THE FIRST LIVE pictures of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre are broadcast just as we arrive at Manchester Airport. Staff in our hotel, the Holiday Inn, look ashen and stunned as they pause to try and take in the news. Being here underlines the feeling that we are are all in some way caught up in the events and their aftermath. The airport staff cope well with the extra security measures.
Being in an airport is often like being in a state of limbo, poised between one part of the world and the next. As we sit in the air-conditioned concourse of Terminal 2 outside the Café Laurentis with a cappuccino at a table beneath the branches of a Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina, we could be in almost any airport, anywhere in the world.
A Corner of CountrysideBut at Manchester it's still easy to stroll out into remnant countryside. We walk out of the terminal along a footpath between a concrete overpass and a staff car park, but the flower beds on either side are so densely planted with shrubs and herbs that Rabbits seem quite at home amongst the thick spiny cover and less concerned by our presence than their country cousins.
Fifteen minutes later we've found our way to a nearby park and playing fields. There's a smell of freshly mown grass. We sit on an old log by a Rowan tree that's dripping with red berries. Blackberries and a few Sloes (left) are ripe in the hedges. Dog walkers are doing their rounds.
A small flock of Starlings feeds on the open field. These could be recent international arrivals, migrating from the continent to take advantage of our milder winters. Black-headed Gulls are all in their winter plumage, now lacking their chocolate brown caps. Magpies explore the bushes with an eye for the next opportunity. Wood Pigeons head for the tree tops. It's good to come down to earth and make contact with an ordinary corner of our countryside.