The group (15-strong) will be staying at the new Yotel capsule hotel near the back of Terminal 4. It's an ideal place to look at big planes from Canada, Brazil, Pakistan, Korea. For a few hours, their wingtips are only a few metres apart, before each set begins another journey into the stratospheric winds. We'll study the choreographed dance of the disembarkation process: the way trucks slip to the underbelly of the plane, black fuel hoses are fastened to the wings, a gangway bends its rectangular rubber lips over the fuselage and the doors of the holds are opened to withdraw battered aluminium cargo crates, perhaps containing fruit that only a few days ago hung from the branches of tropical trees or vegetables that had their roots in the soil of high silent valleys. We'll watch passengers disembark for whom an ordinary English day will have a supernatural tinge, passengers who will be especially sensitive to the nuances of the nation's identity expressed in such details as light fixtures, smells and the colour scheme of the BAA carpets.
The Joys of Planespotting
The holiday I'm most interested in is a two-day trip I'm leading to Heathrow in November. It's almost routine now to describe Heathrow as hideous and to indulge in competitive accounts of just how brutally one has been separated from one's luggage there. In the current climate, to say that one enjoys going to the airport, perhaps enjoys it far more than one's ultimate destination, is to risk accusations of insanity. And yet throughout my life whenever I have felt miserable or listless, I've derived vital solace from driving out to Heathrow and wandering the terminals or sitting in the observation room at the Renaissance Hotel, taking in the ceaseless landings and take-offs. The arrival and departure halls are areas of particular resonance: you can sit in Costa Coffee on the upper floor of Terminal 2 and see all of life before you, the prospect of flight somehow releasing inhibitions. There's even beauty in the overhead displays announcing flights to exotic destinations: Rio, Tokyo, Mumbai - places which won't be without all the troubles we know from our own lives, but on to which we can - for a time, at least - project our fantasies of happiness. Looking at a departure screen, with 50 minutes to go before an A380, Airbus's new Behemoth, takes off for Singapore, one gets a sense of how easily one's settled life could change if, impulsively, one joined a plane flying to where one knew no one and had no history.
Popular Standpoint topics