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Sunday, July 31, 2011

HEATHROW

I'm going to Heathrow Airport to collect my son. He's been in Canada for a couple of weeks, staying with family. Lavender comes with me and we find a cafe and have bacon and eggs for breakfast while we wait for the flight to land.

I feel a little dislocated.  Mostly I rub along with life and take its wavering path on the chin, but sometimes it throws me that blunt sense of desolation, and a part of me pulls away from the whole and starts drifting towards someplace bleak. Luckily I'm a strong swimmer.

Considering that Heathrow is London's primary airport the arrivals lounge it is a pretty drab experience. After we have eaten we wander around visiting the loos, viewing the handful of outlets and weaving in and out of the rather maudlin rows of bus terminal molded-plastic bucket-seating.  The whole place has about as much charm as a crematorium. Or an inner-city housing estate blessed with the very meagrest parade of shops. The only thing missing is a pound store. Or a mental asylum. But maybe its just my frame of mind.

Lavender is teetering in and out of Boots the Chemist and W.H.Smiths in florescent pink strappy high-heels, a green lurex mini dress and a mink-coloured feather and diamante headpiece. Her clothes are a mix of heirloom and charity shop with an occasional incongruous oddity. Like the small furry childrens hat which perched on top of her head one long winter. Lavender's ways warm the heart and enrich the space around her.

Meanwhile different women and men are rushing about with wheeled suitcases and disconnected faces, everyone is on their own agenda and seem to be going in opposing directions. There is no time for meandering chatter, only stern and non-committal glances for the serious traveller and then they must quickly move on.

We go and stand next to a selection of taxi drivers holding up cardboard signs with the names of their expected and prospective customers. There is a tangled energy in the air, of people going somewhere and being busy but I'm also aware of an overwhelming sense of foreboding. I can almost taste it, it is nearly there on the tip of my tongue before it rushes off and into the undergrowth of my mind, like a snake slithering away at speed, before I can see the markings on its skin.

We stand and watch the arrivals. For a while I am lost in the joyousness of fragile elderly Greek ladies being tenderly swept into the strong arms of younger family members or of lovers hurriedly embracing as the sudden rush of familiarity quickly dilutes any previous shyness or distance. All is under the watchful eye of an impassive audience of strangers.

Lavender and I couldn't be happier and agree that its better than any trip to the cinema. Its real.

And then I see him, my handsome, grumpy-looking teenage son. He is trudging down the concourse towards me, dark eyes covered by thick dark fringe, shoulders slouched and half-moon smile fighting and losing against a more insouciant teenage detachment.

I have to restrain every nerve and muscle in my body, as he comes up to me, knowing that these days I'm not allowed to hug him. I notice the hem of his jeans scuffing the ground and collecting all the international dirt and detritus Heathrow has to offer.

I reach up and rub the side of his arm briefly and smile. And from his slight smile back I know that he is pleased to see me.

We three make our way back to the multi-storey, a heavy suitcase bumping and dragging on its wheels behind us and the sound of Lavender's click-clacking heels ringing along the walkway. We chat easily and each of us, in our own way, is happy enough.

I push the creeping grey abyss as far away from me as possible, and start the car.

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