An amazing, but exhausting, weekend ran into another week. Oliver's first birthday party was a great success. The weather had threatened to be non-complaint for a garden party, but the rain decided it had fallen enough and moved on to pastures new! The presents that had been made and kept as a surprise, were accepted with delight. For the past two months, Samantha and I have been crocheting squares in many colours, and sewn them together, to make two blankets. Oliver's was slightly larger. It was the Batman emblem. The one made for Steph's niece (who shares her birthday with Ollie, and strangely enough with Frank, the dog) was 'Hello Kitty'. We took one each and managed to finish off the last 'strand pull through'.
Sunday evening was quite restful. Mum treated me to dinner at a local restaurant, and we got home after we ate, (and had a cup of tea on site!) to just sit and do nothing!
Richard had a day off from work on Monday, and I went to visit around ten. Samantha and Edward had left for the airport about half an hour earlier and called when they were through security. We took Ollie to the garden centre, and he enjoyed looking at the fish and rabbits (not in the same tank) and then we had lunch in the café. I watched as children were being cajoled into not screaming, and hoped that Ollie would remain well behaved as I did not want to receive the same looks that I realised I was (sub-consciously) giving those who were unruly! I was able to smile a haughty smile, as we wheeled 'the perfect child' (as he has been dubbed by my husband, who told everyone whom learned that I was going home, "She is going to see the most perfect child that ever has been born!") through the shop and out to the car! I noticed, on the way out, a bottle of barbecue sauce from Stubbs! This is a bar on Red River, in Austin, and although the sauce and venue is very famous in the state of Texas, and no doubt beyond, I was amazed that this should be sold in an independent establishment in the wiles of Hertfordshire!
The afternoon was not quite as delightful for my grandson, as we left home after his nap, to go to the doctor's surgery, in order that he may receive some inoculations! Watching my son comfort his son, after the nurse jabbed needles into the baby's chubby thighs, made me beam with pride. I have never had any qualms about my own offspring being a natural when it comes to caring for infants, as he was always the first choice to babysit, by the children as well as the parents. (One child would make herself sick if she thought her parents were going out, but once she knew Richard was going to be the sitter, she begged them not to stay in! Yes, I am a very proud mummy!) However, the screams were short lived and the little one appeared to forget the sharp pinch very quickly, and was in good form all afternoon. Steph arrived home, having been out 'wedding dress shopping', with two friends, one of whom being the 'bride to be', and Oliver enjoyed the attention from us all! When everyone had left, we went into the village, and I treated them to dinner at a very nice little restaurant, upon the Heath!
I was not late home on Monday night, but felt absolutely exhausted! Although Richard had another day of holiday, on Tuesday, I had arranged to see Rose (my former sister in law; current friend) and rose before seven (which is the norm in the household of my mother) to carry out my (self-imposed) chores, and enjoy petit dejeuner before heading out of county, with my written instructions, carefully printed on four pieces of paper! I closed the front door, and found that the porch door was still locked. I had not taken keys, as I knew I would be home for dinner, and mum would be home when I returned. Trapped in the small area, I knocked, and called, but the octogenarian dynamo was already in the garden, hanging out the washing! Eventually, she came back inside and freed me from my small cell, and I was on my way!
Although I have made the journey many times, over many years, when I am a few miles from the destination, I take a wrong turn. Originally, the route had gone through the perimeter road of the airport, but new roads have been created, presumably to alleviate congestion, and I have never managed to go the same way twice! However, I was prepared this time, and carefully put sheet one under sheet two, and sheet two under sheet three, following my crude instructions diligently. I recognised the roads, and followed the signs, making notes of the distance (which I had also written down) between each turn. At the risk of sounding like a 'bad workman blaming her tools', the map was not altogether correct! I drove along the portion of the road that said it was 1.4 miles, until the turn, for several minutes. At sixty miles per hour, I knew that after two minutes, I had gone further than 1.4 miles, and was rather perturbed. However, despite some faculties being not quite at one hundred percent, my memory, and general sense of direction, is still in tact, and I followed the signs to Mountfitchet Castle, as I was sure I could remember the way from the single track road that ran along the side of the ruins. A familiar road appeared, and I turned. It was on my map! It occurred to me that I had taken the first exit at a roundabout, instead of the second, even though the instructions had quite definitely said to take the first! I arrived at my destination rather pleased with myself!
Rose and I enjoyed a lovely lunch, after our pre-lunch chat, and before our post-lunch chat! We reminisced, and marvelled at the fact that we were now entering a new stage, that of grand motherhood, as my favourite ex-nephew (as he is affectionately known) is going to be a dad early in January, making Rose a grandma, and me a favourite ex-great aunt!
Reluctantly, I had to leave, and started on my way home. I was making very good time when the traffic suddenly came to a halt. I sat for a while, edging forward very slowly, and remembered that during my days of 'doing the Knowledge' (to become a Licensed London Cabbie) I was very familiar with the back streets of the area that surrounded the blocked freeway. Driving through the small villages brought back memories, and I found my way through to Radlett via many a narrow thoroughfare. Although I had planned to be at the home of my son before tea time, I arrived at bath time, and watched as 'the perfect child' splashed and chatted to the small plastic toys that shared the water.
