As we left the terminal, the bear growled and dug deep into grinding gears. Maybe a middle ranking retired serviceman. It made me feel sorry for the engine; an old man, too tired of the kerosene of whisky to dwell on his sorrows; too familiar of bleating with unrelenting humiliation; of being paraded out over the runway, flaws painfully exposed. Bleating, panting, growling, with open- throated groans, we slid out into the Beyond.
After hours of being penned in, the Beyond was a sensory climax on a par with visual cocaine. Leaving the terminal, as the cocoon of the departure lounge receded from view, we entered open space. The tarmac was smooth and strewn across the runway were the grey carcasses of military aircraft, like so many stranded cetaceans, waiting. It was dark, but small lights twinkled in all varieties of colours, to make their little corner or crevice visible. The image struck me that we were in a deep dark ocean and each twinkle was a shrimp or a fry, signaling in defiance at the vast looming predators, too lumbering to react.
The mist was a moist, enveloping amnion and made the smoothness of the fuselages and their angular wings glisten in contrast. Moving along so smoothly amidst the giant alien world was eerie, yet serene when viewed from the fish tank of the transport. Another impression was of being in an ancient oversized Jurassic forest, passing through the wizened trunks and bones of formerly spectacular creatures now fallen silent and on display in a neglected museum. The jazz of angles offered by the planes, their hard shapes, the bare anatomy of the engines, wings and fins, opposed the gentle curves of their bodies. This gave them a delphine appearance, and as we passed close to them, they emerged ominously from the unconscious swamp of mist, unyielding and without compromise.
Our ride: Airbus Voyager A330
Traversing the runway in this manner was no easy enterprise, and the sheer scale of the environment seemed to make time dilate in an aching awkward manner, as though the delay between thought and action had become uncomfortably stretched like plasticine or dough in the hands of some capricious superior being. Confining oneself to inner consoling thoughts whilst moving slowly through the blackness still felt strangely inadequate because the outer world was constantly changing, albeit slowly. We approached one plane, gliding serenely by, but rather too slowly to be fully engaging in its own right, and yet thinking of what the in- flight meal or movie might be seemed facile in the face of the grandeur of the moment. A kind of duality of experience emerged from this circumstance, whereby to exist in the moment was all that was possible. I had experienced such a distortion of scale as this before, whilst walking as a young man in the granite of the Snowdonian mountains. It was like being swallowed up by the enormity of the world.
The sensory dilation became even more acute when we alighted and stood underneath the plane. Being with a disabled passenger, I was in an unusually privileged situation of entering the plane from the rear by an ambilift. Entering the vehicle, the doors shut & lit only by a dim bulb we waited silently like cattle. The slow ascent only intensified our sense of claustrophobia. When we reached the top, the roller door howled open to reveal a shockingly intimate view of the fuselage from height. The grey seal skin of the plane looked improbably thin I thought to be cruising at 48,000 ft. From that altitude, the earth itself would curve and bow; oil tankers in the tranquil ocean below would appear like minute specs. Clouds would form spirals hundreds of miles across, concealing tempests below like the foulest of moods.
Weather- wise, it's such a cuckoo day!
Returning to Brise after our holiday, exhausted and empty, we again encountered fog. Descending through the bleary clouds of dawn, the Oxfordshire countryside rose up to greet us; now winter sticks and thicket stems, greens, browns and grays lying in blankets of stubborn hibernation. Obscured like a veiled bride, vulnerable and alluring, only furtive glimpses of land were allowed. The fog was an opaque amorphous sea which glowed in morning overtures to greet the eyes of the faithful. And yet down we plunged, into the winter, profusion and mystery. Maybe the fog had been there since we flew out, lurking in a time warp to the unwary. Entering the turbulence of the boundary layer, we descended into a glow- light world where the sun’s light became a surreal and distant pewter disc. Touching down in the engine roar and looming haughtily above the tarmac, the mist offered vignettes of the familiar grey hulks passing by each window. Each a frozen cinematograph image, until we were again at home amongst out lost pod of whales.