Demolition and Development

In 1955 Queen Elizabeth officially opened new buildings in the centre of what was then London Airport; the Europa Terminal ( which later became Terminal 2 ) and The Queen’s Building with its offices and roof gardens. In 2009 they were demolished to make way for a new Terminal 2. The Queen has outlived her own historic buildings. In the meantime, in the nearby historic Harmondsworth Village mentioned in the Doomsday Book, The Great Barn built in 1426 still stands.

The Queen opens London Airport terminal, 1955 – BBC Archivehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/queen-opens-london-airport-terminal/zdvd92p

‘Built by Winchester College as part of its manor farm at Harmondsworth, the oak-framed barn is an outstanding example of medieval carpentry and contains one of the most intact interiors of its era. At nearly 60 metres long, 12 metres wide and 11 metres tall, with 13 massive oak trusses holding up the roof, both its size and aisles evoke the space and shape of a cathedral.‘ It is now under the care of English Heritage; when we lived nearby it was on private land and only open to the public occasionally, but one visit was enough to stand inside and be awestruck. It was heart breaking to hear that Harmondsworth Village could be demolished to make way for a third runway. There was ridiculous talk of moving the barn and in 2015 our future Prime Minister famously said, as MP for the Uxbridge constituency near the airport, that he would “lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway”.

Harmondsworth Barn | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/harmondsworth-barn/

The barn is still there and there is no third runway yet, but Heathrow Village must be the most changed and continually changing patch of grade A agricultural land in Britain; perhaps not in the whole world, Dubai and China might compete for that honour. There will still be people who remember a few tents being put up by the Bath Road in the 1940s; many years ago an old lady told me they looked across the road from their house and thought those few tents would not make much difference to them…

When our family emigrated to Australia in 1964 we left on a chartered migrant flight from London Airport on a Saturday afternoon. We walked across the tarmac to the steps of the plane and waved to our relatives standing on a balcony; just as well we could wave as we had arrived late at the airport ( that’s another story ) and had no time to chat to them. So there was no time for pictures, or perhaps Dad had no camera till he bought one in duty free during the trip.

Pictures from my father’s album.

In the late 70s, early 80s you could still go up on the Queen’s Building roof gardens; there was a playground for the children and it was a playground for plane enthusiasts who sat with their sandwiches and radios listening in to the control tower and incoming aircraft. But Heathrow has always been a continual building site, constantly adding bits on or demolishing. I occasionally worked in the old Terminal 2 and as you went through and down into the staff airside area, the ceilings seemed to get lower and lower, a security chap told me they felt like pit ponies… so perhaps this building was ready for demolition.

While I was working at Terminal Three it was being modernised, yet again. In Singapore business lounge our passengers went out on the last flight of the night and when we locked up and walked through the main departure lounge it was totally deserted, very different from what the passengers experienced. As we went out through the staff exit the builders would be coming in, nearly decapitating us as they wielded planks and all sorts of equipment.

One day going into work I got off the bus as usual, down to the subway and moving walkways, up into Terminal 3 Arrivals, turned left to step on to the up escalator that was there the day before and nearly fell over, it had disappeared. Another night our late flight was delayed and I was the only one heading for a particular staff exit… but when I got there it wasn’t there, it wasn’t just closed, there was no sign that it had ever been there in the first place. A story idea for sure, I was suddenly trapped in the no man’s land of Airside, would I ever see my home again? Luckily I saw a security bloke and said ‘I know you won’t believe this, but I can’t seem to find the staff exit.’ Luckily I wasn’t going mad, he directed me to the new exit.

One of my colleagues told me that he had a job in the ‘Irish Pub’ in the departures lounge. He went on holiday back to the Philippines for three months, returned, put on his uniform for work, went in and couldn’t find ‘the pub’ – restaurants and bars had five year leases and were always disappearing to be replaced by something completely different.

We moved away in 2004 and only a few years later we went to meet someone at Heathrow and parked in the Terminal 3 multi-storey car park. I had this feeling I could not get my bearings. Absolutely nothing looked how I remembered. It turned out the original car park had been demolished and a new one built further back, creating a pleasant plaza effect. If you ever want to know how to find your way round Heathrow, don’t ask me!

