Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

Itinerarious adventures #19 and #35

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Zadar airport staff form a nice formation while the flight from Dublin turns into the one for Belgium

Zadar airport staff form a nice formation while the flight from Dublin turns into the one for Belgium

So there I am in Zadar, Croatia on a nice family school holiday with my grandson and his parents. We’ve done the sea organ (twice), we’ve done a fair bit of lunching, we’ve enjoyed some sunshine, and Tuesday it starts off rainy, though that’s not why I have to leave. Marion’s friend and his taxi come for me at 1030, and off I go to the airport. After the obligatory small talk, I hear a bit more about what happened to Zadar during the 1991 war when the old town was seriously bombed, though you wouldn’t think so to look at it now : ok, it was clearly knocked about a bit by the Turks in the 18th century, but it’s easy to forget that quite a lot of the ancient rubble now repurposed as building materials is of more recent making. We drive through Crno, a little village which was the front line at the time, then abruptly take a very bumpy short cut through Babindub along a 200 metre stretch of what my driver calls “war road” as a further reminder. Then I spend far far too long sitting around waiting for a plane at the nice modern airport. There’s an outside terrace for smokers, which on the plus side is in the sunshine, but on the minus is throbbing with rubbish pop music. I plug in my headphones and listen to some Strauss (R.) for  an hour or so. The Ryanair flight from Dublin arrives, eventually, and air borne by 1342; as ordered, I relax, sit back, and (try to) enjoy the flight. No, no hot food, no beverages, no duty free bargains, no Ryanair scratch card thank you. I wonder how long it can be before the lingua franca of Europe becomes a faintly Irish-inflected form of English. We land at Charleroi airport (no discernible features) at 1533, and I have time to get a 4 euro sandwich before tracking down the bus to Charleroi railway station (5 euros). The bus leaves at 1606 precisely, drives through lots of industrial wasteland and eventually arrives at the railway station (a traditional design rather spoiled by being entirely made of reinforced concrete) just in time for me to catch the 1637 departure to Brussels Midi instead of the 1707. The train is very long and very empty, but it trundles along in a bored Belgian kind of way, stopping at various places I have never heard of, and disdaining to do so at many others (including — unless I dreamed this — Waterloo). I arrive in the huge concourse of Brussels Midi about 1730, just in the nick of time to catch the 1755 Eurostar

Charleroi Sud. A Belgian railway station.

Charleroi Sud. A Belgian railway station.

to London instead of the 1856 one, hoorah. Would I have done better to get the bus from Charleroi to Lille and catch the Eurostar there? Quite possibly, but in the absence of any wifi it’s hard to tell. Anyway they are bringing some snacking and maybe I will be in London in time to go out for a decent dinner after all.

I detrain at St Pancras at 1905, join the throng being subjected to an additional passport check (sigh), and proceed to the Piccadilly line, even though this is subject to “severe delays” today. Also and not coincidentally severe congestion. But I get a seat on a train which promises to get me to Heathrow without waiting for much longer, and read quite a lot of the Evening Standard before it slows down severely somewhere in the wild west of London (Acton Town I think). The Old Codger sitting next to me engages me in conversation for the rest of my rather staccato journey; he starts by bemoaning the state of the nation in general, and TfL in particular, before moving on to the legal profession and the state of his health. He’s a retired minicab driver. And eventually we arrive at Hatton Cross tube station at 2030 or therebouts. And so to Jurys Inn, heaven help me, where I refuse to pay 10 quid for internet, but manage to blag a free hour’s wifi all the same, enough to check in for my flight tomorrow. Then I consume a beer and a burger in anticipation of tomorrow’s likely dinner. And so to bed. Next morning, I am up before 8 and out of there, noticing that on the other side of the eight lane highway leading me back to Hatton Cross there is a misty field containing what appear to be real horses, real cows, and a genuine picturesque old farm building, which seems as incongruous as the notice labelling this stretch of highway “Dick Turpin Way”. A tube train trundles me and my bags underground to Terminal 5 and 21st century realities. Lifts, escalators and transits, lots of stainless steel and glass, lots of people and luggage, lots of queuing for arcane security procedures : the usual airport dystopia. One gets through. And by 0930, here I am ordering, and consuming a proper English breakfast at one end of the terminal.

By 1010 I have a gate to go to, and by 1030 I am meeting up with James and Sebastian at it. Flight BA 2012 to Boston takes off on time at 1120, and follows its appointed route without incident. I watched an old Dr Who episode and an amusing film about Hitchcock with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. I did not do much work. At Logan airport the frontier guards have all been on a special course to learn how to be nice to people, which is a pleasant surprise. We locate the free “silver line” bus to  South Station, and I take the Amtrak train to Providence, after a pizza and some tea. Comfy train. New England scenery flashes by : clapperboard houses, alternating with woody wasteland, and even yes a little genteel industrial wasteland too. And so eventually to the entirely splendid Biltmore Hotel and the TEI Council meeting…

... and at the other end.

… and at the other end.

James, Sebastian, and his fine bag at one end of the transatlantic flight

James, Sebastian, and his fine bag at one end of the transatlantic flight

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Written by Lou

April 11, 2013 at 20:41

Posted in Biographical

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