Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bye bye Buxton: August 19, the long haul home

I woke in the night, in a terrible fright, and found it was perfectly true. Well, not quite. It was about 10am, and I wasn't frightened of anything except the fact that I'd have to pack some time between now and 5pm.

I decided against going out gunzelling, as the time I had available would hardly have taken me to Manchester and back. So I did very little - until my phone rang. Now normally this isn't all that unusual. But when I'm overseas and the only people in this hemisphere who have my number are finished and gone to Harrogate, it can only mean one thing - that Someone Special is taking advantage of cheap international calls!

You don't need to know what we talked about, even though it was incredibly funny. So fast forward to the middle of the afternoon when we realised I should be packing.

As always it seemed like there was ages to go until the last minute. I was in the middle of washing up when the alarm told us to get moving. Two backpacks, two wheely cases, down the stairs to the bus stop. Thank you, Buxton.

The bus was a few minutes late but we had plenty of time. As always the trip through the suburbs seemed to take forever, we'd be much better off taking a train to Stockport - at least the track would be smoother than the road, even if the train wasn't much faster. Once we got to Stockport it was freeway running all the way to the airport, which was much more fun. 100km/h in a low floor bus is exciting, and with the windows open on a hot day it's even better.

As we went into the airport I had one last look at the trains. Two Class 323 sparks and a Trans-Pennine 185. Plus the works for the new light rail terminus they're building as part of the massive expansion of the Metrolink. It'll be interesting to see how the Manchester area changes over the next year or two!

We made our way through the maze of twisty corridors all alike, and eventually found ourselves at Departures. The online check-in queue for EK020 was almost as long as the normal one, and when we got to the front we found out why - a couple of officious staff members were enforcing a rule which I'd never heard of, which was that carry-on had to be strictly one piece (including laptops, I had thought laptops and handbags were classed separately) and 7kg or less. Just about everyone in the queue was scrabbling to repack stuff. Uncharacteristically I made a fuss about it, but they insisted I check in my backpack. Since we'd already checked in the wheely cases they said to check it in at the departure gate, like people do for prams etc.

So we went through security, which of course means unpacking and repacking things like coat pockets, and when we got through to the other side I magically had less weight in what was classed as carry-on. Now to sneak on board without anyone officious noticing the "checked luggage" barcode on my backpack...

Of course nobody cared that I was carrying an overweight backpack. Welcome on board sir, just to your right. I shed my coat and put it in my backpack for safety (zipper security is better than trying to keep pockets upright). Did that make any difference to the plane's performance? Of course not. Stupid bureaucracy.

Once on board of course everything was fine. Takeoff was late due (according to the captain's speech) to the plane arriving late and needing a more thorough cleaning than normal. It was dark so there was nothing to see out the windows (or through the cameras for that matter) but we got fed fairly soon and then it was time to settle in for the duration.

By about half past midnight I wanted to sleep but couldn't, so I tried the old method of finding something boring to read. Unfortunately all I could find was Appendix B to the guidelines for design and construction of new tram tracks - which I found so fascinating that I was still wide awake reading it quite a while later.

There's really not much more to tell about the flight that we haven't said before. Airliner toilets can be slightly disturbing, because unlike ground ones where the level in the bowl stays constant, they keep everything right there until you flush. Was ALL THAT inside my bladder just a few minutes ago? No wonder I feel lighter.

Dawn broke at about 3am England time. For several minutes it was like an orange glow right along the horizon. Then there was this weird looking effect where the orange glow had a semi-circle under it - there must have been a cloud layer or something separating them. It didn't take long for the sun to rise, I was able to watch it and watch the shadows moving inside the plane. The semi-circle gradually widened and then at the middle of it the sun came up and of course I had to look away. The colours were beautiful, if I could recreate them on a stage I'd be over the moon. Inside the plane it was still basically dark (apart from the no smoking lights of course) and the few open windows cast rays of sunlight on the roof. The effect was like what we usually think of as a sunset. The recesses of the windows reflected the colour of the sky too, and the mainly beige interior of the plane acted as an almost perfect cyc screen. I hadn't realised just how much I miss being involved in lighting since moving into the role of SM!

As the light increased we saw a vast expanse of white - ten tenths cloud at about 18,000 feet with a few white caps (if that's not redundant) sticking up out of the layer. Soon we were on initial descent and basically dropped right into it. It was a bit bumpy as we went through - that's the power of water.

The cloud layer extended almost right to the ground, the cameras were showing a big fat blank until the runway loomed into view. We touched down, made our way through security and found our gate. Power. Wifi. Time to exercise the joints in ways that just aren't possible on a plane.

I visited the local Maccas to get a coffee. They accept all currencies, but in notes only, so I handed over 10 quid and got a pile of Dirhan back. The coffee is exactly the same as what we get in Maccas at home.

Apart from absorbing power and catching up on emails there was nothing much to do. Right now we're just double-triple-checking we're at the right gate and not going to be left behind.

Join us tomorrow morning for the final exciting installment of the 2013 Buxton Blog - if I think of anything worth posting that is.

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