Thursday, 7 August 2014

where have all the flowers gone?

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Last time my passport was up for renewal, I scrapped having two in parallel.

I had two because it was the only way to operate with certain countries. That and the time it takes to get visas. Even with two, I can remember having my passport couriered to the airport for one trip.

Yesterday's poppies, awful world news and a current TV drama reminded me of this. I used to travel to the middle east a fair amount, which was one of the reasons for needing the duplication. Israel and some Arab country visa stamps don't mix.

When I used to travel to Tel Aviv regularly, the edginess started from the time I entered Heathrow. I'd get challenged and intensively interviewed by Israeli security staff. My baggage would inevitably be hand searched. As a suited businessman I'm not sure how I looked extra suspicious? They often used little swabs to check my belongings for traces of misdemeanours. I'd have to switch on my PC and show them something exactly specific to my visit. I'd carry a letter showing who I'd be visiting as well. It was supposed to be good security but however polite I was, it always seemed terse and threatening. Often, Ben Gurion airport for departure would create a similar return experience.

In some Arab countries the arrival time would also be stressful. I might find myself directed into a specific line for passport, but then be held back to let an entire plane of passengers from somewhere else be processed ahead of me. Or there was that place where you had to know to get the little entry sticky stamps from a special counter before proceeding to the passport line - or else go back and do it all over again.

Probably these experiences have shaped how I've got used to being able to go into a sort of trance state in many airports, whilst always moving as far 'forward' as possible.

That TV series I mentioned is the complex 'The Honourable Woman'. The lead character is played by a very Euro-English sounding Maggie Gyllenhall. Through series-link I'm only at episode 4 and noticed the scenes portraying Israel's border requiring the big gates and guns. The same episode featured a dinner-table argument about Gaza, which ended with a punch-up.

Drama reflective of the terrible conflicts in the whole zone, writ large in current news broadcasts. So much for the exchange of land for peace. At a humanitarian level it's terrible. At a political level it's an intractable endless destructive cycle.

Another example of trance, this time with most of the world quietly wringing its hands.

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