December 25th 2008
The church bells ring. The Queen will address us later. Presents wait to be unwrapped. The turkey is "in". Tradition. It is both comforting and uncomfortable in a world turned upside down.
Hopes for the future very much depend on our attitudes and actions now. We are torn between preserving the old and building the world anew.
As my travel companion and myself dined at Heathrow Terminal 1 on Christmas Eve, we were moved by such contradictions: family, so important. Airports, so important, apparently to family. The Irish returning home for mammy's cooking. The time poor heading north for their mammy's cooking. The bored/dislocated heading anywhere BUT back to mammy's spread.
As we tucked into our vegan curry (available from the Sky Bar, Weatherspoons, a good spot for people watching), we witnessed travellers gathering like swallows, preparing to return to their Christmas habitats.
This migration might have been accomodated by train and boat and bus and car and bicycle. What is needed perhaps is more imagination. Flying is just too easy. Too what we do.
Interestingly, there are any number of methods of getting to Heathrow that don't involve flying. You can catch a direct coach from Reading (and lots of other towns and cities) a fast train from Paddington, the picadilly line tube, various buses, plus interconnections from other airports and terminals. There's even a hoppa bus that rounds up from local hotels.
After lunch we toured other eateries. On the same floor as the Sky bar there is a bar rouge (bit french) caffe Italia (you get the idea) a costa coffee and an internet cafe, which is jolly useful should you need to contact people while stuck in an airport. It does happen, I'm assured.
On the ground floor there's an ATM coffee shop, a Boots and two WH Smiths. Or maybe it's one. You can walk round in circles and not notice, it's so white, uniform and repetitive. All in all, however, lots to do and places to arrange to meet your friends. Arrivals is downstairs. Departures can be approached by pavement, lift, stairs and escalator.
The check in hall is enormous. "A space fit for a banquet" as my travel companion put it. "Well we shall have one," I said. It's not long now until 12th January. Dinner here at 7.00pm prompt could be a wondrous occasion. "Peaceful," I said. "Law-abiding," he replied. "And should dinner prove so popular and we run out of food to share," I added. "we can always call up to Weatherspoons for vegan curry."
In the meantime we shall continue to embroider our table cloths with words of wisdom. It's a tradition...