I’m not a great fan of flying, but being an avid people watcher I find nothing better than sitting at arrivals and departures and finding myself being pulled briefly into other people’s lives. Surely then one of the best writing jobs would be the writer in residence at Heathrow Airport?
Alain de Botton, billed on the Heathrow Airport website as one of the world’s most respected philosophical authors , and author of The pleasures and sorrows of work and The architecture of happiness, was given this opportunity by BAA, a British airport company that owns the likes of Heathrow and Gatwick. An obvious promotional tool, De Botton was however given a free rein as to what he wrote, and passengers could see what he was writing on large screens placed behind him. Out of this experience came A week at the airport : A Heathrow diary.
The Guardian weekly was rather lukewarm in its response to the book.
De Botton’s run-ins with priests, shoe-shiners and pilots provide a nice glimpse behind the scenes of a familiar facade, but don’t turn to the book for industry analysis, journalistic dirt-digging or flashy first-person writing: it’s as chipper and soothing as an air stewardess.
Nothing wrong with a bit of chipper I say, and I have this book on my list of soothing books to read.