Against doctor’s orders

Image of Tyler Brûlé

It’s been a snappy week for this columnist – even by the fastest of Fast Lane standards. While it’s quite normal for me to go around the world in seven days, such tours usually involve no more than two major stops and these tend to be HK or Tokyo followed by LA or New York. This week it’s been eight cities in seven nights. So far, it’s looked something like this.

Thursday September 6

I was supposed to fly to Milan on Wednesday but the late arrival of summer kept me tethered to London and my stand-in assistant Flavia busy cancelling and rebooking my departures. The weather was so wonderful in London and the mood so sunny in the office that I ended up heading straight to the opening of our little Monocle shop inside the Pelikamo store in Zürich, saving Milan for later in the month.

In Zürich I managed to squeeze in the last Aperol spritz of the season with my colleagues at the cosy little bar Atelier. I also downed a few outstanding mini-burgers cooked by the handsome catering team at Kaufleuten, and just managed to catch my late-night Swiss departure to Bangkok at 11pm-ish. On board the A340 I chat to the captain, who tells me there are three captains on the flight and over 100 years of cockpit experience. He also says there’s a shortage of first officers and that he’s hoping his A340 will soon be replaced by 777-300ERs. I feel reassured by all this and tuck in for the flight to Suvarnabhumi.

Friday September 7

The A340 touches down right on time and I’m greeted by a lovely pair of arrival staff who whisk me through customs and have me in a car within seven minutes. I’m not sure who sent them or where they came from but it was a very nice welcome. Unfortunately it’s Friday afternoon and Bangkok traffic is just hitting its stride, so the journey to the Mandarin Oriental takes over an hour. A billboard featuring teenage girls and boys promoting a mid-market make-up brand prompts me to make a note to research how big the cosmetics market is for young men in Thailand. After a meeting and dinner at the hotel my plans to venture beyond are thwarted and I end up watching the parade of wedding get-ups passing in front of the terrace with my colleagues Alexios and Clare and our Bangkok sparring partner, Anna.

Saturday September 8

The day gets off to an early start and we meet the very talented swimwear designer of the Timo Trunks (think new Orlebar Brown meets less papa-style Vilbrequin) for lunch and then go for a magazine run to Asia Books and Kinokuniya at Emporium. We all agree that the state of chain bookstores in Thailand is far better than in the US or the UK. The magazines are devoured poolside at the Oriental and plans are made for the evening. In my case the latter never materialises as the late afternoon disco-nap turns into eight hours of slumber.

Sunday September 9

I wake up and can’t feel my legs. OK, that’s a slight over-exaggeration but my back has completely seized up, my thighs are sore and I’m in a great deal of pain. I call down to the front desk to ask for a doctor and am informed that there’s a resident nurse. A few minutes later the nurse calls back with the doctor on the line and I explain what’s wrong. In less than 30 minutes the doctor arrives and offers up his assessment – a trapped nerve or pulled muscle. He advises me to stay at the hotel for a few days and to cancel all travel plans. I counter that this is a wonderful idea but it’s simply not possible and I must fly.

He tries to reason with me but in the end summons the nurse, who gives me an injection, and I’m loaded up with all kinds of drugs for my flight to Brisbane via Singapore. I’m advised not to lift anything, so the nurse makes the necessary arrangements with the hotel.

At the airport a gentleman looks after my bags and with zero fuss escorts me to the Singapore flight. My connecting flight on Qantas is a rather different experience. On board the overlit 747-400 I’m greeted by an angry mum who grunts that she wants my window seat for her and her baby. I scan the cabin for empty seats but it’s rammed. I delicately explain my sore back and that it’s better if I stick to my assigned seat as I won’t be getting up and she’s better off with aisle access. She argues in favour of play space for her toddler but I suggest she won’t be able to step over me due to the configuration of the aircraft (she’s the opposite of petite).

At this point two flight attendants chime in that she should really take the seat that’s been assigned, the toddler starts to scream, lightning is flashing outside, the engines rev and we start to hurtle down the runway. Stay tuned for what happened next.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

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