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Oh! To Be In Ingaland Now That . .

There are few things more inspirational than dropping through the clouds and getting that first glimpse of England’s green and pleasant land. Back in the days when I was serving ‘Queen and Country’ it was always a moment to treasure; a coming home, as we took the flightpath down to the nice men and women who served Her Britannic Majesty as members of her Board of Customs and Excise. Somehow they always managed to cream the gilt off the gingerbread (to use an inappropriate nautical term). What do you mean ‘it’s a demi-john of brandy – it’s made of glass, it’s a bottle’.

Arriving on the flightpath to Gatwick North was an equally exciting experience; we dropped through the ‘light fluffy clouds in a cluster’ into the dull grey ones.

Colchicum variagatum

This was followed by my first glimpse in over three years of the ‘Land of My Birth’, it was not anything to write home about. There below me was a landscape of olive drab; khaki and grey – the spots of rain began to displace the ice on the plane’s window; dreams of home and sun and Colchicums and Urginea maritima (Sea Squill) and Scilla autumnalis (Autumn Squill), and on and on . . filled my mind’s eye. The thrill of seeing my former homeland was tempered by the view through the window!

The thrill (sense of dread) of being mistaken for the partner of what the chubby Customs Lady assumed was a serial drug smuggler was tempered by being allowed to pass with an apology. I just know I’m going to be got by the way they start to walk with me and crowd me towards the side of the room. Air travel has me convinced that I look deeply suspicious; it is always me who has to take my shoes off; open my bags; get the extra search. ‘I think therefore I am!’ Guilty as hell! Why’s everybody always picking on me? As the 60s song used to go.

Whatever; I’m here, and whatever went before is faded into nothing by the expression on the face of my beautiful daughter waiting at the barrier. ‘Nuff said!

Alan in England

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