I can’t wait to fly from Manston again

In the meantime, an apprentice, please?

First published in the Isle of Thanet News of Friday 10th July 2020

Hark!  Is that the sound of pens  – and possibly knives – being sharpened across the Isle? Do I hear the rattle of keyboards; the sounds of chests inflating? There have been some great divides across Thanet in my years as a local journalist – most recently in 2016 when the turkeys voted for Christmas and the rest of us lay in a darkened room, weeping – but the one that gets feelings running high quite unlike any other (with the possible exception of the closure of public loos after 9pm when the fireworks are on) is the thorny matter of Manston Airport.

I do not see eye to eye with Sir  Roger Gale on every issue, by a long chalk, but when it comes to the utilisation of our local airfield for aeroplanes, as it was intended, instead of a mini Milton Keynes in all the ghastliness that image conjures, I am right there, shoulder to shoulder, with the long-standing North Thanet MP. (The same applied to his views on the turkeys.)

Sir Rog was amongst the first to give a thumbs up to the announcement that the Department of Transport has approved the Development Consent Order, that will allow Manston owners RiverOak to operate a freight hub with, in theory, a passenger terminal to follow.

The Thanet MP cited job creation, and a boost to the local economy from the quoted £300 million of investment promised to produce “a state-of-the-art zero-carbon” airport as “a shot in the arm for the nation”.  I’m just focusing on the thought of cheap flights to Spain.

Or even expensive ones. To France as well, preferably. Or simply any hub where one can jump planes to get to wherever the hell one wants.

I  become quite misty-eyed over those halcyon days when KLM flew out of Manston, and have never understood why more locals didn’t take advantage of such a great service before the evil Ms Gloag broke all her promises and flogged it off.

The worst part of any trip abroad is the schlep to Gatwick, followed by the queues and the wait and the further schlep to the gate and the wait and the queues. And then, on one’s return, the endless snaking lines to passport control and the wait for baggage, and then still having an hour and a half drive home, if you’ve been lucky enough to locate your car quickly and aren’t embroiled in a major domestic over who was looking after the ticket,  and double that on public transport if you haven’t.

Compare and contrast the one-time Manston experience where checks were speedy, one’s baggage was already trundling round the carousel by the time one walked round the corner from customs, and it was perfectly possible, if a lift had been booked, to be back in one’s kitchen uncorking the wine a mere half an hour after touchdown. I flew to a string of European destinations while it lasted and even did Manston to New York. Why ever would you not?

Sir Roger claims Manston will be the most environmentally-friendly airport in the world, when it’s up and running this time. I say it will be right on my doorstep. And I can’t bloody wait.

SO DISHY-RISHI is on another spending spree. We can now indulge in half-price burgers from Monday to Wednesday, buy a house without stumping up stamp duty and coin in a grand if we keep employees on longer than we otherwise might. Or get in twice that amount for hiring an apprentice.

It all sounds good, and I hope it is. I just wish I could shake off my general unease about human nature. I know people who’ve been pressured to work while furloughed and I expect you do too. The National Audit Office fears £1.5 billion may have been lost through criminals ripping off the newly-relaxed Universal Credit system during lockdown, and how many opportunists are going to see the offer of two grand as a chance for some free labour without anything coming of it at the end?  I’m half-tempted myself. With a new novel on the go, due to be delivered in a scarily-short space of time, I would indeed welcome the gratis help of some impressionable young thing. A “research assistant” perhaps, whom I could teach to use the coffee machine, clear up mouse entrails, empty the dishwasher and periodically shriek: ‘do I have to do everything around here?’

No experience necessary.  A love of animals and  a basic knowledge of the correct temperature at which to serve Macon Blanc Villages, preferred…


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