Category Archives: airports

Unfit to fly

Dalrymple writes: 'I know of no other country in which such a warning notice at an airport is necessary. It is not unusual in British airports, especially provincial ones, to see rowdy men drinking pint after pint of beer at seven in the morning. There are said to be bars in Europe that display “No English” notices. One can’t blame them. Returning home after their drunken routs abroad, they (and foreigners) are greeted with notices at immigration that abuse of or assaults on immigration officers are taken extremely seriously. Taxis from English provincial airports inform passengers that they will be charged a fee for cleaning up any vomit they leave behind. Welcome to England.'

Dalrymple writes: ‘I know of no other country in which such a warning notice at an airport is necessary. It is not unusual in British airports, especially provincial ones, to see rowdy men drinking pint after pint of beer at seven in the morning. There are said to be bars in Europe that display “No English” notices. One can’t blame them. Returning home after their drunken routs abroad, they (and foreigners) are greeted with notices at immigration that abuse of or assaults on immigration officers are taken extremely seriously. Taxis from English provincial airports inform passengers that they will be charged a fee for cleaning up any vomit they leave behind. Welcome to England.’

Flughafen Gatwick: Gott helfe mir!

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A man’s got to eat

Hier esse ich, ich kann nicht anders

Dalrymple passes through Gatwick Airport, which, he explains,

is just south of London, and is the place from which the enormously fat people of that area start out on their summer holidays.

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Early-morning repast

Different rock music

comes at you from every angle, jangling your nerves. If we must have inescapable sound, I should much prefer it to be the speeches of Kim Il-sung because they are easier to screen out of one’s ears. Announcements of special offers for fragrances exclusive to Gatwick compete with requests that passenger X go to gate 539 to join his flight to some fishing-village-on-the-Mediterranean–turned–giant-nightclub-and-drug-distribution-centre.

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Preferable to rock-music drivel

The only silent people are

the behemoths of South London grazing on their early-morning hamburgers. If Luther were alive today and a South Londoner, he would pin not ‘Here I stand, I can do no other’ to the doors of the Wittenberg Schlosskirche but ‘Here I eat, I can do no other.’

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In the CDG bookstore

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Enjoy your flight

Browsing in a bookshop at Charles De Gaulle, Dalrymple finds that there is a very extensive section devoted to Islamic terrorism, which, he notes,

has taken over from the Occupation as the favoured theme of non-fiction in France.

Dalrymple is

a good customer for such books, even if I can never quite remember the names of the individual terrorists or of the various terrorist groupuscules that they have joined.

Something to read on the plane

Something to read on the plane

Publishers

can’t go too far wrong, it seems, with books about Hitler or the Occupation, and these days with books about Islamic terrorism.

The fact that terrorism

ought not to be a suitable subject for reading matter in an airport or a passenger aëroplane suggests, however, that in our hearts most of us believe that we are statistically not very likely to be victims of it, and that Islamic terrorism is a vile and stupid nuisance rather than the existential threat to our civilisation as some have claimed it to be. The main danger is from our reaction to it, enfeebled or destructive of our civil liberties (or both) as the case might be.

Vestimentary horseplay at Istanbul Atatürk Airport

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 23.37.44In Constantinople, writes Dalrymple, many of the women are in Mahometan dress,

including in the horrible, shapeless gabardine sack which seems recently to have been devised to preserve their modesty.

At Istanbul Atatürk Airport, still named after Mustafa Kemal (for now, he notes), he watches this scene unfold at the immigration desk:

A Saudi couple approached it, he in canary-yellow Lacoste T-shirt (to which his physique was unsuited), jeans and Adidas trainers in which he never had, and never would, run; she in full crow-black niqab, with a slit for her eyes. When she reached the immigration officer, he asked her to lift her veil. She was reluctant to do so, and he signalled to her again. She lifted it so fleetingly, with an upward flick, that he could see little, certainly not whether her face corresponded to that in her passport. He made it clear that she had to lift her veil for longer. She refused and he, exasperated, pointed to a desk at which there was a female immigration officer. The same scene was re-enacted there, but eventually, realising that unless she complied she would not be allowed through, she lifted the veil long enough for the officer to be satisfied.

Darymple’s gorge rises and he asks:

  • What imaginary threat was obviated by this vestimentary rigmarole?
  • What were the woman’s feelings during this episode? Fear was on her face when I saw it, but fear of what? The wrath of God or of her husband? That anyone catching a glimpse of her would assault her sexually? Or was it the fear of a creature of the night when exposed to daylight?
  • If it were so necessary to preserve her from the impure or polluting gaze of strangers, why travel?

The charm of cheap hotels

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 08.00.16The place to be

Between a meat warehouse and a furniture depository

Dalrymple writes that he much prefers

a standardised hotel (the same from China to Peru), with mass-produced pictures of puppies or poppies and showers the size, and often the shape, of a coffin.

He is attracted by the

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 08.08.11anonymity, the fact that there is no social rôle to play, that one is left entirely alone, that there are no demands on one, that — provided one turns one’s telephone off — one is cut off from the world.

Some time ago, mistaking the date of his flight by two days, Dalrymple

had to stay in such a hotel for three nights, and I have rarely enjoyed a stay anywhere so much.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 08.11.10More recently, he stayed at a cheap hotel near Marseilles airport.

It was situated in between a furniture depository and a frozen meat warehouse. From my balcony, I could observe the traffic passing on a flyover, and listen to its roar. The air outside was polluted, a grey-purple haze hung in the sky over the earth as far as the eye could see, it smelled awful, and no pedestrian ventured along any of the roads leading to the warehouses and distribution centres of the area. How ugly our modern civilisation is, the price to pay (I suppose) for its abundance. And yet I love staying in such hotels in such areas.

