right mate, terminal 4? right, get off this one and get on that one over there. he’s going to terminal 4 but I’m knockin’ off and I can’t be bothered and as you’re the only one then I don’t really care, right? yeah, this your bag? right, there you go mate. <crash> dave’ll sort you out. dave! terminal 4! I ain’t going, can you take this one! he’s only one! alright, I’ll go, here’s my suitcase, careful with that. <crash> anywhere mate, be about 5 minutes. thanks. hang on. this bus has got leather seats. and it’s got a huge telly at the front that shows you where we’re going. and the aircon works. dammit. I get to sit 4 hours on a sharabang from 1989 with flock wallpaper on the seats and the heating up to 11 with sticky patches on the carpet, which are, incidentally, on the back of the seat and footrests that take the skin off your shins, just because I travel from East Anglia? what’s with that then? this is a nice bus. I want to be on this one all the way, not just the last leg after being ejected by a truculent dolt of a provincial driver who wants to get home for sausages and arsenal.
passing south african airways on the right, a 777 passes overhead at about 50 feet before skidding onto runway 2 and I’m wondering whether booking the hotel closest to terminal 4 is the best idea in the world as we pull up at departures and get hoofed on the concourse, our suitcases cascading out the back of the National Express like it’s a waste collection. the hilton heathrow is supposed to be connected to terminal 4 by a covered walkway which sounds like something out of dr. no, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion it might end up being an experience more like dr crippen judging by the way the day has gone so far. through the terminal building I spy a helpful yellow sign that says ‘hotel’ and realize I’m on the wrong floor and in the wrong elevator and so I press all the buttons at once to see what happens and I get ejected onto level 2 where there’s a tatty looking weatherspoons called ‘the departure gate’ or something ridiculous and just to the left there’s a barely noticable black hole in the wall where the journey to narnia begins through the back of a photo booth where you can get your head superimposed onto michael jackson. again. so this must be it. the otherworld that is the heathrow hilton covered walkway. it’s a tin tube with the occasional window and unsettling fire escape and signs which say that you’re ‘5 minutes from the comfort and luxury of the hilton heathrow’ or something like that, which doesn’t give me a great feling for how long it’s actually gonna take to get me to a bed tonight. the walkway is also suspended over the inner roadway for the airport so the odd rumble of delivery lorries underneath and business class overhead make for a sublime underworld experience. with ‘1 minute to go before the plainly further than that away entrance lobby of the luxurious and splendid hilton heathrow’ I’m beginning to lose confidence and the will to live, but as I round the next corner, I see the portal to the otherworld and I pass through into an ecstatic reception from the queen sized gods of bedroomland. well, I get to the car park anyway, and it’s raining, but hey, there’s the lobby, and what a fine lobby it is…
checking in is painless and dutch and I’m soon off to room 217 to unload, unwind and work out where dinner is. get in the room, dump the stuff, take off a couple of layers of day-old clothes and hey, let’s check out the view. hang on. this is looking into the hotel, not out. I can see the restaurant, the bar and the huge atruim in the middle of the huge square hotel. there’s loads of people down there. and they’re all looking up here. at a fat guy with no shirt on picking fluff out of his navel and doing a huge belly-out yawn. this is a mirror right? I mean, a one-way mirror. I can see them, but they can’t see me. I mean, it would be stupid to have hotel rooms on the 2nd floor looking out onto the atrium and everything where everybody out there can see back in while you’re getting undressed and checking out the tv. don’t panic. no sudden movements. just gently sliiide to the back of the room and take a moment. right. so. there’s a cleaner next door, I saw her, so let’s ask her about the windows onto the world
excuse me. sorrie? excuse me. yissss? these windows, they’re just one way, right? I mean, I can see out, but they can’t see in, is that right? I’m sorree, I’mno to understand the windoors? never mind. so I crawl back acorss the floor of my room, peel my shirt of the bed and get dressed again before casually striding up to the window and pulling those curtains across like it’s something I do every day. it turns out, when I’m down in the bar, that you can see directly in to the rooms, which is why the business rooms are on the fifth floor, so you can look down on everybody with just your boxers on and nobody ever needs to know. I spent some time talking to a student on his way back to the Netherlands who wanted to be an IT journalist when he leaves home and travel around the world like I do. except I’m only going to Colorado, I told him and he’d already spent half his life in africa helping staving children with his parent’s charity work, so I wasn’t really much of a role model, but the fact that he was even talking to me was a novelty, so I milked it as much as I could and got him to pay for my drinks with the british airways payout he’d been given for them not having a connecting flight for him. genius.
tomorrow it’s 9 and a half hours to denver, so I’m going to watch match of the day now with the curtains open and write messages on the window backwards with melted chocolate.