On a clear, cloudless day, Amsterdam from above looks like a patch work quilt, its greenery criss-crossed by a network of canals, an endlessly repeating pattern; broken only by the shore line, and a little further out the silhouettes of oil rigs, an enduring monument to the Dutch pride of place in the scavenging of North Sea Oil.
On the morning of my return to cold, wet and windy Aberdeen, I find myself half asleep, mentally pulling myself up by my very own bootstraps to remain awake as my City Hopper makes the hour forty five minute hop from Amsterdam to Aberdeen. Ever since an ever so slight snore embarrassed me a few years ago, I have tried to minimise future risks by limiting how often I fall asleep in public places. There were mitigating circumstances then – EJ might be best placed to tell if I indeed snore as a matter of course – I had stayed up all night studying just before a class test and I was very very knackered.
The flight was fuller than the hop in the opposite direction at the start of my journey. From the number of sharply dressed suits and skirts, the number of brief cases and portmanteaus and the fact that it was an early morning flight, these could only have been people coming in for business meetings in the famous Oil Capital of Europe.
My fight with sleep was manful – aided by two shots of espresso when the stewardess rolled her trolley my way and asked what I wanted for a drink and by the time my flight arrived, I was clear eyed enough to take on immigration. On all my jaunts, I am yet to be subjected to extended searches beyond what is usual, so as I made the quick stroll from the plane towards immigration I was mentally looking forward to a quick breeze through, a short stop at the carousel and then a cdab to the comfort of my bed. Unfortunately, for the first time I was hauled over by a police man as I made to squeeze past him. He asked a few questions – where I was coming from, what I was doing in the UK and how long I had been away for. I gave him the requisite answers and then he let me grudgingly go. A few feet further ahead I was also hauled over by customs who insisted on doing a search of my luggage. Thankfully, my return to Lagos was hurried and I had no food stuff in my bag. Upon coming up short he tried to make small talk – asked me what I did, I mentioned I was a corrosion engineer which ended up leading us down a discussion on cathodic protection and zinc anodes and all what not. After three to five minutes of corrosion talk, he let me go, finally letting on that in a past life he was a mariner, and had seen huge blocks of zinc used as sacrifical anode systems.
I gave him my pasted on smile, inwardly furious at the delay, retrieved my bag and headed on out, to the cab rank, with the wind grabbing at my jacket and alight drizzle – typical Aberdeen fare!