Sun, 1 Oct
And so we bid farewell to historic Stonegallows, gateway to the West. Normally at this stage of the annual Filial Piety Tour, I would wend my way to the capital city of the Little Satan, and thence to the seat of government of the Great Satan, from which I would proceed to the remote mountain hamlet that is home to the Appalachian branch of the Hemlock clan. This year, sadly, I will not be seeing my stateside kin, with their breakfasts of Twinkies and grits and their snake-handling neighbours who speak in tongues. I have to be back in the Big Lychee this time next week. And I need to see long-lost friends in London-by-Sea. Both sound reasons, mercifully freeing me of the temptation to concoct lame excuses to avoid flying on the route that terrorists would most like to attack.
The statistically improbable prospect of being blown up in mid-air doesn’t worry me. It is the thought of the hours-long procession through security, the removal of shoes and belts, the confiscation of toothpaste, the sight of mothers sipping their babies’ milk to prove it isn’t explosive, and all the other rigmarole. The additional precautions introduced following the scare in August have largely been lifted, but I am just not in the mood. What can you do when faced with impressionable young, semi-fascistic folk who probably say to themselves, “We are all killers until we stop flying”?
That said, it would be fun to do an extra few thousand miles in the air simply to irritate someone called George Monbiot. Although unknown to the rest of the planet, Mr Monbiot is hard to avoid here. He appears in certain newspapers and magazines very frequently, wringing his hands about how hard he tries to insulate his house, avoid Brazilian beef, cycle everywhere, and grow his own vegetables. He is strongly opposed – and you are not allowed to forget it – to evil supermarkets, evil Western companies in Africa, evil Western countries’ foreign policies, energy of most descriptions, wealth and fun. And air transport – telling us in an article called We are all killers until we stop flying that:
Already, one fifth of all the world’s international air passengers fly to or from an airport in the UK … Orwell’s most accurate prediction in 1984 was the mutation of Britain into Airstrip One.
He has an adoring fan club of impressionable young folk who write to him with their exciting and well-thought out ideas…
How would you limit air travel? I can think of a few options: Very high levels of taxation. As part of a wider carbon rationing/quota scheme. A more bureacratic approach that banned air travel for non-essential purposes – requiring a permit to be allowed to travel by air.
I wonder what you think about alternatives [eg Zeppelins]?
Hong Kong seems more inviting by the minute. And not by Zeppelin.
Fri, 6 Oct
A parting thought. Why do people here pronounce the word ‘mall’ to rhyme with ‘mal’, as in petit mal or grand mal? Why don’t they rhyme it with all, ball, call, fall, gall, hall, pall, tall and wall (leaving Pall Mall out of it)?
All I know is that you get the same retail outlets everywhere these days – once you’ve seen one shopping centre, you’ve seen a mall.
Special 2010 National Day Holiday Long Weekend Quiz
A map of the USA: What do the two colours represent?