June 13, 2014 4:18 pm

Spiritual connections – and why I’m not a budget airline steward

The Dalai Lama seems to be much more of a trendy man than me as he has joined Instagram

The Dalai Lama is on Twitter, a reader observed to me, seemingly to imply that if it is good enough for that sage, it is good enough for me. However, I am not a missionary trying to influence the world in the spiritual beliefs of men, while it is the business of the Dalai Lama to disseminate his views to the maximum number of people, and if he could do it effectively in the quickest time then why not? Besides, he seems to be much more of a trendy man than me as he has also, unlike me, joined Instagram and uses a Montblanc Diplomat 149, which is a serious fountain pen with a nib that resembles a crusader’s shield. I am slightly surprised this is not a bit too flash for the Tibetan leader, although Rupert Murdoch did once describe him as an old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes. Pope Francis has, however, abandoned wearing bright orange papal clogs and goes round in his normal pair of mangled shoes. He has also deserted his papal apartment for an ordinary dormitory. But then his Holiness has a lot to do to dispel the historical perception of hypocritical extravagance within the Catholic Church, and to repent for the unsavoury abuses among the clergy. So there is a bit more to do at St Peter’s than at the Potala Palace.

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David Tang

At the secular end, the über nouveaux riche have gone in the opposite direction. In the Med today, there are bigger and bigger yachts, some resembling skyscrapers in height and others submarines in length. Any crow will testify that in recent years, airports such as Nice and Farnborough are becoming more and more jam-packed with private jets of increasing size. No wonder property prices in a city such as London are bubbling as the offer of an astronomic amount is now regarded as the most important factor of social triumph. The evidence is these people deliberately want to flaunt, not to shun, earthly riches. So long as this carries on (and there is no sign of it abating), Italy’s GDP will rise because it is the source of so much of the trashy bespoke furniture, especially leather, that is being commissioned for these new planes, yachts and houses. The Italian furniture fraternity must be having a field day ripping off all the Russian and Chinese billionaires. And good luck to them.

Regarding the dreadful service on budget airlines, imagine yourself as a steward. Every day, you have to deal with plebs, on their way to destinations such as Antalya, Punta Cana and Tenerife. Every day, you look at a crowd of mostly ugly, overweight, uncultured riffraff. How long would it take for you to lose your patience? How long until you take off your cheap uniform tie and shove it in the mouth of the passenger barking at you because his cheeseburger is taking too long?

That’s why I haven’t applied for job as a steward on any budget airline. Nor would I even consider it on any “luxury” airline or, God forbid, private jets, where rich plebs behave worse than poor plebs. With the slight possibility of my being afflicted by Tourette’s, I could positively be a danger in the sky to all plebs, especially when I have always fantasised about behaving like the character played by Michael Douglas in the film Falling Down. At one point he goes into a hamburger place and is told he cannot have breakfast because it is two minutes after the time they stopped serving breakfast. Douglas goes berserk, takes out a gun and shoots it at the ceiling. Wouldn’t it be marvellous to be able to react like this against highly irritating rules?

What things do you insist on having in a hotel room?

This is a stupid question because it clearly requires further context before it is properly answerable. A room at an airport hotel for a few hours of rest between connecting flights? Or a room merely used to sleep in while business meetings are done all day outside? Or a room on holiday for a stay of a week or two? Without these contexts, it is meaningless to answer the question. The reason so many hotel rooms are badly designed is because they are done precisely without proper reference to context.

If there were one thing I’d like most in any hotel room, in any context, it would be romance. Take the small top suite, at the dilapidated Grand Hotel in Tangier, in which Matisse painted many of his Moroccan paintings looking across to Europe from the shores of Africa. Or the Churchill Suite at La Mamounia in Marrakech from where you can smell an olive grove but see a snowcapped Atlas mountain across the desert. Yes, a room with a view. Forster got it in one.

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