23 September 2007

The plane now leaving gate A47!

"I decided to ask an official (who were rarer to spot than the Loch Ness Monster).....I thought 'great' trust me to get the lunatic!!"

It's amazing what a difference 72 hours can make. One minute you are literally in Sydney and the next you are in England! Well this is something that I have experienced in the last few days. On last Tuesday I received an urgent phone call that required me to travel to the Mother Country as soon as possible. By Friday morning I was in Kent having a cup of tea with my mother and sister!

If anyone has had to travel at the last minute they will know that there are a lot of things that you need to do. First thing is to book a flight. Simple enough, really. However, in practice not as easy as it may seem. Virtually all airline websites will not let you book a flight within 72 hours notice. However, there are a few that will. With some great help from a work colleague (Jia) I was able to book a flight with Virgin Atlantic.

My first minor obstacle that I needed to overcome was in relation to my passport. As I am a dual citizen of Britain and Australia I have two passports. I normally use the GB one to travel to England. However, as I had not renewed it I would have to travel on my Aussie one. So for immigration purposes I would have to state my nationality as Australian and queue up with 'all other nationalities' at London Heathrow instead of going through the EEC channel (which is very quick).

So I swiftly packed a suitcase and was dropped off at the airport by my wife and youngest daughter. By some miracle I had checked in within 5 minutes and I promptly made my way through to the departure side of the airport. With the new restrictions I placed my essentials in a clear plastic bag for inspection at immigration. The customs official smirked at my plastic bag as I had used a very small sandwich one! I think it made his day as I had in it my asthma medication and some cough lollies and breath freshener.

Once through, I decided to check out which gate my plane was leaving from even though I had a fair bit of time to keep myself occupied. My ticket said that the plane was leaving from Gate 58 but the departure board said A47! Cripes, I thought, where is gate 47??? and what does the 'A' in front of it mean? Having walked around all the departure gates I decided to ask an official (who were rarer to spot that the Loch Ness Monster). When I found one the official too was baffled. There was no such gate as 47. Was someone playing a trick on me? was I part of an elaborate TV reality show cover up??

Fortunately I was not as the display board eventually changed to Gate 58.

The first part of the journey was quite unremarkable. I was in cattle class which sometimes is a struggle for me as I am just under 6 feet tall and cannot always stretch my legs properly. I chose an aisle seat as it is easy for me to move about without annoying my seating companion next to me. For some bizarre reason my companion, whoever she was, kept the light on the whole trip. If I moved about in my seat she would give me an evil stare. I thought 'great' trust me to get the lunatic!!

What made it worse was that this person was also travelling to the UK. Fortunately, my trip from HK to London would be in a different seat.

I immersed myself in the films and tv shows on offer (I can recommend Hot Fuzz if you like quirky English comedy movies). Also, I did a few su-doku's to keep the brain active and forced myself not to think about the lunatic next to me.

The second leg of the trip was much better. I was seated next to a lady who was taking her two sons to Blighty. As I had done a similar thing last year with my girls we had something in common. This part of the journey was more relaxing. Only twice did I feel pity for the lunatic's new seating companion! Anyway, I played the online trivia game and blasted away all opposition (2 other people situated elsewhere in the plane). Trivia and I are definitely soul mates!

I slept for a few hours and arrived at Heathrow at about 5.20am. I queued up at the 'all other nationalities' queue with a number of Japanese, Chinese and other SE Asians. When it was my turn I got asked how long I was expected to stay in the country as I was an 'Aussie'. I wanted to point out that I was English but remembered that I was travelling on my Australian Passport. So I mumbled something about a few weeks and had my passport stamped accordingly.

I collected my suitcase and made sure that the lunatic was not near me for sanity reasons. Then I went through Customs and was into the main part of the airport. I was still a couple of hours away from my parents home but at least I was in England.

There was one thought, however, that I'll finish with. Every time I get off the plane at London the first British person I see is always a Sikh in a turban! Given that I am married to a Sikh that may not be a bad thing.


Anonymous said...

Hello fellow blogger!
I see you have a special flair for transport! Well, a blog on trains in the south of England would be the one I would also like to see in your collection! Cheers!

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