I have been in this airport for four hours now. I have read most of my book and my two New Scientist magazines. Nobody of any note is visible on the whole concourse, so there is nothing much to look at.
Nothing for it then but to get out my laptop and do the nerdy businessman thing whilst keeping an eye on the monitors for updates.
Of course, I hope I don't look like the nerdy businessman, having uncomfortably changed out of my suit in the salubrious surroundings of a toilet cubicle whilst the Vietnamese cleaning lady hammered on the door telling me in broken German that she really needed to clean the toilet now.
So, now, suit stowed and clad in my cerise shirt with a big collar with a visible floral backing, I make my way to the Mövenpick restaurant for a good feed. I notice my reflection as I pass a mirror and it occurs to me this shirt is perhaps a little camp after all. I cough in a gruff manner designed to emphasise my secure heterosexual orientation, such is my desire not to give the wrong impression. It fails and I break into a hacking wheezing cough because I have had a chest infection for two weeks which refuses to go away.
The Mövenpick is an atmospheric restaurant, despite its Swiss origins. A huge window opens up onto the runway and the ambience is reinforced by the sight of airport machinery and aeroplanes standing somewhat stoically under orange light in the Film Noir twilight rain.
I order a Hefe Weizenbier and a smoked salmon rosti. It all arrives gratifingly quickly as one would expect from such an efficent restaurant. The Rosti has a huge dollop of rather mild and extremely tasy horseradish lying artistically on top. I don't usually like horseradish so, experimentally, I scoop some up onto a piece of smoked salmon. It is utterly delicious, so next time, I add a forkful of rosti and this is even better.
The beer calls to me tantalisingly and I take a good long draught. After the horse radish, the weizenbier takes on a distinctive vanilla aspect that I had hitherto never noticed in a drink of its ilk. This is, I remark to myself, a rather opulent and enjoyable feast, and given the day I have had, I think I deserve every bit of it.
A rosti is a strange dish. It is apparently grated potato, made into a kind of pancake and shallow fried in butter. Served with smoked salmon, it is rather rich, but I manage. It reminds me vaguely of the refried chips we had once on a camping trip when I was a kid, left over from the night before and fried in the breakfast bacon fat. Just the thing for a growing lad! Alas, I cannot see my dinner in this light due to my failing eyesight, so I have to put on my reading glasses, which brings the food into a somehow surreal and rather too sharp focus.
There are two loudly laughing German ladies in front of me in riding jodhpurs. They keep getting up to do various things, such as ferret about in handbags, throughout their meal, which seems strange to me as I have not have occasion to move for some time and after that main course, it is doubtful I even could.
I wonder momentarily if they rode to the airport on horses. Perhaps, next to the Hertz and Avis vehicle returns there are two palominos tethered to a post whilst an attendent examines every square centimetre for a scratch or dent in order to extract extortionate and disproportionate payment for barely visible damage.
Jodhpurs on the right form can stop a man in his tracks. They can hug a bottom and emphasise glorious feminine curves with mesmerising effect. Not so these. They are slightly too big for the bottoms they contain and a little baggy in the crotch. And they are brown, purple and pink check with white arse-padding. It seems a strange choice of garment to be travelling in on a plane. Two enormous ice-creams arrive and are added eagerly to the bottom girth in only a few minutes.
Outside in the rainy gloom, almost dark now, a plane takes of. It is a small jet, possibly an Embraer or similar. Take-off always seems miraculous to me, even now. I have worked on aeroplanes, I understand the physics very clearly and yet here is several dozen tons of metal leaving the ground rapidly with no visible means of support. A propellor implies motive power, as a wheel rotating on a car does. You can feel the notion of thrust from just looking at them. But a jet jut throws out gasses and this seems somehow too arcane to propel an object to thousands of feet in the sky.
My banana split arrives. It is positively sinful in its indulgence. A small pot of chocolate sauce is perched on the tray, for pouring over the ice-cream. I pour it all and scrape the remainder from the tiny jug with my finger, catching the eye of the waitress who twinkles a knowing smile at me as if to say "Everyone does that but its still cute".It occurs to me that the Swiss are notoriously good at chocolate and I ponder briefly when in their history, relative to clockmaking, they aquired this specialisation. I know they have a lot of cows and alpine meadows give rich milk, but cocoa beans come from a very long way from Switzerland, whereas metalwork has been going on there for a very long time.
Nevertheless, I am grateful to whoever brought the idea to them as the sauce is utterly gorgeous.
Spent, my ice-cream devoured, I slump back into my chair, gesticulating feebly to the waitress for the bill with an air scribble. Mostly people don't use pens any more now that chip and pin cards are predominant, but since I am forced to use American Express by my employer and I refuse a PIN for it because I am a cantankerous luddite, I still have to sign a bill. This pleases me as it is one of the few times in these modern days that I ever use a pen.
Sated, I head out into the concourse of the airport, just in time to hear the announcement that my flight is now delayed an hour to ten o'clock.
The joy of international business travel...
post script: We eventually took off at 11:30 p.m and I got home at 2 a.m. on the Saturday morning.