With the holidays being in the middle of the week, every day felt like Monday. Elise had asked Mum if she wanted to do the 'usual' for New Years Eve, (dinner, clear away, have a cup of tea and all be in our respective beds by 11!) and that meant confinement to the kitchen on Tuesday. However, the ante-penultimate day of the year was on a Monday, and I had things to do. I had promised myself that I would not buy the complete contents of the candy aisle at the supermarket, but there were some items which Samantha had forgotten, and some which I cannot live without!
Mum drove me into Borehamwood, and as we decided to 'split up', so she did not, in her words, slow me down. I would have been happy to accompany her but the rain was teaming and the wind was howling. I took my umbrella, which immediately blew inside out, then one by one, the spokes on the metal frame broke, so I was left with a handle connected to a bit of material blowing aimlessly in the wind. I sought refuge in a clothes store, so as I could compose myself for the forward journey into the high street, and found an item which Edward just 'had to have'! The lady at the counter was most friendly. Call me old fashioned, but to have a teenager call me 'sweetie', is a little off putting. I should be used to the reception, as the sales assistants back in Texas are somewhat overpowering, but I was a little taken aback. 'Thanks, sweetie. Is that all, sweets? You take care now sweetie', was overkill, and I refrained from wishing her a nice day, for fear of being bombarded with another round of niceties. (I know you can't please all the people, all the time!)
Although I travel with some clothes (when there is room in my case) I do leave the basics at mum's house. A variety of undergarments, and some toiletries, are stored in the cupboard in the room where I sleep when I return to the motherland, and I generally replenish the dwindling stock from the local shops. The body shop had a 'special' on their butter, and as I was running low, I went to view their wares. Unfortunately, some of the oils used to flavour the butter are slightly bitter. I would make it quite clear that I am aware that although the product is called 'butter', it is not for spreading on bread, but when applied, it does leave a residue on the hands, which contaminates everything that comes into contact with them. It was after I used the 'festive cranberry' variety, that I found all finger food tasted like the 'no more nail biting' liquid my mother used to apply, in the hope that I would stop chewing on my digits. Suffice it to say, if I am to sample a product with a new aroma, I rub it into my hand, and then taste it. It was fortunate that the lady from the clothes shop did not work at the Body Shop, as I could imagine her shouting throughout the store, 'Does it taste nice, sweets?' Instead, the rather more subdued sales assistant stood and watched with a look of confusion. I explained to her as I made the purchase, the reason for my seemingly peculiar behaviour, but the smile I received was that of pity rather than understanding! I did not force the issue for fear of her further thinking along the lines of 'me doth think she protests too much', (although without sounding too harsh, her thought would probably be less Shakespearean)
I ventured around the corner to the grocery store, and bought some tea bags and coffee, which were, fortunately, on a very special offer, then lost my bearings completely, and went to the end of the high street, before realising that the shop I had specifically come to visit, was in fact just at the entrance to the car park! I returned to find my mother battling with the queues in another grocery store, and we packed up the car to go home. We lunched like Kings, as is customary when my mother has visitors, including family, despite the fact I was going to have a substantial dinner later. However, my body had become accustomed, as it does when in England, to eating three meals a day, with snacks in between, and it was soon craving more. Although I do not normally have much time to meet up with friends during my Christmas visit, as it is so short, I had received a call Ethne on Saturday, to see if we could get together after the weekend. The mother of one of Samantha's old school pals, Laura, we had met when the girls were still at school, and used to play badminton (badly) with the girls, once a week. When Laura came to visit a few years ago, Ethnie accompanied her on the trip and we became good friends. When I asked, 'Where are we going', she announced 'Prezzo!'. I was delighted, as I enjoy the restaurant's food and atmosphere, but I was not sure how the staff would react, after my late departure, with Sheri and Lesley, on Saturday! As my trips to the restaurant are usually with 'life long' friends, with whom I have not visited for several months, our endurance outlasts the wait staff, and we are usually the last to leave! The manager had a mixed emotion look upon his face when we entered, but although we spent several hours catching up, this time we were not the last to leave. As the manager opened the door for us to leave, he wished us a Happy New Year, and recited the restaurateur's prayer, 'Please come again'. I caused a raised eyebrow when I replied, 'Certainly, for a marathon in the summer'. Being of Latin persuasion, he may have considered this to be English slang, and his smile turned into a slightly confused grin. Perhaps I will explain one day!
