Something for nothing


Everybody wants something for nothing. At the airport today, buying gin in the duty free shop, I let slip that I work for a travel company and the man serving me immediately asked how he could get a better deal on flights to Australia. I asked him if he could do me a discount on the bottle of gin I was buying, but he said he couldn’t, it wasn’t his company. At that point I should have explained to him that I didn’t own the company I worked for either, but I think we would all have lost something in that cloud of mutual exasperation.

Last night I drank far more than I should have, and perhaps as a result I was afflicted with melancholy today. I went out for a run around the streets I’d grown up on, past the hospital I was born in (now a retirement home – that’s a proper cradle-to-grave set up), into the goose-shit strewn park, back out past an iron sculpture that from one angle resembles a cat but from another a very large rat, into the recreation ground, past a car dealership where we had nocturnal spitting contests, and back to my parents’ house.

Not even a sentence as long as that would lift my spirits, so I went back to bed until the contemptuous looks my parents’ cat gave me were too much. I got up, packed as much as I could into my case, then, still gloom-filled, ate croissants and stroked the cat. She is a redoubtable feline now, dark and heavy, and no longer wary. As she deems it necessary, she’ll latch onto your arm with both forepaws and try to eat your hand. It’s a relationship with little ambiguity, and I respect her for that.

Today ebbed away slowly. With a 7pm flight, I could have spent the day socialising with friends from London, but the sad fact is that most of my friends from London are no longer in London, and a quick trip to Bristol/Edinburgh/New York isn’t going to be compatible with catching my flight back to Singapore. Thus I felt a little sad on the way back to Heathrow, worried that I could have had more human contact, that I could have done something more meaningful this week. A week, standing as a depiction in miniature of a person’s life: existential worries on North End Road, followed by despair at junction 14 of the M25.

But then there’s gin. A whole litre of Hendricks, which I chose in preference of the newly concoted Bombay Sapphire East. That gin is (apparently) Bombay Sapphire, but with black peppercorns and lemongrass added to it. Well, I have a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and a load of black peppercorns at my apartment, so I wasn’t paying for something I already have. Fiscal probity and a drink problem, rolled into one.

So: an hour and change until my flight takes me away from all this. Constant travelling lets you escape all thought of where you’ve been, what your history is, except for when you’re actually travelling, sat in those departure halls staring at small Chinese men dressed as American ranch-hands, sat on planes staring at individual servings of inedible food, sat in the back of taxis staring at the back of the driver’s head, stood in a duty free shop trying to explain package net pricing to a man who only wants a bit of money off his ticket. And all I wanted was a little distraction.


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