Kiev day 1: Travelling

My normal routine is to write a piece the night before it is published giving me a sleep to think about it before I hit the go button. This week may get a little chaotic. I am away in Kiev for the week and will try to keep up the work although the attractions of Sasha may prove a sore temptation.

I hope to write a reflection or two about life in Ukraine and avoid having to think about seven mortal sins, the NHS or economics, but if I fall short and fail to report one day I apologise in advance. However, you can take solace in knowing that your disappointment is a consequence of me enjoying myself.

I fly to Kiev on a British Airways. The taxi comes at 5:40 and the flight will be just before 8am this morning and so unless you are awake very early I will already be in the air. All this means a very early start and as you may have already learnt, I am not great in the mornings.

Worse I have had to leave extra time because it is a Monday morning and I remember how busy the airports can be with all the business travel at the start of the week. And then there is the M25, the road to Heathrow. It is busy at all times but again Monday rush hour can be a disaster. Finally, the weather forecast is not good; maybe some ice.

So, it will still be dark and unspeakably early when the taxi arrives and if not in the taxi, then waiting in departures and on the three-hour flight I will take every chance to sleep. I’m lucky like that. I can sleep on a plane. I have been known to be asleep seconds after the front wheels lift but that was in Virgin business class coming back overnight from Boston.

I get excited by flying and all that is ahead of me. Sometimes, at night I will stand outside in the garden watching planes heading in and out of London’s airports and wish I was on them. Airports enliven me.

I have vivid memories of my first journey to Malawi and the excitement of flying over the red soils of Africa. I had no idea what was ahead of me and it was an adventure.

When my three months were up and it was time to leave Africa, I used three weeks of annual holiday to get back to London stopping off at every city I could find on the route. This took me among others I can’t remember from Nairobi, to Addis Ababa, Cairo, and Paris.

Without the advantages of the internet I booked the trip always making sure that there was the statutory minimum transfer time between the flights. This was a ploy I thought about after I learnt that it is the responsibility of the airline to pay for your accommodation if their flights are late and you miss the onwards travel.

The plan had to work as I didn’t have enough money for all the nights I was away. Fortunately, I missed most of the transfers and stayed in good hotels with a big thank you to the airlines.

My first business class flight was to New York. A private client at Coopers wanted an analyst to fly over to the USA and prepare the financial prospectus for funding a new venture. I made two trips. The first was to New York and I stayed in the Gotham Hotel and couldn’t stop humming the Batman theme. I also remember the limo sent to collect me that was so friggin large that I was sure it was wider than my own Mini at home was long.

My second trip for this client was to his office in Newport, Rhode Island. It was the summer and I was given a room in his home which he shared with his mother. Well, it wasn’t just a room but more like the wing of his house.

This was the summer season in Newport and our work was always suspended at lunchtime, so we could go to the famous Yacht Club. There are some priorities not to be ignored. I did a good job on my forecasts even though this project was never going to be successful. Client confidentiality prohibits me from saying how we were going to legally export gold from sanctioned South Africa into the souks of the Middle East.

Apart from the interesting work my most significant achievement was at lunchtime teaching Gloria Vanderbilt to roller skate around the swimming pool. Although thirty years my senior we struck up a good, fun but very temporary relationship.

My English accent became exaggerated as it seemed to make me someone everyone wanted to talk to. Not least among these was Nonie Drexel a beautiful and very eligible, young woman. The impression she made on me can be recognised that of all the people I have met I can still remember her name. I understand she now lives happily in Scotland.

As the flight gets close to Kiev I will switch on my phone. I know I shouldn’t do that, but the anticipation is great and there is an excitement as I plot our route into Borispol Airport with my GPS map. As you may have gathered this Is not the first time I have done this. Normally, I will start when we are about 20 minutes out while we are flying over somewhere near Lutsk.

It is a holiday but there will be some work. I need to do some location hunting for my next book and maybe try and meet some local businessmen.

I am there until next Sunday and already I am not looking forward to leaving, but that is the wrong attitude. We will live this week fully and delay any thoughts of departure day to the last moment.