While in transit…

January 17, 2007

Written in the Departure Lounge, Terminal 3, Heathrow.

Dear God, this is an awful place!

They should have divided it up somehow so that we couldn’t see each other, or at least, not so many of one another at a time. People-watching loses its appeal when the crowd gets beyond a certain size. It’s like the food court of a worn out shopping mall, with the added nuisance of luggage all over the floor. The piped music in the duty free shops makes matters worse. The general effect is soporific, turning one’s brains to mush. My Starbucks caffè latte tastes as though there’s very little coffee in it. The only tolerable haven is going to be the Brasserie Chez Gérard in the far left hand corner where I’ll be able to turn my back on the concourse. With three hours to kill, I’m saving this treat for later.

If I look straight up through the glass ceiling, I can at least see

…that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky

I’ll be up there soon. In spite of everything I’m looking forward to that.

My check-in this time was immedate and the security scan took less than 5 minutes, including the queueing. Far more staff than usual manning the sheep pens. I am only allowed one item of carry-on luggage, this rule so strictly enforced, I am told to put the bag I wear round my waist inside my rucksack. However, once through the barrier, it seems I’m allowed to carry as much shopping as I want to buy. Where’s the sense in that?

Yesterday I was in a far better place, walking in the wind on the Garth, the bare, turf-crested mountain behind my sister’s house near Cardiff. Golden bracken coloured the slopes, larks twittering over the Bronze Age tumuli at the summit, a stream tumbling between the rocks under the gorse bushes, and rival robins singing from the sycamore trees that lined the lane.

For my sister, my mother and me, it felt absolutely right. garth.JPG
We didn’t spend much time wondering why, realising that our home on the hillside in Derbyshire’s Peak District, when Faith and I were small children, was just like this. Kipling set as one of his challenges in IF:

…If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss…

except that for Faith and me it would be no loss to go back to our beginnings, only gain. Thank heavens for a happy childhood.


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