Airports exist in some odd netherworld, trapped between where you were and where you’re going, oscillating gently between ground and sky. They can be interminably souless places, devoid of character or locale – Glasgow after 9pm on a Sunday night springs to mind, when the bar shuts and any trace of distinctiveness flickers out along with the light over the Tennant’s pump.
Sometimes that atmosphere is freeing, like staying in an empty room remote from one’s possessions, when the mere act of entry lifts an unsuspected burden of materialism. But sometimes it’s plain bleak. Glasgow, of a Sunday night, is usually bleak.
Other airports take on entirely different characters. I write from Schiphol, for example: a vast and heaving cathedral to travel, piled high with people from all places, going to all places. Perhaps if we all wrote our destinations on a pin-board we’d be able to trade, and all go home instead.
It’s an odd place, Schiphol. Not least that it feels vastly larger than should be warranted by a few canals and a thriving sex industry. Perhaps not. All around, the hubbub of a hundred tongues, punctuated by the gutteral rasp of Dutch… and yet all the signage is in English.
For a time, I sat and watched the ways in and out of the airport. As countless peoples walked this way and that, only a tiny percentage passed in or out. Did they mean to? Perhaps they took the wrong door? Maybe they were heading elsewhere entirely, but recognised their folly and elected instead to stop here?
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, en route from Glasgow to Lisbon. As Flossie noted, a Netherlands Nether Land.