Thanks British Airways, it's like I never went away

I used to have a fear of flying, until I realised it's a bit more complicated than that
  • @Simon_Kelner

I leave you in charge for two weeks, and look what happens! The skies are cloudless, the sun shines endlessly, the economy's booming, we are on top of the world in rugby, cricket and tennis, and Andrew Marr is back on telly again. I should go away more often.

Of course, pretty well wherever you go in the world these days, you're never more than a keystroke away from finding out what's happening back home. You can come back from a swim in the Med and discover that India Knight's been making cupcakes. You can interrupt a tour of the ruins in Rome to eavesdrop on a confected row between Piers Morgan and Alan Sugar. Nothing goes unshared or unreported. Very little comes as a surprise on your return. Yes, what a weird world we - and, more specifically, I - live in.

I was in the departure lounge at Nice airport while Andy Murray was attempting to be the first British man to win Wimbledon since the Reformation, or whenever. There were no televisions, and while this was an event that seemingly had the entire British nation enraptured, it cut no ice on the Côte d'Azur.

I was looking forward to arriving home and watching the highlights. A naïve idea, I know. Across the airport, groups of Brits gathered round laptops, iPads and digital radios ooh-ing and aah-ing like Dan Maskell, or punching the air like Murray himself. We were  boarding the aircraft at the very moment Murray won, and by the time the last person had put away what used to be a suitcase and is now called "carry-on luggage", the captain had come on the intercom and informed his passengers that Andy Murray had indeed won the Wimbledon crown.

He had advised those of us who didn't wish to hear the result to cover our ears, but when a plane load of happy holidaymaking Brits erupted into clapping, whooping and whistling, I was finally, and convincingly, defeated in my quest to avoid the news.

I have spent rather a lot of time on planes recently, and my thanks go to BA captains James Taylor, John Hackland and Stuart Angell (by the way, have you noticed the quintessentially British names of BA captains? I sometimes think they are recruited by dint of their names rather than their ability as a pilot). I used to have a fear of flying, until I realised that my psychological disorder was a bit more complicated than that. I had a fear of airports: the terrible queues at security, the sad shopping malls, the crowds, the overpriced food outlets, and, finally, the baggage carousel and that moment of blind panic when you think your bag hasn't made it.

I have to say that my recent experience confounds this impression. By and large, airports today provide a relatively pleasant environment for the traveller. Heathrow Terminal 5 is particularly impressive in this respect: in fact, on a recent trip with some friends, one of the party was having so much fun in the T5 departure lounge that he had be cajoled on to the flight. So I come back to Britain sweltering in Mediterranean temperatures, and I don't feel as if I've been away. All that said, it is good to be back.