The sniffles started around 8 o'clock Wednesday evening. I had been telling everyone how I had not had a cold in a very long time, definitely not in 2012. Steph's mum, Janice, had been very ill over the weekend, but braved the damp and cold to join us all on Sunday evening. Elise was feeling a little bit under the weather when she came for lunch on Monday, and Steph said she was not feeling particularly well when we came home from her brother's house on Tuesday. As I prided myself on my health, the tickle started.
My week post Christmas was very busy, even though I did not feel very productive. Mum and I were joined by Elise and David on New Year's Eve, and after watching the evening's soap operas, they left for home. We managed to stay up until midnight. Dana called me a minute before, but as the clock struck 12, I advised him that we were, once again, causing a paradox, as I was in a different year to him! Fortunately, he loves me, so he puts up with my idiosyncrasies. As mentioned, we had a wonderful family gathering on New Year's Day, and my cousins, Lesley and Natalie, came for lunch, together with Elise, and Richard, the token male, and we spent much of our time listening to Natalie teach us the 'in's and out's' of Twitter. Elise was quite proficient, but Lesley wanted to know more. Within minutes she had a number of followers, many of whom she had to block, as she was not prepared to take part in the activities that they suggested, all of which included one form of debauchery, or another!
On my last full day, my friend Beverly took me out for lunch, and we caught up with an enormous amount of news. (Gossip is such an ugly word!) Unfortunately, my news was of little consequence, as she does not know many people from my world, but hers was enough to keep us going through our potato with bolognaise topping, and beyond. Richard came round for dinner, but Steph had been hit with the bug, and was feeling poorly.
I turned the alarm off before it had time to ring, on Thursday morning, and dragged myself out of bed, into the kitchen, and popped a couple of paracetamol. There was a full percussion section playing in my head, and my limbs did not want to move. A shower did not, as my mother suggested, make me feel better. As everyone had returned to work, I had to make my own way to the airport, and the taxi was late. It was not a good start, and things were not going to get any better. There was not much traffic, and we arrived in good time. Unfortunately, the spicy air freshener in the car, together with the heater, made the atmosphere quite asphyxiating, and I found myself unable to breathe. The driver was quite talkative, and for once, I remained rather speechless. I exited the cab, walked across the road, and entered the terminal. Two young ladies stood about five feet from the first stand, and watched as I attempted to print my boarding passes. 'Sorry, your passport will not scan', said the machine. (I have a problem, worldwide, with scanners!) I waved to the assistant, who was rather perturbed at being called away from her spot. 'Do you have an Esta?', she asked. I confirmed that I had a 'green card', which would not scan either. 'Can I take my knitting needles through security?', I questioned, as I perceived the rules may have been slightly different at this airport. She took a look, and suggested that I could try, but they may be a little too sharp. Did I want to put them in my luggage? I did not. With a 10 hour flight ahead of me, I thought I might need some alternative entertainment. As she was unable to scan my card, she called me to her podium, and proceeded with the security questions. Did I pack my bags myself? When did I pack them? Were they in my possession at all times? Then, the piece de resistance; 'Do you have any sharp objects?' I looked at her, and said, 'only my knitting needles'. When she asked to see them, I wondered if she was indeed suffering from early dementia. 'Would you like to put them in your luggage?' I resisted asking if she had a short term memory problem, and opted for, 'No'. 'They may be a little too sharp, but you can try', she repeated. I searched her eyes for signs of computer chips, and her neck to see if she had an 'on/off' button, but nothing was obvious. 'Go forward to the desk, and have a nice flight'.
With my bags on their way to the aeroplane, and having negotiated the security 'dingers' without so much as a ping, I continued through to the lounge, and had a cup of coffee, and some chicken sausages. The pills seemed to have worked, and I was feeling slightly more human. I made my way to the gate, and entered the plane. No-one was in my seat, and no one asked me if they could swap. Things were looking up. After a very nice lunch, I settled down for the remainder of the flight. It must have been as we reached Canada that the medication started to wear off. A decompressed cabin, and a tickle in the throat, do not mix. I started to cough, and pretty soon felt worse than I can ever remember. Any anxiety I had pertaining to flying had disappeared, and if there were to be any hijackers, I was ready to tell them, 'Take me first, and put me out of my misery!' The lady next to me appeared to be emailing, or texting, from her phone, and I just didn't care. My cough became worse, and my temperature rose. I tried to sleep, but my mind was too busy. All I could think of was, 'airborne', and the movie, 'Outbreak'. Despite his absence, I begun to think that this would probably be the only time I would not be excited to see Dustin Hoffman. The lady next to me was smiling, and very kind. She did not show any kind of irritation, as I made constant trips to the bathroom to wipe my face, and stock up on tissues. I looked nothing like Rene Russo, while she was in the height of hemorrhagic fever, but more like Johnny Depp in his recent vampire movie. I began to feel very guilty, as I wondered if my neighbour would thank me the following day, when the virus hit her. and the rest of the passengers. Unlike the movie, there was no host monkey, just me, making chimp noises every time I spluttered into my tissue. With a little over two hours to go, the stewardess came round with an 'afternoon snack'. I don't think I was rude, but to be perfectly frank, I do not remember. My hand waved her away, in a negative gesture, and I suddenly started to panic about de-planing, and having to go through immigration and customs.
