A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary
11 journalers for this copy...
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Perhaps I'll try The Art of Travel by this same author, too. Thanks again, Tamsine. This book now continues its journey as a wishlist surprise.
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I promised to keep this book for sakirmo, I think she might be an "airport person" too :)
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Kirjakko wished for this in my sweepstake a while ago so off it goes. Hope you'll enjoy this at least a bit more than I did!
I'll get back with the full story when I have more time. Just here to tell the book arrived safe and sound as it didn't travel with BA. Am I bitter? Like a lemon!
I'm making more than just a mental note that this book will go to eponine38's Birthday Packet as it is on her wishlist, but I'll read it first.
The book is partly sooo boring as the writer can't describe anything in a simple and straight forward way. Perhaps he thinks that it is not what Writers do. Sorry mate, it's sometimes much better to call a spade a spade. If de Botton had written something about a spade he would probably have said: "This piece of agricultural genious is not merely a symbol of the modern era's daunting technical intelligence, it will stir unfocused images of nostalgia in passangers from Tel Aviv, Tripoli, St Petersburg, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Algiers, Grand Cayman and Nassau..."
But then, when you had began to lose hope, he would write something which woke you up. I'm afraid that Dudley Masters, the shoe-shine man, will never write his memoir working from 8.30. am to 9.00 pm. I would have liked to hear at least one of his stories.
De Botton borrowed something from Bach's Cantana 106:
"Set thy house in order, For thou shalt die, And not remain alive."
Why is that so familiar? I've recently read Helena Anhava's Toimita talosi ("Set thy house in order") which she began by telling it was an expression her father (a priest) often used. It was from the Second Book of Kings, chapter 20: 'At that time Hiskia fell ill and was dying; and Prophet Jesaja, son of Amos, came to him and said: "Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not remain alive." But Hiskia got fifteen more years.' (my translation from Finnish). Bach or Bible, who cares...
I would not recommend this book for people who have phobias about flying as de Botton says in many ways that people who are waiting for their departure could 'fall on their knees and pray to the mysterious forces of fate to which all aircrafts remain subject...' I'm happy to say that I'm not afraid of flying, but I hate all that time wasted on the airports as passangers are required there earlier and earlier, it seems. Well, the Helsinki Airport is an exception, as we nowadays have the Book Swap Lounge where time practically flies when you check what's on offer, leave books there and write down the BCID-numbers of the one's you've merely sighted.
There is one thing I totally agree with the writer. He says that most of us would benefit with a near-fatal disaster to help us to recognize the important things in life. I've said for years that every now and then one should think that she has an illness with poor prognosis. Gosh how each morning looks beautiful, how you start putting things into perspective and how much you achieve by doing things instead of postponing them. You go and meet your friends and relatives and have meaningful conversations. You set thy house in order...
Can't remember the year, perhaps 6-8 years ago. I had just had a wonderful day on a small riverboat on the Thames, got to steer the boat myself and manouver the locks (my first locks ever). I was picked up from Eggham or nearby there and taken directly to Heathrow as our river cruise had taken longer than we thought. Just as we were driving into the parking lot the weather changed completely and it was thundering. I rushed in with my suitcase to avoid getting wet. For some reason my suitcase was not checked in, but I was let passed security check. I was sending SMS' telling everybody about my wonderful day. Little did I know...
Time went by and the row of 'delayed' flights grew on the board. We didn't see outside, but surely a thunderstorm does not last this long? I was flying with BA as it had been a few euros cheaper than Finnair. My face grew longer when I noticed that after a few hours' delay Finnair's flights were boarding and off they went. BA was being delayed and then started to cancel the earlier flights. All of a sudden my flight just dissapeared from the board. I waited for some time for it to reappear as the voice in the loudspeaker just told us to keep an eye on the board. Finally I went to ask from the Help desk. Along with a myriad of other people. I said I would have watched the board but my flight had completely dissappeard. "That's not possible", the help-lady told me. "See for yourself" I said and she was puzzled. She made some calls and said the flight had been cancelled. First flights to Finland tomorrow. "What now?" I asked. She told me to go to a desk to re-book and get a hotel. The queue was about 200 meters by then. It got shorter really slowly and when there were about 20 meters left the desk closed. Just like that. Yes, it was late in the evening, but what were we to do? I had used almost all my cell-phone batteries sending SMS' and I didn't have a charger. I phoned my friends, the same with whom I had been boating earlier on. The husband promised to fetch me and we set a meeting point. He'd be there in 30 mins.
