I'm not sure whose plan, though. Travel-wise, it's been a mixed success so far. I checked in, saying goodbye to my small case filled with presents and new hot weather clothes. A very late shuttle from Heathrow delayed my flight from Newcastle. Clue 1 regarding the launch of Terminal 5.... The pilot hinted at teething problems. But the transfer by bus from T5 to 4 went like clockwork; there was no real hint of the chaos taking place in the brand new multi-million pound shed as with mistaken confidence we tootled through tunnels, moving from shiny-shiny new T5 with its helpers standing every 25 yards waiting to be called upon, to somewhat scruffier old T4. There I had a longish wait, filled by walking miles past all the shopping opportunities, eating a huge salad-and fruit-based dinner, and texting confident messages to everyone who might remember me only as a neurotic and bumbling twit who couldn't make it safely to the corner shop. I was now Intrepid Traveller, capable, experienced, and in the right place at the right time; I was calm, collected and prepared for anything.
Time to board the big flying tin tube.The youngish Australian man next to me barely spoke, jumped and twitched a great deal, created knee-deep litter about us both, and wolfed his revolting airline food and drink at lightning speed. Second time round, fascinated, I paid more attention to his technique - hoovering, basically. I was still picking my way gingerly through the gloopy main course trying to identify various items, and lo! he had finished his, as well as his salad, bread roll, dessert and both our chocolate biscuits, and had gone back to jumping about, throwing litter and knocking his drinks over us.
We had lots of leg room, facing a wall panel, which was great - for Mr Messy in particular - but this plane could have doubled as refrigerated transport for perishable foodstuffs. After half an hour I began to worry about hypothermia, despite cardigan, fleece, thick socks, and later BA's tea-towel-thin blanket and tiny flabby pillow. The hours dragged by; freezing to death is a slow process, and you can feel your brain shutting down cell by cell. Not slow enough to become used to the too-high headrest which pushed my head down at a painful angle which it has since maintained. I can now walk convincingly like a chicken, head poked forward; all I need to add are the sound effects.
After what seemed like 24 hours, with a short stop in Bangkok to thaw out while the plane was refuelled, cleaned, and restocked with potential litter, we arrived in Sydney. By this time, we knew that T5 was in trouble, and that luggage seemed to be involved, but didn't know the full extent of that trouble - 15,000 items in all. The carousel went round in its tantalising fashion, the non-T5 passengers collected their cases, and the small group of us unlucky ones went off to report that our luggage was, well, probably still in the bowels of the state-of-the-art terminal in London. We were given $100 each and told not to ring up for at least 48 hours to give the airline time to find our precious bags. 36 hours later, I have received two messages to tell me that they have not been successful yet. Prioritise me, I want to scream. I have new slippers in that case!
So far I have splashed out on 2 t-shirts and a nightie, spending an astonishing $9.99 of my BA compensation payment. That's under a fiver. I am going to be very sick of these trousers by the time I get my case back/give in and buy a complete holiday wardrobe, but I bet I could do it all within the 100 bucks.
More next time on what has gone wonderfully (heart-stoppingly wonderfully, in actual fact) well.....