Dear fellow travellers
There is a touch of theatre about great railway stations by night. Platforms fall silent as the last of the overnight expresses leaves, carrying sleeping cars and couchettes bound for foreign lands. Then the station cats venture forth from their hiding places, dodging the late night stragglers who missed the last train home and the forlorn folk for whom the station is home. Airports too have a night time demeanour that we seldom see; after the last flight leaves, the terminal becomes the territory of the cleaners who tackle the detritus of the day, and the security men who stand sentinel over those condemned by lack of funds or missed connections to a night of discomfort.
Edinburgh's Grid Iron Theatre Company, in conjunction with the National Theatre of Scotland, explores the 'terminal as theatre' theme in its upcoming production Roam at Edinburgh International Airport. Roam is Grid Iron's tenth anniversary production and breaks new ground for an experimental theatre company that has a penchant for unusual settings. Previous Grid Iron performances have been staged in Debenham's department store in Edinburgh, and in the old mortuary in the Irish city of Cork. Starting 4 April, Grid Iron will offer nightly perspectives on Edinburgh airport after the last flight leaves, celebrating that moment when the daytime frenzy of the terminal slips into silence. A chance, perhaps, for frequent travellers to see anew the very functional space that seems, as yet another flight delay is announced, so very untheatrical.
Travellers with a more utilitarian angle on airports by night will enjoy a brilliant website we chanced upon recently. Look at www.sleepinginairports.net for detailed briefings on which airports offer the best prospects for a good night's sleep. It seems that many airport terminals are non-starters. Paris Beauvais firmly locks its doors after the last flight lands. So don't even think of seeking shelter there, nor in Minsk or Split. Helsinki, by contrast, gets top marks for comfort, cleanliness and security personnel who leave sleepers undisturbed. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Amsterdam and Yerevan airports all get points for generous night time hospitality. For many airports, the website pinpoints individual corners of comfort, but clearly the prime spots are snapped up early. Edinburgh, too, wins good marks, though those aspiring to sleep at Edinburgh airport this month will presumably find themselves cast as bit part players in Grid Iron's staging of Roam.
April Fool's Day
Today is April Fool's Day in many parts of Europe. Not everywhere, as it happens, for in some countries the Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December, is reserved for foolish pranks. So many of the very best April Fool's jokes of yesteryear relied on our then hazy knowledge of distant parts of Europe. One of the most famous of all such pranks played upon British ignorance of Switzerland. In 1957, the BBC's highly regarded Panorama television programme reported on an unusually successful Swiss spaghetti harvest, beguiling viewers into believing that spaghetti really grew on trees. An authoritative commentator gave a voice over as Swiss peasants were seen harvesting the crop from trees. Presaging the modern age of genetic engineering, the commentator explained how careful plant breeding ensured that every piece of spaghetti grew to exactly the same length. Who knows? Perhaps one day spaghetti really will grow on trees!
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)