I arrived back at Mum's earlier than she expected and received a call from Dana who was just about to watch the Texas game on television. The University of Texas Longhorns were playing (dare I say superior) The University of Oregon Ducks. I messaged my friend Lynda, who lives in the latter state, to say how amusing it was for two English girls who grew up best friends, in a suburb of London, to be cheering for opposing teams, playing college football, to gain the coveted title, winner of the 'Alamo Bowl'. When we grew up, a bowl was something in which you put fruit or cereal! We agreed that no matter what the outcome it would not put a strain on our friendship, and further both agreed that the bovines would succumb to the fowl, although I still held a glimmer of hope!
Tuesday morning started off very wet, as did most of the days on my visit. Despite having guests for dinner, it was agreed that cooking for four did not require all day preparation, and after peeling enough potatoes to feed the defeated Texas team and their fans, mum rebelliously suggested we have an outing to the supermarket, just because we could! However, she made me promise that I would stop her, should she wish to buy any groceries, as she was sure she did not need any more provisions. I looked at her with astonishment, and stated, 'You reckon!' Although I had only cut up enough vegetables for the losing side, I was sure we could have kept the victor's from starving if they had happened to drop in for a snack! Just before we left the store, we bumped into Janice, Steph's mum, who was meeting a friend for lunch, and made arrangements to meet up the following evening, for my last supper, and after bidding each other farewell, made our way through the puddles, to the awaiting vehicle.
As predicted, dinner was eaten and cleared away fairly early, and we retired to the lounge, where we spent some time reminiscing about the practical jokes my dad used to play, and feeling quite blessed that he was such a big part of our lives. As predicted, Elise and David left around 9:30, and as further predicted, I was in bed shortly after 11pm, and asleep before the first strike of Big Ben welcomed in the new year of 2014. The cracking of fireworks awoke me briefly, but did not prevent me from falling back to sleep. As predicted, I was awakened by a text from Samantha who knew, and I quote, 'You will be asleep', but asked what it was like living in a different year, as it was still 2013 where she was, and would be for another five and a half hours. The joy of modern technology! However, time and tide waits for no man, nor woman, and dawn broke as it does each morning. I got out of bed, delighted at the prospect of having a take out for dinner, and not having to see, let alone peel and chop, a raw potato, to find the dynamo that I call 'mum', on the second rung of a three step ladder, wiping away at the ceiling in her porch. 'What are you doing?' appeared to be a ridiculous question, as obviously she was wiping away at the dark spots that had been caused by the condensation. 'I meant, what are you doing up the ladder', I continued. 'I can do that!' Relieving her of the cloth, and replacing her on the steps, I stood in my pyjamas, wondering 'why?' 2014 was still an hour away on the West Coast of the USA, and while revellers were looking forward to a cruscendo in sixty minutes, I was moping excess moisture from porch roof, and surrounding areas. Before the inhabitants of Hawaii had even left home to go to their parties, let alone cracked the champagne open, the porch was dry, the bungalow had been dusted and vacuumed, had its floors washed, and we had eaten and cleared away breakfast plates, and were now on our way to the supermarket (albeit a different one!) Such is life in the fast lane - metaphorically! The only time my mum slows down, is when she is in the car, in the fast lane!
We met Elise and David in the supermarket (the place where their eyes first met, over the check out!) and after I collected the final items on Samantha's list, we gave them a ride home, as they had decided to walk to the store, but the precipitation had become rather fierce by the time we were all ready to leave. One of the girls at the check out commented on my hat, and was delighted to hear that I lived in Texas, and almost squealed when I confirmed I had the cowboy boots to match. I cannot categorically state that I made her year, but it appeared to be a good start! The rest of the day was filled with mundane tasks, such as packing and repacking, weighing the suitcases, and reweighing. The expectation of 'fish and chips' was short lived, as a lot of take away restaurants were closed, but joined Richard, Steph and Janice, and enjoyed our Vienna sausages, with fries and baked beans (English style!), followed by a healthy (contradiction in terms!) slice of Christmas cake! All too soon, it was time to say au revoir to Richard, and we braved the rain, again, and set off home. Ironically enough, we did not go to bed until after midnight.
