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Updated: 2003-12-05 01:00

Where to find real true love? Heathrow, actually
真爱无处不在 候机室里告白

Love, according to Richard Curtis's sugary hit film Love Actually is to be found everywhere - but the best place is an airport. Specifically, the arrivals hall at Heathrow Terminal 4.

As Hugh Grant's Prime Minister in the film says: "Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hate and greed but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere."

The practicalities of carrying out a long-term relationship based on a meeting in Sock Shop are slender, but only an airport offers the love-hungry traveller the same unique romantic possibilities. "Plus, people are pretty bored in airports, so the standards of what they expect in a conversation are a little lower," Tim, an American hedge fund specialist, says.

If in the past the railway station has formed an evocative backdrop to romance, leaves on the line have transformed stations from places of heartache to places of headache.

Now, we have the grey walled, low-ceilinged, smoke and bawling children-filled airport, where this week 8,000 people pitched up in the early hours of the morning to greet England's rugby side.

But the departures hall is the stuff not just of love, but of high drama, actually. Two customer service agents claimed they have "seen it all" since they began working at Heathrow.

Hysterical children nipping through Customs trying to retrieve a relative, couples so welded to each other they miss their planes and grown men, "actually, like, crying".

"I'm a very soft person," said Mona, one of the women on duty. "And it can be quite depressing.

"There are situations where the other half shouldn't even bother to come to the airport. I'm serious. There are people who cannot emotionally cope with goodbyes."

Ben Ezra, who works at the Body Shop opposite the departures gate, admits to bursting into tears at the sight of a romantic clinch. Other times she rolls her eyes.

"Sometimes it's very sweet to see two people who love each other so much," she says, "Other times it's like somebody has died." But what really gets to Ben Ezra is the behaviour of men. "When we were growing up they taught us that men are strong and don't cry," she says. "Well, five minutes after you start working here you realise that's all wrong. They walk around with this funny face and chin tucked under trying to look business-like.

"They stay upset much longer than the women. Women cry for five minutes, then do their make-up and it's all over. Men wander around for hours with their faces collapsed."















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