Tuesday, April 05, 2005


“I’d like a return ticket, please.”
“Where to?”
“Back here of course!”

My mind might have been working along the same lines as that old joke as I walked the length of the concourse at Stansted airport – a very long, thin concourse - past the international arrivals, past the departure gates, to the domestic arrivals, to meet my daughter returning from Majorca. After all, where was she returning to? Back here of course; that’s domestic, isn’t it?

Or perhaps I’d absent-mindedly homed in on another word association. I stood gazing at the screens showing domestic arrivals, momentarily puzzled and wondering why they showed only UK flights. Oh, I see… domestic… that’s like home, as in ‘BBC Home Service’, not as in ‘homely’? Doh… She might object to the description, but I see her as more homely than international jet-setter. That may change, of course.

Or maybe my mistake reflects the shrinking world – Western Europe being identified in my mind as ‘domestic’, with international equated to inter-continental?

So, trying to look purposeful, as you do in such circumstances, I wandered back the length of the concourse, (if wandering purposefully isn't a contradiction in terms), pretending the detour was part of some hidden intent, and strolled into the coffee shop.

If ever you need cheering up, I can heartily recommend finding a comfy chair within sight of airport arrivals (international is probably preferable for this), a cup of good coffee (Stansted is particularly good on this score, as the Costa coffee outlet – far superior to Starbucks, although not as good as Café Nero – directly flanks the arrivals gate), and half an hour to watch – discretely - the smiles and hugs as family and friends greet each other. I defy anyone to come away without feeling the glow from that reflected warmth.

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