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Happy Days!!

Well, that’s the Christmas decorations sorted then:)
Walked into Tesco this afternoon to find £40.00 worth of wonderful flowers reduced to £10.00. They lift my spirits and make me so happy at this dark time of year, I just picked up a huge arm full and bought them, such a feeling of spontaneity, fun and joy!!! And they smell lovely too. Our cottage is so cool at the moment so that I am sure they will last until Christmas Day at least: and even if they do not they will give me such pleasure for every day we have them.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie update!!

 

Hi folks. December is upon us and I have an announcement to make.

Here in Yorkshire we have had our own Christmas Miracle. Due to a large donation made today we have now gathered together . . . . . . . . . . £6077.48       which means we have reached our crowd funding target for Eddie’s rehabilitation.   To all those who have donated, you are all unbelievable and together have totally transformed and given a new lease of life to a little dog who had known nothing but pain and cruelty.

It was the author, the awesome Milly Johnson who today gave Eddie over £500.00 from her recent fundraiser, and is henceforth to be known as Eddie’s Christmas Angel. xxxxxxxx

We still have several months of antibiotics to pay for but we can manage that: the fantastic, supercalifragilistical thing is that Yorkshire folk (and some kind friends from overseas!!) got behind a poor, suffering little soul and gave him back his life.💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓💓

 

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Stop Press: Milly has just donated another £325.00 from ticket sales to help with the ongoing antibiotics.  Words fail me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The vet imported artificial skin from New Zealand, grafted it over the wound, then took skin from both his cheeks and drew it up over the new skin and grafted the two together.  Incredible surgery!!  He will be on antibiotics for about another six months to make sure the grafts take and that the tissue-eating bacteria has been truly killed off.
Eddie had his stitches out a week ago. Doesn’t he look handsome? We are keeping an eye on the dark patch between his eyes as it does not look like the rest: it has some scabby stuff on it, but so far, so good!!!!!!!!! The vet is very pleased with him.
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The awful ‘before’ as the bacteria eats away at the bones of his skull:
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OK

OK then, the garden is put to bed for the winter, Eddie is home and doing well, the Christmas present shopping is all done, I have spoken to a local newspaper giving them an update on Eddie, I have been in conversation with the British Aviation Authority about my recent experiences with airport security, have celebrated our son’s birthday and I have booked a few days away at the beginning of December to go to Gloucester to see the Cathedral.  Every year I try to visit a different British Cathedral for the first Sunday in Advent.  I am not religious but love the tradition of Cathedrals and Cathedral Choirs so Gloucester is where I am going this year and hoping to connect with a treasured and old friend at the same time.

And I have been working hard on my Chinese travel diary.  But before I begin to post again about that I had a day out today which you might enjoy sharing with me: here in Sheffield we have a society called the Dickens Fellowship which is part of the world wide Dickens Fellowship.  I have loved his books since I was a child and our mother used to read us A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve in front of our ancient inglenook fireplace by candle- and fire-light and therefore I am a member of this Fellowship.  And today was our annual day out.

This year we are visiting a local aristocratic country house/Stately Home,  Chatsworth House (a huge and famous one notably once the home of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and used as the model for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice) which has been decorated with a Dickens theme.

It was a warm, still day with a blue sky and we began in the old Stable yard

 

where the coaches and many horses used to live: this is now a place to sit outside and drink a coffee, or as today, a hot chocolate, visit the restaurant and the shop in the old stables.

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I especially love the fact that the lavatories are modelled on the old stables!!

 

 

Suitably comforted we made our way down to the Dickens decorations: the tickets were timed so that the crowds were not too  vast.

The main theme of course was, words.  Throughout his novels Dickens wrote over 4.6 million words and invented hundreds of words and phrases that have passed into everyday usage – butterfingers, slowcoach, devil-may-care, sassigassity, trumpery etc.

 

 

Decorations made from the printed word and  whole books themselves, were everywhere.

 

A Christmas Tree made of books:

 

 

There were attendants in costume of the time, and several Pearly Queens, reminiscent of the London which Dickens knew so well, and whose streets he walked for miles each night.

