First Report from London

The giant illuminated billboard at Heathrow declares: “We’re ready.”

But the mobbed scene in Terminal 5 says otherwise.

The train between terminals pulls out empty, causing the next to be packed. Then those people ascend to “baggage reclaim” on jammed elevator only to meet people coming up the suddenly operating escalator. The hapless guides try to shout orders – go right to line up well down the hall when the signs clearly say go left – and the crowd clogs atop the escalator landing – a planner’s nightmare. More and more people are delivered to an area already overfull with them.

Some film the action via phone to send to the BBC, as if to disprove the British Airway declaration themselves.

The Olympics are coming this summer and London declares it ready everywhere you go, though there’s no evidence they’ll be able to handle the influx.

Then again, I’m already jetlagged and punchy from staying up too long on the overnight flight rather than sleeping the whole way through – the way free plastic bottles of red wine will so ably assist you to do.

When there’s a four inch video screen six inches from your face, what could be better than to sample its wares? There are a lot of movies – I chose “Hugo,” which I’ve waitd so long to see not a frame is a surprise.

I’m happier when I switch to obscure BBC series that have yet to be imported. Chief among them is “Partridge’s Morning Matters,” yet another variation on the hilarious Alan Partridge character that Steve Coogan has created along with the genius soon to make his U.S. debut with HBO’s “Veep.“

By now he’s still on the radio in the backwater of Norfolk but even worse, on North Norfolk’s digital station, which sounds like a flight below broadcast standards.

Anyway, he sets up quizzes and call-ins with an undermining sidekick and just about everybody gets the best of him. Filmed as if with a security camera, it could probably work as a podcast, but it’s hilarious as it is.

Better yet, I found the original Danish version of “The Killing” that I had been otherwise unable to find (Netflix, to its detriment, doesn’t have it). It had been a hit as an English import and the subtitled version shows it to be fairly similar to the U.S. adaptation – dark skies, a persistent but in some ways ambivalent lead detective in a ponytail, whiffs of corruption and political intrigue.

Just as in the AMC version of “The Killing,” season two of the original begins with one crime unsolved, but with another one revealed. It looks to be the kind of series that would be equally engrossing, but not four hours into an overnight transatlantic flight.

Finally, I went for one of the audio offerings, a recording of a BBC radio show hosted by Ronnie Wood. As one would expect, it focuses on songs from the 60s with additional personal anecdotes. What’s a surprise is how obvious all the choices are: It starts with “She Loves You” which is still bracing to consider anew, but follows with “My Generation” instead of something from the pre-Who band he had been discussing; Aretha Franklin’s biggest hit, and the biggest from the Temptations as well, though he’s talking about David Ruffin opening for the Stones in Detroit.

I still have to figure out the local TV in London (and obviously, with wifi situation – these posts our way late, I’m sorry to say) but I did catch an array of quiz shows this afternoon, a proto-Springer talk show of low class recrimination and some BBC news: one of the queen’s granddaughters was injured; she fell off a pony.

Of course the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is in the news here as well, maybe more than the Olympics are. It may have meant a bad time for transatlantic travel in retrospect, but the icebergs are melted and we were on a plane, flipping through the video channels.

The hotel restaurant was offering what was called a Titanic themed dinner – some of the same offerings that were served on the fated ship. And at the end, someone throws a bucket of salt water on your head. Or at least that’s what I think I heard; I’ve been somewhat jetlagged you know.

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