Budget Airlines and Broadsheets

At the end of a fantastic adventure, sun-filled road-bending week of mixed emotion and sunshine it was necessary to be up at 6.30 a.m. (after a second successive head-to-the-pillow after midnight) to pack and be ready for transfer to the airport. The inevitable waiting around. In air-conditioned, merchandising atmosphere cool.

Then the steady procession/progression through controls and gates, corridors and stairs and into that last little tube and concertina that squeezes you through the hatch and into the plane.

Budget, no-frills. People will soon be unwrapping and eating food they bought onto the plane in plastic bags and stored under the squashed together seats, crumbs and limp salad dropping onto laps, seat and floor.

Me? I have a little more footroom this time; inadvertently I have broken an unwritten rule and I’m sitting between the wings (over where I believe most of the fuel is stored) and in the aisle to the emergency over-wing emergency escape doors.  The young Sicilian woman sitting in the window seat mimes opening the damned thing for the cabin attendant, who smiles back reassuringly before we take off. As always I check that there actually is a life jacket below my seat. I am always more nervous than I appear – of that I am certain.

But once airborne, the sales begin. Drinks, breakfasts – including most surprisingly a “full English” (“Be careful sir,” the attendant warns someone behind me who has ordered one, “it may be hot…”).

Lottery cards, toys, gadgets, magazines – and newspapers.

We are all jammed together, with very little elbow room; most of us collapsing and properly exhausted after a good break (how tiring that can be if you do it correctly). There’s debris left from the flight before and we are offered the biggest damned newspaper available. It’s Sunday. The day when editors decided the English public have time to read extensive news, entertainment, financial, holiday, culture, sports and what-all else – in colour supplements. Unpackaged it is fair to say that the paper in two of these would equal the wing area of the Airbus in which we are cruising (at thirty eight thousand feet).

The Sunday Times comes sealed in its own plastic bag, a waste disposal issue in its own right and passengers wrestle balletically with the ceremonial opening, avoiding the ears, children and coffees of adjacent travellers by a staples width. Then the unfolding, discarding, rearranging; the possibility of sharing pieces with a partner (“you always look at the sports section first, don’t you dear?”) … and the arm-stretching re-folding. Easy enough in a double bed, when you can pin the giant thing down on the spacious bed and, if necessary, because nobody can see you, use a strategically placed knee to get the fold in just the right place. But in the universal economy class space of an Easyjet cabin ?

We are, mostly, English. We seem to need the news. Before we get home. The weather forecast (though Heaven only knows why!). Something about the Olympic Games – now less than a week away.

I don’t buy a paper (I can remember when you were offered a free paper on boarding – one of the tabloid ones that fitted the space allowed), but I stretch and crane to look at those in front or just across the aisle, making me as bad as, if not worse, than my compatriots.

The Rolling Stones are in talks about a tour. G4S the company given responsibility for staffing the security of the Olympic games has failed to find enough staff, so the army and police are being drafted in (the police authorities cannot seem to believe that they were not considered in the first place.). Farmers are protesting about the prices they are being paid for milk (incidentally sparkling water now costs more than milk in English supermarkets).

And Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, with fine efforts from Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish.

Must brush the dust off my bike when I get back.

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