It was time to leave England's green and pleasant land. My bags were packed and I was almost ready to go. All that was left was to pick up the Iced gems and deodorant. For the uninitiated, iced gems are tiny round crunchy biscuits (cookies), topped with a little swirl of hard, meringue type, sugar. The only way to eat these, is to bite off the biscuits, eat them, and return all the sugary swirls to the bag. Once all the biscuits have gone, enjoy a whole bag of sweet crispy delights. I cannot leave England without them! As for the deodorant, it is a case of once you find a product you like, etc, etc.
Elise and I went to Iceland, a wonderful store that has both of my final 'must buy' items. Having spent far more than intended on groceries, yet again, we went to the cemetery to 'see' our dad, before we went back to mum and I had to start peeling potatoes for dinner. Six pieces each and them some.
New Years Eve came and went, and despite falling asleep ten minutes before midnight, I was rudely awoken at 12 by fireworks, which appeared to be set off directly outside my bedroom window. Obviously new year leprechauns were responsible as I couldn't see anyone, and with the speed and force at which I leaped out of bed to catch the perpetrators, no one would have been able to run away that quickly. I returned to bed and, once the palpitations had reduced, dozed again into a deep sleep. The phone call ten minutes later only caused slight concussion, as my head hit the wall, in my attempt to leave the room to find the offending phone. Getting out of the wrong side of the bed is only a problem on two occasions. One is when it is proverbial, and the other is when there is a wall on one side. I suffered the latter. Richard had called to be the first to offer his new year greetings. The final forced wakening was the jingle indicating a received text message, which coincided with more fireworks, no doubt from someone whose clock was fifteen minutes slow, or who had lost the match box!
New Years Day was spent saying hello and goodbye to my nephew, his girlfriend and my great niece, as well as Elise, David and Emma. Mum suggested we eat a little later than usual, and asked if I was hungry. I told her that I had not been hungry since my arrival and that eating had just become a habit.
Richard picked me up the next morning and after another emotional farewell, I made my way to the check-in area. 'Good morning; where are you flying to today; did you pack your bags yourself; are you carrying anything for anyone; have your bags been with you since you packed them?' Answering, 'Hello; Houston; yes; no; yes' and hoping they were all in the right order, I forwarded to the desk and hauled my bags onto the scales, where the machine moaned, 'put a heavy sticker on this one', and I watched as the tiny female ground staff member struggled to throw my cases onto the conveyor belt.
I passed through security barefoot and hat free, and attempted to repack my backpack with proficiency, and fool everyone into thinking I am very organised. I rarely manage to convince anyone.
I was greeted as I entered the lounge. 'Good morning; where are you travelling to; do you have your ticket and passport; we don't call the flights so you will have to watch the screens; upstairs is full so you will have to stay down here'. I replied, again in what I hoped was the right order, 'Hello; Houston; yes; constantly?; I didn't know you had an upstairs, what's the difference?' I was told that upstairs is bigger, with more room. I did not make any friends when I replied that obviously there wasn't more room if it was full. A smirk of disdain appeared on the face of the desk clerk, and I slid into the restaurant area. Despite having absolutely no appetite, the chicken sausages that were on the buffet were, after all, sausages, and the thought of not being able to sample such delicacies for possibly another six months, was too much to bear. Eating sausages and having high speed internet was a perfect combination.
My flight was, indeed, not called, and I made my way down to the gate. 'Good morning; where are you travelling to today; have you bought anything other than from authorised airport vendors; has your bag been with you all the time?' I replied, 'Hello; Houston; no; yes.' It was like a game of musical words. Each time someone said something to me, there was one less question. I figured that by the time I actually got onto the plane, all I would have to say was, 'Hello'.
I walked walked down the tunnel and was met at the door. 'Good morning; do you know where you are sitting?' said the hostess. (Are we allowed to say hostess, or must we use a more politically correct title?) 'Good morning; yes I do, thank you', I replied. I found my seat and made myself comfortable. Using my 'pay-as-you-go' phone I sent a cheery farewell text to all and sundry, and then said a cheery farewell to the phone itself. After being used to a modern technological piece of equipment on one side of the Atlantic, it is like going from high speed to dial-up, when I have to resort to my old phone and telephonic key pad texting. 'On pkane, see u neyt tine', is usually succeeded by a perfect row of ex's.
'Good morning', said the plane concierge. 'Hello', I replied. YES!!! Doors were closed, phones turned off, and the plane left the runway, and soared into the clouds, as I watched my green and pleasant land disappear below. A couple of Tonic Waters, half a glass of wine, port and disaronno later, I closed my eyes and slept for a short while. Greenland was again covered by cloud, and it was not until we were well into United States airspace that land became visable. I had completed my custom form before boarding, and had answered that I was not, to the best of my knowledge (although who knows what category twiglets come under) carrying any plants, cultured diseases, weapons or animals, and didnt have more than $10,000.
We landed in Houston and I raced down the tunnel and up the stairs, (escalators are so slow), and marched through to the immigration hall. Naturally, I made my way to the shortest queue. Naturally, the people in front of me were all problem passengers. I watched as my fellow passengers, those whom I had overtaken with such ease up the stairs, walked through quickly and efficiently. I started to wish I had a collapsable chair. Finally, the hand rose from behind the screen and the index finger beckoned me forward.
'Hi, how are you!' I asked the officer. 'Good, how are you?; how long were you out of the country; why were you out of the country; where have you flown from; have you got any alcohol or tobacco; have you got any gifts; are you carrying $10,000 or more?' I replied (here we go again!) 'Good; just over a week; went to see my mum; London; no; yes, chocolate and candy; I wish!!' Still without emotion he asked me to place my right hand on the screen. Being directionally challenged, I put both hands up and made an 'L' with my left, which seemed to unnerve the young man, but he probably thought it was an English custom, and placed the other on the glass pad. As everything appeared to be copasetic, he uttered those wonderful words, 'welcome home ma'am'. The Customs official also seemed to be satisfied that twiglets were not similar to a cultured disease, and I pushed the trolley to the next bag check area. Before depositing my bags, I placed all my purchases, which were bought from authorised vendors, into the already bursting cases. With only my backpack to carry, I left my cases with the next hernia victim and let the escalators take me up to the next security check.
Back in my adopted homeland, I sat in the lounge. With my blackberry back online, I called Samantha and Dana, and then 'pinged' Emma, and chatted online with Rick and Steph. All was well in my electronically controlled world. A packed of crisps and a pot of parmesan and pepper cheese dip, together with a cup of tea was enough to make my wait more comfortable.
The flight back to Austin was accompanied by two baileys on the rocks, and completed my alcohol consumption for the next six months, or until I board the plane again for London. Do I need the alcohol to get me through the plane journey, the trip or to subdue the emotion? Answers on a postcard will not be put into the prize draw!
Dana met me at the airport and we drove home to a very welcoming dachshund. Another wonderful trip completed; It is always sad to leave my family behind, but we had a good amount of quality time. It was great to see old friends and visit with (ex) family, including a nice chat with my other ex sister in law/now friend, Helena. Hopefully next time, without bank holidays, I can visit with a few more.
Back to work was the order of the following day and a new year, which will bring forth, I am sure...another story.