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Gay Times February 08 - Issue 353

David Hoyle journeys through the joys of travel

Words - David Hoyle

I enjoy travelling. I like to know I’m going somewhere. If you feel rudderless in your life, it’s reassuring to be on your way to a destination. However, the fun has gone out of air travel. I used to think it was glamorous, with all the air hostesses and so on, and when I was ten years old I flew to Benidorm for a holiday, and was very excited by the whole experience. In those days, of course, Spain was a Fascist dictatorship under Franco. Now, you don’t have to fly to Spain to experience fascism. You can get it in Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow Airport is hell. We like to think that Nazism finished in 1945, but no – it dispersed its spores like an evil mushroom, and they crop up all over the world. One of those places is Heathrow. When I have to take off my belt and shoes in order to go through security, I get a whiff of the abattoir. We have to accept that this level of security and paranoia is necessary for the foreseeable future, and I don’t blame the airport staff for doing their job, but I always feel like an animal on its way to slaughter.
I get frisked quite a lot. I always end up with my arms in the air and my legs spread apart, but for all the wrong reasons. Actually, I quite like it; it’s the only form of sensuality I get. I don’t mind being told to take my clothes off by a man in uniform – but you get a whiff of sex and none of the action. It makes me feel very vulnerable. I know I should be grateful that they’re caring for my safety, but I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of fear.
Once you’re through security, you’re like a ghost drifting through an unreal marketplace on your way to death. Posters and digital displays flog ‘parfums’ and stuff ‘pour le corps’. First security makes you paranoid, then they try to soothe you with consumerism. I’m not interested in scent. We all know that when it comes to scent, the only one that matters is Lynx. Duty Free, of course, has all the necessities of life – booze and fags – but once you’re through that gate, that’s it for smoking for the foreseeable future. I stock up on nicotine by smoking very heavily before entering the airport, then spend the journey in withdrawal.
When you’re on the plane, try to induce some kind of soporific state. If you can’t sleep, use your time constructively: write to the airline suggesting they construct balconies on the aircraft exterior so that smokers can nip out for a quick one. Avoid meals: once that tray table is in position, you can’t move. The meals are a ruse for keeping you trapped in your seat. I’d actually be up for a little friendly conversation to pass the time on a long flight, but people tend not to talk to me. Obviously I’d like to join the Mile High Club, but so far the opportunity hasn’t presented itself.
My favourite mode of transport is the train. Even though some of the fear and paranoia of airports is spilling over into our stations, at least you don’t see giants wandering around with submachine guns, which has to be good. The most offensive thing at Euston station is the smell coming from the pasty shop, and I can live with that. Manchester Piccadilly is now a truly beautiful place; the only thing that would improve it would be a direct link to Eurostar. Eurostar, for me, is a revelation. You get on in one country, and get off in another.
I don’t drive. I passed my test on the sixth attempt, but I’ve never really got on with it. If there’s a sign saying NO RIGHT TURN I just think, “Why not?” And I’ve never sorted out the accelerator and the brake. I have to press them both, and see what happens.

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