 

Vignettes from various books lined the corridor to the Chapel:

Tiny Tim’s Turkey,

 The window of t he Old Curiosity Shop,

There was the front door of Scrooge and Marley,

and Bill Sykes’s dog ‘Bullseye’ seemed to have got everywhere:

 

The Chapel was decorated lavishly

where the Ghost of Christmas Present was the theme: a reminder to Scrooge that those who surround themselves with friends, family, love and happiness are the richest of all.

The cloth under this throne was actually a beautiful red, not the rather shocking pink that my camera seems to have picked up!!

I thought the Chapel was cleverly lit, very understated and atmospheric:

The Anteroom to the Chapel was the interior of the Old Curiosity Shop, a modern take on curios – rare, unusual or intriguing objects – which although clever did not really impress me much.

From there we moved into a story of love and sacrifice, A Tale of Two Cities: a masterpiece of paper art in tribute to paper and the written word.

Which continued in stars, snowflakes and paperchains:

 

 

And found its apotheosis in houses built out of the very books in which they appear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then moved into the Painted Hall

 

which had the theme of Dickens’ experience of walking in London and writing about all the characters he met on his night time travels.  A sound track of the Dawn Chorus was playing and a rather odd representation of Dickens was shown, musing upon his encounters:

Climbing the stairs,

we came to a small hall in which were Christmas trees for one to write a wish or message on a label, to attach to the tree.  These were situated beside a rather touching sculpture of sleeping cherubs:

 

and a bird’s eye view of the Hall below past an ancient baby carriage;

We then ascended a glorious staircase,

top be met by a very sinister scene at the very top:

It was Bill Sykes who warned me to watch my purse and that Fagin would have my scarf instantly if I was not careful: and then we walked into Fagin’s Den which I thought was wonderful.

Handkerchiefs adorned everything, some drying before the fire, others on the boys’ bunk beds.  Fagin himself was performing tricks with handkerchiefs in front of amazed children:

Who would have the imagination to form a Christmas tree out of bunk beds, straw and handkerchief bunting?

 

There was a wall showing video of Dickens’ London with smoke pouring from chimneys and snow falling over the roof tops, all in all a superb room.

On next to cabinets of memorabilia: Dickens knew the 6th Duke of Devonshire and stayed at the house and put on plays there, but was not a familiar ‘friend’ as such.  However, there were playbills, letters from Dickens, the Duke’s personal copy of Martin Chuzzlewit and other objects of interest such as his signature in the Guest Book :

I love these paper chains: a friend of mine said that her daughter found an old copy of A Christmas Carol which was falling to pieces, so she took the pages and made them into paper chains to give to her mother for Christmas.  Lovely, although I do not like the idea of ever destroying the written word!

We passed on into Scrooge’s bedroom, which had boxes of cash stored by the bed, a bath ready before the fire, and a figure of himself sitting in bed, shaking and shivering with fear

at a mirror in the corner of the room on which a ghostly presence came and went.

Passing through a hall at the top of some stairs we found a wall of oil portraits with moving spirits gliding across them, rather like in Harry Potter.

Then we saw the House Library decorated for Christmas and I would LOVE a library like this: it is so inviting and cosy.

Down a flight of stairs to be met by a bower of Cherry Blossom, some boots and other lucky Wedding paraphernalia and a poignant carving on a tree trunk:

 

 

It was very clear where we were going next, into Great Expectations.  And indeed, there was the defunct Wedding Breakfast

and poor Miss Haversham greeting us all and asking plaintively whether we were happily married.

Leaving her to her querulous questioning of other ‘guests’ we passed under a magnificent gold stags’ head chandelier in celebratory decoration:

and into the Statuary Gallery which was lit a strange blue colour, with yet another magnificent, albeit rather heavy, Eagle chandelier,

 

with the final message from Dickens:

And so to the ubiquitous Gift Shop where I found a sweet little star made from manuscript paper, and some gorgeous leather handbags, which were quite out of my price range, with appliqued book spines on them.Image result for yoshi bookworm bag

It took nearly two hours to go round and examine everything in detail and I felt it was worth the admission fee.  Next week it will cost much more and the crowds will be huge because the Christmas Fair will be in the grounds then too.  Today was quiet and peaceful and unhurried: a delightful way to spend our yearly outing, but actually quite tiring.

