I find myself sat at Philadelphia International Airport once again…I think I will adopt a bench here in the future…given I seem to spend too much time here. I have to admit that I am a bad flyer. This is nothing to do with my lack of adaptations in the forelimb and feather department, but more to do with the psychology of leaving terra firma. Over the past few years I have clocked-up far to many air miles, usually with a film crew or field crew in hot pursuit. In this time I have had the dubious honour of being dropped into air pockets at 30,000 feet, lightening strikes, turbulence that would not go amiss in a cocktail shaker, engine loss (on a twin engine crossing the Atlantic…we turned back!) and then there is the food.
Where do I start with airline food? Its tough to get to grips with how food can be so distanced in taste from the original proteinacious materials from which it was originally composed. Maybe something happens with airline food between its preparation and the plane? The melding of taste, textures and even colour…as your potatoes takes on the orange of adjoining carrots and green of broccoli…makes this particular cuisine, food at best. The meat is usually covered in gravy, ugly gravy, that congealed long ago into a jelly-like state…so appetising. This grey, wobbling mass of protein is passed-out on TV-dinner trays with impossibly sealed plastic cutely that is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. It’s worth noting that the food on internal flights in the US has almost evaporated into dry boxes of nuts and pretzels…if your lucky. On one flight to San Francisco, from Philadelphia, I choose to treat myself to a chicken sandwich…harmful enough I here you all think. Less than 12 hours after landing and for the following 36 hours I was calling Huey on the porcelain phone…in-between filming sequences for National Geographic. The said event was the filming of the Archaeopteryx beam run at Stanford two years ago…I have never touched a sandwich on a flight since! But back to my international flight food experience, there is one thing that we will never forgot…that smell…
The timing of this culinary delight is also quite splendid. The flight attendants serve food at the precise moment you start to sleep in that impossible upright aircraft seat-induced position. Sometimes the homogenized-food-generated smog slowly wafts down between the seats, ahead of the flight attendants pushing their marvellously designed knee-capping devices…otherwise known as a food carts. Beware if you are lucky enough to get an isle seat, don’t doze off too soon, else your patella might be in for shock awakening of a trolly kind. This is why I now covet the window seats so much…alas, I was too late to get one for the flight that I am about to get to Manchester…I am considering stuffing socks up my trousers…not to enhance anything more than the chance that my right knee will make it through the flight.
As Billy Connelly so aptly noted many moons ago, one of the worst jobs in the world has to be the person who opens the aircraft door at the arrival gate, after a transatlantic flight…courtesy of many hours of recycled and concentrated smells. However, from my perspective, breathing fresh-air as we step over the body of the said door-opener, is sheer bliss. It must be said though, it takes a vast amount of nose and throat clearing to rid yourself from the ‘taste’ of the flight.
As my flight touches down in Manchester at 9am tomorrow, I will head straight to the University to meet with Roy Wogelius, Bart van Dongen and Bill Sellers…as we have a pile of dinosaur skin to work on! More on this later…time for me to run for my flight and practice holding my breath!