25 Mar Point of View
I recently had occasion to spend too much time at Heathrow airport in London (the pound and the euro are not equal!). While there I noticed a lot of signs touting the wonderful benefits of a third runway. One massive poster boasted of an astounding 120,000 extra jobs (I remembered 120,000 and thought I must be crazy, but I just checked the site linked to here and it actually says 180,000 jobs. I also assume that opening the new runway will cure cancer).
Having heard about the fact that the local community was against the expansion in the past I was skeptical of these claims. However, the posters did make me think about the balance between the needs of the country vs. that of a small community. That’s what they are designed to do. It was curious though, that they airport would be trying so hard to sell itself to travelers who had no stake whatsoever in the affairs of the local community. However, I was not traveling with “Battle for Brooklyn” so I just let it fall away from my thoughts.
On my return trip I had a full night layover at Heathrow so I booked a 33 euro hotel a mile from the airport. It was Sunday night and the hotel shuttle wasn’t running so I took a free city bus to the first stop. Most of the other passengers were presumably locals who lived near the airport. I get a little nervous when I travel so I asked the bus driver if this was indeed the correct stop for the Heathrow Lodge, and he nodded and pointed back in the direction we’d come. I walked back for a bit . It was a quaint village with a couple of pubs, and classic looking older houses. I was so interested in the buildings that I must have missed the hotel completely. I asked a guy at a bus stop if he knew the hotel and he looked it up on his phone. The airport radar must have jammed his signal because it appeared to be a good ways away- on the other side of the roundabout from the airport. I continued on towards the roundabout and massive plane came down close by overhead. Either the plane or my footsteps startled a fox. We stared at each other for a full minute before it dove into the bushes. Figuring correctly that the man’s phone was wrong I ambled back and found the hotel about 50 feet from where I asked for directions. I guess for 33 euros a night they couldn’t really afford much of a sign.
After I checked in I tried to grab a pint at the pub across the street, but my euros were rejected so I walked back to my room with it’s bouncy bed and hit the shared hallway bathroom before I hit the sack (as some other commenters on yelp pointed out- while it might not be all that fancy it’s about 90% cheaper than any other option so I have no right whatsoever complaining. It was a bargain at double the price). I was a bit nervous about waking up in time for my flight but it didn’t keep me from sleeping. Since I was still on Athens time (finally) I popped awake at 6:30am and decided to take a little photo walk.
I quickly discovered that I was strolling through what would become the third runway that Heathrow so desperately wanted. I saw a few signs and stickers that made it clear that the locals didn’t want to go. As I passed an historic pub a massive pit bull came blasting out of the house next door. It nearly killed me with kindness. I asked his owner if he was a part of the fight against the expansion. He was, so I handed him a card and told him that they should show “Battle for Brooklyn”. The narrative is always more complex than what power presents to the people. The houses in the area clearly had a history. The pub had a plaque that made it clear that it was hundreds of years old.
When I got home and started to put this post together I quickly found that the fight is still very much in the news. The people fighting the expansion defeated it several years ago but it has been revived. Below I’ve posted some of the pix from my travels including a number of pictures of the town. The airport exudes a sense of luxury, exhaustion, security, and timelessness. Once I walked through the airport doors I was smacked with a sense of place. This effect was heightened by my habit of taking pictures from the plane and in the airport. The view from above gives us a god like perspective while shooting in the airport both personal and anonymous at the same time.