Over the Rainbow-Bridge

Flying sucks.

Queues, delays, cramped legs, wailing children, lost luggage, unfettered, inescapable body odour. People with an inability to maintain a constant walking pace whilst moving in a straight line. Hobbits under five feet tall smiling smugly from the emergency exit seats. It’s all just part of the thankless bean-feast that is international air travel.

I’ve been doing this for better than 20 years now, and it’s always hell. I loathe it, but if you want to be an opera singer, you’ve just got to get on with it. Suck it up. Push on through. MTFU.

Today’s descent into Nibelheim is brought to me courtesy of Richard Wagner himself. I’m making the supreme sacrifice of missing the Scotland V France Six Nations match to hop on Sleipnir and thunder across the Bifrost to begin rehearsals for my first Wotan on stage.

Normally, I’d have left home in a foul mood, contemplating 12 hours of torture, the only relief in the day’s interminable misery coming in the form of those inexhaustible wee Gordon’s gin miniatures the airlines seem fuelled by.

But today is different. Today, I am happy. Buoyant. Positively jubilant.

It’s Wotan time, and that’s enough to make anyone happy. Also, it’s Houston, and that means I get to spend quality time with bunch of old mates, doing great rep with a fab company in a relaxed, laid-back town. But that doesn’t fully explain why my chirpiness today is bordering on the unbearably smug.

No, the main reason is that today I get to glimpse life “beyond the curtain”. Today, Sleipnir is, say it with reverence now…

…BA Business Class.

Oh, yes.

Bigger baggage allowance, fast track security, lounge access, comfy seats, awesome service, free everything, and, most important of all, legroom.

L-E-G-R-O-O-M. The Holy Grail of air travel.

I simply cannot put into words the excitement I feel at the prospect of actually being able to sleep on a plane. Normally, I spend the flight in a semi-alcoholic fug, playing an endless game I like to call Push-of-War with the hippo in the seat in front of me. He can’t get his tray-table past his belly without pushing his seat back, and I can’t stop screaming in agony as the metal in said seat tries to dislodge my kneecaps. Sleep, as you might well imagine, is something of a mythical beast in these circumstances.

But not today. Not in Business Class.

Ah… Just typing it is making me feel more relaxed…

Of course, the sad truth is that I already know I won’t be able to sleep. I’m too excited. There’s food and wine and new movies and lots of other fun stuff to enjoy. I’ve heard there’s even some sort of incredible seat that moves around without causing unspeakable suffering to others.

And there’s the rub. Business Class might sound more relaxing, but, unless you’re doing it every day and have become immune to its creature comforts, its sheer novelty value will ensure that you arrive in pretty much the same state as if you’d wedged yourself into your usual iron maiden in economy. Knackered and irritable. But with a better quality of hangover.

Some of us simply have to face the unpalatable truth that we just don’t belong beyond the curtain. It will always be a place of ineffable wonder to us. We will always be interlopers, outsiders who are made welcome, but who never really belong.

Still, if I really start feeling out of my social comfort zone, the BA staff are so lovely I’m sure they’ll happily take turns hammering nails into my knees.


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