Travelling by air nowadays is in many ways similar to having a baby! The tediously long queues, the hassle of security checks and being patted down by some officious security person because the x-ray machines always beep, even after you have deposited belt, jewellery and watch and mobile phone, the lack of seats in the departure lounge because duty free shops have seemingly used up most of the available space.
Then you are home again in your own country and just like at the birth of your son or daughter, you forget about the pain of air travel... and even start to prepare to repeat the ordeal again.
Expats often grumble about the heat, humidity and the dust from umpteen building sites in the Gulf, yet is it not strange, how you miss it, when you are back in Europe, for example?
It was admittedly intriguing to see the two foxes in the late evening sitting in the road outside my seaside house, quite oblivious to humans, having made their home in the gorse-covered dunes, dating from Saxon times.
I enjoyed watching the squirrel scurrying across the road or the hedgehog trundling along in the meadow. The farmer’s combine harvester creating a convoy of twenty cars along the winding country lane. The new windmills churning out electricity as wind power returns to Lincolnshire in ultra-modern shapes. I waited for the geese to return to the boating lake every morning, swooping low over my house.
But I grew tired of the rain and the dark clouds. Only occasionally did the sun shine though. The North Sea was dark and mud-coloured. The wide, sandy beaches were deserted and felt cold under my feet. The wind was fresh, strong and obviously healthy with ozone.
However, where was the sunshine streaming through my bedroom window every morning? Where were the parakeets nattering in my date palms? Where were the morning newspapers thrown over the gate often to be splashed by the water sprinklers, despite entreaties to the newspaper boy not to do this?
Where was the non-stop excitement of Dubai, where the scenery changes every month, as skyscraper follows skyscraper? In England, buildings have remained the same for hundreds of years, and the long straight roads were built by the Romans.
We are reminded of the anguish of air travel anno 2007 on our way back to Dubai.
Our driver joins the long queue of cars dribbling into the airport, where the passengers are shepherded through corded enclosures.
The uniformed check-in lady’s smile was a hint of Dubai, but then we are met by a posse of security guards, sullen-faced and seriously inspecting us, our clothes and the frugal belongings we had brought with us to take onboard the aircraft.
We watched the prison, sorry security, guards deposit a small case of mascara and a bottle of mineral water into a rubbish bin – we are told they can be purchased again in the duty free shops. This is another of the unfathomable new airport security rules.
Once settled on the aircraft, we suddenly realise the airline was trying to cut CO2 emissions by driving to Dubai. About half an hour later, we finally reach the end of the runway, but the charter planes seem to have a higher priority and we have to wait.
Now what should we have taken with us to make the long flight easier? Nowadays there’s so much one can do on a flight, like watching the latest movie or shopping inflight or succumbing to the tempting menu, that I usually end up reading my current book most of the way back.
I also find it good advice to pack a cardigan and a pen. The air conditioning can often be quite chilly, and when I need a pen, the hostess has usually loaned hers to someone else. There is no better place to write letters – or columns – than at 30,000 feet.
As you note the aircraft is five minutes late touching down and that it has taken seven hours to reach the Gulf, remember that the old Imperial Airways Flying Boats took seven days to make the journey – and in those days, there was no airport in Dubai to fly into.
And as you sit in a traffic jam on Sheikh Zayed Road, you can also ruefully muse on the fact there were not many cars then either the good old days. Maybe. But I am happy to be back again in 2007.
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon
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