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The International Writers Magazine
: From Canada to London - Flying BA

Clive Branson

It's the journey not the destination...

Took off from Toronto to Heathrow via 747. Last back seat in front of the clatter of meal preparations and the toilet. An attractive 30-something blonde sat next to me. I’ll call her Samantha. She had squeezed into a low-cut white cotton top that revealed a deep-dish cleavage, black trousers and blazer, high heels and simple gold-ring earrings. A mobile phone strategically inserted in one ear, an ipod, notebook and the latest issue of some Madison Avenue self-enhancement, Rich & Famous-gossip woman’s magazine in her hands. My first thought was: marketing (mind you, aren’t we all). I imagined her as being efficacious: her presentation style a cross between cheerleader and drill sergeant. The type of woman who manages to get up at 4:30 daily, works out, reads several newspapers, drinks two large Columbian coffees before hitting the office to complete a 12-hour day, only to agonize that she wished she had more discipline.

She sat between myself and a gentleman who I’ll call Bob. The type of guy who is probably in strategic research. Easy going with a paunch. Someone the big guys like to have around because he gets the job done (without any glitz) , plays golf, drinks scotch and laughs at their dirty jokes. They call him solid. A real team player. I doubt Samantha plays golf – aerobics or jogging is her thing. She probably feels no compulsion to being a "team player," but realizes its advantage and plays along. Men like her because she’s sexy and only catch a few key words while imaging her horizontally.

Samantha and I began talking and rarely stopped for several hours on topics of business, current affairs, photography and relationships. I discovered what a lovely person she was. To be with her fiancé, she made arrangements to leave her London office, move to Toronto and set up her business there. I realized that I shouldn’t be so presumptuous to assume someone’s character in such an off-hand manner.

A black family sat in front of us when suddenly the mother and daughter started to scream frantically, clambering over each other to reach their father – in his mid-thirties – who was seated by the window. I could see from the reflection off his window that he was having a convulsion: vomit spewed up and dribbled down his chin and onto his shirt like discarded oatmeal porridge. His body shook violently as his eyes rolled back – then his body sagged and became limp. The British Airways crew immediately intervene, pulling, pushing and restraining the family away from their loved one. They examined and resuscitated the man back to semi-consciousness. The crew cleaned up the mess, removing his shirt and transporting him to the back of the plane behind closed curtains. A murmur spread throughout the plane. Eventually he was returned and remained in a calm constitution throughout the trip. Fly B.A. And see the sights.

As the pilot circumnavigated the Jumbo along the brown serpentine of the Thames, an air of expectation grew amongst the passengers. "There’s London Bridge," people exclaimed as we passed several hundred feet above Tower Bridge: the oldest readily identifiable building in London. It is a wonderful city to fly over. There is of course not an inch spare in the heart of the city, which makes the grass that grows in London’s parks more apparent and as precious as gold. Monuments of recognition protruded upwards like beacons of light during the blitz. The plane seemed to glide down effortlessly through whispers of clouds, only breaking the momentum when the wheels touched the black tarmac with a puff of smoke and a final thud that released those lingering moments of anxiety and the plane seems lighter from the sense of relief. Landing at Terminal 4, I now had to catch the Terminal 1 bus for my flight to Belfast. Naturally, the bus took forever to arrive - only to be driven like it was on a holiday excursion with a chatty, affable driver.

This was compounded by peculiar boarding procedure to embark on BMI to Belfast. It required everyone to rush – in no specific seating order – to a check-in clerk only to suddenly wait in agonizing queues. Then corralled down a ramp to wait a further 15 minutes and whisked along like rabid lemmings to wait onboard. Not only was the procedure inept, but half of BMI’s check-in counters were inoperative due to computer glitches.

© Clive Branson Nov 16th 2004

From Bangor to Belfast

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