I showed Colin my new passport as we caught up for a late morning coffee. “It’s one of the new flash ones”, I told him, with the micro-chip or whatever inside. “Your photograph looks a little harsh”, he said.
And that’s when I told him about my passport photograph strategy: look like you should be upgraded. There’s a saying that if you want to be up-graded you should like you should be upgraded. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I was prepared to give it a go, and especially it was a one-off act that would hopefully keep giving for the next ten years. So in my passport photograph, I’m wearing a suit and tie, I’m wearing glasses, and I look very businessman-like.
Aside from catchup with Colin, it was a reasonably relaxed day at home ahead of getting to the airport.
Unfortunately, there was some confusion in the book-in queue. Although the departures board said I needed to check in at F10, F10 was completely deserted. A nearby Swedish couple were having the same problem. I chatted to them briefly, and we eventually made our way to the right queue. Sadly, the queue was long and rather tiresome. And a couple of phone calls I was planning to make once I got through customs, I actually made while waiting in the queue. And then, finally, I was called to check in.
There was a problem, however, with my passport, which failed to register on the computer. Eeek. I thought. But after five minutes or so, and a computer change, and there was a success at last, which is just as well as it was then only about 45 minutes until take off.
I think the woman looking after me had experienced a difficult day, and I think my general happy demeanour in the midst of the delay, may have brought a smile into her life. Or perhaps it was my fantastic bloody passport photograph that influenced her to call her supervisor and as…. “can we find this gentleman a better seat?” In essence, that meant just two of us seated in a three-person front row in economy. While the rest of the flight was packed, we spread out with plenty of legroom and loads of space between us.
The other surprise was that I flew BA, as I misinterpreted the booking as being a Qantas code-share. As an aircraft, it was a little past its prime. And the food and wine were a little average. “Chicken’s off, so you’ll have to have pasta,” said one of the flight attendants. But the staff were friendly and smiling – and one of them asked me about my computer – so that was a good thing. And the two young Swedes were sitting behind me.
It’s was a longish flight, of course. But having the window seat was quite good, especially looking out as we flew over Indonesia. It was great looking down at the various pools of light from the towns and cities below, and then finally looking down at just how big the greater Bangkok area is was a sight to behold.
I wasn’t as lucky with seating on the second flight, as it was close to full with lots of Finns and Swedes with a really bad case of sunburn. In the midst of winter, it seems, there’s an exodus from these Nordic countries as people head to a warmer climate for a bit of sunshine. And when I say “sunshine”, I mean sunshine. They all end up with a deep orange-brown glow that you just know they’ve achieved by sitting in the sun – probably without any skin protection – every day for as long as they possibly can.
I slept reasonably well on the flight, even if the combination of flights meant I was constantly eating, having eaten two dinners, two breakfast and two light snacks in the twenty-four hours or so I was on the plane.
Touching down at Helsinki was such a sight to behold. Although I’ve been to the snow in Australia, I’ve never seen snow like that before. It was everywhere. And you could feel the cold come up through the floors on the carriageway between the aircraft and the airport. It was a reasonably short flight from Helsinki to Stockholm – only 45 minutes.