1 September 2007

Arrival

I woke up on board a 747. Once I’d remembered why, I looked at my watch, and estimated we were an hour or two from landing. I took a drink of water. Soon the BA flight attendants started bringing in breakfast, and I gently prodded the spouse awake. Against all probability, I had managed to get 2 or 3 hours of pretty decent sleep onboard an airplane. Soon we landed at Heathrow Terminal 4.

As we disembarked from the plane, I started to hear raised voices. It turned out that some genius in the UK’s Department for Transport had set new airline luggage policies.

Flying in to the UK, you can carry one piece of hand luggage, and one personal item such as a laptop. However, flying out of the UK, you can only carry the one piece of hand luggage. The piece de resistance: the restrictions apply even if you’re only changing planes at Heathrow.

Hence numerous business travelers had flown in with a travel bag containing valuable or fragile items, and a laptop bag containing their laptop. They were now arguing with airport security because they couldn’t fit the laptop bag inside their other bag, and didn’t want to trust the laptop or their carry-on to the tender mercies of the baggage throwers. And I can quite understand–I often travel with a carry-on bag containing SLR and lenses.

Still, it wasn’t our problem, so we strolled past the angry people and headed to immigration. Thanks to my European passport, I could waltz into the fast line. The woman who checked my passport was wearing a Muslim jilbāb, and the situation struck me as slightly ironic.

True to the promise, our luggage got priority, and hit the carousel first. We found our way through customs, and my parents were waiting to meet us. Mother was clearly very excited. Hugs were exchanged, and we got into the Range Rover for the trip to Bournemouth.

England was much as I remembered it. The countryside is not unlike the Texas Hill Country, though of course it lacks the cactus and vultures, and the trees are different species. The buildings are the main difference–old, often dirty, and made of brick.

Bournemouth isn’t home, and I don’t think it ever will be. However, pretty much my whole family decided to up and move there after I had left for the USA, and they love it. It’s like they’ve lived their all their lives. So the place gives me a strange feeling, as though Buckinghamshire is just an implanted false memory.

It’s certainly a nice enough town. But in spite of recent changes, it’s still a bit of a sleepy seaside resort, and not the kind of place I’d want to live. And since it’s the most expensive place in the UK for property, we couldn’t afford to live there anyway.

The sea is cold. After a week or so, when the weather warmed up, there were people swimming in it; but I wasn’t going to be one of them. However, we did walk along the sand, and splash around in the surf a bit.

© mathew 2017