The wise elders would explain that inside the aircraft, passengers, who had only paid the price of a few books for the privilege, would impatiently and ungratefully shut their window blinds to the views, would sit in silence next to strangers while watching films about love and friendship - and would complain that the food in miniature plastic beakers before them was not quite as tasty as the sort they could prepare in their own kitchens...
... How we would admire planes if they were no longer there to frighten and bore us. We would stroke their steel dolphin-like bodies in museums and honour them as symbols of a daunting technical intelligence and a prodigious wealth.
We would admire them like small boys do, and adults no longer dare, for fear of seeming uncynical and unvigilant towards their crimes against our world.
From A world without planes, by Alain de Botton, written at the time of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.
Flying is of course awful, fraught with difficulty these days: an hour or so in the air entailing a whole day of negotiation, the endless security checks with fractious airline staff, the waiting, the boredom, the bad air and the germs (I caught a cold at the beginning of this trip and Tom had it by the time we got home), the lousy seating, tasteless corporate colour schemes, overpriced food and services etc etc. Then there's the guilt about the evil to the environment, the dark forebodings at the sight of con trails, etc etc.
Yet for all this, my wonder at air travel is never spent. Perhaps because I haven't done so much of it, I still feel the elation at take off, the frisson of dread on touchdown, I like to be in the sun above the clouds and I still reach for the camera and try to capture the wonder of views from the air, even though it makes me look deeply uncool and far from nonchalant.
On the journey from Dinard to Stansted, the plane was late and took a slightly different route from usual, I think, which took us directly and visibly over Mont St Michel, showing its iconic profile, and the extent of its marvellous marbled sands, the silver and marl of the reclaimed farmland behind it and the long reach of the Couesnon estuary as we travelled away up the Cherbourg peninsular past Granville:
A couple of days later, we left Stansted under overcast skies, and settled down to what I consider a proper length flight, nearly three hours against the scant fifty minutes between Brittany and Essex, long enough to enjoy, well almost, an in-flight sandwich and a drink. I imagined we would simply descend into an unintelligible landmass perhaps with some runways, roads, and buildings visible, but was delighted to see Iceland clearly taking shape as we skirted its coast, all snow rocky volcanic outcrops and black beaches and empty shoreline and beguilingly alien.
Even Keflavik airport, when it became clear, had the feeling of a wild outpost
an impression only somewhat dissolved on landing and being greeted in the terminal by grown men dressed as elves or trolls or something, as well as chic boutiques filled with delicious pullovers.
The refrain of how lucky we were with the weather will be a constant one I think. We had more good views of the country as we left a few days later too, in the sunrise that might have been sunset, since it was always pretty much one and the same.
The steam rising in the picture above came from the Blue Lagoon, which may be the subject of the next post.