Thursday, 26 January 2017

to Ukraine..... again!

As promised I will write about my latest visit to Ukraine! During the last year, I have been to Ukraine 3 times, and the UK not once! Shocking? Well not really, I used to visit my ex-wife and two ex-girlfriends but after more than 25 years we have gone our various ways. That is how long since I had a girlfriend. I like to joke that I will forget what to do next time. The response usually is, "Oh no, it's like riding a bicycle!"

And then I used to visit my brother's family in Gloucester. But since I adopted three "children" in diverse parts of the world, that is what draws me now. Kharkiv in Ukraine is much colder than Gloucester but it is a novel experience. And I visit my friend Marina.

So, I am writing this in Barcelona airport to take a Ukraine Airways flight to Kiev and then onward to Kharkiv.

Yesterday was rather traumatic. About a year ago I started letting my hair grow and I changed its colour to a rather fetching blonde. For some reason on Tuesday, I decided to try a slightly darker shade in the hairdresser at INdiferent. Their main business is depletion (in other words ripping hair out with waxed strips) and I go for a regular massage. They also do photo-depilation which is a whole lot more permanent - it uses a mixture of light and laser pulses. Oh, OK laser is light too. 

Anyway, back to my hair. What I asked for was very slightly darker. What I got was a whole lot darker, almost back to my original colour before my hair went white. So the following day, meaning yesterday, I went back to ask if they could lighten it. I was so annoyed with myself for changing something that I liked. I wish I had taken a photo for you because, after about 30 minutes with this chemical in my hair, it had turned orange! I was greatly alarmed but Jonny who is the boss in the hairdresser told me not to worry; that was just the first stage so that he could see what next to do. So he instructed the young girl to give me 20 minutes with some other liquid. And very soon, I could see that the orange hue has gone and, although the hair was wet and soapy, it looked closer to how it was before. 

The young girl was trying to justify the change in colour, saying that it wasn't very great - only one half shade darker, despite my insisting it was all my fault. So that didn't help my mood. But that lifted enormously when Jonny got one of the girls, Oana to wash and massage my head. I am very fond of Oana and she of me. We had an enormously funny time. She normally does depletion and massage. And so my hair is now a darker version of how it was previously but it could have been a lot worse.

I have a suspicion that either the tension affected me or that part of the chemicals passed through my skin because I was incredibly stressed last night - as though I was being pulled apart. It wasn't the journey today, I have taken the train down to Barcelona Airport many times.

I have to go through security now. There is a wonderfully quiet area with Pans and Co just past the security entrance which is when I am now. I will write more later!


Security is very well-organised here with plenty of space to prepare the containers and space afterwards to get everything together again. I passed! It was more complicated because as I am sure you now, computers and tablets have to taken out and shown separately. I have two laptops with me - this one which literally is on my lap - and another smaller one which I am giving Marina because I don't use it any more. As I arrived at Gate E which is a huge almost empty area, the regular Delta flight to New York was boarding and what should I see trundling up to the stand was the Ukraine Airways 737. Exactly an hour to turn around for the flight at 1.30pm. This is good news for me because any delay to this flight makes my connection to the flight to Kharkiv rather tight. 

When I left Girona, it was cold and grey but now the sun has come out and it is bright and maybe not too cold. I checked this morning, it is -5c in Kharkiv today.

This is travelling when it is a really cool experience, not always the case but when it is like this, it is lots of fun. Trains to Barcelona, rapid and on time, I left plenty of time anyway. Had a tea and a bun in the secret zone just past the entrance to Security and wrote the first part of this post.

I have indulged myself and pre-ordered a meal on the plane. The choice is brilliant. I chose fillet steak and some salad. I will have some wine. Maybe it will cure the cold symptoms which I seem to have. Sometimes I get symptoms without acutally feeling ill and often it is just down to stress. I chose a seat yesterday when I checked in online because I only have hand baggage, 5A.

I am way over the airline's weight limit for cabin baggage but usually there isn't a check at the boarding gate. And anyway, I hve a feeling that there are not many on the flight. It was never checked!

That was so cool, just as the Ukraine plane was pushed back, the big Avianca 787 Dreamliner from Bogotá pulled up at the next stand. I was expecting to see it because last time I arrived on Avianca, the Ukraine 737 was in the same place and I guessed that this was the same each day. Their regular parking slots.

The meal came in the style of business class, metal cutlerly and real plates but I was in a cramped economy seat so it seemed rather strange, the seat next to me was occupied by an man-speading guy so my elbows were close to my side.

The rest of the flight was normal, the ground below gradually turning to a uniform white as we headed north from Italy. I had comfortable time to transfer to my domestic flight to Kharkiv. Unfortunately there is no air-side transfer, I had to go into the main terminal and then back into Domestic Departures and go through the security palava again. It is complicated, with two laptops and an iPad to extract each time the bags are scanned.

Marina was not at meeters and greeters - she was delayed because she came by a combination of buses. That was no problem, I sat down and had a beer and when she arrived, we had a nice chat. There was a taxi driver hovering around offering his car and Marina beat him down to 170 hrivnas (about 6 euros). At one point he said, "Let me make a living"! This was for a huge journey, firstly 20 minutes to drop Marina off at her home, then about 40 minutes to my hotel. When we arrived, he asked for 200, talking about his family, no money etc. I gave him 170 but would have given him more if he had not asked. He called me greedy.

I checked in - they know me well here -  went down to the restaurant and had a quick meal and some wine. Then went to bed!

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