Flying to Kiev

As I write this, I am sitting, bottom numb, in a Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev. Following this, I will wait for six hours in Kiev airport for my flight to Beijing. Alex Popper, a superb friend for six years, will join me on that flight, assuming of course his flight — from Vilnius — doesn’t see him pass through Terminal D of Kiev Boryspol overly delayed. After having flown into China’s capital we will explore the city — so far there is no plan as to what we will do for the 6 days we are there; however, a Lonely Planet Guide on my newly-bought Kindle and our self-professed British Charm™ should hopefully see us enjoy ourselves and not conned out of too many Yuan.

This post; as you may well have noticed, is being written prior to my actually entering the country I will tour for 3 weeks or so before exploring many other Asian cities. You may; therefore, be wondering why on earth I would write a post about my travels before having arrived at my subject? I; however, am not of the belief that the holiday begins once the plane has touched down in a particular destination, but rather at the point where one’s Mother finds herself emotional.

As I woke up on Tuesday 5th July around noon, I came to realise the scope of my trip. It will, if I remember correctly, consist of 15 flights, 4 trains, and a bus — and those statistics omit transport inside cities. My itinerary is positively bulging with cities I’ve never set foot in and flight numbers for airlines I’d never even so much as considered taking. This behemoth of a ten week challenge, however, proved almost too much for a Mother-Son relationship like that of a cricket bat and ball — the knocking-in making it better(!) Challenges arose surrounding the purchase of a new SIM, the location of travel money in a bag, and even a melodrama — almost Greek — surrounding the late delivery of a parcel. Even as we sat in a Costa before I went through security at London Gatwick, there was need for negotiation over the consumption of food. I took the view that an empty stomach would serve me well in cramped aircraft conditions — my parents did not. An Oslo-esque compromise was achieved and two brownies were duly consumed. There is no question that I had now gained the mettle — and perhaps even the stomach — necessary for the excursion I had embarked on.

As I headed through security, I came to Duty Free. The hall was eerily quiet. I had never seen an airport as empty as this was — though, given the short or non-existent queues to practically everything, I was certainly not complaining. As it turned out, my flight was the last of the day’s, meaning most other passengers had cleared out to all the exotic destinations Brits so often summer to. Kiev, not a typical summer destination, was a not a locale met with Hawaiian shirt-wearing holiday-goers. The hall was therefore quite a morose place to be — smiles were as rare as sunglasses (although why one would, under any circumstance, wear either in an airport, I simply do not not know). After a period of seemingly endless waiting, I made it to the gate and, subsequently, to the aeroplane. The plane was an Embraer produced, given what I could glean from its interior, from a time between when Ukraine became an independent country and when Tony Blair was seen as a hero. Ukraine International Airlines does not seek to flit in modern winds — instead it weathers the turbulence exacerbated by aging aircraft. Their attendants are also resolutely old-school, with an all-female staff (barring, of course, the manly pilots) and skirts worthy of a lonely schoolmaster’s admonition. I was welcomed by a smiley dyed blonde character who seemed to mainly attend to the Business Class passengers. Her hair and uniform matched the colours of the Ukrainian flag — such matching was certainly worthy of applause or, at the very least, curious gawking from afar — from Economy, beyond the Business Class curtains.

My main interaction; however, came not from Colour Combo, but instead from a hostess I will appreciatively name, Stalina. Unhappy with my coat-hanging ways, Stalina gave no quarter to this young gappie. As I was sitting in an exit row, any obstacles before my feet — of the coat variety or otherwise — were, apparently, strictly verboten. Even my innocent laptop came under such scrutiny. Using words like ‘please’ with great strain and clearly dismayed at dealing with the vagrant that I was, she promptly moved my contraband into the overhead locker. 1-nil to Stalina, you may observe; however, my master-stroke, my last-minute equaliser, my Great Leap Forward; was soon to come. The locker would not shut for it had now become full — Embraer had clearly not engineered their aircraft for such a formidable rivalry as ours. I offered to shut it — her ‘please’ followed with yet more impatience. With a ‘bang’, the locker shut — 1–1 for your young protagonist. Stalina muttered something and left.

My episode with Stalina was followed by my reading Tinker-Tailor, Soldier, Spy — a book I was supposed to read and present to my English class about four years ago. Then, I had used Wikipedia and Sparknotes to formulate my presentation (sorry Ms. Farr); it was now the only work of fiction I had bothered to download on my Kindle. Such was the interest I had in the book that I put it down after three chapters and decided to write this unconsidered splurge. Blog-wise, more of the same will be on the horizon which, as I sit looking out of the window, is outstretched in the distance — far away and above the clouds.

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