I arrive at the slum of Gatwick South on Friday afternoon and there is a crush at the grandly titled UK Border.
A large squat woman in rent-a-cop uniform has been put in charge of segregating people without EU passports.
As hundreds of arriving passengers wait for inspection, she is waving her finger in the face of a baffled family, announcing in parade-ground tone of voice, “I have told you five times to stand over there.”
Who is this woman? Is she employed by the airport? The border control agency? She does not wear the same uniform of the baggage screeners, who are more polite, generally. I shudder that this embarrassing scene will now forever linger in the memory of this respectable-looking family as their abiding recollection of arriving in Britain. She is lucky she did not speak like that to me.
If I was in charge at the UK border there would be someone who said: “Welcome to the United Kingdom.” And a polite sign that said: “To help you through our border formalities most efficiently, please help us by having the following documents ready, blah blah. Please do not use your mobile phones or take photographs in this area.” I might even arrange a cup of tea and a biscuit. When I finally arrive at the border itself, I mention to the officer who scans my passport, that this woman (who is now abusing another family) is not a very good advertisement for our country. He replies with a wan smile and the words, “I think she is tired.”