Friday, 9 November 2012

The platform at my local Metro station is 40,075 kilometres (24,901 miles) long

When I go down the escalator and onto the platform at my local Metro station I am on the beach in Nemuro, a mid-sized town on the extreme west coast of Hokkaidö, Japan. If I want to walk to the other end of the platform though I first have to swim across thousands of miles of vast and empty Pacific Ocean....

....before I reach land. I'm in Seattle, so I get behind the controls of a plane and fly over America and its myriad spectacular mountains, brooding and dangerous deserts, bustling metropolitan big cities, towns and villages.

I decide to push a little further north and pick up a full load of fuel in Montreal (the pretzels aren't much good there) before taking off again with a flight plan which will take me over Newfoundland's black and bleak terrain and out into the freezing northern Atlantic towards Europe.

Midway over the vast blue Atlantic however I see something unusual. I can hardly believe it's there so I rub my eyes, but, incredibly enough, it's clear that I am flying over what looks like a Metro station information board with an emergency phone next to it and a Metro map after that. The whole thing seems to cover an area of about 1500 miles by1750. Hmmm.. Maybe my oxygen levels are low and I'm starting to become delirious.

So I descend to 11,000 feet in order to be able to rely less on pressurisation and it's just as well. I have drifted off my original course and instead of flying over Scotland I am just off the coast of France. Time to stop for a rest in Paris and eat a good meal at Fouquet's.

Then it's off I go, heading slightly south over Eastern Europe. It's an area which I, like many other Western Europeans, don't know much about. I must make a point of going there one day. But not today so I press on over the northern expanses of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.....

....and along the borders of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan where it's getting dark before realising that if I stay on this course I'll soon be over Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the safety interests of all my passengers, which means me, who does not want to finish the day being either shot down by an F18 or executed by the Taliban I climb to 39,000ft and steer well clear....

Over the forlornly beautiful Mongolian Steppes I go and I remember that I have always wanted to go trekking there. That will have to wait I suppose, but those windswept swathes of land have existed  almost unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years and more so I am sure they will still be there if ever I were able to go.

Ever onwards I go high over the sparesly dotted lights of the towns and cities of China. In some places there are lots of lights, but most of it is forbiddingly dark. What does that mean? I do need fuel though, and decide to half-fill during a quick stopover in Beijing. After taking off again I keep North Korea well off to the south. I can just see it far beyond the tip of my right wing, and that's close enough thank you.

And then I finally find myself over the calm waters of the Sea of Japan, with less than 90 minutes to fly before landing where I started, in Nemuro, the mid-sized town on the extreme west coast of Hokkaidö, Japan from which I started my voyage. The whole trip, with its changes of course, is the equivalent of flying round the world along the Equator, which is 40,075 kilometres - or 24,901 miles - long.

Each time I go to my local station and wait for a train I either walk along the platform whilst looking at the world map and go on an imaginary voyage, or I stand still and study a particular region of the world and concentrate on it. This evokes strong imagesin me and I can almost feel like I'm in the places I am looking at on the map.

So even if the trains are running slow I never notice the time go by, engrossed as I am by the map and what it evokes. I can be anywhere in an instant. So my train is two minutes late? Five minutes late? Who cares frankly. I have better things to do because although Jules Verne was able to go 'Around the World in 80 Days', I can do it in less than 30 seconds........

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