Airports suck. Is it any surprise that celebrities take private jets? In fairness, I oughtn't complain because despite snuffling out the cheapest flight and obviously selecting 'zero' baggage, my credit card began to tremble as each of every 10 knuckles scuffed the floor as I hauled a puffy princess sleeping bag and another large hessian bag stuffed like cartoon popcorn with superfoods, magazines, books, peanut butter (for the protein crashes on a 2 hour flight obvs) and naturally the forbidden 2L bottle of water. In addition, strapped to a bulging rucksack was approximately a croc dundee straw hat, Birkenstocks from the free shop* and an inflatable mattress.
UK customs: STOP! *surrounded by armed police* I scream, and next thing I'm naked, Birkenstocks busted and bent over in ways yoga could never have taught.
Spanish customs: Cabellero, no pasa nada.
No pasa nada, indeed. Flying high, luggage stuffed like foie gras under the seat in front of me because it's approximately 10 times the girth of the overhead rack. None of the stewardesses blink an eyelid. Gotta love Spain.
HOWEVER, the gaycation of these cheap thrills stopped abruptly as I surveyed the food hall (a total mis-moniker). Gillian McKeith would not be happy. In fact, I'm not sure which celeb chef/dodgy nutrition doctor would. In front of me is an ocean of plastics (obvs) and carbohydrates and the airport pootlers are lapping them up until they're literally blue in the face. Gross.
I find a speck of a tienda sandwiched gracelessly between an overpriced hairdresser and the back of some dodgy foodchain. A middle-aged woman disgraces her post-yoga bod by hunching over the miso avocado bowl, defying the Botox by furrowing her brow in despair at her iPhone. I like it here. It's cool. Populating the shelves are smoothies, fresh juices, salads with sauerkraut, seaweed...the freakin' works. I pause my delight as I survey the Euros. Ah actually not bad. The thickies which are impressively embossed with a singular number as well as the name of the meal that they're replacing: 1 = Breakfast 2 = Mid-morning Munch 3 = Nourish ...but my heart temporarily stops as an elegant label displays that these babies will set you back 12 Euros a piece. A 60 Euro set of pureed meals is basically another flight with 25kg of luggage. So I'm sticking to salad. I'm throw in a cheeky pack of BIO FRUTOS SECOS (dried fruits actually translates to 'nuts') which are basically organic roasted cashews. Soon after, realising that they were 9 Euros, I swallow my shame and stomp back, tell the guy there's no way on God's green kale-strewn earth that cashew nuts were ever 9 Euros. He nods in agreement and hands me the coins that exhale in my hand.
Turns out that I could have got all this stuff, in less glamorous surroundings, for half the price around the corner in the Espanol version of EAT. They are advertising sandwiches a little too enthusiastically, in gigantic type with an urgent font. Note to EAT - Spain already has sandwiches. A lot. In fact, so many, that the pigs can't keep up. Look at them - comic pig legs lining the walls of every other airport tienda, while salivating Spaniards kebab the meat off, stick it in a gauged out "home made" baguette and call it a sandwich. Colonial Brits are still pests.
How did things become so uncivilised? A few hours before arriving in Madrid airport, I was chuntling through Seville airport (layovers are the dark side of cheap flights) convinced that hunger would be a stranger to me. Wrong. About 14 minutes before the Boarding Call, a demonic hunger arose in me worthy of a mention in something like the Bible. And the only thing I could find that was approximating the logo FOOD was a cold slice of pizza topped with the bargain basement phrase, Med veg. It felt healthier as I chased it down with the old reliable H2O.
It's no wonder that when we're ejected from the flight via some craning plastic tunnel that a feeling of relief drenches us, like the inverse of vomiting. We are released from the satanic glass cage of the airport halls, the constant bonging of 3 languages that inform us in all certainty that it will not tell us the flight details. It insists - "You must check the screens". Just tell us, asshole! We're all chomping Ritalin to ease the shattered senses, the prodding, the belt and sandal removal, the compulsion of guilt as we pass under the chalk grey obelisks that may BOOP! at any moment and before we know it, a far too attractive security guard is pulling out the half digested Med veg pizza instead of the imagined marijuana, patting us on the bottom to reassure us that it's finally OK to leave.
