5am British Summer Time (BST). Predictably I woke around 5am, as usual and in pain. Not my choice you understand, just a reflection of my general insomnia and one of my increasingly frequent nocturnal brawls – surely among the more tiresome manifestations of RBD (Rem sleep Behavioural Disorder). Still, it gave me an opportunity to download some recent review articles. I am co-chairing a couple of sessions at WPC and wanted to bring myself up to speed on the subject matter. There are few feelings worse than looking clueless in front of several hundred people bristling with questions like a porcupine on crack.
7am BST. Lady G emerges for coffee as I finally wrestle the two halves of my suitcase together. It is like a giant clam and I am a pool of sweat. Lady G asks if she can put some more things in the clam. I greet this enquiry with a look that would curdle milk.
9.17am BST. Our driver arrives and whisks us to Heathrow in double quick time. We are ridiculously early so Lady G fetches espresso while Whatsapp pings away as, one by one, the team gathers.
11am BST. We are all assembled – Lady G, Eros, Tom, Helen, Clare, Vicki, Leah, Rachel, Phil, Clare, David, Jordan, Richard and Kerry – a phalanx of wheelchairs and walking sticks rumbling our way through security, fumbling with our belts and boots, all scanned, swiped and swabbed.
2.30pm BST. After a brief delay, we are finally airborne. Rachel, Clare, Gaynor and Vicki look like the Spice Girls with their matching pink “Parkie Girl” sweatshirts. The Japanese are bewildered as the girls pose for photos. So are we.
3.40pm BST. You’ve got to laugh – the in-flight entertainment is showing the BBC2 documentary about the CPT/Parkinson’s UK trial of GDNF. Vicki, one of the trial subjects and a star of the documentary is sleeping, two seats away. I briefly flirt with the idea of waking her for an autograph.
8.00pm BST, 4.00am Japan time. Over Tomsk in Russia, heading towards Kyzyl in Tuva. Still 3000 miles and more than 5 hours away from Osaka. Can’t sleep. Legs restless. Spasms of dystonia. Medication barely touching it. Really struggling. Then, out of nowhere, Eros appears with a basket of mint Magnums he has creatively relocated from the galley. He is suddenly very popular. He may be less popular when the cabin staff find them missing.
5.51am Japan time. Over Mongolia, heading towards Ulaanbaatar (wow – a place name with five ‘a’s). 2059 miles to go. Can’t decide whether to take my nighttime (UK) meds or start a new day on Japanese time. Still haven’t slept. My ipod has kept me going with Joni Mitchell, the Be Good Tanyas, Tom Waits and Van Morrison mostly. Running on empty now (me, that is. Thankfully not the ipod).
8.09 Japan time. Over the Yellow Sea, heading towards Seoul. 80 minutes to landing. Cabin lights on. Breakfast imminent.
9.37 Japan time. Landed at Osaka with an Almighty crash as the wheels hit the runway. Bits of decor fell down. Even the stewardesses winced. Welcome to Japan.