Late Life Crisis - August 2019

Changing trains on the Underground, I saw a shabbily dressed man standing on the platform looking confused and seeking someone who would listen to him. People walked by. What did he need? Was he a vagrant? If I approached him, would I find a knife-wielding mental illness patient? Not being in a hurry, I decided to see what he wanted. The accent was heavy, and it took three goes to make sense of his words. Eventually it became clear. He was confused on how to get out of the station. My help was of course no more than middle-class North Londoner virtue-signalling, but anyway.


Another encounter. Walking down to local shops, towards me came a young couple, the girl a willowy Scandinavian lookalike. Beyond and ahead of me as we passed, an older man turned and gave a longing lech look, I am pretty sure at her, as the couple contined on. I was going to ask him when we passed as to whether he had enjoyed that...but thought better of it.


I love London City Airport. Arriving off the DLR, you walk into the terminal and within five minutes you have done BA bag drop - I am not much good with all the liquids stuff associated with hand luggage only. There is always a member of staff around to help those like me for whom printing and affixing your own baggage tag can get you into a faff. One time I marched off to put my case on the conveyor belt and a kind member of staff ran after me with my baggage receipt. A couple of weeks ago I did the favour for a chap rushing through - I suffered from a lamentable sense of resulting self-satisfaction. 

Security is calm. Yes, there are those like me who get everything right except leaving on their watch, but generally there is not the frenetic atmosphere that you can find at Luton or Stansted in school holiday period, where hand luggage is found to contain enough liquids to stock a shelf at Boots - I am desperately trying here not to be sexist, but cannot hide from the snobbism of this comment. 

The City departure lounge is economically sized, but works fine as long as there is not major flight disruption. Then again, the vast Terminal 5 at Heathrow can be pretty horrible when BA suffers one of its occasional meltdowns. The greatest thing is that when the flight is called you walk to the gate, then walk down stairs and then walk straight out on to the plane. No bus rides where in stifling heat you are left by the plane waiting for the ok to board and being reminded of your last rush hour journey on the Victoria Line. The relative intimacy of the smaller Embraer craft - two seats either side - seems to encourage civilised behaviour, although it is still worth reserving a seat in advance to be further up the plane and away from the toilet queue at the back.

On the return, it is a similar picture. The last time I flew in here, from touching down to boarding the DLR took 41 minutes. 

Leaving aside delay factors not special to this airport, the only blot can be when winter fog descends and there is chaos. And of course before you leave on any trip you need to message Elton and ask if he has remembered to pay your carbon offset charge.