Wednesday, 30 May 2012


So I land at Heathrow after three fantastic days in Turkey. Extraordinary flora, delightful people, nice kebabs, Turkish Delight, an enlightened attitude to alcohol. Need I say more?

Joining the queue accessible only to those with a new passport containing a chip enabling iris-scanning cameras to do the job of customs officers, it immediately became apparent that the line of people waiting to enter the UK the old-fashioned way was about half as long and moving much faster. Many of the people ahead of me voted with their feet, ducking under the barrier and presenting their passports to an actual person but I was determined to test my theory that the new technology doesn't work. I was not disappointed. Two in front of me was sternly expelled from the queue for having a baby with him. 'What? Aren't babies human beings?' He loudly asked as he was marched away. One in front of me was a black man who made the mistake of wearing spectacles into the booth where your iris is scanned. A helpful lady told him to remove his glasses, which he meekly did, but it then became obvious that without glasses he was practically blind, so he started swaying around, trying to see his own image on the screen. Eventually the system rejected him and he was led away, muttering. I approached the booth, fairly confident, being childless, sighted, white, middle class and still closely resembling my recent mug shot. No deal. The computer detected an 'intruder alert', which turned out to be the small rucksack I had been carrying as hand luggage. So far I've used the new system four times and it has allowed me to enter the UK once.

On the Turkish Airlines flight home I had drunk a certain quantity of wine and, having been grudgingly readmitted to the land of my birth, I urgently needed a pee. Following the signs after arrivals I was directed out of the terminal building to a bog in a bus stop. Both the male and female toilets were out of order. Diverting all available resources to my sphincters, I made haste to the Heathrow Express ('Enjoy The Journey' said the advert in the terminal. Given that it costs about £1.20 per minute, in the highly unlikely event it's on time, that's a particularly stupid suggestion). I didn't have a ticket, so I approached the ticket desk and, not unreasonably I thought, asked to buy a ticket to Chippenham. 'Sorry', said the bloke with the air of someone who had heard this question before, 'I can only sell you a ticket into London.' 'So I have to queue again when I get to Paddington?' 'Yes.'

The 7pm train to Chippenham, the first one of the evening that doesn't require a mortgage to finance, was late leaving. It always is.

My question for Boris Johnson, David Cameron and other apologists for this shit-hole of a country is this: when visitors from the USA, elsewhere in Europe or from a developed country such as Singapore arrive to witness the Olympic Games, what are they going to think when they encounter the series of entirely routine inconveniences that we place prominently in the way of travelers at every port of entry? There can be few British subjects less patriotic than I am but even I feel genuinely embarrassed by the shoddy fashion in which we greet tourists and returning inmates.

1 comment:

Ron Tomlinson said...

>Diverting all available resources to my sphincters

LOL, this was my beverage spray moment.

Also, your commentary about Great Western BLTs in a more recent entry. Brilliant stuff :-)

Skimmed some of 'Life in the Sauce'. Picking at random, did you know that the Judith Harris theory of the domination of peer influence over parental influence on child development has an amendation offered by the Canadian medical speaker Gabor Mate? Briefly, that parental and adult influence is important, and *ought to* predominate, but the bond has weakened due to the decline of village life and the rise of schooling. I found his YouTube vids about addiction and child-rearing pretty interesting.

-- Tom