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On the bizarre security measures at Gatwick Airport
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE FORTY-NINE
Leaving the UK via Gatwick Airport these days – last Monday, in my case – is proof positive that religion-inspired terrorism has put the fear of God into those responsible for ensuring security. Once I'd checked in, I was placed in a dense departure queue which wasn't moving an inch, making it impossible to get away from a hovering bevy of twenty year-olds in yellow T-shirts who were jiggling little plastic bags in the air while bawling 'creams!', pastes!', 'necessary liquids!' into the patient ears of the queuers. This racket was only interrupted by the PA system, which informed us every two minutes in a voice oozing cold control that if we left any bags unattended, they would be destroyed immediately. No sooner had I been told by another passenger that the reason for the delay was a fire alarm, than I was pushed out of the way by an officious-looking old codger muttering into a walkie-talkie attached to a fluorescent sou'wester, his eyes fixed on a distant and presumably risk-laden spot.
An hour later, the flap resolved itself and I finally made it into the duty-free area from which I dashed to the departure gate where, puffing and panting, I ran by coincidence into Stephen Burgen, novelist and contributing editor to this magazine. He listened feelingly to how my nerves had been frazzled to a crisp by all this security kerfuffle, and, by way of consolation, assured me that Heathrow was 'even worse'. Although we were talking in English, a Catalan sentence suddenly popped into my head: em cago en Déu. Highly appropriate, now I think about it.