To Gatwick and beyond
My cabbie offers me a pellet of chewing gum, perhaps reacting to the reek of last night’s garlic. I accept and take pity on him and open a window. Glasgow is glittering in August light as we cross the Kingston bridge, the new Hydro – almost complete – nestling amongst its silver sisters like an old-fashioned idea of a spaceship.
The airport teems with holidaymakers and a smattering of Scotland fans on their way to Wembley to meet the Auld Enemy in a friendly. Their kilts sway above white woollen socks and Timberlands, the footwear of choice for the marching Tartan Army. I sense the odd look of disgust cast furtively in my direction. That soppy little poof disnae get it wi’ his maudlin shite. So be it. I give off a faint air of disdain. Come on, Scotland? Come ON Scotland.
The country slides below us in a dream. The autopilot engineers the softest of landings and I head to the carousel and hook my instruments from the belt. A monorail takes me and my gear to the north terminal where I trek for a time to find any sort of chair as I wait for bag drop to open. Travelling heavy, I could do the gig right here, like a hoofer in a Hollywood musical.
I’m in transit to Bordeaux to play a show for an ex-pat down there, Andrew Davies, a renegade from the record business. I have no idea what is about to occur – triumph or catastrophe – and that is part of the fun. My man-manager, John, is accompanying me with a few old CDs. I feel like I’m stepping back in time to the US tour of ’86, hawking, touting and panhandling.
Gatwick is the poor relation of London airports, dim and grey and heaving with hideous retail. They’re building bits of it so that even the transit lounge is in transition. I wander listlessly through shops, fingering the lifeless merchandise for something to do. Salesmen hover in their sinister manner, children dab manically at gadgets as the great mass of passengers circles in an exasperated daydream. Tinny pop music rains from every outlet seducing the tin-eared and repelling the rational. Seats are at a premium but shops are seemingly enjoying a surfeit.
The call comes and we hike to our gate borne by a series of moving walkways, drifting like blank ghosts. The plane rises through the layer of dun smog into the glaring sunshine and sails out over the Channel, scored beneath us by loose caravans of container ships bearing gifts from the East, no doubt – jeans and jewellery for the habitués of the high street. The Easyjet eases south, France’s fields stretched out below in all directions. Air travel is an enormous adventure and yet it fills us with ennui. We’re spoilt beyond belief. We’re the best-of-both-world brats trashing the planet for a laugh and a bleeding blog.
Below my window a great river snakes towards the Atlantic sparkling in the lowering sun. That reflective feeling wells up in me, the way it does with a window seat. Air travel like alcohol leaves the world behind. Burdens lift and the tension slackens. I am bound for somewhere else and somewhere else is always better than somewhere the same. I am lucky and we lurch a little and come in to land.