Sunday, October 03, 2004

Home flown

I love airports. Most people will cite horrid food, queues, overpriced shops and (lately) cavity searches as reasons for hating every moment, but I can’t.

Since childhood, airports have been places with a particular aura of anticipation about them. Everyone moves with a kind of nervous, excited purpose. Every group of people has at least one person returning from or departing for an adventure of some sort.

It is a place of beginnings and endings – I love to observe people to figure out where they are going and why...if it’s a business trip or one of pleasure...if they’re going away or coming home...if they’re looking forward to the journey or not. I like to guess nationalities and relationships in groups. I like to look at the airlines and imagine destinations and lives so very different from my own.

It’s a little mental holiday – a place so far outside of the everyday that it makes me think in a different way. It’s a bubble of ‘otherness’ that seems to keep the world outside in limbo for a little while as everything in the bubble teems and pulses to the dictates of airline schedules ferrying people to exotic-sounding places. It reminds me of going places myself and of beginnings and endings I’ve made in my own life.

So it was today at Heathrow, waving goodbye to K the physicist that the general air of adventure swept the cobwebs of blog ennui away.

It made me think of home.* Here then, within reach, were the means to go back to Australia – to a hot summer, endless beaches and snorkeling amongst colourful darting little fish. To wide empty roads where I routinely pushed cars and the law to the limit and wildlife that seems to have taken Darwinism to heart. I knew I had the means to leave and I knew that I didn’t want to – not just yet.

*Technically Australia, although these days ‘home’ means ‘wherever the lease is’.

Writing this on the tube ride home, I was gradually reintroduced to London, like wading back into water after a respite on shore. The relative orderliness of the airport gave way to the clattering, rumbling, constantly delayed tube. The quiet carriage of clean but crushed tourists laden with bags and contraptions in turn gave way to creatures more native to the city on a Saturday night. Acton Town saw ‘A Rough’* of newly arrived Aussies out for a good time. Earl’s Court added ‘An Arrogance’ of South Africans to the ethanol-soaked fray and we had the usual problems trying to get off the train at Holborn.

*I love to make up collective nouns for things. At the airport C, J and I discussed collective nouns for the lovely native Plummy Accented Englishman. C finally came up with the winner – ‘A Cardigan’.

London produces a startling amount of people who seem to think that a train carriage has the same properties as the TARDIS. It is therefore possible to push oneself onto a train that is completely full without letting the people gasping for air out first. This elicits colourful language, pushing and fisticuffs from people otherwise gently benign. I used my elbows and a carefully aimed glare to get us out and onto the heaving platform. It helped that the men happily leering down at us for half an hour got a shock when I stood up to tower over them and garner them aside. We squeezed through the crowd of rude comments, grasping hands and various smells. We had arrived in the city.

A switch to another line saw us on completely familiar ground. We were face to face with a 50 year old man clad almost entirely in PVC and within earshot of a pair of excessively pierced, tattooed, chained and Anthrax t-shirted men trying to outdo each other with stories of people de-limbed by trains or gutted in bloody and painful ways.

We walked home from the station in an all-too-familiar light drizzle which I found to be expected and rather refreshing. Past rows of tall, thin houses stuck together in long terraces which no longer seemed strange, past too many cars in the street, past red telephone boxes and red double-decker buses to my own little house. When I walked in, I realised that I really could do with a nice, hot cup of tea and a few hours blogging. I was home.

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