5 SEPTEMBER 1958, Page 13


Air man

At 7.30 a.m. the mists are already falling like sheets of gauze around the Cromwell Road Air Terminal. A hostess on the internal television network marshals the traveller from weighing .machine to cashier and to hump-backed bus. At 8.15 a.m., among the Martian landscapes of London Airport, he sits in the glass-walled tea lounge reading the New Yorker and Life. He mutters, happily, 'It's the only way to travel.' The loudspeaker like the Pied Piper draws him down the ramp to another bus. And again he sits.

At 8.35 a.m, the tall, beautiful hostess with the Mona Lisa smile leans intimately over him whispering the news of an hour's delay in take-off. Back in the lounge he sits at the same table again, reads the same New Yorker and Life, stares at the same coffee cup with the drowned cigarette swell- ing in the dregs.

9.30 a.m. The flight is ready to take off. Down the, ramp. Into the bus. Out to the plane.

On the seating plan the Viscount looks spacious and elbow-roomy. In fact, the first-class passen- ger is packed in threes on the right or twos on the left. His knees grate against the seat in front. His shoulders push against his neighbour at every breath. The windows are arranged so that no one gets more than a three-inch sliver of a view. The wings tremble and the Viscount is off.

A quiet American halts the stewardess. 'What's the difference between the first-class and tourist flights?' he asks mildly. 'Two pounds ten shillings return, sir,' she brightly beams.

'No, that's not quite what I meant. If this is a first-chiss flight, how uncomfortable can the tour- ists be?'

The stewardess flushes. 'The seating is the same on both flights, sir. But this is all called "first class." You get a breakfast.'

The American looks at his twenty-five-shilling breakfast and shrugs. The wings tremble. The engines purr.

11 a.m. in Edinburgh Airport. The baggage is unloaded with slick efficiency by several porters. Then one lone porter is left slowly sorting it out among the passengers. No tickets are produced. The passenger's word is accepted as evidence of ownership. But a policeman prevents anyone pick- ing up his own possessions. All must wait while one porter services fifty travellers. belay succeeds delay. Eventually crawling buses arrive in the smoky Fetival city. It is twelve noon. The journey from terminal to terminal in crowded discomfort has taken four and a half hours and cost B.

BEA are making money. But are they making friends? 'UP THE STAIRS and over the bridge for the Food Fair,' said the station announcer and we all surged forward, taste buds tingling with anticipa- tion. The treats provided at the Fair are certainly Lucullan, that is if you can picture Lucullus in a snack-bar. A morsel of sausage, a buttered Saltine, a thimbleful of soup; then round again like Gulliver at a Lilliputian banquet. Wait at the stand as the food sizzles away, and while they're putting it on cocktail sticks; then swoop at the tray as it goes by with never a hint of English reserve.

In the International Section, sleek girls in national dress were preparing Paella, Hefekranz, boiled rice and beans, fried yams and curries, in a heady aura of spices and sauces. In the Great Britain stand two homely girls in print frocks were busy entering something in a ledger while a faint smell of disinfectant hung in the air. At the Ghana stand one woman looked at the girls, squinted up at the sign and said, 'Oh, it's China.'

An electronic sideshow starred Gygan, the Man from the Moon, a seven-foot creature of steel with a sixty-inch chest to keep all the transis- tors in. He walked spastic fashion with that curious whirring noise-which all Moonmen seem to affect. Gygan, in partnership with a trim red- head, performed a number of, tricks such as taking an egg in his hand without cracking it. This performance was being filmed and before the show started, the arc-lights were turned on the audience who gazed appreciatively at nothing while a cameraman toot a few reaction shots.

Upstairs the USA Fair was giving samples most generously. Doughnuts were being handed out as fast as people could persuade themselves their faces had been forgotten. A couple of pug-faced girls dispensed cool fruit drinks. A variety of foods was displayed; cooked turkey slices, chicken pie, 'Uncle Ben Rice,' all in such dazzling wrap- pings that it seemed incredible that these had to be thrown away.

Downstairs again all kinds of glittering equip- ment was being demonstrated by hearty men who spoke so enthusiastically about their products that when they got to the price they made it seem part of the privilege of having such marvellous tools.

In a window case headed 'Just arrived from Argentina' there were several spanking sides of beef and some small cuts such as aitchbone and top-rib. It all looked rather like the windows of airlines with pictures of their more celebrated patrons.

One last look at the British stand to find a girl sitting at a table, idly chopping almonds.