Forgive me if I fall asleep on the sofa

Image of Tyler Brûlé

Previously in the Fast Lane I was almost halfway through a seven-day round-the-world tour (London-Zurich-Bangkok-Brisbane-Sydney-Hong Kong-Toronto-Montreal-London), settling in for the Sunday evening flight to Brisbane (heavily sedated due to back pain), and trying my best to accommodate a mother and baby who were having less luck easing into their seats beside me. As a storm flashed outside and the Qantas crew did their best to help the mother organise her belongings, I was already drifting in and out of sleep as the 747 started to roll down the runway.

Monday September 10

About 45 minutes before landing, I woke up to the sound of the wailing baby next to me. I tried to keep my eyes closed for a few minutes and block out the sound (it had been going on for most of the night) but decided I should get up, grab a drink and sort myself out. It appeared I’d slept through a massive decompression in the middle of the night as there was rubbish strewn everywhere – shredded paper under my seat, a soggy napkin on the bulkhead, an iPad with an ugly fuchsia cover in the middle of the aisle and several bags with contents spilling out. As I shifted the seat from “bed” to “take-off/landing” mode and reached for the armrest, I almost put my hand on the used nappy that was also part of the bomb-site in the nose of the cabin. As the mother walked the baby up and down the aisle and I made my way to the toilet, a flight attendant offered her apologies.

“Oh you poor thing, I’m so sorry,” said the chirpy crew member. “Do you want to hang out back here and have breakfast with us?”

“Thank you,” I replied. “I’ll skip breakfast but I will join you for a juice and coffee.” While I chatted to the chief purser about the just-announced Qantas tie-up with Emirates, one of her colleagues was at the front of the aircraft trying to restore order.

Back at my seat the baby was being entertained by the iPad (turned up full-blast) and the Queensland coast was now in view.

A couple of hours later, after wrapping up my meetings, I dashed into town for a lovely lunch on James Street, took the very handy, sparkling new tunnel back to the airport and caught my flight to Sydney.

En route to the recently re-opened Park Hyatt (lovely rooms complete with Toto Washlets but slightly too formal drinking and dining offers), I popped into a favourite bookstore (Published Art in Surry Hills) to stock up on some fresh architecture and art volumes and then went on to join friends Nancy and Warwick for dinner at Bistro Moncur.

Tuesday September 11

The back pain was still there as the sun came up over the Opera House. While I couldn’t go for my usual run all the way to Woolloomooloo, I put on my shorts and sneakers and went for a brisk, somewhat off-kilter walk around Circular Quay and returned to sample the best of Australian morning breakfast TV. I know you might be sniggering but much of it is considerably better than its UK and US equivalents. After that it was a quick breakfast with the nice people from Tourism Australia (they were most excited about their new app) and then on to catch a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Nine hours later we touched down, a round of meetings were held at the Grand Hyatt and, I believe, I passed out on the sofa.

Wednesday September 12

After another quick breakfast, this time at the Hong Kong Club, it was on to the airport to catch the early service to Toronto and 11 hours of sleep and four hours watching Veep and catching up on ratty-looking copies of The New Yorker that had been riding around for weeks in my tote bag. The immigration staff at Toronto were friendly (a welcome change) and the city was feeling fresh and autumnal. I did a site inspection of our new office on College Street with my mom (she’s chief foreman) and colleagues Yoshi and Elli. We decided that we’d opt for a yellow colour scheme for the USM Haller office furniture. “Much better for the grey Toronto weather in February,” said Yoshi. Dinner was a loud affair at Terroni with cousin, mom and colleagues and some hours later I collapsed on the sofa again, this time at mom’s house.

Thursday September 13

The penultimate leg of the journey was a Porter flight to Montreal and then a speech at a media conference in the centre of town on the topic of print v digital. My request to look my audience in the eye rather than see the tops of Tweeting heads made my view on the topic quite clear from the outset, and I think I did a decent job of winning the room. Four hours later it was wheels up to Heathrow and back to base.

To read the first part of this column, ‘Against Doctor’s Orders’, visit

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

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