Saturday 28 August 2004
Last night at Schiphol…
[written yesterday at the airport]
There’s something about being in airports, even the more cosmopolitan variants such as Schiphol, that makes you feel like you are suddenly a character in Rocko’s Modern Life. As I fought my way through the aisles of the shop in the departures lounge, surveying the endless rows of over-priced tat in a half-hearted and ultimately futile attempt to find a small gift for H (cow-shaped photo frame, anyone?), a clearly over-enthusiastic floor-sweeper operator patrolled across the store in an excessively frenetic and slightly crazed manner, literally sweeping all (including magazines, postcards, stray luggage and unattended children) before him. Meanwhile, a grotesquely overweight American, complete with shockingly pink navel glaring out through an opening in an over-stretched mid blue nylon shirt, ambles vacantly with an air of the lost (in every sense of the word). On the travelator, a tattooed Dutchman speaks rapidly to a girlfriend via his mobile phone whilst walking at full speed against the direction of the belt – perhaps some bizarre form of exercise for exhibitionists.
At gate D8, waiting for the flight to LGW, all one can hear is the monotonous, rapidly-repeated refrain of "Mind your step", delivered in a delicately accented female voice to travellers reaching the end of the moving walkway. A group of teenagers run for the end of the walkway, hoping to reach some sort of terminal velocity at the point where the walkway folds back under itself and they are catapulted onto the shiny tiled airport floor.
"Mr O’Toole, please report to airport information. Mr O’Toole, please report to airport information." Isn’t that one of those coded announcements, informing staff of a suspect package?
Evening sun is glowing across the aircraft on the apron as incredibly dark clouds loom over distant Amsterdam city centre. It’s been an incredibly foul day, with torrential rain, lots of standing water and slow-moving traffic on the A4. The sky promises a rough flight home. I ponder whether to go and get a copy of Wallpaper* Navigator, the new travel sub-brand of my favourite magazine that I’ve only just noticed (I tend not to browse magazine shelves at home, as the special subscriber edition of Wallpaper* is delivered to my home each month), but I feel that €10.99 is rather a lot for a magazine that costs £3.99 at home.
This has been a useful trip, with considerable amounts of knowledge gained, a few new contacts made and several old contacts refreshed. But I forget just how exhausting trade shows are to attend – an eight hour day yesterday of trudging the aisles, constant talking and vain attempts to absorb all of the information that is being presented to me; today, a 10am meeting (at least a civil hour at which to begin the day) followed by another four hours of aisle trudging, etc.
At the back of my mind are thoughts about our impending house-hunting and move. My travels here have been punctuated by several phone calls (including a very long one from the Gatwick departure lounge) to mortgage people, estate agents and Hels, all on that theme. Somehow, in spite of all the distractions around us, this weekend we must focus our attention on finding the right home in which to begin our married life – possibly the biggest decision we will make during our thirties (aside from the actual decision to marry, of course!). We have three candidate properties to view – two in need of significant refurbishment and one that has been recently refurbished but is in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere option is the most appealing to us both at the moment – the property details are encouraging, the pictures of the property are encouraging, the location is encouraging and the price is encouraging. We have two properties sold. We have mortgage agreed. The pieces may, finally, be fitting together. But celebrations will be withheld until we have the keys in our hands.
Do Japanese tourists really shout a lot and take photographs of everything, or is it a popular myth? There is a group here that is doing nothing to dispel the untruth, if that is what it is. Oh oh, I’m getting grumpy.
Oh my god. There are dozens of them! Enough to half-fill the aircraft. Gah. AND I’ve run out of Maynards’ Wine Pastilles. This flight could last a lot longer than the scheduled hour. And nothing to read besides an EC Directive, as I arrived sufficiently early to demolish the entire Indy already.
And I’m sure I passed H’s local vicar by the tat shop.