There are certain cultural experiences that unanimously divide, like Kate Bush, for example – to some, the sound of unhappy felines being tortured and yet to others, the voice of an otherworldly sylph (I’m in the latter camp). Or Jeremy Clarkson – either the greatest Prime Minister we’ve never had or a booze sodden misogynist with terrible teeth (again, for me it’s the latter). And Love Actually – sentimental, poorly acted dross, or one of the greatest movies ever made. Okay. Deep breath: here goes any credibility I might never have had – I am resoundingly with the last when it comes to Love Actually.
Now, I realise it’s a film most associate with the festive season, but I think of it every time I’m at an airport and watching otherwise buttoned-up folk spontaneously combust with delight and emotion the moment they see loved ones poke expectant faces through those sliding doors at the arrivals gate. It’s magic – pure magic – to witness such a public display of such intimate emotions. Exceptions to this are those dreadful couples, of generally only two months’ standing, who proceed to hoover each other’s face in a most unbecoming display, seemingly unaware of something called an airport hotel. Honestly. You’d think the returning party had been on a year-long expedition to Antarctica and not a budget airline stag weekend in Tallinn.
I thought about the opening scene a lot this week. Who could fail to be moved by the stark pictures of heartbroken relatives of the Germanwings victims, standing bewildered in an arrivals hall for reunions which never came? It doesn’t bear thinking about. But it was heavy in the air as I sat on a plane to Singapore, taxiing down the runway during the most subdued safety announcement I have ever witnessed, all eyes glued to the attendants, all breath bated until at last we touched down. Disembarking passengers said ‘thank you!’ to crew and this time, they really, really meant it. It was almost like Christmas.
We are amazing things, humans. Ingenious enough to fashion a big bird of tin that hurtles us through the air at six hundred miles per hour; inspired enough to create vast architectural paeans to hedonism that loom across skylines, and Angry Birds, for those moments when you’re alone in a crowd and want to look terribly busy and important. But sometimes we are irrationally broken, and prone to squandering all our brilliance in random acts of unfathomable callousness.
Still, when I stand in an arrivals hall I am overwhelmed by how for the most part humans are more good than bad, and more inclined to love than hate.
Even that annoying couple who should just get a room.