My train from Dorchester to Waterloo arrived late and I was sent in the wrong direction at Waterloo. I arrived at Heathrow, thanks to a slight Tube delay, mere minutes after the deadline for dropping off luggage passed. I had to spend an additional £300 to fly to Copenhagen on the next flight.The gate agent looked and acted like she just won the Ilse Koch impersonator competition for the 20th year running. Due to the airline’s reluctance to squander time allowing passengers to store their luggage, I had to check over £1000 in German bone china. The reincarnation of the Witch of Buchenwald cost me over £350 in damaged property.
I arrived at Kastrup in good time to fly to San Francisco over Heathrow. Dodgy Al’s Bloody Awful lived up to that sobriquet. The Heathrow-Copenhagen flight was delayed by over 180 minutes. I, as a result, could not make my connecting flight to San Francisco. In fact, the flight from Copenhagen taxied in as the flight to San Francisco was taxiing out. I dreaded what was to come. BA (Bloody Awful) transferred me to the Los Angeles flight with a late evening arrival. I requested, if I was to arrive nearer midnight, that they could at least send me to Sacramento in order to not leave me stranded at airport for the night. They sent me to Sacramento and my suitcase to San Francisco. They caused an issue, American Airlines didn’t boffer to respond to Delta’s request to have my suitcase sent to Sacramento and I was left without much clothing — including a change of undergarments. And old garment would have to suffice. This necessitated a quick trip to the Great Satan, otherwise known as Wal*Mart. I spent several days varying my look from the clownish to the chav.
I flew to San Diego on Southwest Airlines. TSA at Sacramento were pleasant and efficient and the flight was enjoyable. Unlike Dodgy Al’s Bloody Awful, Southwest actually give passengers a minuscule snack and a drink or two. San Diego was beautiful and I managed to get a fair amount of work done within a few short days.
The female-type parent and I went to Reno for a few days. It’s not much, really, but it has its good sides. It is in some ways a microcosm of the United States. In parts squalid, many of its old industries and mainstays have long been in decline — perhaps permanently. The number of homeless and broken people is simply staggering. Yet, in parts, there is remarkable transformation and innovation. The US, for all its travails, as a remarkable ability to regenerate. Half an hour from the tragic and destitute was the charming and the bustling. The foetid corpse of a past prosperity putrefies within the vicinity of a future that’s hardly futile.
I have returned to the United Kingdom. I was pleasantly surprised by Oakland International Airport. The dreaded TSA were actually extremely pleasant and efficient. Even though my cabin bag had to be searched, the agent was extremely considerate and friendly. We had an easy-going chat over the course of the inspection and parted on good terms. This contrasts greatly with my arrival. I was subjected to additional screening four times in one day: at Copenhagen, twice at Heathrow and again at Los Angeles. The gate agents at Heathrow were almost apologetic as I had to practically strip down to be physically searched and my cabin and computer bags were opened and each item was inspected and tested on the orders of the US Department of Homeland Security. I underwent a similar procedure at Los Angeles. My dress: heavy wool jacket, jumper, black leather shoes and trousers stood out. They did not seem to grasp that I was dressed for a Danish autumn morning.
Gatwick was a pleasant enough change. It’s nothing special, nor is Oakland, but it’s friendlier and far easier to use than their more popular siblings, Heathrow and San Francisco. The Gatwick Express, while certainly not cheap, is far more pleasant than the at-times Hellish Tube. My hotel in London — I spent two nights in the capital to allow for recovery from the flight — was basic, but acceptable.
I visited Golders Green Crematorium for the first time in three years. I had more time to take a Captain Cook this go. It was humbling. The names of great figures: composers (Eric Coates), architects (Edwin Lutyens), Maharajahs (Martanda Bhairava Tondaiman) and Anna Pavlova are around, their remains were, after all, interned here but… Walking through the garden, the place where ashes are spread, the insignificance of the human is made impossible to ignore. As is written on Marlene Dietrich’s tombstone: “Hier stehe ich an den Marken meiner Tage”.