I am once again in England and fighting with the internet. I have found a nifty plan that allows me to use a 'pay as you go' mode, but my laptop seems to have developed narcolepsy between the USA and England, and goes to sleep without warning. This is the main reason for the lack of pictures, as well as the lack of a weekly report. It has taken from Sunday to today to coax this little machine of mine into action. My journey from Austin to London totalling almost twelve hours, was somewhat smoother than my 30 minute bus ride on Saturday morning. However, the transatlantic trip was, of course, not without its moments.
The lounge at Austin International airport is not very spacious, but then, neither is the airport. However, despite its size, there are several different available sections, which include a family room, a business center, television room and individual cubicles for private calls, as well as personal computer use. Being an avid observer of human nature, I can be found sitting in the largest populated area, mentally assessing various relationships and personalities. Having sat myself down with a nice cup of tea, and a packet of carrots with ranch dip, (the healthy option appears to have replaced my usual preference of a packet of potato chips, which are dipped into a small portion of Roquefort and Parmesan cheese spread - if there was a survey as to whether healthy options are preferred, I was not asked), I took my computer out of its case, popped on my glasses, and attempted to look businesslike and efficient. It is not easy to maintain the illusion whilst dipping vegetables into an unsolid dressing and bringing it to the mouth without dripping. Fortunately, I appeared to be the only 'people watcher' around, and my fellow 'loungers' were oblivious to my primitive behaviour. Most of the occupants seemed to be quite happy to sit quietly and wait for their flight to be called. I assume all were in reasonable health. It would appear, however, that a rather large proportion of the salesmen who frequent the facility, suffer from acute claustrophobia. One such gentleman came to pass the time before his flight. Shortly after ordering light refreshments from the bar, he made the phone call. He obviously did not want to be squashed into a three foot square unit, and was feeling quite generous, as he decided to share each call with the entire population of the airport waiting room. I wondered if anyone had ever told him that it is not rude to whisper, when having a private conversation in a public place. Unfortunately, I did not find out if Bob and Hank got 'connected' and if the Northeastern sector managed to reach their quota last quarter, as I had to leave before the conversation was concluded, but I am sure the remaining tenants were privy to the results. I left to a chorus of metaphorical jealous hissing and booing from other guests who had to remain in place until their flight was called.
The lounge at Houston only appeared to have one person with a social disability, namely, Me! Along with the lack of higher calorie crispy snacks, was the disappearance of cans containing a variety of soft drinks. I am not a 'soda' partaker generally, but again, I was not given the survey sheet. In place of my favourite items were three tubes of healthy snacks. Small cups were provided to place under the tubes to catch the falling pretzels and raisin mix, once the handle was turned and the contents released. I made my way to a seat by the window, and placed both the china and plastic cup firmly on the table. As I have previously mentioned, I do not 'dress' to travel, when taking a transatlantic flight. My velour trousers and t-shirt are more like a pair of pyjamas, and very comfortable. I am not a 'neat' sleeper and suffer from restless leg syndrome. An elasticated waist and loose fitting legs (I am still talking about my trousers!) are perfect for my occasional unladylike positions, whilst trying to get comfortable in the plane. In the lounge, I sat down among other nicely dressed visitors and took out my phone. The three foot square cubicles were full of whispering passengers. I did not hear a single 'Bob' or 'Hank' mentioned and the fate of the Northeastern Sector still remained a mystery.
Twenty minutes is long enough to enjoy a cup of tea and embarrass myself. It is not possible for me to conduct a conversation without using my hands, even when on the phone. Samantha was quite firm with me, as I was going into usual panic mode. I could see the plane, but my luggage did not appear to have rounded the corner for loading. Were all those M and M's going to be stranded in limbo! In my hysteria, I swung my arm back, and my hand made contact with the small plastic cup, in a movement that would have made any seeded tennis player envious of my technique. The cup flew into the air, emptying the contents onto the floor, and bounced ungraciously out of bounds across the area. Scrambling to pick up the variety of fruit and kernels, I was aware that the light buzzing of conversation had stopped, and dozens of pairs of eyes were burning into me. The words, 'pin', 'hear' and 'drop' all came to mind. It was as if the Hillbilly Clampet had left California and invaded the gentile surroundings that was set aside, in the city that had been lost its battle to become the Texas Capital nearly two centuries ago.
Fortunately, someone announced that my flight was boarding, and I made a quick exit, much to the relief of others, many of whom, no doubt, made use of the communal chapel, to give thanks that I was not on their flight. I marched swiftly to my gate to where the flight was not boarding. Paranoia swept across me as I scanned the area for television cameras. Was it possible that it was just a ploy to remove me from the elite section of the airport? Hoping from one foot to another, I watched the ground crew as they stood by the telephone to announce boarding. It was like watching a giant hokey cokey (or pokey depending on your geographical whereabouts) as the uniformed personnel picked up the phone. The right foot went in, and as the phone was replaced, the right foot went out. In, out; in, out; shake it all about; wait for the telephone to be picked up again, and that is what it was all about.
The sentence 'Flight 4 to London is now ready to board', caused a human tsunami to engulf me, and I found myself at the end of a very long queue, whereas I had previously been at the forefront. Gradually, solemn faced people returned to their seats, as the rather fierce lady reprimanded and reminded them that she had not called their row! I wondered how many airport staff become doctor's receptionists!
Once seated, I proceeded to make myself comfortable. Shoes were kicked off, bag placed in the area in front of my seat, and once again I called Samantha to let her know I was on 'the big plane'. A very jolly young lady approached me, called me by name, and asked if everything was okay. It was. She said that a very handsome man was going to be my flying companion, and then pointed to her clipboard saying, 'see, it says, "handsome young man"', and then could not contain herself as she giggled at the humour. I tried very hard to be impressed. She wished me a pleasant flight, and skipped to her next victim. The plane started to fill up, and the 'handsome young man' was actually a reasonably attractive, reasonably young antisocial miserable male, who was not looking forward to spending the next eight hours in a plane. Being antisocial suited me, as I was already engrossed in a movie, which was available whilst others were still boarding. (Something to remember!) His friend, who was sitting in the next aisle, slightly behind, was not impressed with his behaviour, and this seemed to cause more hostility. I prayed that my need for the bathroom would not be frequent, as I was not sure the constant 'excuse me' would be welcomed. However, even the young Chinese Olympic gymnastic team could learn a lot from my acrobatic moves, when needing to maneuver from my seat to the aisle, without disturbing my next door neighbour.
The flight was rather uneventful, and there was less turbulence than anticipated, both inside and outside the plane! My food somewhat skillfully avoided landing anywhere other than on my plate, or in my mouth. I did manage to sleep for a while, and I watched a couple of films that had come and gone from the cinemas, without my attendance. I saw the sunset from 38,000 feet above the ground, and a few tears, as usual, unashamedly fell as we touched down. It would not be long until I was in the arrivals section of the airport looking for Steph, my future daughter-in-law. (I have often told her that she has the best mother-in-law in the world....I live 5,000 miles away!!)
Wrong!!! The mechanics on the portable tunnel had become 'stuck' and there was no one to release it. We were going to have to wait for the truck with the stairs to drive up to the plane. 'Just like the old days', I said, as I carefully walked down the very steep steps onto the tarmac and made my way to the terminal. Immigration and customs were negotiated, and Steph was indeed waiting.
I do not have a car, so unless I am chauffeured, I have to rely on the local country bus service, which is very efficient, unless there is a diversion. This week, there was a diversion, but I will leave the details of my visit as.....another story.