Keep It Gay
In an attempt to alleviate the doom-laden scenes of everyone pretending this is normal - no, enjoyable - I head to the Tom Ford stand. In department stores in England, no-one would approach me looking the way I did. But happily the Spanish still know that we're human and are happy to mist me endlessly in blousy wafts of violet flowers, jasmine, tobacco and vanilla essence...knowing that the closest I'll get to acquiring these heavenly aromas is a mere scribble of Santa's wish list. She doesn't care. To make it more professional and ethnobotanical, I ask her if the fragrances are natural or synthetic. Maintaining eye contact, she offers nat-ural in that amazing syllabic way as I feebly donate sintético to remind her she's probably lying. We speak in broken English and Spanish. I want her to be my friend. Only if she has free samples.
I want flowers. I want fruit trees. I want pineapples. I want salad growing off the f*cking walls. This is what my body is screaming for as I push down the feelings with an oversized slice of flan at Paul's. And a hot chocolate that comes from a machine. I even PAY a machine as the handsome but dreadfully bored Spanish assistant gesticulates to a large black machine on my left that I am oblivious to...with a blinking red line, eager to satanically gobble my coins. Well, Mr Capitalism, I'm not quite sure why staff are still even necessary except to bark orders and swan around with fraying patience. Unless the automaton need human friends in order to work? Is the future Support Work for lonely robots? Min wage still. Forget it.
For laughs and being half-serious, I order the Hindu Vegetarian meal on Iberian. It never comes. I look more attractive in their loo mirrors than I ever done in ANY aeroplane toilet EVER. I love Spain. The black girl who is serving us is utterly beautiful, and I restrain myself from telling her that she ought to consider modelling as I realise that I am a model scout for no-one. I write frantically next to 2 burly Spanish men, the nearest of which oozes hair from every part of him that isn't swaddled in man-textile. He can't take his eyes off the furious motion of my nib and, suspicious that he can understand the words, I write in psychiatric doctor scrawl. When I revisit the article to upload on my blog, I have no idea what it says.
I used to buy weekend papers just for the supplements. Partially because I'm shallow with little attention span, and partially to see the ways of the rich and attempt to imitate them. That worked quite well. Now my day, except for the minimum wage part, flows like maybe a C Lister; two daily yoga workouts interspersed with HIIT, superfood smoothies on top, Paleo salad, organic produce from the garden, monthly chamomile enemas, astrology consultations to keep me on track. Off-the-scale anxiety. And I think everyone should live this way. Because it is solid and good, and makes you feel alive. Why can't airports reflect that, instead of bunging us up with all manner of carbon-hydrogen stodge that only brings horror to the colonic therapist? Those choc chips get bloody stuck up there.
It's time to de-clog the system... starting with airports aka vast greenhouses. It's time to use all the shit and piss from air travel to do some good - feed the fruit trees that are yet to grow in the vast areas around the flight paths. It's time to get some mycelium spelunking its way underneath that tarmac and bring some beauty back to what is defiantly the largest contributor to carbon, and carb ahem, emissions - air travel. With such a genteel and light combination of words, air travel - if someone upsets you today, turn away and say air travel and your troubles will disappear - how can it be, you ask as you insert another bagel into your bouche. Airports are basically doing to the planet what the tree-ripping-out scene did to you in 3D Avatar when you hid your face so no-one could see you weeping like a kitten. You are the leader of this new world. You have a SOUL!
With your help, I need to find out who owns these airports and bring on a showdown of compost, volcanic dust, raised beds, petunias, wild strawberries...the whole permaculture shebang. If nasty skin-tight uniforms on the overweight staff can pass Health & Safety, and espresso-swigging policemen can keep their trigger finger alert and twitching, then it's time to keep it real with real food, real prices, real water, real life. The world musn't become Call of Duty. Air travel. I want more prayer rooms, more yoga rooms, a meditation pop up, a guru in swashbuckling robes that reminds us to feel in the in-breath and be as light as air in our impact of the earth. Out with the vending machines with their 4.50 Euro water and in with fountains, complete with ornate Grecian-style dolphins and lion's manes. OK, you take the point. Just say no. To Toblerones. No-one wants one although they might coo wickedly at the idea while thinking of Julie Andrews leap-frogging over cows in the Alps. They just make the roof of your mouth sore.
If you want to see the state of airports improved and for them to become future examples of stewarding the environment, offsetting their own emissions, please add your name to my petition (coming soon). Let's make Britain, and the world, GREAT again! Air travel.