Subtract 1 for a game so dull it edges even watching preening politicians in the extremely dull and largely pointless stakes. Terminal 5 thought is neither of those things, so attains the highest honour I can bestow by not being like a UK airport at all. It is a light, airy and well planned space designed to whisk you through the trials of check in and security, so ensuring every saved minute can be spent in the slew of expensive shops all shiny and ready to separate you from any major currency.
The problem with Terminal five is it still plugs into everything that is rubbish about the UK. The tube, the trains and the buses are as well integrated as Christians and Muslims with each fundamentally denying the existence of the others. Arriving back from Athens, where I saw nothing of the much heralded tourist attractions but a significant slug of the bar, my transport options were both confusing and generally unavailable.
It’s 9PM on a Friday night so the prospect of whooshing to Paddington on the Heathrow Express had me musing “London? Friday Night? Major Train Terminus? Have BA begun serving crack-cocaine in their salads, otherwise why can I be considering this?“. I’d long abandoned the idea of actually getting properly home, and had chosen instead to dirty the towels of my friend Jason a mere ten miles away in Ealing. After travelling nearly 2000 miles in the previous 3 hours, this final bagatelle like hop, skip and jump to a side of London co-located with the airport proved immensely frustrating.
The “Heathrow Connect” terminates at Ealing but doesn’t start at Terminal 5. After much mooching about on various platforms, I boarded a random train only to alight some 30 seconds later in a deep bunker under the main airport terminals. Where the next Connect service was mooted for a dust-kicking boredom of 45 minutes away. But since the previous two had been cancelled, the jolly Butlins-attired Customer-Service Johnny marked the timetable as aspirational at best.
I moved to the tube. A heavy hand baggage lug of about two vertical miles. It seems cruel to glass the ‘U’ station in floor to ceiling windows only to separate it from the train by about fourteen escalators and one sign. On finally arriving, sweaty, beer-draughted and ready for a fight, Butlin-Man’s doppelgänger passed on two useful pieces of advice “the underground service to ealing isn’t running” and “my grinning colleage back there where you last saw your sense of humour should have told you that”
No wonder they make it so difficult to transit between train and tube. It’d take a stronger man than me to maintain the white hot anger required to jog back and lamp the cheeky twat. Instead I exited the tunnels of no transport, and headed over to the “directions” desk in the main terminal. My expectations weren’t high as the couple in front were informed their best option was to find a quiet bit of floor to sleep on. Undeterred I demanded to be briefed on bus services to the capital. What followed was an existential conversation focussing on whether a myhtical object known as a “bus” actually existed. Mr Non-Directional Directions refused to accept the existence of buses and, even under extreme pressure from a man who is looking down the barrel of last orders, if they might logically exist, he’d never actually seen one.
If I was quick, I’d probably bag some decent floor space. I was beyond quick, I was angry and dispatched him with a jaunty “you really are a useless tosser aren’t you?” before giving up and hailing a cab. Which was driven by a man riddled with bitterness by a life filled with other peoples’ mistakes. I was almost glad to hand over forty five quid because that’d only get you about ten minutes with a decent lawyer. And the way things were going, I was going to need a homicide specialist.
Jason met my incoming tirade with a sympathetic smile and a cold beer. Both of which were welcome but didn’t really compensate for spending the thick end of ninety minutes going almost nowhere. It did set me up for the next day where the train home started late and was further beset by delays due to a complex Venn diagram plotting an intersect art of “First Great Western“, “Railtrack” and “The Wrong Type Of Employees“. At Worcester they gave up completely citing “if we carry on, all the outbound passengers will be late, and so will the ones coming back. If we terminate here, only half of you will be pissed off”
You cannot argue with blinding logic like that. I had a pop, but you could toss a railway employee into a flaming bit and their fireproof teflon-ness would save them every time. Be fun to try tho.
Travelling is bonkers though. Left Tuesday to fly Wednesday. Left Friday to get home finally at 2pm on Saturday. And from where do you think I am writing this then? Give up? Okay, it’s the 0553 from Ledbury heading into London on a dark autumnal Monday morning. Worst still, now I have to go to work, the bloody thing is only on time.