September 18, 2021

I love watching airport arrivals. The reunions say: life is better now you’re here | Rory Kinnear

Six weeks apart from my family is insignificant compared with the separation some have had...

Six weeks apart from my family is insignificant compared with the separation some have had to endure. Public health has deeply affected the private heart

Not everyone likes each other. That would seem to be an uncontroversial take on contemporary society. I won’t waste my word count on examples; you obviously read the newspapers. But you’d be hard pushed to countenance the existence of such a bifurcated and tribalistic society if you spent time at an airport arrivals lounge. It was something I used to enjoy as a late teenager, until the closing credits of Love, Actually ruined it for me. I’d swing by Heathrow, get a copy of Sky Magazine from Smith’s and, with vampiric delight, sit and watch the emotional fireworks play out in front of me. Sure, some were a bit muted, a bit more “indoor sparkler” than others, but the big whoppers, the whiz-bangs, the Catherine wheels that spun loose from the tree – they could really set me up in a good mood for the rest of the week. Odd, maybe, but I was.

Standing at arrivals, waiting for my family recently, having been separated from my children for the longest time since they were born, I was again struck by how happy everyone was to see each other. Not always shrieks-of-delight happy, not necessarily fall-to-the-floor-weeping, but everyone noticeably looked fuller, more rounded when their separate parts came together. A dad smirked as he fist-bumped his teenage sons, trying to disguise their pleasure as they posed for a photo. A group of friends ironically slow hand-clapped their mate as she sheepishly emerged, then gleefully pretended to ignore her as she bashed their shins with her trolley. An older woman fanned herself with a magazine, wrung her fingers and took down her mask to gulp some fresher air, before shouting into a laugh as her son and granddaughter walked out. They all did it with different signals, but all those signals said the same thing: life is better now that you’re here.

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