Friday, 1 June 2012

The plane truth

There was a time when flying was the luxury form of travel. Quick, comfortable, imbued with the spirit of service. Expensive.

Today, after a 4:00 a.m. start and trying to catch up on sleep in a seat that won’t even recline, it’s hard to believe it was ever like that. Instead of enjoying the experience, you have to look for small mercies to compensate for the discomfort. Like the young woman in the plastic coronet, on the ‘Princess Hen Party’ trip, leading her squealing friends’ mass flirtation with the nice-looking steward working the duty-free trolley.

Nice-looking but above all-gay looking. Still, I suppose that what seems insuperable at other times becomes merely a challenge if you start drinking early enough.

The Princess Hen Party hits Madrid:
and just when Spain thought it had enough trouble
Then there are the announcements. ‘Please observe the no-smoking policy on board this plane.’

I wonder what that means. Does observing the policy oblige me to scrutinise all those fine non-smokers? And if one person lights up, will the whole exercise have been in vain? Will all my observations have, as it were, gone up in smoke?

It’s enough to make me want to reach for a cigarette.

The Spanish equivalent asked for us to 'respect’ the policy. At least that’s easier to do. I admire it profoundly. Just wish I didn
t have to be in a plane to indulge my admiration.

Observation and respect. So much more elegant, I suppose Easyjet thinks, than a simple injunction: 
'please do not smoke in the plane’. I was much more impressed by the Easyjet stewardess who I heard, some years ago, announcing that if she caught any of us smoking, shed oblige us to leave the plane.

On landing, she expressed the hope that ‘you’ve enjoyed flying with Easyjet as much as we’ve enjoyed taking you for a ride.’

Though of course the real compensation for this purgatorial experience is nothing to do with the minor amusements of the flight itself and everything to do with getting where we’re going. Madrid. To two of our sons and our daughters-out-law. And the other son who’s travelled out with our granddaughter.

Worth a great deal of discomfort and expense, even the feeling that we may have been taken for a ride. And all thanks to the Old Lady of Windsor. Sixty years she’s spent on the throne, a matter a that excites the enthusiasm of a surprising number of my countrymen but which strikes me as merely a historical oddity: she
 s been around significantly longer than the first Elizabeth, a little less than Victoria. 

I’d like to say ‘a harmless historical oddity’ but when I think about what happened to Princess Margaret and Princess Diana, I’m not sure I can.

Still, it’s given us a good long weekend and the opportunity for a gathering of our bit of the clan in a fine European capital. As well as a chance to observe, and no doubt respect, a nation struggling to cope with some of the worst effects of the Euro crisis. All good stuff.

One might think it was enough to make a royalist of me, but it isn’t. Unearned privilege and status? It’s like non-reclining seats. Nothing will reconcile me to them.

Happy and Glorious:
so good of her to make it easy to get away
when she's having one of her periodic bashes

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