Time for another one of those airport lounge monologues. Gatwick South Terminal is the location for today’s. Enjoy.
I’m sitting in the lounge with a pint of Stella and a view of the roof and a few tail fins – certainly not as good as the view from San Francisco, but the distant low hills mean it is slightly more interesting than the view from Sacramento, which must surely be the dreariest airport I’ve ever travelled through. But then I’m returning via Dallas/fort Worth, which is reputed to be the greatest aviation hellhole on Earth. We shall see.
So far today, I’ve collected my dollars and my suit, both uneventfully, and also picked up a card for David and Andi – the one thing I’d forgotten.
The journey here was largely uneventful – the train was on time, and offered little amusement. I got my head into Haruki Murakami’s Underground, which is an incredibly moving and sad book, and I’m only on the fourth chapter. I decided to bring this instead of Michel Houllebecq’s (sp?) Platform, which might just be too racy for the US Customs inspectors.
Oh, and in case you are wondering why I’ve already resorted to alcohol, it’s because I know that American charge $4 for each and every drink on their flights, and I don’t want to be bankrupted.
Out of the window, Monarch and Britannia aircraft are performing a strange sort of dance on the taxiway, as a tractor runs in strange circles towing a mower across the runway-side grass. All of this is performed in a bizarre silence, the triple glazing of the terminal windows providing an effective barrier between waiting passengers and the noise of the aircraft.
Inevitably, and as always seems to happen in airports, I was quizzed by a couple of guys as I was waiting in line for security about my jacket (I’m talking about the infamous pimptastic jacket, of course). Apparently, they had seen it in a shop in Marbella (must have been Zara), one had tried it on and thought it was "the dog’s bollocks" whilst the other assured him that he shouldn’t be seen dead in it. Which is pretty much the same conversation I end up having with just about anyone new that I meet whilst wearing it. Even the security lady at the AA check-in was interested in it, complaining that she felt cold. But then she was from Croydon and likes Bognor. There isn’t much hope for some people.
Two people to my right have just spotted and recognised each other – one of those "where are you going then?" type conversations is now ensuing. He’s suddenly changed from a suit that was gently dozing into his newspaper and coffee into a vibrant and energetic conversationalist – which is suspect is in no small part related to the fact that she is your classic oriental beauty.
Arses, we’re already boarding. time to glug my beer and get going.
Update: well, I’m now down at the gate, and have plenty of time in hand. As usual, American are working hard to maintain their record for the most punctual trans-Atlantic service.
It’s always interesting to sit in these lounges and have a look at fellow passengers. I’ve already decided who I’d like to be sat next to on the flight, but I suspect that is wishful thinking. I’ve also identified the "extra wide seat" that I hope I don’t get sat next to. But generally, the passengers here seem to fall into three groups – young people aged 25 to 35 (yay! I’m young!) who are travelling on their own, and are either currently sitting with their head in a book, or are looking around the room trying to find something to interest them (usually the other people) and wishing they had brought a book with them. There is also a smattering of middle-aged people, but the bulk of the passengers are older couples, mostly American judging by the accents. One or two have surprisingly awful facial hair. I guess that St louis isn’t likely to attract the vibrant young European travellers, and my guess is that the younger people here are either on business or are travelling on to other destinations. (Sorry Teresa Michelle, I’m not dussing your city! But have you read any Jonathan Franzen?).
On the plus side, it doesn’t look like this flight is full, so there should be some room to spread out. The seating plan on aa.com showed the seat next to me as occupied, but hopefully they have moved them back to a window seat.
Then again, it looks like a whole crowd of new people have just arrived at the gate.
Hmm. I’m not sure if this real-time blogging is a good thing. This is turning into one of those stream-of-consciousness posts. Mind you, the beer isn’t helping – gone straight to my head. Serves me right for glugging it.
Out in the corridor, visible through the plate glass, is a display of photography sponsored by BAA. There are some good pictures there, and they vary in scale between small A4 sized prints to huge behemoths that only just fit on the wall. It is good that the airport management make some effort to enliven the building, but you have to wonder if it is worth it from the point of view of those displaying their work. Their audience consists of passers-by who are totally preoccupied with getting on a plane and flying away to another destination – or returning travellers, who have just one thought – home as soon as possible.
There is a guy (he’s American – he isn’t a bloke, he’s a guy) who is currently reading out last night’s restaurant bill at full volume for the entire lounge to hear. Three bottles of wine, apparently, six bottles of water and five Alhambras. Five whole Moorish palaces? Wow. I’m impressed. Twat.
Oh dear, I’m slipping into my whole pitying the Americans mode. They can’t help it. And I need to get over that, or else tomorrow’s business meeting won’t go well (I’ve already had a fairly lively discussion with Tony when I met him in Sacramento) and the wedding could get very embarrassing, especially once I’ve had a few drinks at the reception.
And why are so many Americans called Jerry?
Right, time to shut this thing off before this stream of consciousness turns into a stream of gibberish. Well, more so than it already has.
Further reports from St Louis.
St Louis update:
Tw opints of beer (a not bad local IPA) and already my typing has gone to pieces (I’ll leave that typo in for you, just to demonstrate). Conversations in the bar with a couple of business types (as opposed to Businessman Billy types – oh good, two pints AND really lateral references too!) about US attitudes to world current affairs, the difference in travelling by road in the US compared with travelling in the UK and EU, and a lengthy discussion on where exactly Chichester is in the UK (no, it’s not near Strat-FORD upon Ay-VON).
St Louis airport was almost in line for my Most Awful Airport In The World Award due to its bizarre reclaim-your-baggage-then-check-it-back-in-then-reclaim-it-again-even-if-St-Louis-is-your-final-destination system, but actually it has some nice bars, plenty of powerpoints for running laptops and architecture that isn’t so shockingly bland that you want to slit your wrists in desperation. It does have shockingly poor signage though – confused, cluttered signs that do not give simple clear information. Go to Schiphol guys – learn how it is done.
Anyhow, my inward flight was unexciting. I got chatting with the guy in the seat behind me (sorry, he was a bloke, not a guy) who was from Cornwall and was friendly and amusing enough. Which is more than can be said for the three Scottish women sitting just ahead of me, who were loud and objectionable. Morag, particularly, laughed far too loudly to deserve to live.
Anyhow, I’m fairly pooped, and I have another flight to get through and then I have to get to the hotel. Joy. I’ll certainly sleep well once I get to a bed. And I’ve realised that I’ve left the invitations for the wedding and dinner at home, which is partly annoying, not particularly diastrous, but possibly mildly inconvenient, considering that the invitation included directions for finding the chapel. Let’s just hope that Kev remembered his (oh dear. Relying on Kev. A bad sign.).
I’ve made some notes aboth the flight over too, which I’ll entertain you with later. They aren’t that exciting.
And if anyone else asks me about my jacket…..
Right, nearly time for boarding, and I need a loo. I’ll publish this when I get to the hotel (if I can stay awake long enough), and possibly post an update if I can be arsed.