John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 11 February 2017


London Heathrow–Saigon
03:00 Taxi
11:00 (UTC)–05:45
[i] (UTC+7) Vietnam Airlines VN50 London Heathrow–Ho Chi Minh City
[i] Next day. That’s 10.45pm on the same day back home, a flight time of 11hr 45min.

I’d set my alarm clock for 1 o’clock; but ca.12.35am, I turned the alarm switch off, and got out of bed. I heard rain driving against the window. Went downstairs and turned on the central heating. Set up the computer again. It was a good thing I did, because I’d forgotten to pack the mains cord from the power supply.… Tried again to check in on the Vietnam Airlines website (01:15–01:18), but only got this far—

This screen lists four persons in the party: ourselves; and Mr. P… and Mrs Y… on seats, on the first flight, in front of us.

—because when I clicked “Continue” I got the “error” screen [as on my previous attempts].… “Bill”, the taxi driver we’d been led to expect, arrived just before 3am; the luggage was loaded; and we set off. We went along the A46 to its junction near Newark with the A1, then proceeded along the latter. Ca.5.10am, we stopped at a truck stop that he knew — quite basic, but at only £3 for two coffees, who’s complaining?! — just before the A1 becomes a motorway (“A1(M)”) near Peterborough, along which we proceeded till it became just plain “A1” again, from which we turned on to the A421 near Bedford. From there we went along the very busy M1 near Milton Keynes, the M25 near St. Albans, then the A3113 which led us to the South Perimeter Road and our destination Terminal 4 — a distance of some 200 miles in all — just as the black night sky was beginning to lighten, a little after 7am. We received boarding passes, but only for the first flight, when we checked the hold luggage in at the Vietnam Airlines desk.

The security check proceeded without incident, and once we were air-side it looked familiar, e.g. one of the eating establishments was a “Lebanese canteen”. It was another one, though, where I had an americano coffee, a bacon, sausage and tomato baguette, and a packet of Tyrell’s “sea salted chips” (that’s American for “crisps”); and Janet had a banana with a plain baguette that they sold her, and a decaffeinated coffee (£12.35, 08:08 on the till receipt). I had a second americano (£2.15, 08:44). After we boarded the aircraft there was an announcement that take-off would be delayed “40 minutes” while we waited for a go-ahead from the air traffic controllers. Even after taxiing started there was further waiting and an announcement that we’d be waiting “another 10 minutes” owing to poor weather conditions; there was by now some snow being blown past the window. We in fact took off at 12.12pm. There was quite a lot of turbulence as we rose through the grey till we came out into the blue. I watched 2016 sci-fi adventure movie Independence Day: Resurgence; well, half of it and the end, because I dropped off to sleep during part of it. I listened to David Bowie’s final album Blackstar. I listened to the first and last parts only of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, because I fell asleep again. I did see all of 2015 biographical drama movie The Man Who Knew Infinity, though, about the struggles of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a pioneering and intuitive mathematician, to earn admittance to Cambridge University during World War I after growing up poor in Madras, India. At one point I became aware that Janet had started talking to the couple in front of us, P and Y, who were indeed the other couple in our four-person holiday party. There were two meals served: “supper”, for which I chose codfish in a spicy sauce with noodles, served along with several other items on a tray, and I chose red wine to drink (served with a drink of water as well), and had coffee too; and “breakfast” an hour or so before we landed, for which I chose pork “Stroganoff” with egg noodles, and I chose tomato juice to drink, and had coffee too. Drinks were also served from time to time. I started to be troubled by abdominal gas;… it became “parlous” before the journey was complete. Janet had an unpleasant journey, because at times like these she gets an overwhelming urge to move her legs. She thinks it’s “restless leg syndrome”, though she hasn’t had a medical consultation about it or a diagnosis. “RLS” or not, she couldn’t sleep because she couldn’t settle.

[Sunday 12 February 2017]

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