So, we felt we needed a quick bite to eat, a drink, and home.

Where actually, I fell into bed and slept for the rest of the day.  Mind you, I had been up since 4.45 a.m. settling in a new goldfinch, about more another time.  Perhaps!

I hope you enjoyed this tour with us.

 

Eddie Day 3

Latest email from the supervet;  “Just wanted to send you this so you can see Eddie living it up with the nurses:)”

 

Breaking news

Nothing to do with China, but we have have just had a photo of Eddie after his operation: he is still at the other end of the country staying at the supervet while they check that no complications arise.

I’ve just had the following email from one of his nurses:

“Hi,

As promised the photo of Eddie is attached he’s looking soooo handsome after his “nose job”

He was a bit worried about me taking the picture in the kennel so I did a picture outside and after had a lovely cuddle with him and rubbed his scar.

He likes sidle up very close to me for a chest rub and I think this helps him feel reassured and that we are all lovely and wanting to help him.

We will continue treating your boy like a little Prince and will make sure he feels very loved.

Kind Regards.”

This is him one day after his operation with his brand new nose:

 

 

And this was him before with his ghastly hole:

 

 

They imported some artificial skin from New Zealand and covered the hole with it: then drew up some of his own skin from each cheek and sewed it together over the top of the artificial skin.  Barring infections this should do the job.  Fantastic news!!!!

 

And we are Boarding.  For a flight to Shanghai, China!!  After so much effort.

Oh, the excitement.

All that history   –  The Boxer Rebellion and The Opium Wars,

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The memories of books I heard about in my youth very much from my parents’ generation –   Fu Manchu and The Triads.

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Murder Mysteries on the Home Service Radio Station about Chinese men with long pigtails in Opium Dens and Paul Temple investigating

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and bamboo hats shaped like shallow wigwams.

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and people fishing with tame cormorants

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Finally, we’re boarding a British Airways flight direct to Shanghai.  Just stepping over the threshold onto the plane had my heart thumping with excitement.

We were met at the door by the delightful Chief Steward called Jamie and I introduced myself as the, hopefully not, ‘difficult’ passenger who just might need oxygen.  He was very kind and immediately introduced me to the Stewardess who was in charge of my area of the plane and she took me to my seat to discuss the situation.  J. zoomed on down to her seat, which she had managed to change to an aisle seat, which is her preference so she said she was very happy.  My seat was super, a bulkhead seat with more legroom than I could use beside a window!!!

When I had explained that I would only need oxygen if someone used some chemical in the cabin to which I was allergic or when they fumigated the plane,  she brought me a cannister of oxygen and face mask and showed me how to use them and said that if the portable cannister did not deliver enough oxygen then they would use the cabin supply on the plane: then the situation become very embarrassing for me as she asked the young man sitting next to me to please call her if I collapsed and to help me with the oxygen if I needed it. I never wanted to bother unwitting strangers going about their daily lives.  Anyway, he was very decent about it and made nothing of it, and then up popped another man sitting behind me who said he was a First-Aider and would be very happy to help if necessary.  I was mortified.  It was very kind of them.

Then just as we settled into our climb out of Heathrow she asked over the tannoi for people in my area of the plane to please not use hand sanitizer, creams or sprays because they had a passenger who was allergic.  Very sensible and helpful, but more mortification.

Having said all that, it was kind of her to arrange things like she did because an hour or two into the flight, I collapsed.  A man two seats away from me used a sinus spray containing eucalyptus and I was gone.  I managed to let my seating companion know and he helped me get the face mask in place and turn on the oxygen and called the stewardess.  Unfortunately the smell was so strong that the amount of oxygen available could not bring me round, so the air stewardess fixed up the cabin supply for me.  This necessitated going onto the flight deck to ask the Captain to turn it on: then a pipe had to be inserted into the nozzle above my seat and the mask given to me.  This was heavenly and after about 15 minutes or so I was myself again.  Meanwhile she had asked the poor unsuspecting man with the sinus spray to please not use it again: he did not need asking twice, he was so alarmed and immediately went to the loo to wash himself down.  The man beside me said the smell was very strong and on the other man’s clothes.  The poor passenger suffered badly from congestion and said he used this spray all the time on all his flights as the only thing which could keep him comfortable.  I felt terrible for him and especially as it was an eleven hour flight: indeed he was sneezing and blowing his nose for the whole time.  While arranging the cabin supply and mask for me I could vaguely hear the man next to me saying what a terrible disability to be so sensitive to such everyday things, as I was.  Once I was myself again I was given a driving lesson for my oxygen: it could not just be turned on and off, it was always something that had to be done from the cockpit.  I was to be sure not to accidentally pull on the pipe or dislodge it or the cabin would de-pressurize and everyone else’s mask would descend.  Golly!!

