A Journey Home

Often the target is bed, or lunchtime. Bed, if I arrive home late from Heathrow and don’t even bother to do anything downstairs, but simply keep walking, through the door and straight up the stairs in front of me.  From flight to flight.  From landing to landing.

Or lunchtime, if it’s been an early start, probably from somewhere in Europe, and the management want to get us back in Britain before 12, so not to pay an extra half-day’s fee.

Or there are the long-haul flights, where the determining factor is the departure time. That way, an 11am departure from Shanghai, the 12-hour journey minus the 7-hour gain, flying with the sun, will have us landing shattered and dishevelled at 4 in the afternoon. Shattered, dishevelled, dazed and confused, light-headed, heavy-lidded; it’s a resilient long-hauler who lands in London with none of these conditions.

Heathrow is my London airport of choice, when asked where I’d like to fly from, and fortunately it’s the airport most often chosen by orchestras.  By everyone, in fact. Gatwick is obviously the second busiest airport in Britain, and it handles 30 million less passengers than Heathrow each year.  Charles De Gaulle airport is the 2nd busiest in Europe; still 10 million fewer than Heathrow.  Heathrow is an awesome place, and I hate that word.

But my thought of a journey home is often this: that at some point, wherever in the world I’m flying from, I was at one point static. I started from still. I was in a single place, usually bed, but sometimes a bar, but stationary, then slowly, then with increasing speed I started moving towards home.

As if I was a dot on a screen, with my home a dot 10,000 miles away, my dot imperceptibly came to life, and millimetered its way towards the other dot. My dot got out of bed, or left its seat in a pub or restaurant, and edged towards a bus or taxi, which then moved slowly to an airport, and soon after that the speed greatly increased as the dot took flight and started its faster path across the screen.

Also, when the screen dot starts moving, there’s the low, cartoon whirring sound of something starting up, perhaps the first turn of the handle of a wind-machine, or a slow string glisssando, winding up from a single static scrunch; the world starts to turn.

A good example recently: I was sitting at a table with tutor colleagues in a remote Italian restaurant in a tower-block estate on the outskirts of Warsaw. Sitting at the table with my after-work beer, this was my static moment.  All very comfortable. The taxi arrived outside, and getting up from the table, the dot started to move…

And after any journey home, when I finally reach the front door, or my own bed, whatever my final stop is, the initial static, unmoving dot seems a long, long way away.

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