Tuesday, March 18, 2008

In Viaggio

For the first three days back in England, my nose is blue, and I have toes to match. I crank up the central heating to tropical, and wear all the clothes I possess, on top of each other, eventually adjusting to seven degrees of permafrost. On the London Underground, I’m shocked by the crowds, and the enforced proximity. Six weeks of languishing, toute seule, in the back of a chauffeur-driven people-carrier, have evidently taken their toll on my democratic spirit. Looking about me at my fellow-passengers, a pasty-face among pasty-faces again, I note that drab is the new black. The whole ditchwater spectrum seems very in. Amazingly, my own wardrobe starts with charcoal and gets progressively less bold, but this is to do with history rather than fashion, it has to be said. I’m accidentally à la mode.
Now we have to do it all in reverse, to the disgruntlement of our personal thermostats and body-clocks. I’m very much looking forward to sari-dazzle, when I get back.
When you travel, you have only to walk through the doors, into the airport lounge, to be in an alien world. Roland needs just the faintest whiff of aviation fuel, before he starts using expressions like “airside” and (worse) “deplane” - since when was that a word? Do they say “enplane” for climbing aboard, then? I will “get off the plane” in an anglo-saxon manner, I will even “disembarkà la française, but I draw the line at “deplaning.” I feel, in my etymological soul, that it comes from the same dictionary as “diarize,” so I abjure it. Anyway, the tubery/pipery of corridor they attach, these days, to the door of the aircraft itself, means that I am never sure where the plane ends, and the airport begins. What happened to stairs? How does the Pope kiss the ground, if he’s half way through passport control before he clocks that he’s somewhere else?
We have two suitcases, one large, one small. This is an excellent arrangement, when we come to divvy up the luggage for schlepping round the airport, because I get the Barbie one. I can’t pick up the bigger one, even when it’s empty. The lady at check-in, less impressed, states flatly, “Too heavy!” I’m instantly offended because I think she means me, then I realise she’s looking at our case on the scales. We have no alternative, but to unpack and repack it, right there in front of everybody. They’re all bored of queuing, what else do they have to do, but gawp at our disembowelled baggage? Why is it, however discreetly you tuck away your socks and knickers, in hidden corners, under piles of more socially acceptable outerwear, they always spring out first, as soon as you crack open the case? If it happens to you, next time I’m in the airport, I’m definitely looking away, I promise.
We land, no fanfares, no floor-kissing, for a two-day stay, in Brussels.
Within half an hour of arriving here, at the Crowne Plaza, I use all the towels and the whole collection of tubes and sachets of bath-time gunk. I try out the shoe-shine kit, claim the only spare pillow, and eat my one of the two complimentary Speculoos biscuits. I’m just lolling about on the bed, in the sumptuously fluffy hotel dressing-gown, flicking through tv channels in half a dozen languages, when I spy the minibar. It’s not even locked. I know what a Twix looks like, so I don’t pick that up. Ditto the Coke, the Toblerone, and the Bacardi. What I don’t recognise, is the tin on the bottom shelf, inside the door, so I do pick that up, and discover it’s an Intimacy Kit. Why would you keep condoms in the fridge? As I’m laughing, and reading the contents to Roland, I notice the note in the Minibar Tariff, which says the system is computerised. “Please be aware that all items in this minibar are sensored and removal will automatically incur a charge.” (In case you're interested, 8 Euros.) When Roland’s paying the bill, tomorrow, I’ll wait in the car...