For a long time I was baffled by the opening line of the Beatles’ Back in the USSR. “Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC.” What did those letters mean? Were they some kind of code? A bit of 1960s polari?
I decided it was an in-joke of the era, a teasingly exotic hangover from a time of impenetrably trendy goings-on, but one that added a potent twist to what I still think is one of the most exciting opening 30 seconds to any song on any album ever.
Many years later I realised it was a reference to the British Overseas Airways Corporation. But this just made the song even better. Then later still I realised I’d been oblivious to a second salute to the BOAC, in an equally unexpected place:
Speedbird, to give it its thrillingly imagine-what-the-future-will-be-like name, used to be emblazoned all over aeroplanes until British Airways was privatised in the early 1980s (coincidentally, around the same time I would have first heard Back in the USSR).
Since then it’s been revised and adapted and generally messed around with so as to become virtually unrecognisable. Not that I’d ever be close enough to spot it, given my fear of flying. Indeed, even being at Hatton Cross, one stop along from the first of the Heathrow stations, gave me the jitters. Although this might have been more down to the questioning looks I was getting from waiting passengers.
You’re encouraged to change trains at Hatton Cross to get your desired connection to terminals 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. As such the platforms play host to much anxious watch-checking and ticket-consulting. Maybe these bold and colourful streaks of futurism provide a welcome distraction. They can certainly calm the nerves of the most aerophobic of souls.
Planes: perfectly fine when turned into a two-tone mosaic on a pillar. Just don’t send me up inside one, or there’ll be more than a paper bag on my knee.