Then started the worst part. Heathrow is designed so that people who go through the security check fly out to the sky. They not try to return. They aren't allowed to return. The personel does not know what to do with people who not leave through the gates. There are no SOPs for a crises like a thunder storm. I was told to go God knows where, but it was far from where I was. I had an old-fashined leather suitcase with no wheels. I dragged my suitcase there and was told to go back where I came from. I went back and was told I can't get out from there. I was given a wave to the general direction of 'there' which was where I had already been. I thought I might have missed some escape there and walked back once again, dragging my suitcase. Nope, the only place I could even try getting out was the place which had turned me back once. Time was running out and my phone was about to die and how would I then let my friend know I was been held up? I stopped a lady walking by with the airport badge on her neck. I asked where to go. She said she did not know. I had a fit: "What sort of a Mickey Mouse airport is this? A little thunder and you cancel all your flights when all other airlines go ahead after a delay. Nobody knows how people get out of here, yet there are hundreds of us trying to get out due to cancellations. This can't be SO difficult. What if you had a bomb alert, you have to have a plan B in case things go wrong!?" I was so mad at her and at the whole stupid situation and most of all I was afraid I would not make it to meet my friend in time. Where would I then go? The lady dissappeared and I was left there angry as a bee. A man rose up - a passanger waiting for his flight - and kindly asked what the trouble was. His wife tried to hiss to him "Don't get involved, it's none of our business", but luckily he did. Faced with somebody nice and helpful for a change I burst into tears and whined that I can't find my way out of this bloody airport and nobody who works here seem to know or care and that I'm soon gonna miss my knight in shining armour as my phone will die any minute. He said: "Hold on", stopped a male walking by with the airport badge on him and said very firmly: "This lady is very angry and upset. Please escort her out of here. NOW." And to my surprise and relief he obeyed and lead me out of there and I found my friend. I could see they had had other plans for the night, but kindly took me in and made the re-booking arrangements for me in the morning. A week later I got a newspaper cutting from them. It read: "Riots at Heathrow - 147 angry passangers arrested!" Apparently I wasn't the only one not getting help and finally the police came and emptied the airport and those people were taken to a jail for the night.
I've once flown with SAS when our flight was late and we missed the connecting flight in Stockholm. It was clear as a whistle for them - very good information, a bus waiting to take us to a hotel, everything went very smoothly.
As I said I avoided Heathrow for many years, but last year I was there in January. To their great surprise, they had snow in London. BA started to cancel its flights already early in the afternoon, but Finnair was merely delayd said my friend who was checking up things for me (the same who had previosly rescued me, but they now lived in Berkshire). So I left for the airport with suspicion building up. Again there were loads of people waiting and some Brits were telling that the airport does not have proper snow tractors to keep the two runways clean as earlier on they haven't often had snowy days. Now with the climate changing they have started to have snow more often and have realized they should be have more than just a shovel and two runways. Indeed! But I was so happy flying with Finnair whose pilots have seen snow before, so up we went when all BA flights were again cancelled. I'll NEVER fly with BA again.
I think if I do make it to the convention I will look for a Gatwick flight :-). I think Icelandair has both.
I've always been fascinated with airports; in my younger years I used to go to Logan here in Boston just as a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. No one I knew was leaving or arriving; I just liked watching the hustle and bustle. Back then, the pre-terrorism days, one floor in the control tower was an observation deck, and I had a special radio that picked up the tower/pilot transmissions. I could watch the planes and hear the conversations. Perhaps my fascination with all this stems from the fact that I'm a terrified flyer. I love everything about planes except being inside of one! (And I did see a couple frightening runway situations in a single afternoon on the observation deck - that didn't help with the fear of flying thing!)
Kirjakko's awful experience was in the back of my mind as I read; so I did, indeed, book my upcoming flight into Gatwick. :-)
This is the first thing I've read by Mr. de Botton, and I absolutely adore his writing style!
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Released for Oh, the Places We Can Go release challenge hosted by Secretariat.
Released for 4 Elements Challenge hosted by Yours Truly, for the embedded "air"
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The book was my choice for the May 2015 Ultimate Challenge. Theme: travel. It was a quick read but unfortunately, not satisfying enough.
Now it's going to Ronsar in Germany by mail! Enjoy! :)
"Like thriller writers, the security staff were paid to imagine life as a little more eventful than it customarily manages to be".
I understand that each one of us would have written this book differently, if we had had the good luck to have been commissioned such a task. For the time being I would like to keep it a little longer in my bookshelf, and maybe write a piece about it on the internet.
Thanks once again tizzalicious for sending it to me.
I am rather curious to read it because of the different reviews.
The way Alain de Botton writes about everyday situations in this book is fascinating. His words generate a clear picture of the situations in my head. So this book really came to life in my mind.
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