At the Drop of Another Hat
At the Drop of a Hat
Tried by the Centre Court
And Then We Wrote...
We're often asked . . . sometimes asked . . . somebody asked me once - why don't you write a song about flying? It's not a bad idea, really. Swan and I have had to do quite a lot of flying lately - by air - and I must say it's rather marvelous when you think of it, isn't it, that, you know, if you want to go to New York, say, instead of lying about for days on end, like in a sort of floating Selfridges, doing nothing, eating far too much, all you have to do is just jump on a plane, seventeen miles outside London at two o' clock in the morning. You'll be . . . you can be in New York too late for breakfast and just in time to go to bed at noon. Doesn't take your physical body more than about a week to catch up with this.
No, as the airlines say nowadays, you know, flying is very very safe. It's actually been calculated it is safer to fly than it is to cross the road. Mind you, I gave that up years ago where I live, in Kensington near the air terminal. They have these airline buses whizzing about, you know. I think the drivers have instructions to keep the statistics favourable!
The companies do anything to put you at your ease, whether it is our own BO airways corporation or Air Linctus or any of those, right from the moment when they send you your ticket, often as much as six hours before you are due to leave, and it says on it that you are entitled to 20 kilos of free baggage, which has a wonderful international ring to it, kilos, you know; you can always get down your log rules and slide tables and find out that this is in fact about 44 pounds, give or take an oz.
I always like to weigh everything before I go, on my scales. But they only weigh up to ten pounds - they're marked in scruples. But I weigh everything including the cases and it usually comes to about 40 pounds. Put the things into the cases - 50 pounds! Can you explain it? It's the only example where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Swann doesn't bother actually, do you?
MF: Just push anything in it. (Do you remember) when we came back from Toronto?
DS: Oh yes.
MF: He had 125 pounds of excess baggage. In the end we had to leave her behind. Lovely girl, known locally as La Belle Dame Sans Merci - the beautiful lady who never says thank you.
Anyway, off to the airport, and you know you're nearly there, because you see this big notice saying "beware low-flying aircraft". There's not a lot you can do about that, you know. Take your hat off. Then you go into the lounge and you sit down and a man comes up to you and tells you that you are on the advanced flight. Which sounds marvelous - till you find out it means you've got to wait for another four hours! There's always a good reason for this: either the plane has been held up in Beirut by some band of marauding riffs, or there's a wind over the Atlantic. Something they hadn't quite tumbled to yet. What they do on the Air Ministry roof I do not know. Or else it's an untraced electrical fault. Which means they can't find the radio operator.
You sit there, you go on waiting there, you know, if you haven't had small pox, filling in your landing card next door to this big machine saying "Insure your life for £250," you know, "loss of both limbs half price," until finally you hear a voice through the loudspeaker saying, "(completely unintelligible airport-style message)" - so you do that, and you go, all aboard the mystery bus tour and off we go to the middle of the field.
They're very helpful about this, because I have a particular problem about this, you know, getting up this very steep gangway, with the wheelchair and so on, so I - they're very nice, though, very helpful, they find out exactly which gangway is nearest to my seat, and then they take me up the other one. Actually, to do them justice, last time they took me up through the kitchen entrance on a fork lift - very stately, you know - why they need a great machine like that just to lift forks I do not know. I mean, well, they're only made of plastic, aren't they?
Well, you go in and you find your seat and you sit down and you stop smoking and you fasten your safety belt - ugh - and you take your hand baggage out of the hand baggage rack and put it on the floor - they're very particular about this - and then a very nice lady comes and tells you what to do when you come down in the water, and what to do when you stop breathing, and finally it's time to go. And it's chocks away and they start up the engines, you know - fshhh - and the whole plane starts to shake, like this. It's like a cat with a pigeon, you know. But I'm never worried, because I know that every tiny part of this great machine is a miracle of modern engineering. Then the ashtray falls off - oh!
Originally from the album 'At The Drop of Another Hat'.