Have you had a Heathrow experience, good or bad?

My short story ‘Fog’ in my Dark and Milk collection was inspired by the third runway controversy and a few thoughts on what might have been…

My novel Quarter Acre Block is inspired by our family’s experience of being Ten Pound Pommies.

Silly Saturday – Lego in Literature

I’m sure we would all agree that the best YouTube videos are of Lego people and even on the big screen, wouldn’t you rather watch a blockbuster Lego Movie than one with real people in? But many people would be surprised to learn that Legoland is where some of the greatest writers get their inspiration.

My family are all Lego mad; you never grow out of Lego, you just spend more and more money on it, but it was only this year, after many hints that I got some Lego. You do not need to take the popular Bachelor of Arts in Lego Literature and Creative Danish at the University of Legoland to enrich your writing with inspiring plot lines and character development.

One of my lockdown birthday presents from Team H was a firefighter’s set, aged 4 plus. I just about managed to meet the challenge of building it on Facetime. There is a fire engine, a firefighter, a BBQ on fire and a Lego boy with a complex character – you can turn his head to have a scared face or a relieved face. How did the fire start? What happened next? Fearless Frank the Firefighter and Frightened Freddy became a short story. Then Team AK sent me a boat set, age 7 plus, a real challenge. A boat, two scuba divers, a sword fish and a treasure chest.  I built a landing stage and it wasn’t long before the hapless Frightened Freddy was standing precariously on the edge of the water… Frightened Freddy Falls In became the sequel…

I just received my first review – I wonder if Amazon will accept it?

I had also ordered myself a lockdown present of a big yellow box of bricks and bits – ages 0-99 so it should last me a while.

If you have had writers’ block during the pandemic, you need the world’s most famous plastic blocks.

Are you inspired by Lego or has Lego taken over your house?

The LEGO® Movie – Official Main Trailer [HD] – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ_JOBCLF-I

Friday Flash Fiction 727 – Zoom

Susan doubted that the Crafton Castle Crafters were ready for the online world, a year into the pandemic and they were only just having their first Zoom meeting. Jenny had been urging them on and as she was home schooling her six children they all agreed she was best qualified to be host.

The Crafton Castle Crafters didn’t actually meet at the castle, but at the First Crafton Scouts’ hut. They did pay a hefty contribution to be ‘Friends of Crafton Castle’ and on their frequent visits, pre-Covid, they gained inspiration from the famous tapestries, carved wood panelling and beautiful gardens. Susan had been very disappointed that their various gifts of samplers, marquetry and pottery had not featured in the castle’s recent on line exhibition ‘Now and Then’. She was looking forward to hearing what the other members thought.

Susan scrolled down on her ipad to find the email with the link and soon was faced with the message Your host will let you in shortly. 7pm they were meant to start, the minutes ticked by, 7.05, 7.09… Suddenly the screen was filled with the faces of lots of grumpy old people looking confused. Then Jenny appeared in a corner of the screen.

‘Sorry everyone, bedtime stories and I had to reassure Guinevere that the Covid monster could not get in their bedroom. Now have we got everyone? Giles has managed to co opt a couple of his bored sixth formers, Josie chicken wire sculptures and Ben junk statues. Hello Josie and Ben…’

Susan peered closer at the tiny views of living rooms, offices and kitchens; not how she would have imagined Martin’s place. She didn’t recognise Graham at first with that beard and who on earth was Bryony? She was sitting on a floral sofa looking very demure and how had she managed to get her hair done so nicely during lock down, or was it a wig?

Jenny was still talking. ‘…and I’m still trying to negotiate a socially distanced cream tea in the castle gardens. Now who wants to start? I’ve finished another three dozen masks from my fabric scraps and made the curtains for the girls’ bedroom with matching duvet covers. George, we can’t hear what you are saying, you’re still on mute. Phyllis, tell us what you have been up to.’

‘Oh, um yes, can you hear me…’

‘Yes, loud and clear.’

‘I have nearly finished that bookmark knitted with sewing needles and sewing cotton… oh dear, that’s my phone ringing…’

Susan tried to keep a straight face as Phyllis heaved her bulk out of the chair. They all watched as she waddled the two steps to grab the telephone. Her voice was picked up perfectly and broadcast into all their homes.

