4.45pm Time to go through the gate. This is the first time something could go wrong. I've got an NUJ card and letters from lawyers in England and Amsterdam explaining I'm a journalist carrying paracetamol on me. The Dutch are well-known for their excellent English, but will I be able to explain it in time to catch the plane?
4.50pm The metal detector at Gate D22 is hyper-sensitive, bleeping for everyone walking through it. Panicing slightly, I remove all metal objects from my pockets. I walk through. Nothing. Huge relief. Pick up my wallet from the tray at the side of the detector. "What's that?" asks an officer, pointing at a resin-sized lump in my wallet. "Tigers' eye stone," I croak weakly, showing him. He smiles, recognising its use in hippy crystal mythology. Only in Holland. He waves me onto the plane. I sit down, order some red wine and make notes. No worries. "Halfway home," I write.
THE amount of drugs seized by HM Customs has more than tripled from 25 tons in 1990 to 82
tons in 1997. "Because of the cutbacks over the last few years we're having to target resources
where we think there will be successes," said Shona Lewis, press officer for London Airports.
The rise could be down to intercepting more drugs or to more drugs being smuggled, she
admitted. They don't know.
The airport is popular with cocaine smugglers: 659 kg (36 per cent) in 1997 compared to 2,074 kg for Britain as a whole. It's much less a channel for cannabis - 223 kg of resin (less than one per cent) against 54,000 kg . Around 200,000 pills were captured in 1997.
So how do they pick people to search? "It's a multitude of things," said Shona Lewis. "People can sometimes give themselves away, by sweating profusely on a cold day for example. Officers develop a sixth sense after a while."
5.30pm The plane lands at Heathrow. I'm feeling quite relaxed now. I've not got up from my seat once, thinking less is more for blending in. I've acted normally. This is going to be a piece of cake. I get off the plane, check messages on my mobile and walk towards the Arrivals hall.
5.35pm Freedom is about 100 yards away, right at the other end. I can see the Green Channel. Next to it is a red-haired officer staring directly at me. I try to convince myself he isn't, but he is. I'm hit by an overwhelming and overpowering attack of The Fear. Lights suddenly become brighter as adrenaline surges through my body. Don't look, don't look, I tell myself, casually swinging duty free cigs in their plastic bag. Get one out in preparation for freedom.