It started well. I arrived at Manchester in a downpour and the check-in agent took pity on an old man and gave me a better seat, and a priority check in sticker. Straight through, all the medication and sharps accepted without comment. In the queue in front of me was a Turkish family with a very mature son who had Down’s Syndrome. He was the love of his Mum’s life. His way of communicating was a strange strangled cry, that sounded Wookie-like. The family were sat in front of me on the aircraft, and I tuned out their conversations. What I hadn’t realised was that the lad was the Turkish Olympic farting champion both in volume and richness. The bovine emissions were fairly regular and the young woman next to me and I both took turns at gagging as the stench wafted over us.
It was a relief to arrive at Istanbul and I settled in for the long wait for the connecting flight. Had I realised how sloppy Turkish Airlines were, I’d have booked the one hour transfer rather than the six.
The flight came up on the boards about 22:35 (for the 23:55 departure) and I headed for the gate. After the smooth efficiency of the MAN-IST leg, the loading was an utter shambles. No information, standing in queues and then an official man shouting at everyone and pushing people. I resisted the urge to ‘push’ back. Welcome to the former USSR! At least I got a seat by an exit door. The departure time came and went and at 0115 we started to taxi out. As we got to the runway two women passengers started to batter each other and were separated by the flight crew. I was expecting a return to the terminal to have them taken off, but we continued. Arrival was due for 0600 at Tashkent and we landed at 0800. Many of the passengers burst into applause. Once the fighters had been taken off by the Police, we left and the Immigration and customs checks went without a hitch. The car that was waiting at 0615 was long gone so a young lad brought me to the digs and sold me a house brick sized pack of Uzbek Som for a tiny amount of Dollars.
After a wash and a shave I got the Metro into Tashkent. At every turn there was someone to help. Help with tickets, telling me where to get off. It’s a very friendly place. I found Amir Temur’s (Tamerlane) statue and the first of many gardens
I sorted a local SIM card and headed home through the parks, which are beautifully kept. There was a street market mainly selling paintings and old soviet-era badges. As well as gnomes. That’s solved the present problems!
As I wandered on, there did seem to be rather a lot of police everywhere. Without realising it I’d managed to miss the cordon and was at the front of the Presidential building. A man in plain clothes called me over; he looked like a taxi driver chasing a fare. “Your papers!” He demanded. Not really being switched on, I said “are you a policeman?” “No, I’m a secret policeman” was the reply. I just stopped myself making any stupid comments about secret policemens’ balls and explained my plan. I was shown the way and various uniformed and non-uniformed men appeared to firmly and politely guide me on my way. It was well done and without any shouting or cross words.
It’s a nice place. The Metro is a classic of great design and lots of marble. Sadly you can’t take pictures. There is a strange system of plastic tokens. For Som 1200 (about £0.25) you go as far as you want. One station or many. That’s not bad is it?