I travel quite regularly between my adopted home in Stockholm and my place of birth, Manchester. When I do, I always make a point of visiting the WHSmith at Manchester Airport. I look through the bookshelves in the vain hope they have begun to stock my book A Minger’s Tale – Beginnings. My hopes are invariably dashed when I notice it’s conspicuous by its absence on every shelf. Instead, I’m treated to the smiling face of David Dickinson and a large fluorescent placard announcing his new book as “This Month’s Bestseller”. Now, between you and me, I have a secret plan – and that is to place a copy of my book on the bestseller shelves of WHSmith when nobody is looking. I’m pretty sure David Dickinson wouldn’t mind…?
Even if Manchester Airport did stock my book, it would still be number one on my top 10 list of least favourite airports. For some reason, the security there seems far more intrusive than at, say, Heathrow. Now, I know security is there for my protection, but do they really have to be so surly about it? I don’t grow roses in my socks, so quit pulling faces – you did ask me to take them off, after all!
I remember one Christmas being given a collection of bread knives as a present to take home with me. My wife insisted we inform the airport security staff about them, and when she did, it wasn’t long before burly security guards were heading in our direction. Standing there without shoes and socks, watching my case enter the x-ray machine, the incident sent a cold chill down my spine, not to mention giving me cold feet.
There is a funny side to airports, and Manchester, too, has its moments, though I find them to be few and far between. You meet some of the strangest people at airports, a bit like on public transport. I remember one time I was standing in one of Manchester Airport’s interminably long check-in queues, and a few feet in front of me stood an elderly couple. The female half seemed somewhat agitated with her husband. What happened next happened so quickly, and yet it played out as if in slow motion. The elderly lady did a little wobble, first to the right and then to the left, and then, in kamikaze style, threw herself onto the suitcases of the young couple behind her. The couple’s plastic suitcases acted almost like a trampoline, bouncing her up into the air and straight into the suitcases of the family behind them.
I gazed on, with suitcases flying to the left and right of me as she hurtled down the queue towards me, surfing on a wave of Samsonites. Man, I said to myself, I have to take my hat off to that old dear, who in a single action has put the grunge movement to shame. Nirvana, move over!
I would like to add that the elderly lady survived her ordeal without a scratch and her actions inadvertently led to me getting a little closer to the front of the queue while folk were busy gathering up their strewn luggage.
The Iris Scanner at Manchester airport is another insurmountable hurdle, and one would do well not to stand behind the same woman I did that first time I decided to try the contraption. This poor woman in front of me must have been about four feet tall, and try as it may, the scanner was not constructed to stoop any lower than five feet. In spite of her brave efforts, the best the machine could manage was to scan the top of her head.
But where else would one see bag surfing OAPs, or pay £5 in the bar for a pint of headless plant water on draught? Or see Manchester United’s first team on its way to play a friendly in Finland? Airports… what is there to like about them? I’ll be honest, there isn’t an awful lot in general. But there is one thing airports, wherever they are, all have in common – and that is the sheer relief of having survived the experience unscathed. It makes the pain of travelling in this jet age almost worth the trouble.
A Minger’s Tale by RBN Bookmark is out now (CreateSpace, £7.99)
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