While all this was being set up Jamie came back from First Class to assess the situation and then and there emailed the flight staff on the plane on which I would be returning to give them his assessment and explain my needs.  How very kind and how efficient.

Then meals were distributed.  Oh dear, the message about gluten free had not been transferred from the original flight to this one.  She looked in Business Class and First Class but nowhere could she find a special gluten free meal.  She could offer me a plate of lettuce but that was it.  Then the young man beside me said that really was not good enough on a flight of over eleven hours: I produced some corned beef which had been left over from my vouchers from the night before, she produced the lettuce and we found a salad dressing.  That was lunch.  Later on she came back and said she had found two dishes in First Class, one was chicken with salad, the other was salmon and potatoes, “were they all right for me?” I leapt at them and said absolutely so she kept these two for me for later on.   I have to say they were absolutely delicious and I had no idea airplane food could taste like that.

Later in the flight the young man beside me became talkative for a while, about his Grandfather.  About how had just died a week before and how he did not know how to grieve as it was his first death.  We had a rather serious conversation which he later said he had found helpful and then we both reverted to our previous occupations: he catching up on films, me following maps, reading, writing my diary, going to speak to J and look out of the window.

 

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After leaving London our journey took a shallow arc across Europe and Russia to turn SE from Novosibirsk down across Mongolia to Shanghai. Basically flying across Denmark, Southern Sweden, Moscow, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Ulaan Baatar (Ulan Bator), and down to Shanghai.

Five hours in to the flight and we hit darkening skies: I managed an hour’s doze but as we flew on I became far too excited to sleep more, following the route and getting up frequently to have a drink and look out of the rear door window as mine was over a wing.  I always like a plane when it is dark and most people are asleep: the staff are quiet, there are plentiful drinks available at the rear of Coach and usually some interesting people to go and talk to about their travels.  I have never been further East than the Urals and as we passed over the Ural mountains  and then onto the Western Siberian Lowlands, past Chelyabinsk and on towards Omsk and Novosibirsk I found it hard to contain myself.  I noted that we were passing north of Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent – all names of Romance and Mystery – names to conjure with. From Novosibirsk, as we flew SE into Mongolia across the Altai Mountain range to Ulan Bator (which gave very noticeable turbulence) I noted that we flew south of my beloved Lake Baikal (on which I wrote a Research Paper some years ago).  From Ulan Bator the plane made a decided turn SSE and flew down to Shanghai.  When you are on a plane which takes hours and hours to fly across a country, you realise quite how vast that country is.

And then, we landed, early. Saturday morning, 7.30 a.m.

I was half way round the world and in China.  Unbelievable.

The usual pouring of people from the plane ensued, retrieving luggage etc etc but I did not rush and stopped to thank all those who had helped me and said I would write to BA to comment on how well I had been looked after.  I had felt safe and cared for, which had been so relaxing, and I was truly grateful.   The First-Aider behind me said that he was very rusty and most relieved not to have been needed!!

J and I followed the herd and went to Passport control where we were kept very firmly in control by a man in a suit who choreographed our placement behind a yellow line as we waited for an Officer to check our papers: no way could we decide which queue was the shortest or which desk seemed the obvious next one to go to.  He was whipping those Westerners into shape.

We began to get rather apprehensive.  Passport control was serious, no smiling or talking. Then on to Customs: as we charged in a gaggle across a large hall we were fascinated to see a crocodile of beautifully smart and disciplined members of staff marching, yes Marching, to work, under the eye of a senior officer.  All smiling and looking very happy, but definitely marching military style. Gosh.  Golly gosh.