I will never again argue with the television when the 'Advil' commercials are shown, depicting their superiority. Two little pills, and the introduction of oxygen, made me feel a little bit better. I walked off, unassisted, and was grateful that I did not need the wheelchair that I nearly requested. The immigration official was very pleasant, and obviously in a humourous mood. 'How was your New Year's', he asked. I replied that it was quiet, spent with my mother, and was in bed by 10pm. He spoke quietly, and my ears were blocked, so I found it hard to decipher his speech. He asked if I had brought any food back with me, and I replied that I had my usual quantity of chocolate, cookies, and chips. 'And tea', he responded, having read my customs form. No, I did not have any alcohol. 'No Gin?' I told him that I did not like gin, it was like drinking perfume. 'No Woodpeckers?', he smiled. I responded that I certainly did not, and he then asked me if I knew what it was. I think I surprised him, firstly ,when I said, 'Yes, it's cider', and even more so when I told him; 'I haven't drunk that since I was a teenager!' My travelling t-shirt is from an eatery in a quaint town called Marble Falls; The Blue Bonnet Cafe. The Officer continued with his interrogation, and asked if it was worth a visit. I responded with a nod. He asked me what I would recommend. Hemlock, was almost my first response, but he presumably had a morbid passion for the living dead, and was flirting with me, or was, indeed, Van Helsing, lulling me into a false sense of security. I opted for the former as I needed a boost, and whispered, in my now very hoarse voice, 'Lemon Meringue Pie!' Apparently, this was his favourite, and he promised me that he would make the journey. He stamped my form, welcomed me home, and I wished him a happy New Year.
My bags were already going round on the carousel when I entered the customs hall, as I struggled with my trolley. As I went to get my first case, the customs form, which I had not particularly cleverly placed in the top of the trolley, floated to the ground. I rushed to pick it up, lost my chance to get my case, ran around to the other side, tripped over the trolley, and started to wonder when I could take the next set of pills. Eventually, cases retrieved, I joined the mile long queue to leave, and the nice gentleman at the podium did not have the same humour as the immigration chap, but found no need to question me on my jellies, jams, and marmite entry. I stuffed my London airport purchases into the smaller of the three cases, and gave them to the baggage handler, who placed them on the conveyor belt for their onward journey to Austin. I watched as he paused before putting the third, larger, case onto the belt, and wondered at his actions. I do not wish to cast aspersions upon the young man, but his reluctance to place my bag on the moving rubber mat, was somewhat odd. However, he had scanned all my bags, so I did not dwell on the fact, and as the percussion group had once again taken up residence in my head, I really didn't care. I just wanted to get home.
My final flight was, fortunately, uneventful. A charming South African lady insisted on chatting to me for the duration of the flight, and it was all I could do to smile and nod my head. Dustin Hoffman did not appear on this flight, either, but the virus was airborne again, and I did not have the energy to apologise in advance. Once again, I de-planed, and almost crawled to the exit. My usual acrobatic gesture of jumping up into Dana's arms, was replaced by a simple hug, and him having to stop me from sprawling across the floor. We made it downstairs, and picked up two bags, and had to report the third, larger, case, as missing. I was not surprised.
I managed to unpack my cases, as Samantha was waiting at the house, eagerly expecting her mother, and her crisps! My meltdown was not too bad, when I realised the lost case not only held my boots (the freebies), but also my knitted jacket. The boots I could perhaps replace, but the thought of having to find the wool, as well as the pattern, and spend hours re knitting, reduced me to a few tears. I was not confident I would ever see it again, even though the United clerk had confirmed that it was in Houston, and they would probably put it on the next flight. I laid no blame at anyone's feet, but was suspicious. The dust on the bedroom tables also, surprisingly, had no negative mental effect, despite the fact that it was whipped up thick enough to make the meringue for the pie I had recommended to the immigration official.
Dana told me that I was not to come into work on Friday, and I did not argue. I could not move, let alone get myself ready for a day at the office. All I wanted to do was sleep. Around midday, I attempted to work out how to turn on the television and find a suitable programme, and after approximately an hour, I was able to settle down and watch a film, on Netflix. Once I had found how to use the application, I chose not to turn it off. As I do not generally use the TV, I have no idea which of the four boxes, do what! However, I did manage select the 'On demand' programmes, by aimlessly pressing every button on every box, before finding the Netflix, but they were not suitable. However, I had no idea how they appeared, and Dana spent a considerable amount of time, later, trying to remove the 'Playboy' and 'Juicy' channels from our screen. He finally relented, and called Edward, who found the whole thing terribly amusing, asking Dana if he perfectly sure he wanted these removed, and with the click of a button, the screen took us to the ordinary television menu.
I did not venture out on Saturday, or Sunday, spending most of the day in bed, again, trying to recoup for the following week. I was sure it was only a very bad cold, exacerbated by the journey across the pond, but would contemplate the possibility of it being something more sinister. Dana kindly pointed out that I didn't look very well, and that nearly two million people have been hospitalised with a very nasty flu virus, and several people had died. Where was the reassuring Mr. Hoffman, telling me that I looked beautiful? I told him that everything was always much bigger in America, and as he, and many others, constantly remind me, England is a tiny country, so our bugs must be much smaller!
The sun started to shine on Saturday, and continued to do so on Sunday, and whilst I cannot say that I am on the mend with any certainty, I know it is only temporary. My Monday morning started with the knowledge that one of my dearest, oldest (in length) friends, Lesley, announced that her son had just got engaged, and I would publicly (and depending upon my readership, worldly) wish her and her family my heartiest congratulations. It was enough to at least make me feel better (although, somewhat older...where do the years go). The New Year is with us, as is the current Texas Legislative Session. Chara, my step-daughter, has started her new job as Chief of Staff with the congressman for a Texas District, and we may go and visit her in Washington DC, if time permits. Ricky and Steph are house hunting, and Samantha and Edward are...Samantha and Edward. Suffice it to say, Dana and I are very proud of all our kids, and we look forward to the challenges, or not, of 2013. Until next time, Happy New Year to one and all (including the illusive Mr. Hoffman), and I look forward to writing....another story.