meeting up and the first night

Back in April some people I knew were mumbling about a rather different trip from the norm. This turned out to be perfect timing for me due to various events at the time and was the catalyst for a rather excellent long weekend.

On Friday 27th August I was meant to meet up with some people at Gatwick at 8am. This meant getting up at 4:30 so I chose to get a later train and sweatily staggered into Frankie and Bennys ten minutes before check in at 9am. I’d only ever met Neal before so sat down at the table with Dennis, Rob, Neal and Kevin and as they tucked into their breakfast I quietly recovered from the crispy chili beef and special fried rice I’d eaten the night before. When they finished I took custody of Dave the Duck and we made our way to the desk for Ukrainian Airlines.

Kevin and Rob had slightly… over packed their carry-on so as they gritted their teeth and managed to get through the procedure without question the rest of us talked and got to know each other. Then Phil, Dennis’ wifes cousin (cheers for the correction, Dr D!) arrived. Unfortunately because he was behind us it meant we weren’t able to take up the entire back row of the plane and I had a random next to me for the flight, but he slept the whole time which was welcomed and allowed Dennis and me to shoot some breeze. Rob, Neal and Kevin took up the naughty side of the plane for the flight leaving England.

Touching down in Kiev we were slightly perplexed when the head stewardess finished her welcoming speech with “good bye, and good luck”. Well, that’s a lie. What the five of us actually did was burst out laughing for the whole plane to hear. Speaking of the plane, I’m not sure it was the newest model in their fleet. The CRT monitors down the center of the aisle and 8-track in an overhead locker being the give-aways.

Leaving the plane by steps and bus was painless. Getting through passport control wasn’t so much. No-one seemed to be doing anything and rather than an orderly queue behind the big signs saying “foreigners” a mob was forming. Eventually we were allowed into the country thanks to the oh so pleasant airport staff. Maybe eating too much borscht makes them grumpy and mildly surly? Afterwards off we went to find out taxi – a rather nice Mercedes. The driver was an interesting character. After almost scraping the side of the van getting out of the carpark he picked up a passenger and whilst looking back to us said “nice girl, yes?” It would have been rude to disagree, most likely insulting to her and would have been a lie. Let’s get this straight, Ukrainian women, or at least the ones in Kiev are stunning. They turn gay men straight and straight men to jelly. And… I’ll stop there!

The weather was shite and the driving iffy, but we got to our apartments. We were renting three between the six of us. Dennis and Phil took the two bed one, Rob wanted to share with Kevin to use his sensor cleaning equipment and so Neal and I competed in a mighty battle of rock, paper, scissors to see who would share with them and who would be Billy no-mates. I was valiantly defeated and got the apartment to myself which turned out to be a blessing. I got to shower and do what bears and the pope do in the woods as and when I wanted. And I had the only apartment which came with obscene amounts of lurid animal print which made all the others jealous!

Later that evening we met up in a club come restaurant called Ikon. I really liked the place. The food was good and there was a naked lady in one of the toilets. Ok, she was only painted onto the walls but she was nice. Not sure who did her make-up though! Luckily I did nothing more dodgy than take a photo of her as people at the bar could see through the spinning propeller blades on the wall next to the throne. You should be getting an idea of how epic this place was now. Most of us had the chicken Kiev – it seemed the right thing to do! It was stuffed with crab meat and was ever so tasty! I wasn’t sure mine was cooked all the way through but so far I seem to have passed the 72 hour food poising scare so should be safe. They also had Hoegaarden on draft. It would have been rude not to have one, so some of us had two. In half liter glasses of course! Oh, I almost forgot to mention the snail and caterpillar animation playing behind a clear glass panel which had water running down it and the other toilet full of ears!

After a few jokes, a bit of banter and getting the attractive waitress to take our photo we retired to our homes for the next few nights. Tomorrow we were off to a place which made the news in quite a big way in 1986.

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