British Intelligence

(Look below for a post about our time in Scotland.)

As you may recall, we flew to Heathrow the day after the announcement of the arrests of 20+ terrorist plotters. We arose in the middle of the night for our drive to Beantown Airport, and on the bus in from the Economy Parking Lot, an airport employee told us, "People are going wild in there. They’ve got more National Guard today, and they’re locked and loaded!! I’m going to hide out in the hangar for awhile."

Contrary to his intimations, our wait was peaceful if exceedingly long and dull. Fortunately we were near a restroom for most of it. I will say that as I watched latecomers being called forward in order to make their planes on time, I wondered why we had bothered to be such good travelers.

At the gate, they searched our one bag (my purse with everyone’s books in it!). Under the table, where you might expect to see a tray of lighters and pen knives, there was a collection of handcream, moisturizer, lip balm and glue sticks.

Aside from a moment of hand-holding tension with The Princess at takeoff, it was a smooth flight. Our neighbor across the aisle invited her to use the empty window seat as we landed, giving The Princess her first view of London.

Then we entered another line, a long line of those without UK or EU passports. I loved seeing how diverse the US passport holders were. We saw a symbol of new age love, as Pure Luck put it: a young couple each using one earbud as they listened to one iPod together.

It was nearing 1o p.m. (or 22:00) and the staff began bringing families with young children forward to expedite their trip through Passport checks. I thought this was uncommonly good-hearted, but not all the single adult passengers agreed. The Princess wondered why we weren’t being called forward? "I’m a child," she said, somewhat aggrieved. "You’re taller than your mother," I said.

As we stood waiting, Snowman remarked, "There were no snakes on the plane."

And Pure Luck replied, "No, you saw no snakes on the plane."

When we got to the Passport desk, the nice woman pointed out that none of us had signed our previously unused Passports. How many times had we shown them in Beantown that day, and no one had noticed? Remember, friends: it was British Intelligence that uncovered the terror plot.

5 thoughts on “British Intelligence”

  1. I’m so glad your flight was uneventful…I was thinking of you! My friend and her niece were on the flight turned back to Heathrow a couple of days before that; they are flying back to the UK today and hoping for an uneventful flight this time! My friend wondered if this actually wasn’t a safe time to fly since everyone was on such high alert. She is more worried about coming back to the US in mid September.

  2. The Brits have always been more careful about air travel security; they’ve had to be. The first time we went to the U.K. on “holiday” we were spending two weeks self-touring from Inverness to Torquay. The immigration official asked, “Where are you going?” and “All over” was not the correct answer. I had to enumerate the places we were staying, and how long for each. He looked quite taken aback. Apparently the only people who normally tour like that do it in an organized group.
    The thing that hit me the hardest though was when we were checking in to fly back to the States after we had lived over there for almost a year. I was certainly glad neither boy was old enough to ask, “Mommy, why is there a soldier with a machine gun walking around in the airport?”
    This was Dec., 1991. But as the IRA was still occasionally taking out a commuter train, it was a necessary precaution. Y’know, the first time I ever heard Gerry Adams’ voice on the TV here in the U.S. I was quite taken aback; part of the way the British government dealt w/ Sein Fein was to overdub his voice.

  3. We did see armed National Guardsmen at Beantown Airport, but they weren’t looking particularly menacing.
    RDM, #1 Son is flying into JFK with his group today. I’m hoping to hear something from him soon!

  4. British Intellegence. We travelled with an unsigned passport OUT of the UK, it was only on travelling back in that they noticed!

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