By gerard oosterman
The next day our Russian tour would be over and I was to take the flight to London via Moscow. Most of us in the group were going to London. This was convenient for the Queensland girls as at least there would be help with lugging those giant travel bags. Unbelievably, the Tin Can Bay Australian whose trip was to try and meet up with his old comrades from the fifties at the Moscow library suffered another attack and was taken away by ambulance again. That was the last I ever heard from him.
The plane from St Petersburg to Moscow got delayed for several hours, never mind, we were all given a free lunch of deep fried sardines on a bed of salad and cubed potatoes with a lovely crusty bread roll. When we were finally called on the plane it was afternoon and it meant we would be arriving late in London. However, when arriving at Moscow airport there was a delay for the London connection till next morning. As a consolation we again had the sardine dish for dinner, this time with generous supplies of the same Georgian white wine we had on the way over from Singapore -Moscow.
Another night in a hotel and next morning we were ushered through customs. Again we were to account for all our money less what we had spent with the proof of receipts a mandatory requirement. All the jewellery had to be looked at and checked and the girls who had above all expectations, managed to buy some earrings were put through some serious questioning with suspicious up and down looks by the custom officers. The officers where behind a wooden counter with a high wooden screen preventing you from seeing what they were actually looking at. I imagine they had some kind of computer on which there would be names of wanted spies, corrupting capitalists or terrorists with perhaps photographs as well. Anyway, the whole lot of us were allowed through and with our nerves a bit frayed we climbed on board for our last trip to London with compliments of Aeroflot.
The usual ‘non smoking’ was ignored again. A curious sideline in flying with Aeroflot was that the toilets had shoe polishing equipment, including a brush and buffing cloth with a collection of different coloured shoe polishes. We had hardly passed over Russia when lunch came through the narrow passageway. The trolleys on aeroplanes are always a kind of sideshow to watch for those that are not into film watching or fiddling with their earphones. Those that have locked themselves into toilets buffing their shoes or sprinkling eau de Cologne to hide those odiferous long haul flights smells without showering must now wait for the trolleys to finish delivering its food trays before returning to their seats. The balancing of food trays on those minute tables with the cutting of food made so difficult, arms tucked under and tightly packed against the chest welling up hope that nothing will spill to disappear between those unwashed trousers and legs. It seems a total waste of time and effort, but the truth must be told; we had sardines again!
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