I am at the University of Warwick, in my residence room, trying not to go to sleep just yet. I can fight the jet-lag a bit longer (and thus hopefully win sooner), so let me tell you about a number of pleasant surprises that spiced up my trip from Canberra over the last 45 hours.
I took the coach from Canberra to Charles Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney (the fare of merely $15 was quite pleasant in its own right), and arrived with plenty of time to spare. I went up to the “Viewing Deck” and was excited to see a Qantas Airbus A380 for my first time. An hour or so later, as I was walking down the terminal to find my gate, I saw a Singapore Airlines A380 taxi in to the terminal. I was disappointed to have missed its landing (unless it had simply been parked somewhere), but these giant planes are still new enough for a sighting to be interesting.
My flight to Hong Kong was smooth and uneventful except for the bad local weather that delayed our landing by 20 minutes. I was on an Airbus A330, and thoughts of the recent Air France tragedy made me somewhat somber as we flew a holding pattern through the clouds. I was glad for the unremarkableness of our flight.
Most of my (shortened) transit time in Hong Kong was taken up with walking the length of the terminal back to gate 2. This might perhaps be an exaggeration, but it certainly is an enormous terminal building! My flight to London Heathrow was aboard a Boeing 747, and I was lucky enough to be sitting in the first row behind a bulkhead. The extra leg room was very pleasant indeed.
I switched on my mobile phone after landing, and was delighted to get a call from Clansi within minutes of stepping off the plane. It’s my first use of international roaming, and having it work so well is very convenient.
After meeting my supervisor (who was on a different flight that came in to a different terminal at Heathrow), I was very surprised to bump in to a friend from Sydney. Grenville Kent was just as startled to see me, and we had a brief chat about the (separate) conferences that we are here for. This chance encounter was so amazingly unlikely that it gave me quite a buzz.
But the greatest serendipity happened at lunch today. On the way from Heathrow to Warwick we stopped in at Oxford to visit some colleagues and have a look in their laboratory. Having had very early breakfasts on our planes, we decided to find some lunch. A number of restaurants and cafes failed to capture our attention, and so we headed back towards the “Lamb and Flag” (which we had passed earlier in our wanderings) for a pub lunch. On the way, however, we saw the “Eagle and Child” and were enticed by their fish-and-chips deal.
This turned out to be the very same Eagle and Child that C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien enjoyed often with “The Inklings”! I was so glad that we stumbled upon it. Retrospectively, there are probably few things in Oxford that I would have been more interested in seeing.