The journey from Dongguan to Manchester was by no means a short one. A drive, by neighbour and friend Charif, with Panda and I, was the first start. After handing back the Songshan Lake apartment, the over-the-top backpack (29.8kg), dog carrier (11kg + Panda 19kg) and 10kg hand luggage slotted into Charif’s spacious sports utility vehicle. Two toilet stops on the way to the airport for Panda, and then we arrived into a multi-storey car park. An elevator to the roof gave Panda ample time to drop off unwanted gut packages and then we shook hands with Charif, or in Panda’s case, a lick and a jump, and off past security we went.
Check-in went smoothly, save some panic about vaccination certificates needed in Amsterdam, for me! Panda’s paperwork went swimmingly. With a late flight, arrival was well in advance. Off Panda went, checked-in, down a a conveyor belt, for a lengthy journey ahead. I passed security, the health check corridor and baggage check before entering the departure lobby. A near empty airport had water refill points, poor wi-fi and little else of use. Dynamic zero and its COVID-19 policy has destroyed any fun to be had in airports. No food was available. I munched on a bag of beetroot crisps and drank my water (warm, not cold). Still, I was able to stream Manchester City’s 6-0 win over recently promoted Nottingham Forest. A hat trick for the fantastically good Erling Haaland, with a brace by Julián Álvarez and a strike by João Cancelo ensured three points for City, and a smile as I boarded the aircraft bound for Istanbul.
The two flight legs involved the watching of two movies, To Olivia, and The Professor and The Madman. The former is a biographic account of a tragedy that unfolds in the lives of the family of author Roald Dahl and actress Patricia Neal. It stars Hugh Richard Bonneville Williams as Dahl and Claire Julia “Keeley” Hawes as Neal. The director John Hay takes an affectionate and gentle touch to a tough task, delivering a dreamy movie with a warmly-hugged factor. He is a director known to myself for that great movie, There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble. Acting titans Mel Gibson and Sean Penn head a cast that tackles the formation of The New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (better known as Oxford English Dictionary). It sounds like a dull story, but in truth it is far from the dictionary definition of dullness.
Between flights, a brief stop at Istanbul gave me chance to sample great sandwich, coffees and some snacks before boarding for Amsterdam and a central European gateway to Britain… At this stage I was highly excited, nervous and bubbling with a mixture of emotions and anticipation. As the door to life in China swung to shut, an open door to the next chapter of life lurked ajar, but needed a few steps to get there.