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  • Day29

    We're almost Finnished!

    September 23, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    It’s Monday morning, the alarm has gone off at 6.30am and it’s going home time. We slept well apart from further disruptions from the 70th Anniversary Parade rehearsals at midnight and also at 2am when a substantial number of artillery rounds were fired off and echoed amongst the tower blocks around us. Ben had told us that ‘big guns firing’ was always an integral part of this type of celebration.

    Yang was ready for us in reception and got us to Beijing Airport by just after 8am. Check-in and Immigration were fine however there was a real issue with John’s hand luggage at Security which resulted in him having one of his battery power packs confiscated, despite it holding less power than the other three units in his bag. The Security official was never going to be turned and as there was going to be no upside to having an argument with officialdom in China we had to walk away and say goodbye to a beloved and very useful Christmas present that Janet had purchased last year. It was a ridiculous, unfair and point-proving confiscation, but probably not surprising.

    We are flying for the first time with Finnair (8 hours to Helsinki plus 3 hours to London), due to a combination of cost and that we have been eyeing them up as a potential carrier for us on our annual trips to Thailand. As this is being written we are 34,000 feet up and very happy with our service so far. Since we departed Beijing we have been able to clearly see a number of places we have visited on our outward rail journey such as the Great Wall, the Gobi, Lake Baikal and Irkutsk.

    We were somewhat (childishly?) amused when a member of the cabin crew came to clear Janet’s lunch table and said ‘Are you finish?’. We were tempted to say ‘No, you are Finnish’ but......

    Now a little secret from yesterday. At 11am we were in the room getting ready to go out when John thought he heard a plane which was strange as the Airport is several miles North of Beijing. We looked out of the window and a few seconds later saw a group of fighter planes fly left to right across the sky, straight ahead of us, probably around 500 metres away. This was followed for the next ten minutes or so by other groups of fighter aircraft, then a steady stream of bombers, surveillance aircraft, helicopters and yet more fighters, all in formation. This was obviously part of the practice for the 1st October Celebration and a quite incredible show of aeronautic power which closed just as Janet managed to focus on the final act as you can see below. We had more shots but the sun was right at us and the smog made visibility even tougher. We remarked that our fly pasts in London down The Mall give a balance between the past and present, in a large part remembering the contribution of a brave past generation, whereas theirs is all about sending a message internally and externally that ‘our Country is powerful and no one should mess with us’. We were lucky to chance upon this substantial show of strength which says a lot about the Country.

    More on China in our final blog tomorrow once we’re safely back at base. In the meantime we are posting this in Helsinki where we have just landed on schedule.
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    John East

    I know the feeling!

    Jon Dyer

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