The flight home was uneventful and I managed to sleep for a reasonable amount of time. The cloud coverage was thick over Greenland, which is normally one of three highlights of the flight home. If there is a clear view of Greenland, the sight, day or night, is breathtaking. During the day, the water winding through the snow is bright blue against the white; at night, the brilliance of the snow acts almost as a mirror and reflects, which gives the impression that large spotlights are shining up into the sky.
The second highlight of the flight home is the sunrise. Watching the sun appear and rise over the curve of the earth is beautiful. I was more than a little upset to have slept through it this time.
My next door neighbour was a charming man who, although English, also lived in the USA. We chatted for a while before the final approach to the runway and then engrossed ourselves in the inflight entertainment system, and dinner, before lights out and bedding down for the night. Being a woman of a certain age, as I may have mentioned before, the need to use the facilities is a necessity, at least a couple of times during the night, and being vertically challenged, negotiating the 'climb over' can be rather tricky. I am always concerned that a bolt of turbulance will occur just as I am straddled across my neighbours lower legs, and I will fall foward, just as the rest of the plane wake, due to the jolt, and have explain to my neighbour that I am very happily married, and am not making a pass! Fortunately, this has not happened, and I could have passed myself off as a professional gymnast, as I lifted my leg so daintily over the feet that were my obstacle, there and back twice, making a total of excellent balance four times!
Unfortunately, during a flight a couple of years ago, before the chairs had been reconstructed with 'hoods', I placed my hand on the top of the chair in front, and as I eased my foot over my then neighbour, my hand slipped and landed, quite heftily, upon the head of the covered eyed passenger in front. Unfortunately, I could not duck, or excuse myself in any way and had to stand before the one I attacked offering my most extreme apologies. To say he was not impressed was an understatement, and I slept the rest of the flight with one eye open. What a good thing we do not meet up with those with whom we fly on a regular basis!
As I said before, there are three highlights on my air trip, and the third is touching down in England. I am always filled with such emotion at having arrived 'home', I am grateful for the tissue I stuffed up my sleeve at the beginning of the journey.
We landed and as usual I wiped away a tear and turned on my phone to text Samantha as we taxied to the gate. As the door opened, the familiar voice of the welcoming party official could be heard throughout the plane. I am not sure if it is always the same person, but if it is not, the voice is cloned. "Mornin', and welcome to 'eaf'row", she says into the microphone, and then has to jump aside as everyone rushes to exit the cylinder that has carried them across the ocean. It was Christmas Eve and all were anxious to be settled in before midnight.
Having cleared immigration and negotiated the baggage area with relative ease, I walked through the Customs hall and scanned the faces waiting in the arrival area. 'There she is', I heard and realised that no amount of people were going to stop my sister from getting to the front of the crowd. Under the barriers she dived and the lack of applause was all that was missing from the reunion. It is always such a pleasure for someone to be waiting to great me when I arrive and Richard and Elise are the perfect treat.
We walked to the car, which was blocked in by a private hire car. The driver was attempting to fit half a dozen very large bags, together with four people, into his average size saloon. The three in the back were intimately squashed as the only male in the party was trying to advise on how to fit eight square feet into a space big enough for possibly four. I am not proficient in lip reading as a rule, but there was no mistaking the words that were mouthed by the driver. Patience was this man's great virtue, as between mouthed four letter words, he gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, before taking pity on a tired traveller (me) and driving the car out of our path, leaving the bags to fend for themselves, and the lone male wondering if he was ever going to see his female companions again. Fortunately, the hire car stopped a yard or two along from its previous spot and as we drove away, the impossible exercise continued. If I was the driver, I am quite sure I would have been put on the naughty list by the gentleman in the red coat and white beard!
Having left a very warm and pleasant Texas, I was prepared for a freezing cold England, but only in the clothes I had packed. My legs were only covered with a pair of velour trousers, which are no match to zero temperatures. The snow was still very thick on the land surrounding the motorway and as we hit the smaller, more rural roads, the pavements were still covered in a thick white blanket. Finally, we turned into the ice rink, which was Mum's road and parked outside the house. Immediately the car stopped, I jumped out and ran into the snow. I am very sympathetic to those who suffered in anyway during the blizzards as I have been a victim of being 'snowed in', but having come from a warmer climate where the nearest we get to snow is normally just the threat, or at best a slight flurry which might leave a sprinkling on the window ledge, I was six years old again and bounced happily to the front door, leaving footprints in every area of virgin snow that was on the driveway.
After the hugs and traditional welcome home breakfast of white starchy toasted bread and a cup of coffee, I unpacked my present from Samantha. A pair of pink Paul Frank wellington boots, with Julius the monkey smiling all over. I wasn't sure whether to pack them, but I was very pleased that I did as they would be perfect footwear for most of the following week. My niece, Emma, arrived, having finished work for the year, and took on the role of producer, director and choreographer as she put my camera into video mode and filmed me running up and down the garden, in pink wellies, throwing snowballs at no one.
With the journey catching up with me, and Emma deciding she wanted to do more with her time off than film the crazy woman from across the pond, I had a shower, unpacked, and took an hours nap, before starting the arduous task of wrapping presents. I never arrive with wrapped presents as if my bag is searched prior to arrival, all my wrapped gifts would most likely be unwrapped by the time I arrived home, to ensure I was not harbouring unsavoury objects. As well as presents, at this time of year, I arrive with about 50 feet of wrapping paper, folded and placed in the inner pocket of my suitcase.
Considering I intended to bring less than in the past, the wrapping seemed to take much longer than it has in the past. It is a wonder that Victoria Secrets had anything left on it's shelves and Holister would now have a smaller 'clearance' area than is normal. My suitcase had developed a 'Mary Poppins syndrome' and seemed to hold much more than its size would allow. Did I really buy all those pop-tarts?
Sausages, mash and baked beans may not appear in exclusive restaurants but this five star meal is just what the doctor ordered when I arrive home, and I munched my way through dinner as if I had not eaten for weeks. Lashings of HP Sauce, and I was in heaven.
A visit to the pub completed the Christmas Eve traditions. There were several slightly inebriated men wearing red tunics, fur trimmed hats and sporting an abundance of white facial hair, wandering the streets and entering hostelries. I am not sure whether the same laws apply and if one can, indeed, be drunk in charge of a sleigh! I certainly wouldn't recommend any of them go near a chimney.
I arrived back at Mum's at before midnight and got into bed and tried very hard to go to sleep, after receiving my goodnight call from Dana. Tomorrow was going to be Christmas and it was going to be white.
I was home and I had a week of adventure in front of me. Sleep tight I may not but hoped I would get some shut eye before the hustle and bustle of preparations to be performed the next morning which would be....another story.