February 20, 2011 1 Comment
Do you remember your first flight? Where did you go? Why?
Submitted by Laurel.
My first flight. London to Bangkok via Moscow flying Aeroflot.
It was 1976. I was 21 and travelling with Little David, who I had been going out with for four years (ever since he rescued me and my possessions from the Scientologists at East Grinstead – but that's a story for another time). 1976, for those of us who remember was a "What A Scorcher" summer (sorry, came over all Sun newspaper-y then, don't know why!). London when hot is unbearable. So we fled the country on Our Round The World Trip. Currency regulatons also meant we could only take £150 out of the coutry with us.
So, with a packpack and £150 each, we set off to explore the world. Arrived Heathrow, checked our bags, then they checked our hand luggage. The flight attendants were memorable in themselves – one was small and delicate and pretty, while the other looked as though she could have been a Russian athlete specialising in Toss The Hammer, or Sling the Shot. Huge does not cover someone as meaty as this lady was. It was she who insisted we all sit at the front of the plane. It was she who refused to help when the zip on my jeans burst.
Flying into Moscow was amazing. I had a window seat and all I could see, for about an hour, was dark green forest interspersed with sparkly blue lakes. Amazing and beautiful. Why do I doubt it is still llike that? It looked pristine and gorgeous.
Waiting at Moscow for our onward flight meant sitting in the barest departure lounge I have ever seen since. The few shops were shut, and the few Russians around were mostly looking askance at a group of young Americans or Canadians (look, I cannot tell the difference over a distance of – oh my god I have just realised – 30 years, ok), some of who had guitars they were playing, and all of whom were singing.
When they called our flight, I was first in the queue. I wanted away from the boring concrete jungle I was trapped in. Got to the desk and say "Bookmole British". Now this was in the days of the deep maroon passport with gold lettering on – very distinctive. Oh no. No Passport for Me. No Passport for Little David either. They had guns and they had them pointed at us. If I say I was shitting myself, I am not exaggerating. I am English and this was 30 years ago – I had never seen a gun in real life and had not expected to get one pointed at me here, of all places. And here was looking more and more like a bad place to have a gun pointed at you.
It was not until three more people from the flight had no passports that the Russion Security decided to check the tiny detail of Are These The Correct Passports for This Flight – thankfully, it appeared I was not going to spend the next few years of my life in a Russian prison.
Arrived at Bangkok tired, dirty and excited to be in such a different part of the world.
And it wasn't until I later, as I went through my handbag (which had been checked at Heathrow, Moscow and Bangkok airports) that I wondered – What is in that film canister?
Nearly shit myself again when I realised it contained a one-ounce lump of cannabis resin, black and potent stuff, which I had meant to give to a friend before I left, but had just forgotten about. Forgotten completely. Which was lucky for me – that prison cell in Moscow was oh so much nearer than I had thought at the time.