John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 15 September 2012

18:30 St Petersburg Airport; 21:35 Manchester Airport
Janet wrote: “Well, to me, [John] slept like a log — he said he had periods of lying awake. I lay awake all night, tossing and turning, peeing,
(a.) trying to sleep. [John] said I did sleep. There were occasions when I was snoring [he told me]!… We went for breakfast at 9.30am. [John] couldn’t eat much as still feeling nauseous.… We returned to our room and [John] lay on the bed. I donned my coat, got some Roubles and went shopping. I’d decided to get some sliced bread,(b.) a couple of bananas and a couple of apples for my tea/supper today, and a bar of Russian chocolate for [John] and some Russian sweets for me. I went to a NETTO(c.) shop just around the corner from the hotel. The stuff there was extremely grotty so I left and tried the supermarket opposite ‘Norman’s’(d.) (which we now realise is a beer-off).(e) MUCH better. Food looked good. I bought a half-loaf of sliced white bread, two bananas, two apples, a bar of Russian hazelnut chocolate for [John] and a bag of fruity Russian sweets for just over 5 squid!(f.) I enjoyed looking at stuff. I returned to the hotel and spoke to some of our group. Back to the hotel room. I packed. We left the room at 12.05pm. Phew! Perfect timing! We went down to Reception, checked out…”
  a. Peeing—obviously not while “lying awake” in the bed!
  b. Janet added: “Realised later that it was half a loaf — what a good idea.”
  c. NETTO—spelled НЕТТО in Russian. Janet told me that the apples she saw there were rotten, and that this was the only shop she’d been in that matched our preconceptions about life in Russia.
  d. Norman’s: A street-corner convenience store with the sign Н
ОРМАН over the door. On an opposite corner there was another store with the commonly seen word ПРОДУКТЫ over the door.
  e Beer-off: A colloquial term for “off-licence”, a shop in the United Kingdom or Ireland licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises, as opposed to a bar or public house which is licensed for consumption at the point of sale (“on-licence”).
  f. Squid—i.e. “quid” (pounds Sterling)
Someone asked us if we’d printed our boarding passes, and when we said not they told us we could use the computers and printer on the conference level; so that’s what we did. Although we had checked out and surrendered our door cards, we were nevertheless able to get to the conference level or mezzanine floor in the lift with our luggage: for on the way up, there were others in the lift, so we just pressed the “M” button; and on the way down, we just pressed “1” and it worked without a door card (so maybe it was just going to the bedroom levels that required a card). There were two laptop computers on a coffee table surrounded by armchairs and a settee, so I looked up the “KLM” website on one of them, completed the asked-for check-in information, and tried to print. A separate window appeared, but it was blank. There were other difficulties, and it ended up with a message saying that the browser couldn’t display the information. This was using Windows Internet Explorer browser. So I tried the other computer. This had a Google Chrome browser, and without too much difficulty I got our boarding passes for both legs of the journey printed out. Meanwhile (Janet wrote): “I nipped out to Norman’s and got a 600ml bottle of Pepsi Light for under a squid.” I wasn’t aware that she’d gone! My boarding pass for the first flight from St. Petersburg to Amsterdam. I gave Janet hers, so that’s why I only had mine available back home to scan.

My boarding pass for the first flight from St. Petersburg to Amsterdam. I gave Janet hers, so that’s why I only had mine available back home to scan.

Both mine and Janet’s boarding pass for the flight from Amsterdam to Manchester. The reason I had both copies back home available to scan is that we didn’t use them; we were given separate boarding passes for this flight at baggage check-in at St. Petersburg.

13:25:36 in St. Petersburg (10:25:36 back home)
The hotel restaurant, viewed from the conference floor
Вера had told us that we’d be picked up at 2.30pm, so we went down ca.2.10pm and sat on some large, cuboid, pouffe-like seats opposite the lifts round a corner from Reception. (The couple of armchairs directly opposite Reception, that we would have sat in, were occupied.) So we missed the arrival of our driver, but saw him when he appeared to be wandering around after having been to Reception; we asked him if he was “Intourist” and had come for us. He was a pleasant, thin, hyperactive-seeming youth. He showed us to the minibus, and resumed our Pushkin route of the other day, past the Moscow Triumphal Gate and the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad, till we turned off right for the airport. Initially we were too early for the flight to Amsterdam to be on the monitor. When it did appear, and indicated “Desks 4–6” (or similar) we headed there, where there was just one man standing. The monitors above the desks still said “Paris”/“Париж”, though. When one of the staff turned the man away, we asked him if he was going to Amsterdam. He replied in a North American accent that he was. We realised then that luggage check-in would start there when some text on the monitor, in white, saying “On time”, had changed to something else in green. So we took ourselves off and sat down, and waited — and waited.

