So this is international business travel then November 2012 style is it?
Leaving the warmth of a 16th century cottage for a stone cold diesel Ford Focus in teeming rain. (This unsatisfactory situation is partially mitigated by two words: heated seats. Partial ahhh.) It’s a 04.30 start and even the cat is surprised to see human movement at this hour. On a Monday. She doesn’t get up. There is no time for pleasantries puss, with 100k of soggy M4 to deal with. Best get on.
It’s quiet enough on the road and moving briskly with no one in the mood to dawdle at this (gawd-forsaken) hour.
T5 at Heathrow sees a ramp up in the car count as a fleet of motors funnel up to disgorge their travelling passengers. I hand my keys to a fellow at the terminal entrance who – presumably – will deliver my car back to the door on my return. Nifty. Check in is automated, sans queue and fuss free. Security is – as ever – a tad surreal. Where else would you take off your coat, shoes and belt with perfect strangers? (Really: where else? Go on, a clean answer.) After some waiting in line, a bit of scanning and a quick non-sexy frisk you are no longer deemed a terrorist threat and ejected into the shopping opportunity.
Before I reapply my shoes/coat/belt back on and head for a food outlet there is time for a brief pause. An increasingly irate UK Borders officer remonstrates with a too-cool-for-school oriental traveler. “SIR, I will have to insist you delete that film.” Tsk, the temerity to be using an iPhone at security. The chap looks inscrutable. You shout at him dear: he’ll understand if it’s L O U D E R and ssslllllooowwwerrrr. An impasse develops, my tummy rumbles, I stumble towards sustenance. With daring globalised hipness I buy (African) tea, a (Caribbean) banana and a (Heathrow) croissant and make my way to a window seat. As my ridiculous Movember ‘tache and I take a seat I note it’s still only 06.10.
Regarding breakfast close up makes my head spin. Thus I take a moment to pan out and absorb the surroundings. The terminal is so very 21st century with glass walls, huge on-display steel exo-skeleton, polished stone floors, stainless handrails, wall-to-wall retail, plasma screens a-go-go and the actual business of air travel barely visible outside in the sodium lit pre-dawn. Occasionally an incoming aircraft goes by in peripheral vision but it’s all strangely remote. I read that BAA – the airport owner/operator – make more money out of retail than they do out of planes. In a past age, the anticipation was all about the actual travel, not bloody shopping. I was truly born too late to appreciate the golden age of air travel. IE: When it was exotic.
Next stop Kiev.