i. rise at 2.45am to get to Stansted. when i mentioned this to mum she recalled the long days when everyone’s car had a little campaign sticker – NO TO STANSTED! – bcz a third airport wasn’t necessary and it would death to some rare birds and essex wetlands. Of course it went through – environmentalism was presented (not totally unjustly) as a nimbyish middleclass pretext to refuse the working classes access to affordable flights abroad = no more rare birds or wetlands, yet (as a typical bad british design compromise), actually getting to Stansted is made to seem like sneaking in the back gate after dark, the airport built but we can’t quite admit it: “You ain’t seen me, roight?” ie you have to get a nightbus to Liverpool Street (all shut up), then a National Express Coach

ii. but i *love* nightbuses and coach journeys through the dark, the way the dim light inside the bus reflects off the glass and darkens the dark, the look of dawn as you drive towards it

iii. and even more i love love LOVE airports – pretty much everything about them puts me into a state of breathless excitement:
— there’s the sense of pregnant transience, everyone here on the lip of a possible adventure (ok many of the adventures will possibly be crap, but some won’t)
— there’s the ruthlessly levelling way everyone who doesn’t own a private transatlantic jet, everybody from celebrity to nobody is reduced to the same straits, has to undergo the same seemingly meaningless checkpoint rituals and rites of passage corridor
— and plus the fascination of the difft ways difft income groups have of coping with all this levelling
— there’s the vast arena-fulls of semi-stale air shared by all (the whole building being just one giant strange-shaped labyrinth)
— there’s the ambient sound (it reminds me of that ballard short story, “The Sound Sweep”, you feel some of the whispers have been batting about for days – a child shouted on friday and a last trembling throb of the echo is still here on monday)
— there’s the rubbish stab at Shopping Arcades for Everyone Rich or Semi-Poor => plainly – in theory and empirically – the idea is an impossibility, hence the utter lack of even the vaguest bother of imagination or durable building material: obviously the coffee is actually good these days since starbucks et al ousted whatever used to be here (my pret habit = by some way will be the last decent coffee i drink, till i get back from france) (more on this in a later installment), plus it’s handy to be able to get plug adapters at the last moment even if you do have to show yr passport!?…
–“boredom,” said satie, “is mysterious and profound”
–and finally i love electronic departures and arrivals boards as they tick down, resolve (now borading -> last call -> gate closed -> flight departed) and vanish: i like these in railway stations also, but the names of all the airports i’ve never seen (and never will), portals to realms lame or tremendous, who knows, who dares just gamble?

in every one of these elements some buried and battered small idea of utopia, benjamin’s arcades for our times, a crap palace to dreams long lost to conscious address but (nevertheless) endlessly fleetingly glimpsable, like a small figure in a bright red raincoat just disappearing through the next checkpoint

(devoid of regional quirkiness, almost entirely functional, stansted hovers mid-level on my list of favourite airports – greatly in its favour it is after all pure ESSENCE of airport, unburdened by potentially bogus attempts to gussy it up as something superior)