A Hearty Breakfast

Let me qualify that. A hearty Scottish breakfast.

Like many other countries in the developed world, the United Kingdom has a weight problem.

I’m riding on the first plane out of Edinburgh, at an ungodly hour of the morning—about half the passengers, and all the stewardesses, are grossly overweight.

The same or worse was in evidence every morning in my hotel, where the breakfast menu emphasized the word hearty—there’s a little irony here, since Scotland is the UK champion of heart disease.

Glasgow, in fact, has the worst life expectancy in Britain: only seventy-five percent of boys born in the city will make it to sixty-five—girls fare a little better. The rate of premature death from cardio-vascular disease is 144 out of every one hundred thousand people, whereas in the aptly-named town of Hart, in the southern English county of Hampshire, only forty people succumb.

A well-chosen name for clothing supplies in Scotland.

The country sets the tone. I had a chat with a young Thai girl who grew up in Scotland from a very early age. At the time, I was busy doctoring an almost inedible burger with tabasco, and I asked her if she liked spicy food. She shook her head emphatically.

We were in an unbelievably named spot called the kilted kangaroo, which advertised on the door ‘the best food in town!’ Clearly fake news, and the imagery of Aussie-Scots fusion is very possibly the height of poor taste.

What about fish? Cod and haddock. Oh, salmon also. Great. What about shrimp? Prawns? How about little fish? She shook her head emphatically again. I told her she was the very first Thai I’d ever met who didn’t like seafood or spices.

How about pizza? Her eyes lit up.

So there you have it in a nutshell, the old Darwinian debate on nature and nurture—when it boils down to food, if you’ll excuse the eminently justifiable Scottish pun, nurture wins hands down.

The Scots seem to take perverse pleasure in poor eating, diluting the grease with copious volumes of lager—it puts an entirely new spin on the word hearty, and compresses their chests on a regular basis.

Flying at first light is always hardship duty, and I start the day (or technically the night) feeling sorry for myself, but I soon get over it when I think of all the people who need to be up earlier than me so I can fly.

It’s the menial jobs in particular that must be soul-destroying—the guys loading bags on planes, the shuttle drivers and cleaners, and… woe is me, the ground staff who process the cattle onto low cost flights.

And yet, as I watched the harassed helpers herding the hordes (sorry, it’s a bit hearly), I had a vision of this same sea of humankind being loaded onto cattle trains to Auschwitz. The same blank looks and shuffling feet, but a very different destination.

It took me a while to get into low costs, and some experiences are unrepeatable—Frontier Airlines was my worst plane trip ever, barring a crash—in which case you’ll have to speculate, because I won’t be writing about it. But overall, I find some low cost features attractive, mainly because flag carriers have become so hideously unattractive.

Private Eye gives us the real story on British Airways.

After the British Airways meltdown on the final Saturday of May 2017, I had to fight tooth and nail to get my fares reimbursed. BA now advertises its unique relationship with Marks & Spencer, but frankly, who gives a shit about M&S? The few foreigners who know the chain think it sells trousers.

The idea that flogging the customers indifferent M&S snacks is better than giving them indifferent BA snacks could only be pushed by a Brit. Easyjet may be sleazyjet, but what you see is what you get—or to really scrape the bottom of the barrel, what you sleaze is what you jet.

Speedy boarding is speedy—first class access without first class prices, and although you buy your food on board, you can have something hot, and even a couple of choices of wine—and the flights run on time.

These early flights from Scotland to the Costa del Vino draw a certain type of traveler—you recognize them because they’re drinking multiple pints of lager at the Wetherspoon pub in departures, and it’s barely five a.m.

When you’re pouring beer down your throat, and scarfing a hearty Scottish breakfast while examining your partner’s tattoos, you definitely qualify as an escapee from an Austin Powers movie.

In the more extreme situations, passengers need to check their duty-free and retrieve it on arrival—this follows a memorable piss-up on Ryan Air which forced a plane diversion from Ibiza to Bordeaux. The lads had consumed their airport-purchased beverages—they were so drunk when they landed they were unaware of the diversion, and promptly got into fights with the French police.

My fellow passengers are no doubt looking forward to a week in the sun—they don’t realize they’ve really come for a seven-day detox.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, Clear Eyes, and Folk Tales For Future Dreamers. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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