Friday, December 26, 2008

Heathrow Christmas

‘This is known as the world’s biggest car park’, I said to Lu Weiyuan (Luke) as we sped round the almost deserted southern loop of the M25.

‘Really? ‘This had been his standard response to explanations since our re-union the day before. His English is excellent and he has great curiosity, which is what I like most about him. His dry sense of humour is such that I can't always tell when he's being ironic.

With his suitcase taking up all the boot space and his wife Linda’s case jammed in front of the passenger seat, I’d had to leave R at home.

Sooner than risk the cross-London route to Heathrow recommended by, with one false move at Clapham and I end up in Kensington, I’d opted for twice as many miles but all motorway, starting with the A2 at Blackheath, I had to keep my wits about me at the Heathrow end with five terminals to choose from, but with no traffic I could at least slow down to read the overhead signs.

In 1990, seeking a language-exchange partner, I’d posted a notice on a board in Goldsmiths Library. MA student Luke responded and I’ve been involved with his studies more or less ever since. He’s a wild life photographer teaching in a university in Taiwan. Now he was in the UK for his PhD Viva in Durham. His email said he’d be spending a week in London, mostly while I was in Lanzarote. His return flight was on the 25th.

‘There’s no public transport on Christmas Day’, I emailed him.


So I picked Luke and wife Linda up from their hotel and we visited the dinosaurs on Crystal Palace Park on the way back.

It gave R and son D time to come round from the evening before, spent trying to find a pub in Blackheath where we wouldn’t be deafened by rollicking locals. After one stand-up beer in The Hare and Billet we’d ended up in the basement bar of the Clarendon where a sedate game of pool was in progress. No wonder it was quiet, with drinks at £15 a round for the free of us. As driver, I was on the lemonade.

The whole lunch, apart from the sprouts, had been cooking for hours. The pheasants had been in the electric slow cooker overnight so only needed a reheat.

The long roofs over the drop-off point at Terminal 5 resembled rows of nun’s headdresses, like gigantic angel wings. Quite Christmassy, really.

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