Firstly, I was about to apologise, as although I have the technology to access the Internet, my mother's laptop has an aversion to this page. I could not upload pictures, so despite the festive time of year, the page was to have remained undecorated! However, I remembered having this trouble before, and changed my browser, and voila! One up for the oldies I think!
As usual, my journey was rather uneventful, but not without its novel moments. Dana was the only member of the office staff left at the company, and was unable to leave and take me to the airport, as the phones did not stop ringing. Jerry, our faithful process server, had offered to drive me and as my bags were in the trunk of our car, Dana handed him the keys. I sat in the passenger's seat rather calmly, until I realised that the car would not start. It did not occur to me, immediately, that in order to get the engine whirring, the brake pedal has to be depressed, and after a mild panic attack, composure overrode irrationality, and the vehicle sprung to life. The traffic was light, and we arrived at the terminal quite quickly. Jerry helped to remove my cases, gave me a side hug and waved goodbye as he got back into the car. Austin airport does not have carts outside, nor were there any porters around. Although my cases were not over sized, they were rather heavy. I stood, curbside, looking rather forlorn, but there was no one to come to my rescue. How I managed to manoeuvre the two large bags, with my carry on, and backpack, is still a mystery. Pulling one, and pushing the other, with the smaller case being kept in place by my chin, I backed into the terminal rather deftly and worked my way to the counter. After my tickets were issued, I went to the security gate and went through the motions. My belongings were sent through the black box to be scanned, and I stepped into the x-ray machine. Apparently, a spare tissue stuffed up a sleeve, is not permitted, and I was pulled to one side, so a guard could inspect the foreign object attached to my arm, which showed up as contraband on the screen. 'Do I have to walk through again?' was responded to with a very curt, 'No. Don't do it again!' Duly verbally spanked, I bowed away gracefully and collected my wares from the conveyor belt. My flight was delayed, but my layover in Houston was sufficient to allow a slight hold-up, and I waited patiently to be called on board. The big flight to London was delayed for an hour, and I was concerned, having heard that the winds over the Atlantic were brutal, and many other travellers had been stuck in airports for several more hours than is comfortable. I stood second in line at the appropriate aisle, and smiled politely at the young girl who held poll position. A hostess from the restaurant next to our gate burst into a chorus of 'I'll be home for Christmas', and the crowd erupted into applause and cheered as she held the final note. 'You wont get that at Eef-row', a fellow Englishman announced to a group of Americans who were making a trip back to the motherland. We continued to stand, still in reasonable spirit, and another couple joined our line. As they pushed forward, assuming first place should be theirs, the young girl next to me shook her head in despair. I smiled back with a shoulder shrug, and said, 'There is always one, or two!' The couple, oblivious to their unsociable behaviour, continued to stand waiting to be called on board. The new ticket scanners were very challenging. There were four, apparently, although I could only see three. 'Go to the end', was the command, as I froze on the spot, hoping that the other passengers would soon be allowed through, and I could take their place. Being manhandled to the space allotted to me, I followed the instructions on the video screen, which I had been watching for the best part of an hour, without absorbing. However, if you have read previous posts, you will know that the scanner family and myself do not have a harmonious relationship, and this one was very much a close cousin to the machine I encounter each week at the supermarket. 'Declined', was not what I expected to see, but it was not altogether a surprise. Patience is not a virtue that is abundant in the airport staff with whom I come into contact, and the lady who came to my rescue was obviously at the back of the line when the virtue was distributed! Eventually, my access was allowed, and I made my way to the entrance of the plane, where the crew were far more delightful than their counterparts. 'This is my seat', was followed by a sneeze, and a statement that the plane must be filled with dust. My neighbour had arrived, and I started to panic that I had been placed next to a tyrant. 'Hello', she said to me, and I responded in kind, just before she forbade the steward from removing her bag from its current spot. 'It is too heavy. You must not move it', she barked. He looked at his crew partner, and she shook her head as if to say, 'Only if you dare'. However, to my surprise, and delight, the lady who took up residency next to me was delightful, and we chatted for a while before leaning back and watching a movie.
We found out that because the inbound flight was delayed coming across the pond, due to ferocious headwinds, and despite leaving an hour late, we would be arriving almost an hour and a half early, as the same ferocious headwinds, which had caused dramatic turbulence, were now tremendous tailwinds, which made the flight not only quick, but incredibly smooth. I was offered complimentary chanpagne, 'as it is Christmas', and I asked if it could be mixed in a much larger glass with some cranberry juice. Smiling, the flight attendant told me that she had never heard of the mix before, but a friend of hers had commented that a passenger last week had asked for the same! I wondered, could that have been my daughter? I fell asleep after dinner and awoke shortly before my neighbour, who wished me a good morning, and we looked out at the night sky, hoping to get a glimpse of the sunrise, to no avail. After breakfast, we buckled up, replaced the remaining hand luggage in the overhead bins, and waited to land. Apparently, Heathrow does not open until 6am, and we had to circle for 30 minutes before touching down and taxiing to our gate.