The airport hotel: realm of Pure Being

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 07.52.51The monasteries of our time

Dalrymple points to

the dialectic between the frightening disorder of pullulation and the antiseptic order of the airport hotel.

After a date mix-up at the home airport and then the cancellation of a connecting flight at the transit airport, he puts up in airport hotels. He writes:

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There is nothing to be done in that place

I loved my three nights in these utterly impersonal surroundings. What happy hours I spent stretched out on my bed reading detective novels! (I had taken the  precaution of bringing several old-fashioned green and white-covered Penguins.) I had no computer with me and switched off my mobile phone. I was almost as incommunicado as it is possible to be in the modern world: and this in the middle of an airport through which scores of millions of people pass annually!

Spiritual retreats

Dalrymple’s enjoyment is related to

Pure being: Fairmont Vancouver airport hotel

Pure Being: airport hotel, Vancouver

the anonymity of the place, and a release from the need to be somebody or play a part. There was no social pressure whatsoever; there was no need to pretend or to try to please. Airport hotels are the realm of Pure Being. They are places of spiritual refreshment or retreat. They are the monasteries of our time. Guaranteed nothing to do, no one to meet, perfect calm, food bland enough to reduce eating to a physiological function.

Idiot’s lantern

The one thing you must not do, of course, is

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Impure Being: Las Vegas

turn on the television that is kept in the modern equivalent of the commode, the television cabinet. How easily the heavenly peace of the room can be turned into one of the circles of hell: at the flick of a switch.

To put the guest-monks out of the way of temptation,

perhaps the television could be removed for the duration of their stay; though more advanced souls could have them in their rooms, much as the Mahatma slept with young girls to test his chastity.

 

Airport bookstore drivel

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 18.46.04Dalrymple browses in an airport bookshop while awaiting his flight. Large numbers of the books are on the subject of how to be happy or how to be wealthy or both.

Clarity as a pre-existing condition

Dalrymple picks up one of the volumes and opens it at random. His eyes fall on the following (on page 83):

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Typical popular psychologising or philosophising: exhibit A

Clarity is what a person’s psychology is always endeavouring to return to. Innate clarity and resilience are always shining a beacon even when a person seems hopelessly lost. You see, clarity isn’t an achievement, it’s a pre-existing condition. It’s not something that you need to practise or work on, it’s an expression of who you really are.

Please note that many insurance policies will not cover expenses associated with pre-existing conditions such as epilepsy, hypothyroidism, systemic lupus erythematosis, ulcerative colitis, clarity, etc.

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Typical popular philosophising or psychologising: exhibit B

Dalrymple’s comment (from 39:20):

I hope that this is clear and that you will find it useful, or at least, that part of you that is the real you.

Try to understand this one thing: things are happening. Or they are not happening. We must accept this

Dalrymple turns to a second book, also opening it at random. He finds the following (on page 46):

Acceptance means understanding that things are, or are not, happening. Mindfulness involves accepting what’s happened and what’s happening right now. It involves feeling what you feel without trying to resist or control those feelings or whatever it is that is happening.

Rodin, La Porte de l'Enfer. Commissioned 1880. Kunsthaus Zürich

Rodin, La Porte de l’Enfer. Kunsthaus Zürich

Dalrymple says:

I try to imagine what it is like to find this kind of drivel illuminating.

He fails. One of his ideas of hell, Dalrymple says, is to have to

wade through hundreds of pages of this stuff.

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The mind, too, is mindful

The mind, too, is mindful

Broadcast drivel has the same intonation in all languages

Airport telescreens

Dalrymple watches the weather forecast for Buenos Aires, Rawalpindi, and Brisbane, and other places.

I made (involuntarily) a mental note that it was frightfully cold in Montreal, minus 17 degrees Celsius, whereas in Los Angeles it was 23 degrees Celsius.

The sound, writes Dalrymple, 'is turned on loud enough to be hard to ignore, but too soft to be intelligible. Tthe volume must have been carefully calculated by someone with this in mind). Oddly enough, the intonation always suffices to tell you that what is said is drivel, in the same way that a dog can understand what you say by the tone of your voice'

Compulsory television: the sound of airport TVs, writes Dalrymple, ‘is turned on loud enough to be hard to ignore, but too soft to be intelligible. The volume must have been carefully calculated by someone with this in mind. The intonation always suffices to tell you that what is said is drivel, in the same way that a dog can understand what you say by the tone of your voice’

 

Heathrow, fitting gateway to third-world Britain

Cardinal Kasper believes the UK is marked by 'a new and aggressive atheism', and has commented that 'when you land at Heathrow you think you have landed in a Third World country'. He has also pointed out that when when you wear a cross on the national carrier, British Airways, 'you are discriminated against'.

Cardinal Kasper believes the UK is marked by ‘a new and aggressive atheism’, and has commented that ‘when you land at Heathrow you think you have landed in a Third World country’. He has also pointed out that when when you wear a cross on the national carrier, British Airways, ‘you are discriminated against’.

Dalrymple agrees with Cardinal Kasper that arriving at Europe’s worst airport, Heathrow, is like arriving in a third-world country.

Heathrow’s

disorganisation, its atmosphere of being on the verge of chaos or collapse to be brought about by one more passenger, its overcrowdedness, its physical messiness, brings to mind the urbanisation of the third world. Has anyone heard of people choosing to fly through Heathrow when an alternative presented itself, just because they liked the experience of Terminal Three? The idea is absurd; the question answers itself.