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Going Places

Douglas Adams opened his second Dirk Gently novel with the lines:  “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.”

It’s hard to argue with this sentiment although the Richard Rogers-designed Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport in Madrid (below) may be an exception.

Barajas_Airport_(Madrid)_(4684560779)

But I am not at the shiny modernist Terminal 4 in Madrid. I am at Dublin Airport’s brutalist and dilapidated Terminal 1, a less remarkable example of the type.

Dublin_Airport,_May_2011_(08).JPG

Inside is not much better, the suspended ceilings, garish lighting, information screens and signs providing no surprises or delights to the throngs of people lumbering oversized luggage in all directions. Perhaps its one remarkable feature is that, unusually for an international airport, it has eschewed signs in multiple foreign languages, opting instead to use only English and Irish.

Terminal 2 is at least newer, but beyond its curvaceous exterior, jarringly at odds with the rest of the airport buildings, has little to make it memorable.

Dublin_Airport,_May_2011_(17)

I began my journey today at Terminal 2 (well, I began it at home but on arriving at the airport I went straight to Terminal 2) hoping to catch an Aer Lingus flight to Paris.

I should explain: my life partner works for an airline and one of the dubious perks is the option to fly standby for a fraction of the cost of regular tickets. The downside to this is that full-paying passengers take priority — which is hard to argue with, admittedly — and sometimes there are no seats available.

Today, the first time I have attempted to fly standby alone, was such a day. Due to the cancellation of an earlier flight, all Aer Lingus flights today are packed to capacity, and I, as the domestic partner of a (relatively) low-ranking member of staff of another airline am essentially in last place when it comes to any seats that may become available for standby passengers.

Which brings me to Terminal 1, and Air France. They too are dealing with the aftermath of a cancellation and their flights are also full. But not too full. And sometimes people just don’t turn up for their flights. And as I’m suavely dressed and travelling light, I may even be allowed to take a jump seat.

So I’m cautiously optimistic. If I don’t get on this flight, I’ll most likely give up and try again tomorrow. But even though I should be soaring above the world, halfway to the City of Lights, and am instead in a grimy food court surrounded by other people’s leftovers and rowdy children, I’m calm, I’m relaxed and I’m happy.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m in a good place right now. I just also happen to be in an airport.

[Update 24/07/2016: I was unsuccessful in my attempt to secure passage aboard an Air France flight yesterday and returned home. I was much more successful to day, quickly being confirmed aboard an early Aer Lingus flight. At the time of writing, I have spent a good portion of the day soaking in the beauty, culture and eye-watering prices of Paris in July and am now aboard a train to be reunited with my loved ones. A success, then, if not an unqualified one.]

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Pain in the Áras – The Mostly True Guide to the Irish Presidential Election

26 October, 2011 2 comments

If you live in Ireland and not under a rock, you will have noticed that for the first time in fourteen years we’re having a presidential election. Here’s a quick round-up of the candidates. One of these people will be shaking hands with visiting dignitaries and rugby players for the next seven years.

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The Mostly True Guide to the Irish General Election

8 February, 2011 Leave a comment

With General Election 2011 almost upon us, here’s a quick look at the options we will have on polling day.

Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil (Irish for “Soldiers of Density”) has been the largest party in Dáil Éireann since 1932 but has recently taken huge steps towards abandoning this tradition. As the senior party in government, it has been blamed for the recent economic collapse. This is no doubt due to the party’s long-standing practice of appointing finance ministers with no background in economics. One of them, Bertie Ahern, famously had such a bad grasp of figures that he not only had no bank account, but kept finding substantial sums of money and couldn’t remember where they came from. His memory became so bad that he could no longer serve as finance minister and was eventually appointed Taoiseach, a post he held for almost 11 years before the economy collapsed and he remembered he had somewhere else to be. Ironically, his successor Brian Cowen is just a bad memory.

The newly appointed leader Micheál Martin has promised that under his leadership things will be very different from the government of which he was a senior member and unequivocal supporter for 13 years.

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Off with her head? Not likely!

11 January, 2011 Leave a comment

Arnold Machin’s iconic image of Queen Elizabeth II has graced every British postage stamp since 1967 and is believed to be the most reproduced image in history. Recently, it began appearing in British newspapers reporting fears that it was soon to disappear.

It appeared that if the government  sold off Royal Mail as they are desperate to do, there was a danger that the queen’s head would no longer appear on stamps. To a certain type of English person (think Al Murray‘s pub landlord character), that would amount to someone defecating on everything it means to be English.

Luckily, the government stepped in and announced that they would be amending the postal services bill to ensure that Her Majesty’s likeness would forever remain on stamps. Hurrah!

This seems to me like the sort of governmental subterfuge perfected by Sir Humphrey Appleby. Create a false issue that will spark concern and protests and then resolve it, appearing to be patriotic heroes while hoping nobody notices that there’s something much bigger and more important going on.

Of all the possible concerns that our British cousins should have about the selling off of another national asset, it seems to me that what future stamps will look like should be near the bottom of the list. Issues like potential increases in costs and decreases in efficiency and accountability should probably rate higher. And I’m sure they do with most people. But you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers.

Dr. Jen Gunter

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