Today is the day I fly to L.A.
Waking up is a multi-tiered and painful process.
It begins at some ungodly hour, when Vikki’s alarm goes off. She is catching a very early train to Birmingham. By the time she has her lunch, I will be mid-air. In a plane, hopefully.
I wake up again when Vikki eventually gets up, and then again when she leaves. I won’t see her again for 11 days. Believe it or not, this is the longest we have ever spent apart.
The next awakening occurs at around 09:00, when my dad brings me coffee. A Guildsman needs his coffee like a Guildsman also needs his rum.
Not long afterwards, I attempt get out of bed and realise that various parts of my body have decided they have better things to do. Apparently a day of fighting my tag team partner for his short wrestling-inspired film has taken more of a toll on my body than I was expecting. I must be getting old.
I cough an awful lot and limp around a bit. That much, at least, is normal.
The next hour or so involves of the joys associated with last minute travel preparations. Printing things, sticking things onto things, and walking in ever-expanding circles collecting odds and ends.
Finally, we leave. My dad very kindly drives me to Gatwick airport and so it begins.
Check in takes no time at all, nor does security. I even have time to print off some proof that I intend to leave the USA, which is something I hadn’t realised they needed before they even let you on the plane, let alone into the country.
A brief stroll around the duty free whisky reminds me why I will never be a wealthy man, and then it is on to breakfast: the other reason why I will never be a wealthy man.
For some reason, I find myself tempted to order a fruit shake with added whey protein. This is out of character. I use nutritional supplements very rarely: if a Guildsman cannot recover through sheer willpower alone, he probably doesn’t deserve to recover at all.
In fact, I have possessed the same tub of protein for two years and it is nowhere near empty. One of these days, it’ll probably come to life. What then? Would I have to…raise it?
No doubt it would go on a rampage.
Oh, protein baby. What hast thou doesn’t?
There is also a far tastier non-protein option on the menu, not to mention delicious (ly cheap) black coffee. At the same time, I have a long flight ahead of me and I do not trust the in-flight meal, no matter how “Nice and Tasty” it declares itself to be. Apparently when we all know that something is a lie, it sort of becomes fine again:
“This menu is not nice and tasty. It’s just a name. Were you honestly expecting it to be nice and tasty? Then YOU’RE the idiot here. Not us, and certainly not everybody else.”
Whilst the three parts of my subconscious mind argue with the the two parts of my conscious mind, my body takes over. It orders everything. Of course it does. I manage to reign it in just before the words “carafe of wine” slip out. Just before. I probably get to “and a caarrrffffff, no never mind”.
The berry and protein shake arrives first and is horrible. Obviously. Luckily, the rest of it is delicious. This feels like poetic justice. I shall bear this is mind in the coming month. Or rather, I would bear it in mind if I could make my mind up what it was.
The next ten minutes are wasted attempting to access Gatwick’s baffling internet services. It seems straightforward enough: connect to the WiFi, create an account and click on the link in the activation email.
…the activation email…
I don’t have internet access, Gatwick. How can I click your cursed activation email?
I give up and use my mobile internet.
Yet another reason why I will never be a wealthy man.
Suddenly, I realise the time and dash to the departures board. Before I spot my flight, I see the words Copenhagen, Reykjavik and Havana. My heart drops into my stomach; these are all places I have visited in the last 18 months, and I have countless great memories of them all.
Just like that, it is real. Suddenly I’m not just in a crowded security-obsessed shopping centre: I’m in a gateway, about to embark on a fresh adventure
I leave the restaurant, spend five minutes following the signs to the departure gate and wind up back at the restaurant. This makes me head hurt. I reconsider the carafe of wine. Alas, there is no time: my plane is boarding!
Second time lucky, I make it to the departure gate. Here I have the pleasure of standing in a queue, to join another queue. At the end of the second queue, I will get to sit in a preassigned seat for 12 hours. I opt not to bother. I sit on the floor, instead. The result will be exactly the same, but without all the queueing.
Minutes later, I am convinced there is a special training school for developing the most annoying voice possible – and only the graduates with the highest honours are allowed to pursue a career in making airport announcements. I honestly don’t think I could be that annoying if I was deliberately trying.
Eventually, we board. Five feature length movies later (and repeated threats that the pilot will divert the plane if people don’t stop smoking in the toilets) I land in L.A., and transfer to Santa Rosa.
And here I am, in wine country with the delightful Keneally family – engaged in a fight to the death with jet lag.
I shall spend the next few days sitting very still, drinking very little booze and generally being well-behaved before the forthcoming race. I need to learn to relax. Apparently.