Mary Cawley reviews Departures – Seven Stories from Heathrow by Tony Parsons
This enchanting book of seven interrelated short stories is a great read for people of all ages. Based on a week spent as Writer in Residence at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, Parsons paints a vivid picture of a secret city populated by the 75 million travellers who pass through every year, a place where journeys and dreams end and begin.
This slim volume is not challenging reading, and the simple but evocative stories have the heart-warming qualities of children’s fiction. They capture the magic of travel, and introduce us to the men and women who make the dreams come true.
We get to know nervous flyer Zoe, who relies on Mike the Fire Officer to reassure her; the brilliant twenty-something kids who control the skies up in Air Control; and the softly spoken Tim who cares for the dogs, lions and smuggled rattlesnakes at Heathrow’s Animal Reception Centre.
My favourite story Say Hello, Wave Goodbye stars Jaswinder ‘Jazz’ Smith of the UK Border Agency checking passports in the non-EU nationals queue. Jazz, who ‘always got the nutters’, just knew she would be the one to examine the passport of the young Korean woman resplendent in a white wedding dress who proudly announced she had come to marry Prince Harry. The officer at the next desk remarked: “I remember when it was Prince Charles they all came over to marry!”
Charming, moving and very funny – the perfect one-sitting read over the New Year break.
Departures is published by HarperCollins, RRP £7.99 (Jan 2013)