Darkness. Outside, all is black. An alarm sounds. 4 a.m. It can mean only one thing:- it's time to get up for work. Regular ablutions are stumbled through in a sleepy stupor. Clothes are hastily assembled about the person, laces tied in a fumble-fingered fashion and, after an abortive trip to the door sans keys, finally, I emerge blinking into...more darkness.
5 a.m. Not yet light. The essential wrongness of leaving the house sober at 5 a.m. on a Sunday instead of returning with a head and bladder dented by alcohol leaves me wondering for a moment if I've somehow slipped sideways into a parallel universe. But then I realise that, in a parallel universe, I'd have long flowing locks and a nudey chin so the likelihood is slim.
The roads are quiet and the ammoniac tang of last night's urine hangs about the Actonian streets. No one about except me, the cats, a few Saturday night stragglers and the cab drivers. For a brief time, Acton is mine for the taking. I decide to give it back...
6 a.m. Work has begun. The fluttering of tickets, the squeak of airport trolley wheels, the checking of "MayFly" sheets, the squeezing of bags into security-approved sizes. This is Day Three in the Big Heathrow Terminal and none of the temp housemates have gone mad yet. It's becoming regular, routine, usual, humdrum, mundane.
In fact, the day begins to assume a rhythm and changes into... not work but a chant...
One bag per person
Must fit that gauge
Mobiles are OK
No lip balm
But iPods go through
No Coke cans
(Safety ones excepted)
They will turn you back
I'm only saying this for your benefit, sir
You don't want to have to queue up twice