15:31:34 in St. Petersburg (12:31:34 back home)
Waiting for luggage check-in for the Amsterdam flight to start at St. Petersburg Airport
When the text finally did turn green, we looked over and saw that already a long queue had formed at the desks. The line seemed to take a long time to clear. What’s more, when we got to a desk, the clerk was having a problem with her computer, so there was more waiting. Despite our having printed boarding passes we were nevertheless issued with boarding cards, both for the forthcoming flight to Amsterdam, and for the one from Amsterdam to Manchester. Then we went and joined the “snake” of people waiting for passport and visa control (shown in the photo, above). We got through that without a problem.

Stub of my first boarding card. The rest was removed and kept by someone as I entered the “tube” to the aircraft.

Whole of my second boarding card, both sides
A woman in uniform pointed us upstairs, but we couldn’t see signs for our gate number “D46” up there. There were signs pointing to other “D” numbers but not “46”. Janet went down but was sent upstairs again. Eventually, we realised that we had to go through a security check between where we were and the gate. First, though, we got rid of some of our Roubles by using them in a “duty free” for two bottles of Pepsi Light.
The clerk sealed the bottles in plastic bags, but we opened them and drank the contents in the rather cramped seating area we found ourselves in after the security check.

18:11:54 in St. Petersburg (15:11:54 back home)
Waiting for everybody to board and for take-off

18:15:08 in St. Petersburg (15:15:08 back home)
As with Air France, there was more than adequate catering with KLM. There were hot cheese-filled baguettes (I had Janet’s as well as my own). I had a small bottle of red wine and Janet had Coke Zero. And later they passed out bars of red-fruit crumble (I had Janet’s as well as my own). Later I declined tea or coffee. And there were other items: Janet accepted on my behalf packs of two biscuits half-covered with chocolate while I was visiting the loo.

19:30:58 in St. Petersburg (17:30:58 in Amsterdam; 16:30:58 back home)

17:58:22 in Amsterdam (16:58:22 back home)
Passing over Gotland, I think

18:15:30 in Amsterdam (17:15:30 back home)

19:23:10 in Amsterdam (18:23:10 back home)
Approaching Schiphol airport, I disobeyed the injunction against the use of electronic equipment to take this photo
The plane landed at “D7”, I think — “D low-number”, anyway — and our connecting flight was from “D46”, so we didn’t have far to go. There was a remarkable lack of Dutch-language notices, the only one, under a larger English one, being for a smoking room in an on-site Irish pub. Even the toilets, which we visited, were signed “Ladies” and “Gentlemen”. There was a bank in the concourse so I got rid of my remaining Roubles. I had 560 left (not counting a handful of coins, which we put in a charity collection container), worth €11.82, but after €3.25 commission I only got €8.57. Still, don’t suppose we’ll have use for Roubles again. We kept these and our other remaining Euros, though, because we plan to go back to Italy next year.
There was another security check to go through before we got to our gate. We had seats near the back, so that was convenient for the loo. Despite the shortness of the flight, there were nevertheless drinks, and I had a packet of little salted biscuits. After we landed, my feet were sore as we made our way through the connecting “tube”, and along a long corridor. Janet visited a loo, so I found a seat and waited for her. So we were the last of that flight to join a queue for passport control. There was a crowd of mostly Japanese (or oriental) people, but one guy in a southern-hemisphere accent pointed out to us that we didn’t have to wait, because this was the queue for foreign nationals. So we nipped under the fabric barrier-ribbon, which the man held up for us, and went on through. The woman in the booth inserted our passports into a scanner, gave them back to us, then we went through the green “Nothing to declare” (or did we? I think the attendant whisked us through the red doorway. It made no difference: there were no customs officials on duty). We found a taxi outside, and told the driver “Bewley’s”. Just after we’d got in, someone patrolling the taxi rank asked us where we were going. When we said “Bewley’s”, he pointed to the “Bewley’s” shuttle-vehicle a short distance away. We’d already contracted with the driver, though. It seems that the purpose in asking was that after such very short journeys the taxi drivers are allowed to resume their place at the taxi-rank. We checked in, and were given a ground-floor room. It had facilities for wheelchair users. I helped myself to the coffee-making facilities provided, while Janet used the walk-in, wet-room style shower. Then we both went to bed.
[Sunday 16 September 2012]

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