Serial Novel “The Sorrows” - October 23

I just wanted to dash off a quick email to let you know I arrived safely back in Australia.

Because of course you have nothing else to worry about in life except my wellbeing and frequent flyer points. That’s what friends are for, right. Especially good friends.

The long-haul flight was beyond horrible. Qantas Business Class was tawdry and frazzled. Such is modern air travel these days. Everyone was on edge, cabin crew and passengers alike.

Should I have flown First? I doubt it would have been worth it. Slightly wider and more comfortable seating but the same wilted lettuce. Same tired international lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow with its ridiculous brass-gilded staircase and faux private member club furnishings that somehow manage to be tacky and expensive at the same time, more worn out than worn in. And the leather? Have you noticed it doesn’t smell of leather?

Of course I should have taken your advice and flown First on Emirates or Qatar and turned the other cheek regarding their litany of human rights violations. Only marginally more expensive if you don’t factor in the human costs. Although now I’m officially retired, I’ll have to watch every penny, or rather every Australian dollar. The exchange rate is still abysmal but no reason for you and Sandra not to pay me a visit sometime soon. You can take your own advice (as you always do) regarding airlines and flights.

I’m writing this at a small round table in my room at the Sofitel Hotel (yes, still here at the top end of Collins Street after all these years). There’s been a mix-up with the tenants in my city place. My country place, my country escape, my reason for coming back after all those years in London? Still not finished. Apparently finding tradespeople is impossible. There’s a shortage of low-skilled physical labor. Who knew?

I’m sure the rooms have been refurbished since you were here last. Dark velvets, stuffed but not overstuffed chairs, innocuous muted tones, soft lamp lights, tight bed linen. Like any room in any luxury hotel chain. Somehow the run-of-the-mill anonymity is reassuring.

Air conditioning is breathing into the room while outside the rain is falling in grey sheets. draining the colour from the city. It’s been raining like this for almost a week. I’m sure you’ve seen the news of rivers breaking their banks, country towns being flooded, residents struggling to escape, motorists swept away.

On the television there are news reports playing more climate carnage, feckless politicians and protests around the world. There’s one protest just around the corner from the London office with a swarm of police officers. A frail old lady in a translucent plastic orange rain poncho hobbling with a walking stick is being gently arrested as she calmly scolds the government for their gross dereliction of duty. She’s certainly not wrong. If only she knew. If only they all knew.

I just realised I have no idea what the time is. I failed to set my watch to Australian time before I left. And I thought old habits die hard. I must be getting old.

There are no clocks anywhere in the room or when I checked in. I guess I’m in international hotel time. Bardo, as it were. A fine name for a new brand of experiential hotel.

I should try and get some sleep. Hopefully, I’ll dream of gold and wake with the sun upon my face.

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