‘Phyllis, put yourself on mute.’

‘Oh hello dear, oh no, how many bits did they have to take out? Has he got one of those bags? No it’s awful you can’t go and see him.’

‘Phyllis, you have to put yourself on mute, the rest of us can’t hear ourselves.’

‘Well I must go, we’re having a Zoom meeting. You didn’t know I was so tech savvy did you. The crafters, hilarious, they have all aged about ten years in lock down, except for Brian.’

Susan noticed a variety of expressions on the faces of the others as they tried to pretend they weren’t listening. Josie and Ben had broad grins. Phyllis was now laughing and struggling to get out her next words.

‘Yes… six foot four Woodwork Brian has become Bryony during lockdown, well you can tell, but he’s a lot more glamorous than most of our ladies. Jenny took him clothes shopping in between lockdowns.’

Susan peered closer at the top left hand square containing ‘Bryony’ and wondered how Phyllis knew all this gossip. Then she glanced down at Josie and Ben; they were obviously enjoying the meeting far more than they might have expected.

‘Byebye dear, yes and you…

Phyllis put the phone down.

‘Sorry about that everyone.’

‘Well I’m sure we shall gradually get used to Zoom’ said Jenny. ‘I think Phyllis has rather pre-empted the announcement Bryony wanted me to make on hi… her behalf.

Susan felt the gloom of the past few months lift, what a fun evening, she couldn’t resist speaking out.

‘Well, we’re really members of the BLTGCHQ Community now.’

Beautiful Bird

Concorde was like a beautiful bird when she took off… and noisy, but that was part of the thrill. If there had been frequent flights taking off I’m sure the novelty would have worn off and there would have been plenty of complaints about the noise. Teachers in local schools automatically stopped talking at 11am when the morning flight left for New York. Once, I was taking the children to the police Christmas party being held at the BAA club on the airport side of the Bath Road. As we got off the bus Concorde landed on the northern runway and my youngest burst into tears. That close the noise made your breast bone vibrate.

Our last home at Heathrow was the nearest to Heathrow and on the edge of Harlington Village with fields and skylarks on the other side of the hedge. Our daughter had the end bedroom and her wardrobe vibrated when Concorde took off. On winter evenings at 7pm I would abandon the cooking and dash outside to see her afterburners, bright in the night sky.

Concorde was the future.

A Puffin children’s book!

Air France Flight 4590 was an international charter flight, from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, flown by an Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde. On the afternoon of Tuesday, 25 July 2000 at 16:44:31 local time, the aircraft ran over debris on the runway during take off, blowing a tyre, and sending debris flying into the underside of the left wing, and into the landing gear bay.  A terrible omen perhaps that the 21st century was not going to be what we hoped for.

Following the accident, all Concordes were grounded for almost a year with the introduction of new safety improvements such as Kevlar-lined fuel tanks and better electrical controls. But spiralling maintenance costs for the 30-year-old aircraft, led to British Airways and Air France’s joint announcement on 10 April 2003 that the planes would be retired that year.

The last French plane touched down in Toulouse on 27 June, while BA’s fleet left service on 24 October, with three aircraft landing in sequence at London Heathrow.

Concorde was about to become history and we remembered the proud and happy times.  My younger son says there was a lot of pride in having your windows rattling and everything falling off the shelves when Concorde took off.

Cyberspouse spent his entire thirty years with the Metropolitan Police at Heathrow Airport. One time when he was on the Airside Traffic Unit they visited Concorde in her hangar and he asked the pilot if he could take  pictures of the cockpit. He was invited to take a seat.

In 1996 Heathrow Airport celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a flypast that included Concorde. The planes had to take off from Stansted Airport and children from local schools were invited to have a ride on Concorde to Stansted, but home by coach, they were not allowed to stay on board for the flypast. One child from each year at each school was chosen and our older son got the lucky ticket. Parents were told they were not going supersonic, but they did. These are his impressions of the flight.

I remember it being a lot smaller on the inside than you would think. The windows were tiny. And when it takes off, it goes really steep and then they cut the afterburners and it feels like your belly drops about 100 ft. Apart from that it was very smooth and pleasant. Going supersonic was not like anything really, it was just a number going up. The only jumpy bit was the take-off.

