Halloween at Heathrow

Trip Start May 25, 2005
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45
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Monday, October 31, 2005

Heathrow is Heathrow. At the moment it is a whirling mess of construction and tiny lifts and people with bags falling off all over the place. I was nervous of what the check-in staff would say - I really had enough stuff with me to prove I was moving to Africa for good. How I wish you could build up the baggage allowance you have never used for these occasions. Normally I have one bag of approximately 13kgs that contains my entire life, and that I can carry with both arms free.

Not today.

As I waited in line I noticed that the upper balcony was full of police in protective gear, holding large black guns, scanning the crowd. Surely the world hasn't come to this? What would we do if the shooting started? Caught in the cross fire I might then be glad of the mountain of bags to hide behind.

My turn. 'How many bags are you checking in today?'
"Two" Ouch - please don't look at my hand luggage though!

'Just place them on here please'
As I lift them using all my strength so they look easy to pick up and move.

'OK' - He gets on the phone. Pause. 'Claire Geoghegan'. Pause. 'OK'. He puts the phone down.

Are those police with guns getting closer?

After a discussion he signals to more colleagues. 'But it might be a weapon' I hear him say. Damn that bit of drain pipe I am carrying with my poster in from the conference. It really looks like a bazooka. Science has a lot to answer for.

'What is that?' he asks, pointing at the trolley loaded with smaller bags.

'Er, it's a poster' I reply, thinking how I really don't want to explain why it is also stuffed with socks and vitamin tablets in the central hollow. I pick it up to show him.

'No, not that. THAT!' he says, pointing wildly at the other stuff.
'Oh THAT! It's my viola!'

His colleague interjects, 'It's not dangerous' she says.
'It is when I play it!' I say, wishing I was smarter than to make jokes at airports.

'OK. Just take your bag to security (Not another search!) and here's your boarding card'

Great. Onto the conveyor belt go my rucksacks. I'm ready to unpack. I have plenty of time to watch as they go through everything again - but no. All is fine.

So as I scan the newspapers one last time, I head off into the departure area. A copy of Gardener's World will be my only treat to remind me of home. It has a free calendar or next year. A prized possession for my office.

Bye Bye England. Bye Bye comfort - there's some serious travelling to be done.
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