One of the perks of being an editor with your favourite weekly professional science magazine beginning with N is that I get to go to two or three international conferences a year, as well as visiting labs and generally hanging around in bars.
The downside, for anyone living in or near London, is that one is constrained to schlap one’s carcass to one or other of London’s horrible, strike-strewn and overcrowded airports, there to be patronized by British Airways (motto – ‘We Give Ourselves Airs’) which is so confident of your custom that should you foolishly choose to fly with any other carrier you are forced to walk to a departure gate somewhere in Berkshire.
However, so inured are those chained to the Great Wen to this state of affairs that when the Croxi relocated to Norfolk some four years since, the more metropolitan of my friends and colleagues asked, astonied, if one could get sun-dried kumquats north of the M25; whether we’d be forced to breed whippets and keep coal in the bath; and – more pertinently for the present discussion – what would I do for foreign travel? as if we residents of Norfolk are used to nothing more chic than a Surrey with a Fringe On Top.
My answer, which invariably raised a snigger, was Norwich International Airport.
Yes, friends, Norwich International Airport, located an easy 35-minute cab ride from the Maison des Girrafes, and, because it is situated on the northern outskirts of Norwich, it is reached from Cromer with no delays or hold-ups except for the occasional
highwayman tractor. No silly Gatwick Expresses or overpriced Heathrow Shuttles; no crowds, no traffic jams on the M4, no stress, no fuss.
Norwich International Airport is basically one big room, and the chirpy check-in person is likely the same one who checks your boarding pass as you head out to the plane. Norwich International Airport serves North Sea gas rigs, as well as a variety of domestic destinations – Mr G. S. of Glasgow, for example, a regular visitor to the Salon des Giraffes, rather cannily flies to Norwich from Edinburgh.
But the best-kept secret of Norwich International Airport is the KLM City Hopper (a perky little Fokker) that connects Norwich with Schiphol, in Amsterdam, and thence the world.
Schiphol is a much friendlier and less stressful place than Heathrow, partly because it’s Dutch, but also because – unlike Heathrow – all of it seems to be in the one single terminal. And because KLM seems to be more or less the same thing as Delta, and these two share their codes (as I believe it is called) with a plethora of other carriers with a degree of intimate interdigitation that were bodily fluids not actually exchanged one could slap me round the chops with a handy hemichordate, one finds oneself transported seamlessly from Norwich International Airport to practically anywhere else in the world with the grace and majesty of a ripe ovum in its stately ciliation down a fallopian tube to the accompaniment of The Blue Danube.
Why, as I write this, I am in Schiphol, having enjoyed a civilized breakfast, waiting to board the Norwich flight home, after wafting here from Salt Lake City via Minneapolis. The Schiphol-Norwich flight is so short that because of the time-zone difference, it arrives five minutes before it departs. And when I get to Norwich I’ll be met by a Cromer cab driver and whizzed home in a seeming instant – rather than arriving at Heathrow only to battle lots of trains before finally arriving in Cromer, an exercise perhaps even more exhausting than the actual flight. Heathrow? You can keep it, mate.
Who’s sniggering now, eh?