Ah, to think this is 2023 and it still takes virtually a day’s travel to fly from Scotland to Rome. Such progress! I mean, let’s face it, Edinburgh Airport now looks as though it was thrown together by the same person who ‘designed’ Tarzan’s Lair – or, officially, the home of the Scottish Parliament. (Quite frankly, the images evoked by Tarzan’s Lair seem, entirely, more appropriate given the inhabitants – and their appearance!) Back to Edinburgh Airport and its modelling, similar to that of a derelict council estate … Once inside, the building – the ground floor dominated by Ryanair departures – positively echoes with the mumblings of disgruntled travellers. Progress, did I say? Does that constitute having to check-in one’s own case and then humph it onto the conveyer belt oneself – watched by an airport employee on a seat, I might add – bidding one’s belongings a timely farewell, knowing that one may never see them again? Progress?
Next, the humiliation of the farce that is security where one is directed to a number, then obliged to remove most of one’s clothing – at speed – offloading said items and one’s valuables onto filthy plastic basins which disappear into the distance as one is directed to be bodily searched by some hideous, surly guy who, successfully, manages to conceal his enjoyment for his job. Phew! A scene of controlled mayhem as one, anxiously, scans the conveyer belt to identify one’s attire, not forgetting one’s ‘can’t live withouts’, such as money and passport. Such fun! I remember when Edinburgh Airport was people-friendly, consisting of one building housing both arrivals and departures. Civilised and easy. Oh, and there was a little car park adjacent to the terminal building where one could park for an hour, for next to nothing, while one nipped in to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Goodbye’. What happened? Now, there is the Drop-off which is nothing short of daylight robbery. Forget helping your granny to the gate, one barely has time to open the car door and throw her out, every second counting as the pounds accrue. Positively inhumane! Checking in my case, the guy in the tabard referred to me as ‘young lady’. Exactly! Laughing, I told him that when I was young, somebody did all this for you! Why am I surprised that robots are the next thing? Kill everybody off with experimental vaccines and replace them with tin men. Perfect!
Back to the cattle shed … Laughably, control is everything, the whole airport experience designed to dehumanise. Filing through duty free like androids at Ikea, the last piece of the jigsaw is one’s gate number but of course, on the screen, one is informed that that vital piece of information will be withheld until half an hour before take-off – actually, irrelevant because take-off is whenever! Not to worry, there’s always Wetherspoons, seemingly obligatory in Scotland to get hammered before one steps on a plane, be that there will be several hours before one reaches one’s all-inclusive hotel and dons one’s wristband, thus facilitating round-the-clock sedation. Too much?
Ryanair. Oh, the joys. Finally, allocated one’s gate, the pressure is on to board first and secure the overhead locker. Didn’t I pay for that privilege? Of course, but that means nothing. Fellow passengers see fit to deposit their cabin bags in the front of the plane, regardless, merely collecting on the way out. It’s dog-eat-dog, remember! The irony is that, having successfully negotiated the gate – priority – believing the trauma is almost over, everyone is packed onto a bus, or several, and one’s fate hangs in the balance once more, entirely dependent on which door opens … your side or theirs? Honestly, Valium wouldn’t suffice!
No, made it! More than half an hour late and without explanation or apology, my cabin bag is in the overhead locker above me – note to self, take up weights – and I am seated in the third row by the window. Phew! Time to relax and erase the fact that one is sitting in a germ incubator. I mean, there is no time for trivialities such as cleaning on Ryanair. Do it yourself, for goodness sake! The girl next to me has read the small print and proceeds to disinfect everything but me before finally succumbing to the inevitable. Oh well, each to his own. The worst is over – or is it? As the people keep on coming, I see a family approaching – two young children and a baby. ‘Row four! These are our seats, Mummy.’ Very funny! As the two five/six-year-olds slide in behind me, scrambling about, enthralled by the seat belt and fold down table, iPads to hand and just full of chat, I have only one question: ‘Do you have any brandy?’! To think I mocked Wetherspoons …
Is it worth it? As I land in Rome, half an hour late, it is dark and I feel filthy. Almost nine hours since I left home … Then, as the taxi enters the ancient city, I am reminded of its wonder and its beauty; its familiarity. The Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Wedding Cake, Trajan’s Column, all floodlit in their splendour. The history is all-consuming, the excitement tangible beneath a twinkling sky. Is it worth it? Worth it? It’s an absolute privilege! Sadly, however, these ancient ruins are, also, a reminder of the fall of mankind. How high we, once, climbed … Now, masters of our own fate, the self-acclaimed superior race is on course to self-destruct.
‘When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.’
William Shakespeare, King Lear.
The genius that is …
This is Trish, signing off.