As my flight was not until 1:30pm, I did not have the early start to which I am accustomed on the day I return to the US of A. This gave me plenty of time to complete the morning chores, and have breakfast with mum. The sun was shining and the prospect of rain was minimal. It was as if we were in a different place to where I had been staying for the past week. My taxi arrived punctually, and the driver was pleasantly talkative, and even more pleasantly obliging, as he unloaded my cases, and obtained a trolley for the same. I bade him farewell, and proceeded to check-in, where I answered the questions posed, and was impressed upon to remove my knitting needles to my checked bags, as it was possible that the new restrictions would show them as offensive. I did as I was told, knowing that I would regret the action during the long haul flight, but this was preferable to having them confiscated. The security agent was quite taken with my nails, and was very chatty. My bags contained nothing that they should not, and I did not 'ding' as I went through the arch. I made a couple of purchases before entering the lounge, and declined the offer of a complimentary facial before enjoying a second breakfast. As I ate, myself and the rest of the inhabitants of the lounge were entertained by a fellow passenger, who was attempting to give information to someone on the other end of her phone. By the time she had finished her call, we were all familiar with her email address, which she insisted on spelling out, (there were three L for Lucy's,) her address in New York, New York, and her telephone number. Perhaps she was angling for an invite for next year's parties! As I started to power down my computer, ready for my exit, a thriving Longhorn fan approached, with his father, who asked if I had been to the Blue Bonnet Cafe, in Marble Falls, Texas, which was printed on the front of my t-shirt. I said that I had frequented the eatery, and enjoyed their pies immensely. He said that his family lived in Austin, and I replied, a little too enthusiastically for my liking, that I, too, lived in Austin. He introduced me to his wife, and remaining children, all of whom were accompanied by his parents. They were to become my flying neighbours, much to the disappointment of my former Swedish companion, who unfortunately did not obtain her upgrade on this trip.
The plane was the new super duper Dreamliner, which only just fits into the dock alongside the terminal. Unfortunately, the Jetway tunnel was broken and we had to walk onto the tarmac and enter by ascending the portable stairs. It did give us a chance to view the enormous engines, which as you can imagine, was neither electrifying, nor a comfort, to me. However, the seats were comfortable, and the windows dimmed by electronic switch. The crew appeared to be quite impressed, although they did say that the back of the plane tended to sway slightly, and that did nothing to ease any motion sickness that may be suffered! I watched a couple of movies, ate lunch and tea, and enjoyed the atmosphere which leaves you feeling less lethargic than with other aircraft. We touched down in Houston early, and the immigration officer welcomed me home. My bags came off together, which was quite amazing, and after I had walked through customs, I retrieved my knitting before handing my bags to the boys in charge at the next conveyor belt. A long queue had formed to enter the next security gate, and despite my low level status with the airline, I was able to use the fast track. As I waited in the slightly shorter queue, I heard a voice calling to me. It was my Swedish companion from the first flight. She was rather perturbed at her flying experience, and was less than delighted when the child behind her started to play with her bag. Both child and mother received short shrift from my friend and backed away rather smartly. My bags did not cause concern and I was able to walk through the arch, rather than be subjected to the controversial x-ray machines that are now commonplace in most airports. My friend and I went our separate ways, promising to watch out for one another when we next flew to England, and I made my way to the lounge, where I had just enough time to reassemble my belongings, and my thoughts, and grab an apple, banana, bag of small carrots, and a travel cup of water, before leaving for my final flight. I took my seat on the plane and enjoyed my bi-annual baileys on the rocks, with the banana, before take off. Our flight was delayed for about half an hour, as we waited for bags to be loaded, and by the time the wheels lifted, I had a good start on my new scarf! As we reached cruising altitude the hostess handed me another baileys and commented, 'It's a double', before offering my fellow passengers a beverage choice. I wondered if I would be able to walk off the plane, or if I should just roll!
Dana was at the gate to meet me, and our reunion was not dissimilar to that of the Prime Minister and his girl in the movie 'Love Actually', except that we are older, but in Texas no one gives a flip! My bags, for the third time, came down the slope together, and we headed home. After unpacking, I took a shower, and went to bed, drifting off to sleep pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow. The morning rolled around and we rose to get ready for work. It was rather nice to have one day, then a weekend! We met Edward and Samantha for dinner, and my daughter and I chatted as if we had not seen one another for a month of Sunday's, let alone a few hours, just as my sister and I used to do when my dad took us out for dinner. (When did they stop fighting and start talking, dad used to ask mum!) Dana and Edward smiled to themselves, which we interpreted as 'It's good to have them back', but did not ask whether this was the reason for the grins! Another new year, and has become customary, I have no resolutions, just the anticipation of new adventures, and ........... another story.