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Leaving on a jet plane

A BA plane at Gatwick Airport.
A BA plane at Gatwick Airport.

TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess

Before our trip to Finland we spent a night in Gatwick Airport. We had an early morning flight ahead of us, so it seemed sensible to remove some of the stress by travelling down the previous day.

It’s odd spending time in an airport when you’re not actually going somewhere. I felt a bit like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, where his character, Viktor, is forced to spend months in JFK airport in New York.

Of course, we had a hotel to stay in so we didn’t have to curl up on a row of seats. But we did have a whole afternoon and evening to ride on the shuttle between the north and south terminals, checking out the facilities.

Landside facilities are nothing like those you find airside. It didn’t take me long to exhaust the delights of the M&S foodhall and Boots but I wouldn’t be able to browse the airside shops until the morning.

But there’s no time to explore those boutiques when you’ve a plane to catch. Once you’ve cleared security and run the gauntlet of the perfume-sprayers in the Duty Free, you’ve just about got time to grab some breakfast.

In future, I’m arriving earlier so I can have a gander at Jo Malone, Reiss and Ted Baker. They’ve even got a little Harrods shop where you can buy a huge teddy bear for a few thousand pounds. I suppose you either buy an extra seat for him on the plane or pick him up after your holiday.

Airports are such different beasts to those I frequented as a child. In the late 60s and 70s a trip to the airport was a day out, somewhere to take the kids for a few hours.

We lived fairly close to Newcastle airport and I have very fond memories of going there with my mum and her friends.

She tells me she and her neighbour would pop over for a few hours, order a cup of coffee in the lounge and let us kids explore. We would run up to the roof to watch the planes arriving and departing then play hide-and seek in the terminal.

There was a smart restaurant, ideal for Sunday lunch, and just one shop selling souvenirs such as boxes of fudge and dolls in traditional dress.

My friend Julie and I would buy sweets and stuff them into the little paper bags we found hanging on the rear of the ladies’ toilet cubicles. I had no idea what those bags were for but they were the perfect size for a collection of fruit salad chews.

I asked my mum why these memories were so clear and she told me an airport visit was a regular treat, particularly during the power cuts and three-day weeks of the mid-seventies.

If you couldn’t put the kettle on at home, what better way to enjoy a cuppa than head to the airport. Saved on candles too.

• You can read Trish’s blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk


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