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Everywhere is going on at once

I grew up flying, born in NZ but flew away when I was 3, lived across SE Asia until I was 18. My passports were filled with stamps, with extensions and with places transited through. I flew to boarding school at 5, and by 11 was the seasoned traveller, responsible for managing passports for younger students.

Dad organised for my brother and I to return from NZ to Manila once, on Air Nauru. We island hopped our way up the Pacific, the only 2 passengers to go the entire way to Manila, with stops in Guam, Nauru, and the Solomon Islands and possibly other points. I think at one point my brother got to sit in the cockpit for landing.

Returning to NZ in 1991 meant a pause in flying very much, for about 2 years ... before journeys back to SE Asia, to the US, to Australia, then the big OE in 1998 - and 5 years of touring with bands, and flights around the world, or weekend jaunts from London to Tokyo and back again. Sometimes first class, sometimes cattle. Good times.

Since moving back to Aotearoa in 2003, it's been trips to the UK every couple of years, and now with my work, weekly flights for work, Auckland and back in a day. Getting a window seat is always great on these runs, as the landscape of NZ is endlessly fascinating.

Memories of the Himalayas, long approaches over London, into Singapore, gazing down on the Arctic as the sun rises and sailing over the never-ending Midwestern states. The many flights across the Pacific, and the scale of Mexico City when you're flying in over it. The pain of leaving a place, the comfort of landing back at home.

This piece on flying, from pilot Mark Vanhoenacker, and based on his book Skyfaring is deliberate and poetic and lovely way to capture the beauty and the science of flight, in an era when for so many flying is just a necessary bugbear.

I came up with the term "place lag" to refer to the way that airliners can essentially teleport us into a moment in a far-off city; getting us there much faster, perhaps, than our own deep sense of place can travel. I could be in a park in London one afternoon, running, or drinking a coffee and chatting to the dog-walkers. Later I'll go to an airport, meet my colleagues, walk into a cockpit, and take off for Cape Town. I'll fly over the Pyrenees and Palma and see the lights of Algiers come on at sunset, then sail over the Sahara and the Sahel. I'll cross the equator, and dawn will come to me as I parallel the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, and finally I'll see Table Mountain in the distance as I descend to the Mother City.

Then, less than an hour after the long-stilled wheels of the 747 were spun back to life by the sun-beaten surface of an African runway, I'll be on a bus heading into Cape Town, sitting in rush hour traffic, on an ordinary morning in which, glancing down through the windshield of a nearby car, I'll see a hand lift a cup of coffee or reach forward to tune the radio.

And I'll think: All this would still be going on if I hadn't flown here. And that's equally true of London, and of all the other cities I passed in the long night, that I saw only the lights of.

For everyone, and every place, it's the present.

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