Happiness is a perfectly planned week on the road (where everything is timed in 15-minute intervals and there’s absolutely zero scope for meetings running overtime or missing flights) that gets completely thrown out of the window, leaving you homeward bound with two bonus days in the office.
Although I was looking forward to a little tour around Sydney and a pit-stop in Bangkok, there was something quite liberating about sitting down to dinner with clients and friends in Brisbane last Tuesday and deciding halfway through the starter that it might be nice to just head home to London since a key meeting had been cancelled in Bangkok and the Sydney trip no longer seemed so urgent. An email to my trusty assistant Tommy, back in London, had me rebooked on a Qantas flight up to Singapore the following morning and the sudden change of plan meant that I was able to carry on with some very fine Pol Roger and a few bottles of clean Aussie whites well past midnight.
Several hours later I surprised myself by obeying the alarm on my phone and springing out of bed. Two Nurofen Plus with a flat white chaser dealt with my heavy head, and I set off through the side streets of Brisbane’s New Farm district for a preflight 5km run. At 7.15am the sun was already reasonably high, the few clouds drifting past were thick and fluffy, and sweet old ladies in wide-brimmed hats and massive sunglasses were out walking their little four-legged puffballs. As I skirted around them, I imagined the doggies all having names like Mitzi, Bubble, Bianca and Num-num embroidered on their collars.
The near-central neighbourhoods of Australia’s bigger cities are always refreshing thanks to the general absence of retail chains. Grocery stores aside, the chemist, newsagent, cafés and restaurants along New Farm’s main shopping strip were all independent, and at 7.30am the cafés were already packed with locals reading the papers, tucking into plates of thick sourdough topped with scrambled eggs and avocado, and knocking back their third coffee of the day.
Given that Australia kicks off the planet’s day, thanks to its position on the globe, it’s always struck me as curious that there’s such a strong early-riser/breakfast culture. Shouldn’t Australians be sleeping in so that they can work more in sync with the rest of the world? Or is it better to be a whole day ahead of the US and feel that you have an edge on everybody else? Regardless, I felt very envious of all the Queenslanders sitting in their airy cafés, looking healthy and gently easing into their Wednesday.
Back at the hotel (a perfectly nice set-up but all major Australian cities urgently need some new hotels), I pulled my things together, jumped in the shower, tried a new hair wax from a smart Brisbane brand and headed to the airport. At BNE, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Qantas was running a 747-400 up to Singapore rather than an A330 and that the forward cabin was only half-full. After a layover in Singapore, I boarded the last British Airways service up to London and settled in for the 12-ish hour flight. I asked the crew for a copy of the FT’s weekday edition, and a few minutes later the BA staffer returned with a nicely folded bundle of pink paper.
“Oh but it’s the Tuesday edition,” I said, with some surprise. “Do you have today’s, by chance?”
“I’m sorry, let me check but I don’t think so,” the flight attendant replied. “I’ll be right back.”
A couple of minutes passed and the woman returned empty-handed. “It seems we only load the papers in London,” she explained. “I guess you can’t get this particular paper in Singapore.” At this moment it’s hard to say what face I pulled but I know I sat upright and leaned forward and into the aisle slightly. In a very low voice, I started to explain the problem with this particular scenario. “This paper is, in fact, printed locally and, as it’s close to midnight on Wednesday, the Thursday edition is almost available. Don’t you think you should be loading papers locally? Just like you do food and jet-fuel?”
“Hmmmmmmm? I dunno. There must be a reason for it. I’m not sure,” she said. “I thought it had something to do with not being able to get hold of local papers overseas.”
“No, no. That’s not the reason,” I said. “I imagine it has something to do with costs. Anyway, thank you.”
Fortunately I passed out before we even pushed back and somewhere over India I woke up, put the seat in recline and dozed the rest of the way back to Heathrow. A few hours later, settled in at the office, I couldn’t have been happier. Tommy was on hand with a strong coffee from our café, a gentle breeze was blowing through the office, all my favourite magazines and newspapers were piled before me and for the next two days my diary was completely blank.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
More columns at www.ft.com/brule