John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Thursday 11 May 2017


Manchester Airport–Helsinki-Vantaa Airport

06:00 Taxi
10:25 Manchester Airport
15:10 Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
Scandic Grand Marina, Helsinki, Finland
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Helsinki. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel.

Janet’s alarm clock sounded at 4am. I turned mine off then before it would sound. There was a hint of light in the sky, which slowly increased as I lay there. A distant blackbird was singing, and a near one started shortly afterwards. Janet lay in bed for a further 20 minutes, then got up. She shut the window when she did so; so Mr. Blackbird’s song was shut out. I showered after she vacated the bathroom… It was ca.5.10pm when I entered my room. I shaved, and packed my shaver and mirror in my Travelmarvel rucksack. Packed the rest of the things from the box. Turned on the Asus netbook/tablet; checked my Gmail account (05:45), then decided to pack the Asus as well as the Samsung. The taxi, which was there when I looked out at 6am, was a minibus; and the driver turned out to be Graham Buston, the proprietor of the firm. He pointed out Saddleworth Moor when we were travelling along the M62 motorway, where the “Moors murders” were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. He thought there’d be slow traffic when we passed Leeds, which wasn’t as bad as he anticipated; but he hadn’t expected long queues of slow-moving traffic, sometimes even stopping, in the environs of Manchester because of narrowing of the carriageway due to extensive road-works (with such workmen as we saw just standing around not doing anything!). We’d planned to arrive at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport at ca.8.30am, and we did so ca.8.45am. There was hardly anyone at the Finnair baggage-drop desk, so getting rid of the cases was accomplished rapidly; but there were long queues of people waiting to pass through security scanning. These were being dealt with mostly quite quickly and efficiently; but my bag was pulled over for inspection, so I had to wait my turn for that to be looked at. The mass of cables, adaptors, etc., was taken out and spread on a separate tray; but the bag was pulled over again, and I had to wait again. It turned out to be the shaving mirror that had cast a suspicious shadow. Airside, therefore, we didn’t have much time to spare, though boarding started a little later than the scheduled 9.50am. Janet got sandwiches for both of us at Boots, and I had a caffè americano at Starbuck’s. Take-off was scheduled for 10.25am, but didn’t occur till 10.47am; and landing, scheduled for 3.10pm, was actually at 3.15pm: a flight time of 2 hours 28 minutes.[i] When the drinks trolley came by, I chose a can of pale amber Finnish beer, Karhu A (5.3% a.b.v.). I must have dozed off, because it seemed that not long after I’d reclined the seat and closed my eyes, the captain was announcing that we were beginning our descent. So I made a hurried trip to the loo at the rear of the aircraft before the “fasten seat belts” sign would light up, emerging to see that I’d got there ahead of a couple of others with the same idea. Janet had started to feel ill en route; indeed, when I opened my eyes she had her head between her knees. Initially, and finally, there was cold air blowing into the cabin from overhead vents; but en route this turned warm, and Janet found it stuffy and claustrophobic. She recovered by the time we landed. The runway was wet, and I’d already noticed clouds some distance away with a haze, evidently of precipitation, below them, but the sun was at this moment out. It was cold; so I’m pleased we brought thick pullovers and winter coats. We went down a ladder and boarded a shuttle bus to the terminal. It was a long walk through there, and arrivals and departures were mixed together confusingly; but I kept my eyes open for the “bag on a conveyer” symbol that was repeated on signs at intervals. The automatic, face-recognising passport gates didn’t cause us undue problems. I could see the image of my face appearing at different heights and angles while the system was trying to decide whether I was really I. Both cases arrived on the baggage-claim conveyor together, but I managed to retrieve them both. I saw numerous luggage-items going around, with Riviera tags on them. Beyond the “Nothing to declare” passage through customs, there was a whole crowd of Riviera customers waiting; but we were divided between two tour managers, and ours, Alexander, led us out to the charter-coaches area. I stayed with the cases till they were loaded, while Janet found a seat on the coach. On the way, Alexander told us things such as the arrangements for dinner, and what the programme would be tomorrow. It was ca.5pm when we arrived at the Scandic Grand Marina, a large, brick-built converted former warehouse in Katajanokka, a small peninsula at the east side of Helsinki: technically an island, because a canal has been cut through. Alexander called out names, and handed out little folders, with room numbers written on them, containing key-cards.

Janet wanted to ask him about the location of a supermarket, so we waited till he’d handed out all the keys. He said there wasn’t one nearby, but we’d have to walk quite a long way along the Esplanade. There wasn’t so big a queue for the lifts then. Our room was on the “third” floor (“third”, American-style; second in British parlance). I found out how to lock and unlock the safe, and we put most of our valuables in it. We looked out of the window, and there was mixed hail and snow falling. We had a number of false starts, realising that we needed something (e.g. latterly, umbrellas) and going back. Then we discovered that the stair-well, which we’d already partly descended a few times, led to an alarmed emergency exit only; but after ascending to the “second” floor, we found another staircase leading down to the lobby. The need to have umbrellas up to ward off hail and snow didn’t last long. We crossed a bridge over the canal between the island and the “mainland”, and proceeded westwards along the Esplanade. Janet asked a man, who was loading a van, about a supermarket, and he pointed the direction to “Stockmann”. Similarly, farther along, lest we had passed it unawares, she asked a woman; she also told us “Stockmann”, and pointed us in the direction we were already headed. But we hadn’t seen “Stockmann” before I noticed, on the other side of the Esplanade park, a sign for a “24-hour market” (K-Market), so we went over to that instead. We bought a number of bottles of “Janetaffa Appelsiini Light” (diet orangeade), a 1.5ℓ bottle of water for me, etc. for €14.32 (at 17:53, on the till receipt). Then we made our way back. We saw numerous birds: common gulls, and black-headed gulls with their summer brown heads; sparrows, with the same grey crowns as British ones; a pied wagtail; a couple of jackdaws; and an arctic tern. I guess Alexander was right, for the shop is ca.¾-mile from the hotel. I succeeded in logging on to the hotel’s Wi-Fi (18:25), and checked e-mail accounts (18:30).… At 7pm we went down for dinner, a quite comprehensive buffet. I had a thick, sweet soup, then chicken and chorizo in a red wine sauce. Back in the room… [Janet went] to bed ca.9.30pm, despite its being only 7.30pm back home. I went to bed perhaps a little before 12.30am.

[i] Information from Flightradar24

[Friday 12 May 2017]

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