with something. I hung around the flat for most of the day and just generally hid from the world, playing on the internet and reading. Later in the afternoon, Ann and I went to a Chinese noodle bar where she bought me dinner which was huge and left me completely stuffed. Afterwards, we made our way to the Asturia where the Fun Lovin’ Criminals would be playing in the evening. Ann and her friends already had tickets, and the gig was sold out, but as we had hoped, I managed to procure a ticket for about £20 from one of the many scalpers plying their trade outside.

Inside it was packed with people. I vaguely remember that there was an American support band playing and that Ann’s Irish mates supplied me with beer and joints all night. It’s a pity I had eaten so much previously, because the beer was Grölsch which is one of my favourites. Finally the Criminals came on and got the place hopping. They were a lot better than I had expected and thoroughly enjoyable. During all this, another of Ann’s Irish mates, knowing that I was leaving tomorrow, came over and gave me a “going away present”, which I promptly put straight into my pocket. It was a very large chunk of black Afghani hash. What a lovely bunch of people they were, treating me like a old dear friend, yet only having just met me.

After the concert, I went home with the guy who’d given me the “present” and we sat and cackled at old Rodge & Podge videos and got incredibly stoned to the point of drooling. It was a great night and when we reached the stage where we could drool and laugh no more, he ordered me a taxi, paid in advance and sent me back to Ann’s. I was out cold the moment my head hit the pillow.

Friday, June 14, 2002.
I awoke not hungover, but with a bad cold as predicted. This was my tenth time (or something like that) in London and once again, I found myself wondering at the fact that I never seem to escape a London visit in a healthy state (I recall leaving London while precariously on the verge of pneumonia, the year before). I dragged myself out of bed, got ready and packed my gear. Ann turned up and off we went. First I exchanged my remaining Euros for English Pounds, then took a bus to the tube station. Ann helped me with tickets, made sure I was on the correct line and we barely had time for a quick hug just before the doors hissed closed.

After a fairly long trip out to Heathrow Terminal 4, I arrived on time, checked in and did a little duty free shopping. I grabbed a couple of CDs to add to my collection back home and most importantly, a box of tissues for the long flight. I wiped my running nose (again) and joined in on a nice couple at a table for a beer. During our chat, I was fidgeting in my pockets and found something I had completely forgotten about. Well, well, well, if it wasn’t my “going away present”. Whatever would I do?

Now despite the occasional night on a different planet, I generally am not a big user of hash or weed. For me, it’s purely a social activity. I’ve never bought it in my life and even if I could have found somewhere in the terminal to smoke it, I wouldn’t have had a clue how to roll a joint, nor did I have anything with which to do it – besides, it would have taken forever to smoke. I’m also the sort of person who hates to squander anything. Nope, there was only one thing for it. I broke it into pieces in my pocket, and discretely swallowed every bit with sips of beer while talking to my fellow travellers. They appeared not to notice a thing.

Shortly thereafter, it was time to pass through the security checks in preparation to boarding the plane. ‘Maybe it has already started to hit me’, I wondered to myself when I forgot my bag at one of the checks and had to run back to retrieve it. Nevertheless, I eventually found myself in a window seat, right at the very rear of the BA 747-400, everything in order and sitting next to a bloke who told me he develops satellite communications. We downed a couple of small bottles of wine, and became pretty cheery and for an hour or so. The conversation was fairly intelligible and astute, despite the fact that I could barely breathe with my cold coming on strong.

The end of our conversation was signified by my neighbour looking at me curiously after I had evidentally said something rather strange. It was sort of like, “Ooookay…” Fortunately though, distraction was at hand with small video screens on the backs of the seats and a few assorted movies playing. One movie in particular, was by far the best movie I have ever seen, unfortunately though, I can’t remember what it was called, who was in it or what it was about – at all. Sometime after that I passed out making loud horrible noises brought on by a mixture of having a bad mucousy cold, mixed with the worst case of the “dry horrors” I have ever had. Soon the noises I was making became so loud that I awoke with a loud gasping and choking exclamation of “WATER!!”

Still completely out of my head, I went on a desperate search for food and water, up and down the full length of the plane, trying carefully not to disturb the rows of sleeping people in the dark. Suddenly, I burst through some blue curtains straight into first class and was greated by several shocked hostess faces turned all at once in my direction. By now I also had a fair helping of paranoia, so when told I wasn’t supposed to be in first class and that there was a water fountain mounted into the bulkhead directly behind my own seat, I was grateful to get straight out of there.

It was a very long flight and about 14 hours after departing London, we arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport. I gathered all my cabin gear and nervously eyed the groups of machine-gun toting guards, as I went through customs to finally emerge into the oppressive equatorial heat. I realised I was still very, very stoned.

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