Post 269: Bye Bye Blighty
‘Yelo Taxi’ to Braintree Railway Station, their spelling not mine, but it was quite big. The driver’s a former City Sprint Despatch Rider, there are a lot of us about. Braintree Station, a ticket to Terminal 4 and thirty minutes spent watching three men measuring the distance between the rails. One man with a measuring device and the other two with large warning flags, eagle eyes and a pair of health and safety badges.
Train to Liverpool Street on the hour and bang on time. The journey takes me back but n reality, it’s carrying me forward. Stratford’s beginning to look all grown up, so lets hope it’s ready for 2012. Underground to Heathrow, but here on the Piccadilly Line it’s really more Overground. I pass the time by mentally reciting the postcode of every station along the way and wonder just how many London miles you have to ride in order to become that anal.
London’s Heathrow Airport. Etihad Airways Check-In counter, Zone C @ T4. ’T’ stands for ’Terminal’, good choice, it’s really quite grim. It’s still three hours before departure. Standing in a long line playing the slowest ever game of human Snake. Why do some people look more suspicious that others? A floppy eared Spaniel sniffs around their cases and moves on. I’m relieved, but I’m also embarrassed for having had such uncharitable thoughts based solely upon a persons physical appearance. ’Physical Appearance, what other kind of appearance is there? I’m smiling. The Spaniel looks happy in his work and I wonder if the European Working Time Directive applies to canines? He moves closer to me and my smile begins to fade. I remember the weed that I found growing all across Siberia and although I didn’t mention it at the time, a few samples may well have found their way into my topbox. Thankfully the dog sniffs once, flops his very floppy ears and moves on down the line. I’m a non-smoker, but does that really have to include weed?
’Is this case Fragile Sir?’. I giggle. She’s pointing to my topbox. If it’s survived everything that I’ve thrown at it over the years, then I’m sure that’s it’s far less fragile than I. On the other hand, I’ve seen what United do to Guitars, ’Very Fragile’ I warn her. ‘Thank you Mr Thomas. You’ll collect your bag in Bangkok. Have an enjoyable flight with Etihad Airways and here is a ’Pass’ for the Etihad Diamond lounge that you’ll find located next to Gate 10’.
With two hours still to spare, I decide to have what will be my last UK meal for quite some time. I’m limited for choice, so it’s ’Café Rouge’ and £10 for a small plate of shite. Hell, for £10 in Asia I could eat like a King and still have enough change to get myself into an entire world of shite. Well, I’m not in Asia yet so I’ll just eat my salmon fishcakes and prolong the gastronomic experience by whining about it on the Blog.
Passport control. Am I being ’Signed Out’ I wonder? No idea. Security is thorough. I suspect that babies have been conceived with less physical contact than this. Laptop out, pockets emptied, shoes off. No metal anywhere, step through the electronic door frame. ’Beep’. Arms aloft, legs apart, memories of ’SUS Laws’ come flooding back. (Ask your Parents). ’Beep’. A brisk and thorough frisking from an unsympathetic security operative. ’Beep’, bollocks. Nicotine Patches, metallic based, please don’t confiscate them. I’m a non-smoker, so please don’t confiscate my nicotine inhaler either.
Smile and thought shall receive. I remember the pass that was handed to me at Check-In. Etihad Airways Diamond First Lounge, access all areas. Holy Mother of Extravagance. Real coffee and biscuits without a brand name stamped anywhere upon them. Sumptuous chairs upholstered in the finest gerbil pelts to match the stunning coffee tables. Ocean deep carpet, two attendants to every guest and that’ll do very nicely for me. I look a little out of place, but I look even more out of place when I pull out my crash helmet and start taking photographs. ’Nice helmet Sir’. It’s not often I get compliments like that these days, ‘Thank you very much’.
It’s all just a little too posh in here for me. At any moment, the actress masquerading as a receptionist is going to call to me. ‘’Sir Alan will see you now’’. Magazine and Newspaper racks, probably solid teak, definitely no Red Tops. The room begins to fill. I’m the only person not wearing a shirt with a collar, but still the attendant offers me a massage; Head, Neck, Foot, Body or All? I wonder if he’s taking the piss, but I think he’s being deadly serious. I decline, but I will admit to at least being curious. Did I mention the Bathrooms? Alone, they’re probably worth whatever extra a 1st Class ticket would cost you. Basins, thrones and urinals all hewn from solid marble and seemingly heated to body temperature. Single use hand towels, Egyptian cotton, dry once and then pass to the poor people to launder.
Back in the lounge, it’s all a little bit too much for me. I’m overwhelmed, my well worn Converse trainers are attracting unwanted attention and not just because of the smell. I feel like something of a fraudster. ‘Champagne Sir?’ …. it’s tempting, very tempting. ‘No thank you .. I’m a non-smoker’.