One time Cyberspouse and I decided to cycle to Windsor and we were just cycling through Colnbrook Village when Concorde took off right over our heads – that was the closest I ever got.

In Concorde’s last years I was working in a British Airways Business lounge with a perfect picture window view of the southern runway and the highlight of the morning was of course the 11am take off. Raymond the cleaner, our resident grumpy old chap, loved Concorde, said she was his baby and the only time he came to life was at 11am. As soon as he heard her he would race across the lounge to the window, sending passengers flying… But we never tired of seeing her take off.

Heathrow Airport 50th Anniversary Flypast 1996 (Full programme) – Pt 4 of 5 – YouTube

Sunday Salon – February 2021

May not be an accurate representation of my salon

I have not invited anyone to a Sunday Salon for a year; blame that on Covid, we’re not allowed to have visitors! I also got behind with reviewing the books I have read – and got behind with actually reading books. I also like to review television programmes and films. I have not been to the cinema for ages, who has? But I did get to watch that Korean film on Netflix… meanwhile here are some of the books I have enjoyed. As usual Amazon rejected all my reviews and it’s not just books. I have needed to order a lot on Amazon this past year, essentials and presents, nearly always with success…except for the picture frame. It came with the glass broken! So when Amazon asked if I was happy with the delivery I put a sad face and wrote a review, which they rejected! The story had a happy ending as I also noticed you could email the frame company direct and they replied quickly and sent me a replacement that was plastic.

 All these reviews are on Goodreads and on my Facebook Author page. I am not a book reviewer, I write short reviews, but I do aim to review every book I read and flag up my enjoyment or interest.

May not be an accurate representation of my office.

You Beneath Your Skin  by  Biswas Damyanti – 5 Star review

I enjoy reading about other countries, other cities and interesting characters and situations. This is a powerful story of complex characters with a jigsaw family put together in a loving home contrasting with the hard life of the streets and the various layers of society in a foggy New Delhi. Crime, corruption and touching love at the heart of a difficult investigation keep us totally absorbed.

Marriage Unarranged   by Ritu Bhathal   – 5 Star review

I have not been to India, but the pictures the author paints are how I imagine from stories told by British Asians ‘going home’ and others visiting for the first time. This is a romantic story, but also an amusing one, young people on holiday to India without their elders hiring drivers and keeping to an agenda. They want to visit a real cinema, not the new multiplex, travel around like locals. There is glamour, for this is also a business trip for Aashi’s older brother who wants to reinvent the family fashion shop, but solemn moments as they contemplate dark historic events. As the five visit the Golden Temple there is an insight into the faith of the Sikhs. New friendships are made, Aashi’s broken heart might be mending, but how will life work out when they all return home to Birmingham?
I would love to see this as a Bollywood movie, the settings in India and the wonderful clothes they have a chance to model, fashions they hope to take back to Birmingham.

Little Big Boy   by Max Power    5 Star Review

This is a story about a little boy’s first love, his mother. It is not autobiographical, but is so powerful readers might assume it was, with its vivid evocation of early childhood. It is more than that, a story of families, of Ireland in the early nineteen seventies. There are many things that are dark inside and outside the home, that will make you angry, but the tale also bursts with life, of young boys exploring and having adventures with their friends.

Warning Signs  by Carol Balawyder   5 Star Review

More vivid than a television murder drama, this is an intelligent psychological thriller with the killer trying to understand why he could be tempted to kill and how he can stop himself. It is also the story anyone will recognise of young women looking for love, the dating game. Everyone is a stranger when you first meet them, when do we start trusting a person and when you begin dating someone how do you know if you are safe? A great story that kept me on edge all the way through.

With Love Comes Hope      4 Star Review

A poignant and rare opportunity to have in one book views from many different parts of the world. All the contributors are writing in the first half of 2020 about the first half of 2020; their impressions, worries and hopes about this unique experience that has affected every human being. The atmosphere of the first lockdown now seems quite different from the various lockdowns we have had since, will we see again streets quite so empty? Every country has had different approaches to containing the virus and we have only seen what’s happening outside our own countries from news programmes. This book gives us the insiders’ views.

