South-East England: How full is too full?

I’m sitting here in my spare room, checking my personal email. It’s a nice thing to do, and a pleasant way to unwind after the more mentally demanding travails of the day. I always think I can get through them quite quickly, but I never do. Because I’m easily distracted. If there’s background noise, I find it hard to concentrate. Which is problematic for a writer. I seem to find it harder to zone out of these sounds than other people do.

Trouble is, it’s getting worse. And there’s one reason why. It’s called Heathrow. The coarsing screech of the planes overhead is becoming intolerable. Relentless, consistent, one every ninety seconds, making a mockery of my double glazing and begging me to ask the question: what would it be like if I was standing outside with no aural protection?

I realise we are an island. I realise we have a lot of airports, a lot of businesses, a lot of people, and a peculiar desire to connect the three. But as I sit here, my ears drowning in jet fuel and my concentration on automatic pilot, I wonder just exactly WHY?

More terminals, more planes, more noise, more pollution. To what end? More money of course, for an already long since bloated government to spend on things we don’t need, don’t want, and don’t know about. Ferrying more people into our tiny, rammed-to-bursting island, with its push-past-people pavements and its road rage commuters. These planes that blight my skies, my landscape, my ears, my quality of life, my sleep, my ability to hear the telly, my lungs, my concentration and my sanity, are totally unnecessary. Is there one good reason why we need them other than to fulfil public sector greed and quotas? Convenience for travellers you might say? Don’t make me laugh. Anyone who has visited any part of Heathrow other than Terminal 5 will testify just what an utter eyesore, what an outdated dump the whole place is, run by those halfwits at the BAA.

And as I inhale these totally unnecessary fumes, I’m reminded that this is really a symbol for South East England, and the pursuit of my question, ‘How much is too much?’ How many planes can bring in how many more people, and how many more infrastructures can crumble how much, under the weight of how many oversubscribed waiting lists promising how many things that can’t be delivered on time, on budget, or even at all?

How many properties can be squeezed over how many beautiful fields before how many generations lose how many morals because there are how many too few police on the streets? How many kids can squeeze into how many classrooms to be given how many easy ‘A’ grades that mean nothing in the real world and leave how many graduates fighting for too few jobs due to too many meaningless qualifications.

Many more, it would seem.


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