The Green Channel was closed to us, although open to returning Chinese.  Seemed strange to me.  We were herded through the Red Channel where every single piece of luggage was sent through the scanner.  As we queued I saw our BA flight staff sailing through a special channel just for them, and feeling very anxious about my medical case in particular, I envied them.  As my luggage went through the scanner I had to go through a scanner too: and not an eyebrow was raised, not a question asked, only a minor pat down.  And we were through. I was speechless, everything seemed topsy turvy and illogical.  But no matter, keep on walking.

As we exited into the arrivals concourse there was a young woman waiting with a broad smile and a sign with our names on it: this was Ci Ci, our guide for the day who had been drafted in on her day off to look after us since we were on a different, later flight.  And the first thing she said, “The Tour to Shangzhou has waited for you so that you do not miss it, you can leave your luggage with me and go straight off:)”

 

And D-day is here.  Thursday – Departure Day!!!

And here is the map of my proposed travels with my friend J.  We have organised it this way round so that we have the long river trip up the Yangtze on which to rest just in case we have a real problem with jet-lag, before the really gruelling days in Beijing.

Imperial Jewels of China Map

Tonight we have a flight from Manchester to London, then London direct to Shanghai. We arrive Shanghai at 5.0 pm local time tomorrow, Friday, which we feel will give us time to unpack, have something to eat, take a walk and get a good night’s sleep:

We have bought two extra days pre-trip excursion package before the official Tour begins, to get over any jet-lag and have some time to ourselves and I have booked a place on a special day tour with our same travel company as it is not included in the main trip: this tour goes on Saturday morning, to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Suzhou – a Classical Garden called the ‘Master of Nets Garden’ known as one of the finest classical gardens in China.

The trip also includes a full-day guided tour to the city of Suzhou itself and a canal trip:  the brochure picture suggests to me that we will be on a part of a canal which gives us some insight into peoples’ back gardens and riverside use which I will find fascinating.

Built in 514 BC, the ancient city of Suzhou —42% of which is covered by water—is, I understand,  renowned for its canals, bridges and classical gardens, earning it the name “Venice of the East,” as well as its unique double-chessboard layout of canals and streets and I am really looking forward to this.

Then we have Sunday all to ourselves as the main body of our fellow travellers arrive during the day, in dribs and drabs, from various parts of the world.  The official Tour begins on Monday morning.

Our hour-long shuttle flight to London leaves Manchester at 19.35 and then our flight to Shanghai leaves London Heathrow at 22.35: these timings were booked by the tour company and should give us plenty of time to transfer since we will have completed all our security checks at Manchester.

My friend, who is going with me, lives south of Sheffield and is making her way by Taxi to the Airport.  My husband is kindly coming with me to help with all my luggage: my main suitcase which I shall check, my medical supplies suitcase, my gas mask and filter bag and my handbag.  I feel as if I should have a Sherpa with me.

I have upgraded my ticket one class to World Traveller Plus since I am tall and there are fewer seats in that area: hopefully this will also be useful if I do come into contact with anything that should prove to be problematic chemical-wise.

To begin with all went well.  Taxi to station in Sheffield, direct train to Manchester airport, text from J. to say she had also arrived safely but had already gone through Passport and Security

Since I had so much medical stuff with me my husband decided to remain at the Airport just in case of any hitches, until I rang him to say I was through security.  Well, in the event, he had to wait an hour: not because there were queues, but because I was detained for detailed examination.  I showed all my paperwork to the first man who stopped me, which he read, but they still wished to check the contents of the medical supplies case, which is quite understandable.  First of all I was asked to open and unpack the case in the open on the conveyor belt.  I refused and said that since everything in the case was, if not sterile, then very clean, I needed to unpack somewhere clean. They had no problem with that and the suitcase was taken by another young man who waited with it while I went through the X-Ray machine after which I was given the usual pat down.  We all moved off to a side room, not sterile, nor particularly clean, but at least private.  Both young men were very pleasant and when I asked them to at least change their gloves before handling all the suitcase contents there was no problem at all and they obliged at once.  It was embarrassing for me to have all the appliance stuff looked at in detail but since it did not seem to bother them, I tried to laugh it off as normal and understood that they needed to make sure that the paperwork matched the suitcase contents.  But then they said that I had to have an examination of my person:  two women arrived and the men left.  One woman stood by the door looking grim and never made eye contact with me, but the other talked pleasantly enough.  When she asked why I wore the appliance bag I said that I had had surgery.  She said she had never heard of such surgery, was very suspicious and said she  required to look at my scars at which she proceeded to get a wand of wadding, and actually rub it on my scars and then on the appliance bag.  At this I was outraged: as far as I was concerned we were trespassing into areas of my personal privacy to which she was not entitled.   So what if they had not heard of a particular type of surgery?  What about personal dignity?  So many people travel after surgery, some with life threatening diseases or terminal diseases, were they all subjected to this treatment?