Silly Saturday – How to Make New Friends

Lonely in Lockdown? No need to be, the new Minister for Fun, when interviewed today, said there was no need for people to be lonely in Lockdown just because they are not allowed to see real people, they can make new friends. You can make new friends out of anything and on the government website you can see some suggestions – here is a sneak preview.

Sewing
Gold Foil

Plastic
Knitting

Give your new friend a Covid Coiffure
Your old clothes
Plaster

Inflated
Deflated

Still stuck for ideas? There is always Lego.

Friday Flash Fiction 1000 – Us and Them

The little girl stood on tiptoe and peered over the stout cliff top fence at the sparkling blue sea.

‘I wish I could go in the sea Mummy.’

‘It’s much too cold.’

But there are people swimming in the sea.’

‘Beach Bubble people are used to it, you wouldn’t like the horrible salty water going  in your mouth, Sally, the swimming pool is much better for swimming.’

The sun shone in Sally’s eyes, taking her to a dreamland. The sun warmed her face. She loved being up on the cliff top, but now she was tall enough to see over the fence she could not stop asking questions.

‘I wish I could go on the beach, what is sand like, Mummy?’

‘Horrible, you can’t walk on it properly, the wind blows it in your mouth.’

‘Well the Beach Bubble people look like they are having fun playing in the sand.’

‘That’s because they have nowhere else to play. You wouldn’t like to live down there, especially in winter.’

Why don’t we live down there?’

‘Because we’re the Cliff Clan, we live up here and they live down there.’

‘Why can’t we visit them?’

Sally’s mother sighed. ‘How many times have I explained darling, we have to keep separate; them, us, the Forest Folk, T’othersiders, Town Team, City Crowd… You sing that song at school, you should know by now, but there are more bubbles than even I can remember. Besides, we don’t need to visit them, we can meet them all on Zoomtime.’

‘Tell me what it was like when you were six.’

Sally’s mother smiled at her daughter, the child never tired of her stories.

‘Well we couldn’t go to school, no one could come to our house and when we went outside we had to wear a great big hot suit and a very heavy helmet. But we hardly went outside because there was nowhere to go; the shops had all closed down before I was born.’

‘How did you get your food?’

‘Once a week a helicopter flew over our road and dropped a great big crate on a parachute. My Daddy was very important as he was in charge of unpacking the crate and making sure each house got their box of rations. Out the door he would go in his suit with his air tank and mask and yellow gloves, then deliver each box to the doorsteps. So you see how lucky you are.’

‘And I only have to have an injection once a year?’

‘Yes, we had to have a great big needle in our bottom every four months, when the yellow van came round with the scary robodocs to give us our medicheck.’

Sally squealed in horrified delight.

‘How come we have real people doctors, what happened to the robodocs?’

‘I’ll tell you about that when you are older. Now do you know what Daddy and I have planned for your sixth birthday treat tomorrow? We’re all going on the train.’

‘The train, the real goods train with the special carriage on the back?’

‘Yes, we have lucky tickets to ride in the observation saloon.’

‘Where are we going to go?’

‘Wait and see.’

The next morning Sally tripped happily ahead of her parents as they walked to Cliffton Station. She had never been inside the old building, let alone stood on the platform. From the footbridge they often watched the long solar powered train glide silently into the station to deliver supplies for the Cliffton shops.

Standing on the platform, the train looked much bigger and they had to help Sally up the steps into the carriage. They said hello to the other passengers, who all knew it was Sally’s birthday, everyone knew each other in Cliffton and they were happy to let Sally’s family have the best seat facing the viewing window at the end of the carriage. They glided smoothly out of the station looking backwards down the long snaking line. The platform passed by, they went under the bridge, houses disappeared into the distance, then suddenly it went dark. Sally gripped her parents’ hands.

It’s okay,’ said Daddy ‘we’re just going through the tunnel, leaving Cliffton and going into the forest.’

Sally stared as if her eyes would pop out, so many trees and then an open field, people were waving at the train, others were riding horses. The little girl was excited to be going somewhere new at last. The train started to slow down and a platform slid alongside as they stopped. A sign said Forest Halt.

