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MAKING THE BEST OF JOURNEYS
I've been shocked, but not altogether surprised, when 1 think of the efforts the human race (adult variety) has made, and makes to keep itself from being bored on journeys. Look what happens when it crosses the sea in a great ship. Everything is organized to prevent boredom — games and concerts and swimming baths and cinema shows — all sorts of things go on, day in day out. Airports have huge bookstalls and everybody busily buys magazines and papers to read. In the air there's a continual succession of meals and drinks and sweets brought by helpful airhostesses. No station except the smallest is complete without its railway bookstall, and if you make a journey along any main line for any length of time and look at your grown-up companions you'll find them always hiding behind their papers and magazines.
Nowadays even those who go by motor-car can't do without the radio — at least a lot of adults can't. It's all part of the general idea that journeys are deadly and that they have got to
drug themselves with something to get through, \fery few people over the age of thirty look out of the window.
Not long ago I was traveling by air from London Airport to Prestwick in Scotland. It takes ages to get into the air, these days — three-quarters of an hour to get through the London traffic in the bus, perhaps another half-hour at the airport until the flight is ready. On some air journeys you spend as much time on the ground as you do in the air between terminals! Waiting for the flight to be announced on the loudspeaker, I looked at the passengers who were going to travel in our aircraft. They were all slumped about in chairs, idly turning over the leaves of magazines, muttering to each other, obviously bored stiff.
All, that is, except the passengers who were in their teens or younger. These were buzzing round the waiting-room with a great deal of zeal — indeed, impatience — looking closely at all the maps of air-routes, working through the time-tables of the
When the flight was at last announced, a boy of about fifteen slipped, quite politely, to the head of the queue, and was one of the first to board the aircraft when we were out on the tarmac. I knew he'd travelled by air before when I saw he'd bagged a seat in the rear of the aircraft, by a window that I knew was one of the best for a view of the world below. I sat down behind him. Just after we'd taken-off, and everybody had loosened their seat-belts, we both fished travelling atlases of Britain
out of our bags.
"Mine's the same as yours," 1 said, over his shoulder. "I like following the flight; and it's a good day for seeing the ground,"
It was a good day; we flew all the way to Scotland between six and eight thousand feet, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Now and then we got up to look out of the port window, to pick up an expected town, or wood, or lake.
We were not far from Birmingham when the captain of the aircraft came through on one of his periodic visits to the passengers. George was looking out of the window and mumbling away on his running commentary. The captain tapped him on the shoulder. "Navigator, eh?" he said. "You seem to know where we are — would you like to meet our navigator and look at his plot?"
"Would I?" said George. You couldn't see his tail for smoke as he scuttled forward through the crew door.
On most longish flights captain once or twice passes a bit of paper down to the passengers which gives the aircraft's speed, height, position, and E.T.A.; or else he announces it over the loudspeaker; or he does both. After some time a voice came over the speaker:"Shortly," it said, "we will see Windermere to our right — 1 mean starboard. Below us now, on our port side, is Morecambe Bay." It sounded rather a young voice. Sure enough, along came Windermere, a silver ribbon in a landscape of great green hills, crowned with spring snow. And the voice told us when we were flying over Sea Fell, the highest mountain in England, and showed us Carlisle and the Solwayestuary, and the hills of the Lowlands, also powered with snow. Some of the grown-ups even put down their magazines for a moment and looked out of the window.
Just before the air-hostess warned us to fasten our safety-belts for landing, George came back with a beaming face. "Wizard show," he said, "the navigator's a good type; he showed me all his things and even let me give the position on the loudspeaker."
1. Where was Mr. Fisher travelling to one day? Was he travelling by sea or by air?
2. What were the passengers doing while waiting for the flight to be announced on the loudspeaker?
3. Why were the young travellers buzzing round the waiting-room?
4. What did a fifteen-year-old boy do when the flight was announced?
5. Why did the boy choose a seat in the rear of the aircraft?
6. Where was Mr. Fisher's seat?
7. What did the boy do when the plane was high up in the air?
8. What was the weather like on the day of the flight?
9. Why did Mr. Fisher and his young fellow-traveller get up from time to time to look out of the window?
10. What did the pilot suggest George should do?
11. What did George announce over the loudspeaker?
12. What did Windermere look like from above?
13. Which is the highest mountain in England?
14. When did the air-hostess warn the passengers to fasten their safety-belts?
15. When did George return to his seat? Why was his face beaming?
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