Departures from the Norm

11th July 2009:

The recent BBC series “The Secret Life of the Airport” reminded me of a competition I entered a couple of years ago in the British Airways in-flight magazine.  The idea was to write a piece of 500 words on any aspect of travel.  I chose airports.


I usually fly around a dozen times each year and therefore spend quite a lot of time in airports.  This is not a hardship for me – I find these places fascinating – but would dearly love to bring back the glamour!


Here is an extract from my competition entry:



Departures from the Norm


Hello, my name is Christine and I like airports.


There, that’s that out of the way. It pays to be up front about these things. Otherwise it becomes the Jumbo in the room.


I know what you’re thinking but I just like airports.   Or maybe fascination is better word. These are some of the best places on Earth.

Now you are worried, so I should explain.


Having spent five years in a long distance relationship (now a short distance one) I got to know some UK airports (Glasgow, Newcastle, Gatwick, Heathrow) very well indeed and gradually discovered a whole new world: an amazing, exciting, depressing, sad, funny, constantly-changing-but-never-dull world, full of farewells and reunions.  Airports are choc-a-block with the everyday stories of travelling folk: going on holiday, returning from business meetings, heading off to weddings, funerals, christenings, anywhere on the globe.  And it’s like this 365 days a year! Stories repeating endlessly but, like snowflakes, never identical


Many people – most people – treat airports as a means to get to their chosen destination.   Arrive, park the car, get to the Terminal, queue to check in the bags, queue again for Security, get dressed again afterwards, buy a newspaper, get a coffee, and find Boarding Gate. Then get on the plane.  So why not enjoy all the hurry-up-and-wait and treat it as something to be enjoyed not endured?


My tactic is to arrive early (not days early – I’m not weird or anything), check in bags, get a coffee and a paper. But my paper goes unread as I watch my fellow passengers, wondering where they’re going, why, and (where possible) eavesdropping on conversations.

And look at the destinations.  From London Heathrow I can fly to Reykjavik, Rome or Riyadh – anywhere (not just places beginning with ‘R’). Why are all these people going to all these fascinating cities? What’s happening in their lives? Me?  I’m going to see my mum in Newcastle.  And you? Oh, you’re joining the British Antarctic Survey Team at the South Pole? Yes, goodness, you do have a lot of luggage…


Only one thing is missing from my (unrequited) airport love affair: the glamour. Despite the reality, I don’t see the queues, the tired and fractious children, the bored businessmen … I see Joan Collins, immaculate in dark glasses and matching luggage, arriving on a BOAC jet from LAX. ‘Tis better to travel glamorously than to arrive.


Sadly, first class air travel is beyond me (for the moment) and currently my matching luggage consists of several Tesco bags but if I can buy a little piece of the allure such as an overnight bag in a tasteful hue, I’ll be happy. We all need a little bit of glamour in our lives, even if it is only at Fast Bag Drop…..


So next time you go through an airport, treat it as an adventure, take your time and enjoy the experience. And if you see someone in tasteful designer shades struggling with an elegant set of suitcases, it could be me.  Or Joan.

Christine  ….. from the Shed

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