‘Are we getting out here?’

‘No, no, they’re just dropping off supplies for the Forest Folk.’

The train started again and Daddy pointed left at a huge stretch of flat water with colourful boats floating idly.

‘Lakeland, where your Aunty Kate lives.’

Soon the train stopped again at a lovely little building covered in flowers.

‘Can we get out here and visit Aunty Kate?’

‘No darling, but you can tell her on Zoomtime we have seen her station, she’s the station master and plants all these lovely tubs and baskets of flowers.’

All too soon the train gathered speed, the lake was left behind and they went through another tunnel. The scenery began to look familiar; Sally thought she glimpsed a flash of blue sea in the distance, then more and more houses appeared and very soon platforms slid alongside them. Sally felt a catch in her throat and her eyes welled up; even before she saw the sign she realised where they were.

‘Here we are ‘ said Daddy in a jolly voice ‘home again.’

Sally looked up at the yellow and blue sign ‘Welcome to Cliffton-on-Sea’.

Enjoy Your Stay

This week, at long last many of us might think, some arrivals at English airports are now required to go straight to a hotel to quarantine for ten days. I heard a manager for the Renaissance Hotel, Heathrow say on the radio they were aiming to make the experience as enjoyable as possible – by providing real cutlery and high street toiletries, what more could you ask for? High street toiletries… what sort did they provide before and by high street do they mean from the pound shop? Another perk they might offer is a great view of the northern runway from the back of this hotel. The Renaissance hotel spent the last four years of the twentieth century holding the longest ever public enquiry into the building of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. The hotel’s swimming pool was closed and never opened again, but Terminal 5 opened in 2008.

The Bath Road was once the main highway from London to Bath; a stagecoach service to Bath was advertised in a London newspaper in 1657 and the last London to Bath stagecoach ran in 1843, as the Great Western Railway came to prominence. Fifteen miles into your journey you would have passed by the agricultural fields of Heathrow Village and stayed overnight at a coaching inn.  Now this section of the Bath Road is lined with airport hotels. During our long years living near and very near Heathrow we probably visited all of them, without ever staying a single night. They were popular places ( the only places ) for Christmas dinner and dances and other ‘Dos’. For a brief period I did silver service waitressing at The Excelsior, a whole group of hard up mothers at the junior school did £10 a night casual waitressing if there was an event on. We could pick evenings when our husbands were early shift – everyone’s husband did shift work at the airport. It was a mixture of great laughs and horrendous experiences; the several banqueting suites had moveable walls, so not only did you have to remember which were the In and Out doors to the kitchen, you had to figure out where you were and how you got there.

The local hotels were also good for a meal out; there wasn’t anywhere else to go apart from MacDonalds, though a nice little restaurant did open at one stage, in a little parade of shops near the Bath Road. It was called Café Concorde and it was always an experience going there. The young staff were very friendly, but you never knew what was going to happen. The smoke alarm in the kitchen would go off frequently and you never knew if you would get what you ordered or when you would get it. Then sadly Concorde crashed; but the owners were not deterred by this omen and the café reopened as Le Basilica, though its Italian connections were tenuous.

The only photo I ever managed to take of Concorde

Our favourite place to eat was The Excelsior Carvery. By this time I had a job at the airport in the business class lounges; the company I worked for was continually being absorbed into larger companies, one of which was Granada. Our friend who repaired televisions also worked for them and we each had a 25 percent discount at the carvery, making us very popular with friends. It was a great carvery, never to be matched again. A delicious choice of starters with as many visits as you liked. One of our friends used to have at least three plates of seafood each time and still have room to pile the vegies on with his generous helping of meat, he may even have sneaked up for another helping of meat, it was a big place, nobody would notice. We took all our visitors there.

Warning: brief mention of Covid – happy days, oh to go to carveries and buffet bars again and enjoy breathing all over the food and touching everything.

We also frequented the health clubs at various hotels, usually moving on when management ignored our letters about the poor state of the changing rooms. Our last hotel experience before we moved away was the brand new Marriot. It was down the road from us and there was a bus stop outside if I was coming after work.  It also boasted a cash machine, so we no longer had to go over the other side of the M4 motorway into town or into one of the airport terminals when we needed money. The shiny new hotel had an elegant atrium with coffee shops and sofas everywhere, so we could relax with coffee and cake after a swim in the health club. While others were sitting with lap tops and brief cases having important looking meetings, we would be sitting there with our wet swimming stuff and wet hair.

