Trish and I are waiting for Ryanair… Again. For anyone who doesn’t know, Ryanair is a low-cost airline and, to be fair, if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have done most of the travelling we’ve done. They don’t have airlines like this in the United States, or at least they didn’t when we were there last. Cut-rate outfits that slash prices and amenities like surgeons gone insane. As global communications bring us closer together and drive up the demand for travel, more and more of these air carriers are popping up – WizzAir, Air Arabia, EasyJet, and the list of destinations is exploding into an international orgy of possibilities. But none of that makes the experience of flying with them any better.
At the minute, over a hundred passengers on this flight have decided it’s a good idea to start queuing forty minutes before the flight. This always happens. The lack of assigned seats (Want a specific seat? You can pay for that.) means that when one of us decides to jump on it early the rest of us are forced to follow suit or else be condemned to the seat next to the toilet. Or worse, next to a small child. So it begins. We’re all standing around like cattle waiting for the privilege of being slaughtered because some jerk can’t have a little faith and just wait. These are the same people that cause runs on banks.
Of course, Ryanair doesn’t help matters. Blue polyester-clad air hostesses goad the anxious, standing around offering priority boarding for ten quid, reminding us all that luxury is just a purchase away. What they don’t tell us is that we’re all going to be shunted into a cattle-shed ten miles from the gate to wait in freezing cold for another fifteen minutes until the plane comes and everyone makes a mad dash for all the ‘best seats’ (Let’s be honest about this – they’re all terrible seats), priority boarding or not. And once we’re on board, no there’s no perk that can’t be bought, apart from dignity, or quiet, or peace of any kind (They refuse to turn off the cabin lights because sleeping passengers aren’t buying scratch cards). Flying used to be such a pleasure… Just another casualty of 9/11, I suppose… But it’s all okay, because we’re going to Berlin!It’s a bittersweet departure. We’re taking our show on an international tour and stopping in eight or nine different countries, and that’s certainly exciting, but we’re leaving the UK as residents, no more. When our tour ends, we’ll be going to the United States and starting a new chapter. It’s all down to visas – we don’t have them. Well… We don’t have them anymore. Well… I don’t have one anymore anyway. Trish could technically stay in London until July, but my visa ended four or five days ago (I’m an illegal alien!) and it’s time to go. In this age of electronic tablets and magical spray-in shampoo, it sometimes seems like there are no material limits to what we can do. It’s the cult of choice and we’re all followers. But, in reality, there are still concrete walls and locked doors.
The recent years of economic hardship have spurred conservatives all over the western world to close ranks and tighten up borders, and immigrants are no longer the welcome guests they once might have been, on either side of the Atlantic. Realistically, we could have fought this. We could have hired a solicitor and applied for new visas and kept our jobs, and at the very least the application process would have seen our current visas extended out another six months. But it’s four years now since we’ve seen our families, and no one’s getting any younger. So we’re looking at this as an extended visit home. As delusional as that may be, it works for us.