I de-planed, (I am sure when I was younger, we disembarked) and walked to immigration, with a skip in my step, and a smile on my face. I was home! The gentleman at the immigration desk was not particularly happy to see me. I wished him a good morning and was greeted with a grunt. I inquired after his health, and he grunted again. I think I touched a nerve when I wished him a Merry Christmas, as he lightly growled. I suggested, tentatively, that he 'Have a good day', but did not wait to hear if there was a response.
My bags came off quickly, and together! Delighted at the speed at which I had been re bagged, I headed out to through customs and was even more delighted to see my two children waving at me from behind the barrier. After several hugs and kisses, we left the terminal for the car park and headed home to my mother's house. I slept for an hour or two after toast and coffee, and felt much more refreshed.
Christmas day started very early. The large turkey had been admitted into the house at the crack of dawn, and was waiting to be cooked to perfection. The vegetables were prepared, and the list of 'things to do' and 'times to do them' were written and adhered to. As usual the kitchen ran like clockwork, with military precision, and the scullery maid waited for the orders from the head cook, who insists that as she is getting older, needs more time to calculate and concentrate. All I can say is that if I am as sprightly, energetic and compos mentis at 82, I shall be very happy! With a silent 'Yes ma'am', I finished laying the table, put the potatoes in the oven, and waited for the starving guests to arrive, which they did shortly before 12:30. Richard and Steph, with Matnee and my niece and her husband, took themselves off 'down the pub' for a pre-dinner snifter. My sister, Elise, and the remainder of her family arrived shortly before the return of the revelers, and dinner was demolished in a very short time. Secret Santa was not so secret but everyone appeared to be more than satisfied with their gifts and the day ended all too soon.
Our Boxing Day took a different turn this year, and due to circumstances beyond all's control, we did not make the trip to my (ex) sister-in-law, but lunched and tea'd at Steph's grandma. Steph's brother became a father again, later in the afternoon, to a beautiful baby boy. I arrived home, after an enjoyable few hours of food and parlour games, (as my son correctly deducted, in good old English, 'that was right up your street!') Mum cooked a few left over hot dog sausages, and quite out of character, suggested we not only eat them in the lounge, in front of the television, but also handed me a napkin and announced we should eat them with our fingers! Anyone would think it's Christmas!
Elise arrived early Friday morning and mum drove us to Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer. We looked around the sales items, and meandered over to the food section, where we found the reduced candy and were quite judicious in our selections, but I still managed to accumulate more than is good for me in chocolate! 'How are you?', I asked the lady at the check out desk. She responded far more graciously than gentleman at the airport, and a smile started to grow across her face. Suggesting she 'Have a good day', was received with a giggle, and reciprocated.
Saturday was not particularly different to any other, with the housework, trip to the mall, and dinner in the evening. However, the company was very different. After taking almost an hour to clear around the dining room table on Wednesday, the flicking of a duster and running the vacuum over the carpet seemed like a holiday. Richard collected me around 10am, and we set off to a rather sparsely populated Watford, and wandered around fairly aimlessly for a few hours. Steph joined us and we lunched in a nice cafe, before going our separate ways, and Richard took me home. My evening was amazing. My oldest friend (as I imparted to another, in years, rather than in age) Lesley, rang the doorbell around 7:30pm, and we settled down and waited for Sheri, another friend with whom we spent our 14th and 15th summer. We spent hours in a local restaurant, reminiscing, and missing our 4th comrade in arms, Lynda. The waiter was very patient, (I considered asking if he would consider giving a course to airline staff) and came back several times, before we were finally ready to give our order. The meal was delicious, and the conversation more so. Sheri and Lesley had not seen each other since they were 15, and as Lesley told the waiter, 'I am not going to tell you how many years!' As I was the only one not driving, the majority of the bottle of wine was left for me to drink, and as most know, this was probably not the best idea. My volume control is increased, and my laughter becomes more raucous. We were the last to leave, and although the waiter held the door in relief, he continued to smile and wished us a good evening. The five minute drive home was filled with chatter, and we almost said 'au revoir', several times over the half an hour we sat in the car outside mum's house. I called my lonely husband (Samantha had arrived home on Friday night, and collected her dog) when I finally came inside and got myself ready for bed. The freedom that Dana craved, became 'abandonment', but I was too merry to be overly concerned, which he found to be rather amusing!
After lunch with Richard, Steph, my niece Emma and her husband Richard (they are everywhere!) Mum and I took a walk around the block and enjoyed a take out, which we ate off trays in the lounge, in front of the television! This is mum 'letting her hair down'! I still have a few days left before I make my way back to American climes, and to reality. However, a lot can happen between now and then, so Happy New Year to all, and stand by for ...... another story.