Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Memories of Tehran (and a few other places)

A friend is currently in Tehran and his Facebook post about arriving there has caused me to recall my (unexpected) visit to the city in 1970.

This was during my flight out here as a migrant.  The route of the flight was London- Zurich -Tehran - Bangkok - Hong Kong - Darwin - Sydney- Adelaide.  I will note that it was snowing when we left Londn.

The day before we left BOAC (the long-haul precursor to British Airways) had had a strike of aircrew.  Plus ca change ....  This meant that the crew who were supposed to be looking after the third leg of our flight were not waiting and rested in Tehran so we couldn't continue past that point.  Thus a fair proportion of the passengers from a VC10 had to be accommodated.

As none of us had visas for the Shah's version of Iran we had to give up our passports and were led off to a fleet of buses.  They had curtains with bright patterns and little woolen balls hanging from the hem: as one of my future countrymen said "This looks like a disco on wheels."  After a fairly long drive through the deserted streets - it was after curfew so the only folk we saw were all in uniform and carrying AK47s (I think I did mention the Shah) - we got to our hotel about midnight.

So we milled around waiting to be given room keys and a little Persian dude showed up with a tray full of lager.  Everyone present knew what to do about that.  A minor embarrassment then emerged when he asked for £5 per bottle.  This was short-lived as one of the Australians present said "I can deal with that" and signed the bill.  As we thanked him he said he'd signed it as 'Please refer to BOAC".

Breakfast the next morning was amazing.  A young lad from the swamps of Essex was not used to a dining room with a huge buffet and songbirds in cages singing all around.  Nor very attractive young ladies swimming in the pool outdoors.  The temperature at 8am was already about 25C - a tad warm for someone dressed for snowy London.

Back to the airport and queue up to go through Immigration.  The guy in front of me explained that he didn't have a passport as it had been taken away the night before.  The Son-of-Dutton on the desk had trouble with this concept and a fair debate ensued.  Eventually the passenger said something about his luggage also being distant - "Far Kit" were his exact words I recall - and charged off.  My response to a request for "Pisspot?" was "I'm with him." as I too charged past.  As I looked back the SoD had buried his head in his arms and 100+ people streamed past him.  It would have been a good day for a dissident to leave!

After a few minutes a second Son-of-Dutton appeared with an armful of shoe boxes (Clarke's I seem to remember).  However they weren't full of Frankinsence, myrrh or gold, but passports!  They were duly tipped on to a table and a scrum ensued for people to grab their crucial documents.  This was off course made difficult by most of being identical on the outside.  Eventually th table was cleared and we headed off to other exotic parts.

The leg to Bangkok was uneventful as was that to Hong Kong apart from flying over a storm which led to static electricity discharging from the wings of the plane.  That was St Elmo's Fire and quite harmless: the problem was that we were overflying Vietnam at that point where there was some unpleasantness happening on the ground, so there was a little concern that the flashes were a little more sinister.

Darwin was fascinating because of the Outback nature of the place.  The arrivals building was in a hangar still showing shell holes from visiting Japanese in the 1940s and everyone who dealt with us seemed to be well qualified for the paralympics.  On to Sydney.

I can't call the folk who graced Customs and Immigration here "Sons-of-Dutton" because they were more lie "Grandfathers-of-Dutton". They did have the same level of charm as the Lovely Peter and gave me the hardest time I have ever had entering Australia.

  • They couldn't believe I didn't have any presents for my friends in Australia even though I explained I only knew 1 person and suggested they check my status as a migrant.  
  • He then moved on to my jeans which he wanted to incinerate because they had been on a farm and there was "Foot and Mouth" in that part of England.  I said there was no foot and mouth within 200 miles and asked if he, like me, had a degree in Agricultural Science.
  • Next was my can of Old Spice deodorant which rattled.  This is the agitator to keep the smelly stuff stirred up but he thought it might be drugs.  (In an aerosol can!).  

After checking the underside of my cake of soap for needles he reluctantly let me through and said "Welcome to Australia.  You'll like it here - I'm a Pom myself."  To which I think I muttered "Now I understand what Barry Humphries means by Pommy Bastard."

But he was right.

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