“Just like those Thunderbird Men…”

“Just like those Thunderbird Men…”

I thought I’d better finish everything from the flight over here. There’s not much point in calling it the “first” or “second” day as it’s all rolled into one and I’m not sure what day it is where.

“Just like those Thunderbird Men…” Why that heading? The first one was “Flying High”, which was the title and first line of the song that was going to be Thunderbirds theme tune, which was fortunately discarded and replaced by the famous Thunderbirds March. “Flying High” appears briefly in one episode.

Los Angles

I sent a Twitter tweet to say I’d made it this far, but I don’t think it connected.

Boy! Do they like checking their security! I don’t know how many times my passport and boarding pass were checked and rechecked and I didn’t even really leave the flight, let alone the airport.

It was easy to negotiate though. Those of us who were only transiting through LA to Heathrow were given Air New Zealand transit cards. And all along the route were Air New Zealand staff members with those same cards to direct you the correct way.

At security we were split into two. Those who were American or had travelled through America before and those who hadn’t.

*hand up*

It’s -42 degrees Celsius outside now.

So I stood in a long queue and waited. At one point I thought I heard an American accent say: “Would the lady with the dog come here please?”

Dog? It can’t have been dog. Not inside an airline terminal.

I looked back a short time later and there was a young lady, in the queue behind me, with what looked like a young bull terrier on a lead. It didn’t have one of those coats on saying it was an assistance dog of some kind, but surely it had to be. Either that or it was going to be processed through customs for the next Air New Zealand flight. I haven’t seen it since so I don’t know if it’s on board.

When I was processed through customs I commented to the man behind the desk that I wasn’t smiling in my passport picture and would he like me to try and stop. He said that he could still recognise me and now he needed to take my fingerprints.

Talk about big brother.

Four fingers of the right hand.
Right thumb.
Four fingers of the left hand.
Left thumb.
Look into the camera.

That’s a camera?

“Do you want me smiling or not smiling?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to be selling your picture.”

And I was through.

Then it was walk though “the bowels of the airport” as another lady said to me, until we got to security to let us get on the plane.

We’ve only just got off!

Here was remove your shoes, jacket, laptop and tablets and stick them in a tray for scanning before you’re scanned yourself, so I drunk the last of my anti-jetlag stuff before going through. I didn’t want my bottle confiscated.

I hope the Air New Zealand attendant remembers she was going to refill it with water for me.

I had a quick look around the shopping area, but it all looks like expensive, unwanted stuff. So I went and sat down by gate 155 and tried to find a WiFi link so I could upload what I’d written. That didn’t work, but hopefully you’ve seen a Twitter feed from me that I attempted to send from my phone.

I got a photo of my plane, and that’s the only photo I’ve taken so far.

resized_IMG_3380

A photo!

As I checked in the man who examined my documents said that Kally was cute.

We’ve been flying for 57 minutes this time and we’ve still got 8008 km to go. Altitude 10058 m, ground speed 959 km/h, outside air temperature -42 degrees.  ETA 10:27am.

And we’re about to have dinner. Braised beef, red wine sauce, zucchini or something chicken with Moroccan spices and couscous. Veges with both dishes and what appeared to be a type of cheese cake. Better pack this away so I can eat it.

1:45 hours to London.

I think I had a better sleep that time, in that I think I managed to sleep. I got the neck cushion set up comfortably and must have had the seat at the right angle. And Kally didn’t try to do a runner during the night.

Remember how I said that the on screen map showed “Niagara; 1940”? It also shows “Titanic; 1912”. Probably a little more widely known.

I thought of three things I wanted to type up during the night. Of course I can only remember two now.

Breakfast soon. A choice between an omelette and breakfast potatoes and a tomato, or a non-cooked… something. A yoghurt, fruit salad and muffin I think. I’m not sure what I’ll have.

While I’m having breakfast I’ll watch a “Who do you think you are?” about Minnie Driver’s family tree. Yesterday I watch Nigel Havers’ episode while having tea. And tea last night(?) I watched “Pitch Perfect 2”. Not a great movie. May have been better if the sound had been clearer.

1331 km to London. 7546 kilometres travelled from L.A. 17548 km from Auckland. D.C. will be home now.

—F-A-B—

According to my computer it’s been 43 hours since I had any real sleep. No wonder I’m feeling slightly discombobulated.

The landing at Heathrow was fine, and I think I may have even seen the Gherkin through the window on the other side of the cabin. Or it may have been window distortion.

I sent another Tweet here, but I don’t think that one worked either.

Heathrow wasn’t quite as helpful as other locations. Once we were off the plane it was every man (or woman) for him(her)self. I made it through Border Control okay, but then took a wrong turn. Mind you I didn’t see any notification about what the right turn should have been. Like a good New Zealander I followed everyone else like a sheep, and found myself in the international arrivals area, not the domestic departures. I asked several people where to go, all of whom were extremely friendly and helpful, but I still managed to get lost. One guy told me to take the lift to the third level, so I got in a lift. It only went to “level one”. So I ended up on the wrong floor and I had to ask someone else. He suggested going up and around and then taking the green lift. I could see which lift was the green one, but couldn’t see any documentation that actually directed me to the Manchester flight. So I asked someone else and they confirmed that was the lift to take. Get to the top and I still couldn’t see which way to go, so I asked someone else again. They said I had to go through customs – which seemed totally daft, but that’s the way I went. I eventually ended up in the right area: Terminal Five.

