Speaker by Various Artists

Air Travel

by James Littlewood

God, I love Australians, but more on that later. For now, still stranger thoughts collide high above the Tasman. The dual sensations of grossly accumulating air miles while remaining static in the aircraft's interior; the chilly, heavily air-conditioned cabin climate ironically warping the pages of my birthday Kafka biography; and the Fashion Week music programme on Channel 8 featuring none other than the anti-anti-fashion-fashioneer himself: Peter McLennan in the guise of Dub Asylum, ripping it up something wicked.

It's always a nice day above the clouds, the weather always incessantly, brazenly fine, the sun blazing with rude impunity. Love how the clouds warp past the window - it's like life inside a Chemical Brothers video. Love how The Company's laptop fits under the tray table while I'm eating, and the empty meal tray fits under the tray table when I'm tapping.

Some other nice treats and surprises on Channel 8 (Schumacher and Baitercell, Tomorrow People) and the techno emphasis seems to fit well with the seamless, dreamy, machinery of flight, but I can't reconcile it with Francesca Rudkin's voice links. Mind you, it's hard to reconcile Francesca Rudkin at the best of times. She comes across as being nice enough, adequately informed, obviously connected, but her delivery gives me the shivers. Call me old fashioned, but just because you're reading an autocue, doesn't mean you actually have to sound as if you're reading an autocue.

(I'll do it for you: I'm old fashioned. Perhaps we could see the Kraftwerk approach to autocue reading. Today, we really are the robots...)

Sydney was brief: touched down just as the day was getting started to a balmy 25C, up to low 30s in the afternoon. Not that I noticed, it was all nasty back to back meetings for The Company, then back on the plane 9 am the next day. All catered, all air conditioned, could have been anywhere, except for that sense of humour. Either that or the fact that one side of my family goes back in Australia four generations or more (the rest of me being first gen. Brit extract), somehow makes me feel - it's hard to say this to a Kiwi audience - at home.

It's also hard to say this: New Zealand is a racist society. Not that I was the first of course, but I've become more sensitised to it over the years. Everyday, I endure the gybes. From bad t-shirts to the most erudite cultural tracts to otherwise sensitive and intelligent colleagues: everywhere the message is clear that Australians just plain suck. Eventually, NZ people find out that I am half Ocker. They get embarrassed, not because they've just unwittingly sledged my cultural heritage, but because the possibility occurs to them that they may be in the company of some kind of special needs person, the value of whose friendship now requires a complete re-assessment.

I like that they have pubs in Sydney. Auckland doesn't really have pubs anymore. In Auckland, the pubs have been reworked into quasi-Irish theme parks or venues. What is a venue? I'm not sure, but it's not a pub. Pubs are old. Pubs are local. I think pubs belong to hotels, or at least former hotels. They tend to avoid naming themselves after canine genitalia, and feel less like barns and more like living rooms.

Anyway, I love Australians. They're so well-humoured, so darn affable. Even the ones you don't like are quite clear about it. There's argument, but very little of the nasty bickering stuff. You're a cunt? No worries. Spotcha.

My theory for it is that NSW was populated by English people who were quite happy where they were (albeit starving) and never wanted to leave, whereas New Zealand was populated by English people who were sick to death of it, depressed, couldn't handle it and needed to start over, settling for a microcosm of their own long-lost bourgeois middle class. As a result, Aussies are survivors and Kiwis are dreamers. Dreamers are more polite, but survivors are more talkative.

God knows what the Zambesi outfits for the cabin crew are going to look like, but they couldn't look much worse than they currently do. If it was up to me (yeah right) I'd put them in sneakers and polar fleeces like everybody else. I hate those sensible shoes they wear. In the unlikely event of an accident (as they say) I want my cabin crew to be able to direct me to the nearest exit without worrying about the angle of their beret or the creases in their military pilot's uniforms.