I managed to hold myself together and concentrate on thinking that this would soon be over and was just an insensitive procedure by an ignorant official that it was necessary for me to endure so that I could make the trip I wished to.  But keeping calm was touch and go and psychologically very hard: disfiguring surgery is not something you get over, one always remains sensitive and private.  Well at least, most people of my generation do.

Finally, all was cleared, I zipped up my clothes, re-packed the suitcase, and finally left security.  But I was severely shaken and trying not to cry.  One woman walking past me said that she was furious at her treatment, and she had only been shouted at for being too slow.  When I rang my husband to say I was through he said he had been really worried at the time it took and J. had wondered what was happening too.  The interesting point is, that I am a white, well-educated, middle-class lady of 70: presumably not in the high risk category for terrorism activity.  If I had to undergo that, what happens to other groups of people?  And, having seen all the paperwork, checked my passport and checked the contents of the suitcase, why did they not believe my Doctor and my Pharmacist who would only prescribe such things for someone who had a bona fide medical issue.  I see no reason at all for them to examine my surgical scars.  I am very angry about that.

Anyway, I pulled myself together, and went to the Lounge which was lovely.  Free wine, water, fruit juices, soup, sandwiches, crisps, health food bars, fruit, magazines etc.  My friend J. was shopping and wanted to visit Costa for coffee: we kept in touch by phone and waited.

However, just before we were due to board we were informed of a delay in our shuttle flight of one and half hours.  At this point J, came and joined me in the Lounge and we continued to wait.

Without boring you with a blow by blow account, we took off at last, only to be told at Heathrow that we were being put into a holding pattern and would miss our connections.  For some people this meant their whole holidays had to be cancelled.  Since our suitcases were in transit we were given a hotel room at Heathrow, a night pack containing T-shirt, tooth brush and paste, deodorant, vouchers for food, vouchers for shuttle buses etc.

But this all entailed standing in different queues for hours.  Then they had to try to find us flights which could accommodate us. They found me a seat on a plane leaving the next lunch time (Friday) but had nothing for J. until Saturday. I refused to fly without her, and since I had requested oxygen they finally relented and found her a seat too.  Gosh, it was hard work and we had to make out that J. was my carer.  Something I would normally die before suggesting.

So, off we went to find our shuttle bus, our hotel and then stand in another queue while the hotel found rooms for us all.  We finally fell into bed at 1.0 a.m. in London, instead of being en route for Shanghai.

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Our new flight left at lunchtime the next day, Friday, and arrived in Shanghai at about 7.55 am local time on Saturday.  After disembarking and going through Chinese Customs and Security followed by over an hour’s drive to Shanghai, there was no way we would be in time for the Garden Trip and we suspected we would be absolutely shattered anyway. A guide was meeting us for my booked trip to Suzhou, so, first thing the next day we would have to ring the Tour Company to advise them to cancel the Guide and the Garden visit as we would not be there.  So much for our pre-trip excursion and jet-lag rest.  A really disappointing end to an extremely upsetting day.

However, there was nothing for it but to just roll with the punches or we would end up nervous wrecks.

A short and somewhat disturbed night followed but we were sooo grateful to have a room and a bed to rest in, rather than be sitting for hours on plastic chairs in the airport.  We had a very good breakfast and then girded our loins for the next hurdle, Heathrow Security, to see if we could actually begin our holiday: initially, as we were checked straight through to Shanghai from Manchester, we would only have to go through Security the one time, but having left the airport we had to go through the process again.  My son texted that Heathrow had a bad reputation for the severity of its Security, for reasons I quite understand, but I was not looking forward to a repeat performance of Manchester.

