Susan Morrison: For purgatory, read ‘delayed’

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Gatwick airport is designed for people who actually aren’t going anywhere. They are selling ways to fritter away the time while the word “Delayed” flashes beside your flight number.

There are endless retail opportunities, places to eat, drink and be bored, but at least you can see the planes taking off and landing – a plus in my book.

I’m a child of the 70s, when Boeing ruled the skies and sight of the Pan Am roundel on the tail of the solitary 707 at Prestwick was the ultimate in mile high style.

Why, the day the new 747 came in Ayr went into a collective fit. The future had arrived. Nancy’s Fashions changed its name that very morning to Fifth Avenue Boutique on the full understanding that planeloads of uptown girls would be winging west to gorge on high street haute couture.

But back then, curiously, the airport shielded its passengers from the sight of the planes. There was an observation platform, but you had to look for it, and in Prestwick it was always shut. The departure lounges, in those far-off days, were windowless rooms with ashtrays thoughtfully provided for the nervous, and the assumption was all passengers were.

Back to the future, and it’s a surreal experience to look up from a plate of the same plastic food that you can buy on any Scottish high street and watch an Airbus A380 manoeuvre towards your table.

You can watch the staff, forever trapped in the fake daylight of Terminal Two, like the girls who work on the make-up counters. You can tell, because they wear all of it.

They were flogging some magic potion to reverse the effect of sun damage, which I thought a bit rich from young lady who had clearly seen less sun than Julian Assange in the last six months.

Or, of course, you can simply sit there and stare endlessly at the board with the word “Dublin” on it and hope that the word “Delayed” will disappear.

Style grounded

Y’KNOW, airline pilots used to be the epitome of cool. They wore cool uniforms, had cool watches and smoked cool fags. They had cool hats.

Well, things have changed. Quality build in aircraft might have improved, but they cut costs by having the uniforms thrown together using polyester that’s been in a Bradford warehouse since the CostCheap Supermarket cancelled its order for staff overalls.

Pilots walk in pairs – static sticks them together.

No good deed unpunished

Things not to do at Gatwick Airport while waiting for delayed flight.

If, as the seat rows are being called, your pal suddenly spots a very expensive Jo Malone gift bag sitting abandoned on the floor opposite, it is not a good idea to spring into ‘helpful mode’.

It’s a side effect of being Scottish, I suspect, with our endless desire to be of use, and, in my case, combined with the after-effects of years of being in the Girl Guides.

Upon the package being drawn to my attention, and at the same time as the announcement warning of the dangers of unattended luggage was booming through the lounge, I leapt forward and lifted the gift bag up. It was heavy. I guessed scented candles and body lotion. A pricey Valentine’s Gift, perhaps?

Things not to do in Gatwick. Advance towards a sizeable queue with a package hoisted aloft, shouting ‘Someone just left this on the ground? Someone just walked away and left this unattended?’

As one, the entire queue took two steps back and left me standing alone, suddenly aware of the possibility that the war on terror might just have become scented.

Aer Lingus ground crew are made of stronger stuff. One young lady stepped smartly forward, took the bag and said: “Lime, basil and mandarin, unless I am much mistaken.” Sherlock Holmes, eat your heart out.

She swept the bag away, checked and reunited it with the owner in one graceful, quiet movement.

I swear I could still feel a laser dot on my forehead.

‘Will you take a drink? Ah, go on . .’

THE flight back from Dublin, through the worst weather Éire has seen for 250 years, could be easily described as a roller coaster, if the roller coaster in question was 25,000 feet high and the possible flume at the bottom was the Irish Sea.

The cabin took a bit of bumpy action, which did not stop the cabin crew cheerfully hauling out the trolley down the aisle like airborne Mrs Doyles from Father Ted.

As the cheery lass said to me: “It takes more than this to stop Aer Lingus selling drink.

“Now, you look a lady that likes a chardonnay.” She’s right. On both counts.