I don’t much care for abroad September 12, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: abroad, travel
If flying wasn’t such a loathsome experience, these non-stop trips to the island could be seen as mind-, horizon- and everything-broadening, but as it is, they just become something for me to moan about on a blog.
Though I should be grateful. Never having to leave the house apart from when I deem absolutely necessary means I am largely in control of the people I commune with. (Who those people are, I mean. Not that I have powers over them.) I meet my regular group of pals. Even the strangers I see have something of the familiar about them. Familiar local faces. Familiar neighbours. Familiar checkout ladies. I don’t have a commute. I don’t shop or hang out on the high street. I have my own queer little world, which usually has the Russian bobbing around pricklily in it, and strangers remain strange.
So trips to the island are excellent for a bit of people-watching and, reluctant as I am to admit it, having to have an airport involved makes the watching even better for the international angle.
As I drift sleepily through life, I am often only reminded that I live in Germany when a stranger addresses me. I jump out of my skin and think, “What the bugger am I doing here?” and then calm back down when the Russian pats me on the head and says, “There, there, BiB. Russian pat it better,” and explains that we moved here to escape persecution abroad. I drift back towards somnolence. And so it is as I make my way reluctantly towards England on flights from Berlin. The loathsomeness of airport security procedures – although I quite like that laptop-wiping thing they always do now. The only clean the bastard ever gets – is tempered by my imagining that I’m running off to Poland. Berlin-London is a popular route for Poles. And then I have the cultural shock of touching down at Gatwick or Luton and the carpets and the football uniforms and the great British public’s eyes wide with indignation at some perceived scandal or other and remember I’m not in Poland after all.
But, darlings, why don’t Poles play rugby? The men seem just the right shape. I queued up at passport control behind two identical Polish couples. Each woman was petite, had dyed hair that looked like an oil-slick on sand, and spoke in accusations. They bollockingly parried inquiries from other Polish women who wondered if this was the queue for Gatwick/Glasgow/Manchester. Each man was huge, the shape of a cupboard, had cropped blond hair and square shoes to match his shoulders. I would happily have snuggled up and got lost in one of their man-cleavages. When one of the man-mountains got to the front of the queue, and with the due deference of anyone who’s lived under authoritarianism, he rid his throat, adjusted his stance and straightened himself and his clothes up, thinking, mistakenly, this would make his head look less like an anvil.
England-by-Gatwick (not the name of a village or a service station on the M3) looks lovely from the air. And from the ground, indeed. That nice non-flatness that England is good at (as are other places, I hasten to add, non-jingoistically. No-one could call Nepal flat, for example) and the lovely irregular shape of the fields. Towns (i.e. Crawley) which might easily be shit-holes at ground level have their beauty from the air too. The neat (British English, not American) little houses, keeping each other warm. That helps lift the soul – as does a massively huge, rather testy-looking Indian man, sprouting hair from wherever possible, asking the eAsyjEt staff for a newspaper and, realising they didn’t have those, asking if they had anything at all in English to read and the trolley-dolly scampering dutifully off and coming back with some nonsense magazine – can’t remember its name. Damn! Is there a magazine called ‘New!’? (Note to self: buy notebook) – with stories about how someone from Girls Aloud had dissed someone from (or all of) The Spice Girls and him devouring it anyway – as you worry about the rigours of the trip ahead and how your exiled soul will cope with the motherland and will your family drive you mad and should you really have come when you have so much work to do and actually you can’t really afford all this carbon-pacing when you’re as skint as you are etc. etc.
9 million people waited their turn with the three (OK, maybe a few more) immigration officers on duty. By the time the scrum had got to a space wide enough to form queues, indignation was bubbling to the fore. Elderly English folk, in a way that any German pensioner would be proud of, hassled some queue-monitor who harried those with children into a queue of their own and then, once they’d realised their monitor-moan was fruitless, moaned to each other about all the foreigners making the queues so huge, which seemed to me an odd complaint, and even odder at an international airport…
And on into England proper. It’s always good when you’re worried you’re an alcoholic to go to England and see how ordinary people drink. The amount of booze consumed by me, my sister and brother-in-law over the course of the evening would have had me and the Russian crying, praying (before different icons) and ramming our fists into our chests for a week. But there we got slozzled, ate a ton of chocolate (the Russian and I would have had to do an extra week’s penance for that) and got up bright and breezy the next morning none the worse for wear. Another booze-heavy family occasion beckoned which must nearly have drained that wine-lake officials used to bemoan years ago, if it still exists. We asked each other the same questions we always ask each other and which we all know the answers to and drank the boredom away. Actually perfectly enjoyable until, of course, as the subject hadn’t been at the heart of every conversation on screen and off for eight seconds, someone started to talk, again, about that missing child and her potentially murderous parents.
I heard someone speaking Welsh behind me on the complimentary shuttle-bus to the airport. I was thrilled to bollocks. I’d never heard spontaneous Welsh before, even in Machynlleth and Dolgellau, so in Luton, the most soulless town in England, it was all the more exciting. I let my mind drift off towards visions of a comely lady, perhaps wearing some lace, a pointy bonnet and modest skirts. I wondered if she was called Nerys or Cerys. Or Delyth. She was probably flying to an eisteddfod in Argentina. But she kept ruining my image by saying words like ‘commander-in-chief’ and ‘all right’ in the middle of all that ll, th and ch.
Travel’s nice ‘n all. But you do it for me.