It’s just gone 9am, and I’m sitting in the departure hall of Terminal 2 at London Heathrow. The gate has just been called for the flight, which is scheduled to leave in about an hour. I say “scheduled” because I’ve never known it leave exactly on time – I can only imagine the fines that happen when aircraft arrive and depart airports outside of their originally scheduled slots.
Breakfast this morning was a “meal deal” from WHSmiths. En-route to them, I passed an exclusive bar in the centre of the terminal selling caviar and sushi – I’ve never seen anybody buy anything from them during any of my visits to Heathrow over the last year. I’ve never seen anybody in the Gucci shop either – or the Rolex shop. I can’t help wondering how many sales they need to make for the store to be viable – or perhaps they don’t – perhaps they are there as a marketing exercise?
There is an expensive looking restaurant perched high above the terminal – the signage seems to imply Heston Blumenthal is somehow connected to it – he was a celebrity chef on TV over here a few years ago – famous for making bizarre meals with novel methods (I seem to remember a pudding prepared with liquid nitrogen). The restaurant is sparsely populated with the kind of people you might expect to be eating breakfast in a restaurant – I wonder how many of them are wealthy Americans here on business ?
I’m always fascinated by the people that pass through the departure hall – some in winter coats, some in shorts and t-shirts. A Japanese girl sits across from me with a long cashmere coat on, her long straight hair highlighted in dramatic stripes, her face hidden behind enormous shades. She seems to be consumed by her phone. A little further away a pretty blonde girl is fixing her makeup – concentrating on a small mirror while dragging a pencil beneath her eyes. To the other side of me a guy is slouched in a baggy tracksuit with a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes – languidly flicking through something or other on his phone – Tinder, perhaps?
The hall is dominated by a marketing installation for “Jo Malone” – I imagine a perfume brand. It’s difficult to tell from where I’m sitting – the installation seems to be no more than an enormous pile of presentation boxes, wrapped with ribbon, and stacked on end. A girl in a black skirt and blazer paces slowly around, waiting for anybody to show any interest at all – nobody has so far.
Looking around the hundred or so people nearby, nobody seems to be in a hurry – countless faces are lit by mobile phone screens, while one lady some distance away gazes into the middle distance, slowly feeding a snack into her mouth, piece by piece. It’s all strangely calm. An elderly couple just walked past – wearing sensible coats, and looking very smart. I wonder if they are visiting family somewhere ?
Time is ticking on. I should go find my gate.