In the steam room you would often meet chatty guests and other locals. One day a chap was telling us ‘You know that Heathrow documentary, my brother was in that.’

‘Which one was he?’ we asked, thinking of pilots or the control tower or those long suffering airline staff always trying to get their flights off on time.

‘He was the one in a coma.’

Most of those in the steam room were guests staying overnight before flying off somewhere exciting. One chap asked everyone where they were going and I said ‘Home, I live down the road.’

He was astonished and said ‘You mean people actually live around here?’

The last house we owned was nearest to the airport and friends and relatives did not need to book into a hotel as they could stay with us, we didn’t even charge them for parking their car on the driveway. A walk across the fields took us to the Bath Road and the free buses into the airport.

Have you ever stayed at Heathrow hotels, or perhaps you are staying at one right now, in quarantine…

Friday Flash Fiction – 700 – Solo

Ellie sipped her tea as she watched breakfast television. Women doing amazing things, how come she hadn’t thought of these ideas in this year of living strangely? Swimming in the Thames every day, wild swimming… cold water was the latest way to keep healthy. If everyone went in the river every day the whole country would be healthy, probably immune to Covid as well. Ellie tried to imagine herself going down to the local river early every morning; alone, bit risky but who on earth would want to join her. Where would she get in, not that swampy reed bed by the bridge, the slipway at the rowing club…

Perhaps it was better to stay in a boat like that English yachtswoman; Vendee Globe non-stop round the world. Ellie didn’t even know the race was on, let alone who was in it, but Pip Hare was and here she was back again and talking to Breakfast Television. She hadn’t actually won, but it was still pretty good. She looked about Ellie’s age and totally normal. A good way to avoid lockdown, or rather it would be like lockdown only with the scenery changing, mainly sea, but Ellie could cope by herself, she had learned that much since Dave had announced his departure this time last year. Turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. In lockdown with Dave, Dave working from home, 24 hours of Dave… what a nightmare. If Ellie could cope by herself in this little flat, she could cope by herself in a state of the art yacht. She had only been on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, but she loved the sea, looking at it, swimming in the summer. The open seas, independence, learning about yourself; she had looked into her inner self, but hadn’t found anything yet; well that on line course ‘Unlocking the True You’ had been rubbish anyway. She should probably start by crossing the Atlantic; it couldn’t be too hard to learn how to sail, it was all satnav and computers on board and everything was made of tungsten. Ellie would have to give up her job… she would love to give up her job. Working from home she had realised that it wasn’t just the people at work she didn’t like, she hated the job as well. Money could be a problem, but she could get some charities to sponsor her…

Her reverie was interrupted by her phone buzzing, message from Ruth.

Do you mind if we give it a miss this morning, it’s bloody freezing out there, I had to melt the bird bath and that east wind will be unbearable on the prom, you’d best stay in.

Ruth was chickening out of their daily walk, their daily exercise with one person from another household? The daily exercise and gossip was all that was keeping Ellie sane. It was alright for Ruth with her garden and birdie friends. Ellie would have to go out all by herself.  Well a bit of a breeze wouldn’t put her off, she could do it. If she wasn’t meeting Ruth at their usual spot she would go on  a different circuit.

Half an hour later Ellie realised her first mistake, she should have walked the other way round, heading east along the promenade the wind took her breath away, the sand stung her cheeks, her eyes were watering, her scarf came unwrapped, her hood would not stay up. The next zig zag path up the cliff looked so far away, who would even notice if she didn’t make it home. Despite hardly being able to see, she could not fail to notice a familiar bright pink hat in the distance. The pink hat was heading towards her, it could only be Ruth and she was walking with someone else. It was galling that they had chosen the right direction to walk, setting a fast pace with the wind behind them. Did Ruth assume Ellie would have stayed at home or on their regular circuit? Ellie was Ruth’s one person from another household, so what was Ruth doing walking with someone else?

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