Returning to the old world

For a change, the flight from Singapore was uncomfortably hot, rather than uncomfortably cold, for the first three hours. Then it switched back to freezing cold for the remainder of the flight. Blessed are we that travel with zip-off trousers. When it’s too hot to wear both trousers and knee-length compression socks, you just remove the lower halves of your trousers. When it gets too cold, you just find you can’t locate the bottom parts of your trousers, and spend the rest of the journey quivering under a too-thin blanket.

I slept, fitfully. There seemed to be a lot of turbulence whenever I was awake, and I didn’t calm myself down by reminding myself of the time a BA flight from Asia crashlanded at Heathrow a few yards short of the runway. That can’t have been fun for anyone involved, although I did laugh when I read a man’s complaint, that tea hadn’t been provided for the passengers afterwards. It sums up all sorts of things about Britain, from a focus on hot beverages, to a lack of customer service, to a collision between perspectives: you’ve been transported thousands of miles in a few hours, you haven’t died, and you are still narked off that there isn’t a cuppa and a digestive biscuit waiting for you.

Still, that feels more amusing when you’re not in the air, aboard a BA jet yourself.

I travelled light this week, not bringing half my body weight in photographic equipment, and that meant I had enough space in my backpack to fit a change of clothes. Off the plane, into a surprisingly pleasant bathroom, and I felt much fresher than I would have done in a shirt that I’d worn for 28 hours. I still look somewhat bedraggled (there’s not much that can be done to fix your hair after you’ve worn noise-cancelling headphones for 13 hours) but I don’t feel abominable.

Technology has been upgraded since last I came through, and now it’s possible for a facial recognition scanner to compare me to my passport and then allow me into the country. I was impressed; it makes having to submit a thumbprint at Hong Kong or Singapore feel quite old-fashioned.

Not many flights arrive at 5:30 in the morning, so there was no crowd at the baggage reclaim, my suitcase was already trundling around the carousel, and I was on a train, breakfast in my hand, before I’d even woken up properly. I’d been worrying about how I would handle London after growing used to Singapore’s ultraconvenience, but the first hour was devoid of difficulty. I suppose my expectations had been successfully depressed from my last transit through Heathrow, back in October. When you have to contend with buses and massive queues and not being quite sure how you’re going to link up your flights between Edinburgh and Singapore, Heathrow is a bit less enjoyable.

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