Or at least where the bus left for Terminal Five. I got there just as the bus was about to leave, but the driver saw me, came back and unlocked the door so I could get on the bus.

After roughly 24 hours (actually 11+ and 8+) sitting in an aviation fuel aeroplane, I was now riding an electric bus standing up – through a tunnel under Heathrow International Airport, which I’m sure must have almost completed a full circle. We eventually ended up at Terminal Five and the driver unlocked the door so we could go inside.

British Airways had kiosks for signing in, and I managed to negotiate that safely and then decided that I’d better get some “lunch”. There was a place that sold Italian-style lunch food (probably in name only) so I bought a chicken bun thing. As I hadn’t got any cash yet I paid the £4.50 with my travel card…

“Pin incorrect”

But I’m sure that was the pin I used last time. But the ANZ had supplied me with new travel cards from a new company since then…

“Pin incorrect”

I did have a little cash, useless coins that people had given the Thames Historical Museum, but I didn’t have £4.50 worth.

So I had to use my normal, everyday, Kiwi dollar MasterCard… And pay the currency exchange rate. Which is highly annoying as my travel card is loaded with British pounds.

I sat, ate, wondered what I was going to do with my travel card, wondered if Heathrow (struggling to remember that it wasn’t Manchester) had WiFi, and wished I had some company.

It’s now 10:26 pm on whatever day it is – the 24th, I think. According to my computer it’s 9:26 am on the 25th. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to type. I’m tired. But I must at least get yesterday finished… And today’s photos transferred over so I can clear them for tomorrow. I used one and a bit 16GB SD cards today. For those of you who don’t follow computer-speak. I used up a roll of film.

After I’d eaten I gathered everything together and took my boarding card up to the bag deposit, wondering why I had to do that when I didn’t have a bag to deposit. The lady checked me in and said I was fine. I asked her where I had to go and was told security.

After wandering through there and doing the scan your boarding card, stand on the footprints and have your photo taken (again!) bit, I had to go through security proper. Once again it was take off the belt bag, computer, e-book, phone, liquids, shoes, jacket, bag in the trays, traipse through the scanner, and then get redressed again. By the time I’d done all that it was time to approach gate… 15 I think it was. There I joined everyone else sitting there looking bored, and had only just got time to take my tablet out of my bag and attempt to connect to the WiFi, when it was time to board. (And time for yet another boarding pass scan and photograph. I said to the lady at the counter that my photo must be looking more and more dishevelled each time.

The pilot of this British Airways plane (which admittedly is a hang of a lot smaller than the 777-300 I flew here in) lined the plane up with the runway, put his foot to the floor, pulled back on the control yoke, and we were airborne! We had just enough time for a drink of water and a packet of chips, sorry, crisps, when we were landing again.

This time I got my suitcase from the conveyor belt (number four in the queue) and headed for the exit signs, fully expecting to have to go through customs.

I stepped through a set of doors to find Pen waiting to give me a big hug. She could see shapes moving through the opaque glass and when she saw one that was small and pink, knew it had to be me.

We still had to walk through the complex to the railway station and then wait for our train to arrive. When it did I was sitting down again. But at least this time I had scenery to look at.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we have enough English trees on our farms to make that scenery from an English train similar to that from a New Zealand train – until you see the architecture. Then you realise you’re not in the same country anymore.

Plus we don’t have as many black headed sheep.

We changed trains at Crewe. I like Crewe. At least I like the architecture of their station with its brick arches. But I was too tired to think about getting my camera out, so you have to check back on my last trip’s blog to see what I’m talking about.

The final stop on my journey was Wem. From there it was a short walk, pulling my suitcase (which seemed rather heavy), with me. Once we got to Pen’s house we were met by her dog Seth, who was informed that I was a cat person.

We had tea and tried to get Pen’s universal power adaptor working with my plugs. Did I explain about this? Last time I came to England I had an adaptor that allowed my Kiwi charging plugs to tap into the English power.

Do you think I could find it for this trip?

No. (Well it’s been five years and I hadn’t planned on coming back.)

But Pen, having done a world trip four years ago and having a universal power adaptor, said I could use hers.

Sorted!

Except that we can’t work out how to plug New Zealand/Australian power points into what appears to be an adaptor for converting England into any of four other countries. This isn’t a major – yet. I can charge my tablet (slowllllly) by USB charger – and both Pen and I have ones that can plug in to UK power foor that). I can’t have it plugged in and use it, but at least I won’t run out of juice.

It’s my camera batteries that are the problem. I have two, and they do seem to last an age, but they need to be plugged into the power to be charged. It may mean another purchase… When we find somewhere that sells them.

But at least, after a look online and discovering that they’ve allocated a PIN and I can’t use one of my own (where was THAT mentioned in the new literature???) I can now use my travel card. Once I’ve read the written down PIN to remind myself what it was.

Pen then let me phone home. When she did her round the world card she spent £20 and got a telephone number that would allow her to call anywhere in the work up to a certain number of minutes… After getting RSI in her finger from dialling so many numbers first. She still had about 88 minutes remaining – even four years later – so it wasn’t costing her anything for me to talk to D.C.

D.C. (answering the phone): “Good morning.”

Me: “Good evening!”

D.C. (pause to click who it was): “Good evening!”

She’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.

So I went to bed and went to sleep.

Don’t forget that if you want automatic updates of what I’ve done, you can click the “follow” button way at the bottom of the screen. It should get more interesting from here on. There’ll be pictures!

(If my camera doesn’t run out of juice.)

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