Now, I freely admit that I was tired, worn out and feeling ground down by so many months of preparations only to feel that my efforts were not working properly, and I was  rattled and extremely distressed by Security at Manchester: but I thought I was prepared for Heathrow.  Not.

It began in a similar fashion: they wanted to look inside the suitcase and kept it on one side while I went through the X Ray machine thingy.  Then they did the usual body wand search just past the machine, and then a pat down.  But during the pat down they discovered the appliance and tried to look at it there and then in the middle of the hall of people.  Now, I realise that they did not understand what they were doing, but I explained what it was and again they said they had no idea what I was talking about and I had to physically restrain them from opening my trousers and pulling down my knickers to expose my stomach in the middle of the hall.   At the time it felt terrible.  But it passed.  Two women then came up and asked me to unpack my suitcase.  I said of course, but asked for a clean room.  They became most antagonistic and said that nowhere was cleaner than the conveyor belt and the public hall and I must do it there, in full gaze of everyone.  I showed them my paperwork.  They then said that if I did not like it I should not have packed my medical equipment in my carry-on case.  I explained that this was the medical and airways advice that I was following. They replied that whatever British Airways or the NHS permitted or said was of no interest to them, that they were UK Government Security and outranked all others.  I replied that I had spent seven months and some large some of money arranging this holiday, getting the necessary advice and permits and that my medical supplies were clean and needed to be kept that way. They repeated that they had no such facilities it was unpack there or not travel.  But of course, “It is your choice Madam.”  It was at this point that, overwrought and exhausted, I broke down and began to cry – in despair and frustration that no matter my preparation or planning it was not working.  I said that they left me no choice.  They replied that of course I had a choice  –   their way or no way.  I seriously decided that this had to stop, that I could not take any more, and that I must just call the whole trip off.  There was no point in taking a suitcase of dirty medication all the way to China.  At this realisation I became distraught.

I was inconsolable.  I could no longer speak, answer questions, or even move, and just stood in the line holding everyone up, with my face covered, shaking and with tears streaming down my face. 

I really felt that I could not deal with anything further.  I needed help and support and there was none.  People were stopping and staring but I was past caring.  The Security women tried to make me make some decision or move away but I could not speak to them or physically move. I do not know why but suddenly they relented and suggested that we go to a private room, although that had apparently been unavailable before, although they said that it was no cleaner than the rest of the baggage hall.  I allowed myself to be led there, and tried to unpack my case onto the clean towelthat I had packed in the top of the case to hold everything together.  Then my legs gave out completely and I had to sit down and ask for water. Since I was now physically unable to stand and the women were stuck with me in the room, they relented; one went back to work and the other got me some water. Both women looked intensely fed up and irritated.

Both Security processes left me feeling frustrated, violated, humiliated and with no provision made for personal privacy.  What was the point of all that paperwork if it meant nothing?  Cross-checked with my Passport it all gave assurance that I was who I said I was, and that my situation was genuine and the supplies guaranteed.  If Border Security wishes to physically check the medical condition of passengers then it should educate its staff to understand the conditions they may encounter.

Finally I was allowed through.   And after all that, to add insult to injury the woman who had brought me the water, patted my arm, smiled at me, and suggested I go and get a mug of sweet tea and have a piece of cake to get over the shock of the procedures.  WHAT? Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?

Even allowing for all of us perhaps being tired and for a possible lack of communication I find these two security situations to be illogical and a senseless use of time and manpower, let alone not what one expects from one’s own government.  I shall be approaching our Border Control and Security Offices to find out what was correct, and how to avoid similar experiences in the future.

At least I must be grateful for small mercies: a middle aged German friend of J who is married to a German Senator, was made to submit to an internal body cavity search when she tried to come into the country.  The world has gone stark, staring mad.  And this is terribly, terribly wrong – no-one should be treated like this.

However, enough of all that.

A very worried J. and a tottering I finally met up at Starbucks, had a drink –  a very large, very hot, very sweet hot chocolate in my case – and went to our Gate and Boarded our plane.  And, finally, our holiday was beginning.

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