The flight did not begin well. The courtesy and good manners extended to me by the ANA check-in staff at Heathrow, along with the extra leg room I would be getting by siting on one of the front rows, was most definitely tempered by the little piece of paper that was given to me, as I left the check in desk. Feeling like Billy Bones from ‘Treasure Island’ i carefully examined the piece of paper, and what I found was worse than any black dot. As I was situated near the emergency exit I was responsible for ensuring that, in the event of an emergency, everyone left the plane in a controlled and sensible manner, and I was expected to remain onboard to ensure that this happened! About a quarter of the way into the 12 hour flight we were subjected to the most prolonged bout of turbulence that I have experienced. This ensured that sleep quickly became a forced necessity, as the severe lack of any decent inflight entertainment (the fact that ‘The Tourist’ was the least offensive choice should give you some idea of what I was up against) combined with my sense of imminent death, meant that being gently rocked to sleep by turbulence was the only alternative to running up and down the aisle, blowing the whistle on my life jacket and asking everyone to remain calm whilst they exited in a calm and timely manner.
After a reasonably hassle free trip back to my flat in Higashimatsubara, I was delighted to find my flat left completely untouched by the recent aftershocks. As I had a glass beaker perched precariously over the kitchen sink this was something of a blessing. What was most definitely not a blessing was the cacophony of bills that were awaiting my arrival; hidden beneath take away food menus like snakes in the grass waiting to pounce on their bewildered pray. Welcome home Sam, welcome home.