Terminal 5 is the prototype for life on a hostile planet. For all the glass, there appears to be no outside. It could be bolted down on Mars, and no one there would really mind. This time round, I noticed that someone had thought of art. The trouble is, the thought was a Terminal 5/BAA bean-counter version, which involves squeezing random pieces into a relatively tiny room next to a luggage shop. Art is justified on the space station, but only just.
I had ninety minutes to kill before my flight to Berlin Tegel. I flashed my ticket’s Silver Card status to the bored man at the entrance to the business lounge and went in search of breakfast. Instead of baked beans, mushrooms and hash browns, they had hills of croissants. I collected some papers to go with my toast and made for the seating area. On the tv screens, a bewildered looking man was being interviewed by a nest of film crews. He spoke in Norwegian. His voice was soft and serious, his face white with shock.
Later, at the gate, I sat in an early morning stupour, my eyes glancing the vending machines, the colour of the walls, the Martian exterior. And then the passengers; a sea of faces with Berlin things to do. One of those moments between things and without any significance that will quickly be forgotten.
And then, music from the side. A violin playing traditional music, punctuated by the clap of hands. My brain seized on the sounds to decode its provenance. It was slower than Irish and more meandering. It reminded me of the Norwegian music on cassette tapes that Z had. The chorus looped back into verse with ongoing insistence. But was this from a PA system and why would the Dead Sea of Planet Heathrow allow such? The music was far too alive and rejoicing of rhythm.
I caught a sense of movement in frosted glass. Perhaps 20 bodies in a shifting clump. Straining my neck, I saw them: perhaps twenty middle to late-middle aged people dancing in formation. I instantly remembered the lessons in English country dancing at school ahead of the Golden Jubilee in 1977. To the side, a lone violinist, his face bent into the instrument, absorbed in his task. The movements of the group were purposeful: bodies turning to the side to pass through the ranks and reform. Symbolically: a society whose hierarchies are never meant to settle.
Only hours later on the plane did it occur to me that this may have been a response to the terrible tragedy unfolding in Norway. A shocked people, responding to the unhinged conditions of the present in the terms of the past. They were going home. They were about to face the tragic music. The only way they knew how was to immerse themselves in it. All of a sudden, Terminal 5 acquired meaning and human significance.