All my bags are not packed and I am not ready to go. In fact I haven't even quite worked out how to get to the airport yet. I'm on half-term, or ski break as it is known on this side of the channel. Everyone has packed their ski's and ski jackets and health insurance and is heading off to the pistes, although I suppose I should qualify that everyone. Jane has gone to Africa, several of my friends are going nowhere (although Colleen now probably wishes she was going somewhere as her long list of things to do has now doubled and includes a mammoth trip around Paris to every art supplies shop I know so that she can find me cellophane; rolls and rolls of it) and I'm going to Berlin, where - as I told Estrella this morning - the BBC world weather site said it was going to be: FUCKING FREEZING. I don't quite feel like I'm on holiday yet. I also have this rather foreboding feeling that somehow this journey is going to be horrendous. And frankly you can't really blame me, the last time I flew I spent hours and hours in a airport terminal. And today I'm going from Orly.
In six years in France, I've only flown from Orly three times. The first time was to go to Nice for a conference. The flight was at 5am, so I couldn't really tell you whether it went well or badly or anything about it, because I slept through the whole experience. The second time was to go to Corsica. The Corsican flag depicts a curly haired man with his white head band flowing behind him. It's always reminded me somewhat of pirates, or corsairs. The check-in line to get onto the flight to Bastia also reminded me of pirates, or rebels or a bunch of extremely crazy people. There were several desks open but the idea of queuing was obviously a particularly British construct. It was more like a loud babbling crowd with boxes being passed to and fro overhead, bags that were large enough to hold bodies being checked in and many many screaming children. This was as close to chaos I would get to until the next time I passed through Orly. The fact that my luggage and I eventually got checked in and I eventually got on the plane seems incidental, that the chaos continued on the plane was perhaps indicative of the kind of place I was about to visit, but that would be another post, right now I'm trying to explain my bad feeling about Orly.
On return from Corsica, I watched as the luggage carousel stopped moving and security guards tried to shuffle us backwards away from ... what was it? A black bag? My bag was black! No, mine was black and green wasn't it? I couldn't quite remember it was new, but I was fairly sure it wasn't that one. Perhaps it was the fact that I had just come back from Corsica and was surrounded by Corsicans, but when the bomb squad arrived I jostled closer and closer to the red and white tape like a lot of other mad people around me. Yes, the bag could have been dangerous, yes I could have been blown up, but in the end it was a rather disappointing 'Poof' and a plume of smoke. There were no socks flying in the air or underpants draped over the face of bystanders. I was surprised afterwards that the security had let us stand so close. Maybe it was a regular occurence after Corsica flights. Nobody came screaming through the terminal shouting: "You've blown my dirty knockers up!" It was all a bit bizzare.
A year and a bit later I found myself in the airport again. There was a partial strike by the luggage handlers, so partial that the airport hadn't even bothered informing the general public; but as we stood in the check-in queues and watched people climbing over the conveyor belts and trying to haul bags manually we became a little suspicious. Still despite the obvious evidence that our luggage was going nowhere they kept gleefully checking us in and handing out boarding cards with over optimistic boarding times and we pootled off to the gate.
I was going to Morocco. To help me get into the mood of the claustrophobic and over stimulating souks they packed five plane loads of passengers to Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and oh who knows where into one little terminal. We couldn't move, we couldn't sit, we didn't know what the hell was going on and every time a poor man from the airport came out with his clip board he barely managed to make it through the crowds with his shirt on his back. Eventually they closed the gate doors with us on the other side. Various delegations of women were sent in packs to plead and howl at the gates and gradually after a few hours lists were produced and names were called and certain people got through. At this point the Grandmother's began fainting and occasionally that worked to get them through too. When we got through three hours later we were told by one rather vexed airport employee that this particular day was one of the busiest days in the summer, that they had overbooked flights to leave from the airport anyway and with or without the strike it would have been chaos . On arrival in Morocco, my partner's luggage didn't arrive!
I've flown from many airports and even though I quite hate Heathrow, it still ain't as hateful as Orly. Even though CDG is the strangest airport I've ever been to, it still ain't as strange as Orly. Even though Mexico was a pretty disorganised place, Benito Juarez still wasn't as disorganised as Orly. Now how the hell do I get there?