After another reasonably early night, I had a very easy morning. Mum did not accompany me to Borehamwood, where I picked up a few essentials that my daughter had requested. (Ten days was not long enough to retrieve all her wanted items!) I managed to pack my suitcases before the doorbell rang, and my lunch date arrived. I have known Clark for over thirty years, meeting him a few months before meeting the father of my children, and we have remained friends, (despite me being born in the Chinese year of the Rat, which as I have mentioned, deems me to not make long term friendships,) catching up whenever the occasion allows. Once again, we reminisced, marvelled at how our children had grown, (almost all) married, and glowed with pride, when discussing our off springs, and their significant others, realising that we were much younger than they are now, when we first met. How time flies! We bid each other au revoir rather than 'goodbye', and he went on his way, as I went on mine.
Spending the afternoon with Ollie was less than restful! Steph had booked in a client for the afternoon, and was painting toenails when I arrived. They moved to the Salon when I arrived, and Oliver, hearing his mother's voice, decided to climb the stairs in order to find her. I followed him up the steep steps, and when he neared the top, I used my imagination for a new game. Instead of snakes and ladders, (or shoots and ladders as it is known over this side of the pond,) we played 'stairs and snakes', where we climbed, and then slid down the snake to the bottom, causing him to start again. The game lasted for quite some time, until he comprehended that grandma was tricking him, and not allowing him access to his mum! A new game had to be devised, and when I had exhausted all the 'tricks of the trade', I gave him a snack, hoping that the bribe would settle him for a while. It did! After tea, bath and a goodnight cuddle, we waved a mutual goodnight, and a very tired little boy went to bed. Steph and I fell back onto the settee and resisted falling asleep, lest we not wake until morning!
Eating a large lunch, and dinner, had become the norm. I was going to meet another old school friend that evening. Ian is another long term friend, whom I have known as long as my friend Lesley, (half a century this year) and nearly as long as Lynda (my long term friend living in Oregon. However, as I reminded him, Ian was already attending school when we started, as he was just that little bit older! Although throughout school, he was the heart-throb of many a young girl, he was my friend. Ian was the 'big brother' to those of us who had known him since we were rising five, and we were the envy of many girls who met him at the age of eleven, and were befriended by them, in order to gain an introduction! Who would be a teenager again!!!! However, I digress! I parked my fiat in the pub opposite his cottage, and walked across the road. No one answered the door, and I was a little concerned that I did not have the right house, but his neighbour appeared with a bag of trash and confirmed that I was in the right place, and proceeded to complain that someone had put their rubbish into her bin! She was not as bothered about the fact they had placed their unwanted items in her receptacle, as much as it was her 'paper' bin, and not 'general' waste. I nodded in the appropriate places, and commented in the appropriate pauses! I paced up and down the pavement, making sure that my car was not being towed or clamped, and eventually I noticed Ian's wife, Linda, (whom I knew from pictures) driving along and backing into the drive. I smiled, and she smiled back. She remained in the car, and appeared to be sorting through the contents on the passengers seat. She looked at me again, and I smiled, and gave a little wave. She smiled back, and continued to sort through the contents on the passenger's seat. After a minute or two, the front door opened, and Ian appeared, calling to his wife. I waved and said, "Were you inside all the time?", He came out, gave me a big hug, and then said to his wife, "You recognise Tracie, don't you?" There was a look of confusion and relief on her face. Although I recognised her, she had never seen a picture of me! All she saw was a random woman, smiling and waving at her, and then hugging her husband! Fortunately, the confusing and somewhat unsettling start, led into a very enjoyable evening. I was introduced to their lovely daughter, Summer, and then to Ian's son, Harry, who works at the pub where we had dinner. Once again, we reminisced, and swapped stories. We marvelled at how our kids had grown (although Ian's youngest is 10, but sharp as a tack!) and I bid them au revoir before popping back to have a cup of tea with Rick and Steph.
By the time I returned home, it was nearly midnight, and mum and I chatted for a while before going to bed. The next morning was another early one, and Steph brought Oliver to mum's to save me a trip. We had a lovely day, which included another au revoir, at midday. I hugged my sister, and my niece, until next time. I took mum to Costco, where there was a man behind a stand, giving samples of Stubbs barbecue sauce! Wearing a 'Longhorns' tee shirt, it was no surprise when I told him that I lived in Austin, home of the famous brand, and he told me that he had lived thirty years in the USA. He knew Austin well! We chatted briefly, and I was treated to more than one sample of the sauce on rather large chunks of burger. I took Oliver home for his dinner, and then in the evening, Steph suggested I put hin to bed, so that I could give him one last cuddle, until next time. My cousin, Lesley, arrived shortly before, as she had an appointment with Steph! Several au revoir's later, after Richard and I collected a fish and chip supper, I drove mum back to the bungalow and we retired reasonably early.
Friday was going to be a very long day. In fact, Friday got longer and longer as the day went on! I returned the car, following my hand written instructions. I came off the motorway an exit too early, and almost panicked. Unlike most other exits, the re-entry was not particularly easy. I had to drive through to the airport, and then out again! I had given myself plenty of time, so the set back was not disastrous. I followed the instructions to the facility, took the slip road in the middle of the highway to enter the petrol station (as I had been advised by the staff) and found that there was no point of entry! I had to turn back on to the opposite side of the road, take left turn, go into a private car park, turn the car around and retrace my steps to the petrol station! Finally I made it back to the rental office, and found that I could have returned with the tank empty, and they would have charged me less than the garage price to refuel! Oh darn I thought to myself, or a thought to that effect!
I negotiated check-in, and security, and enjoyed breakfast in the lounge. I listened to a few minutes of the Archers, and then closed up shop, before heading to the gate. We had been delayed! Apparently, upon arrival, a bird had flown into one of the engines!
The maintenance crew were checking on the condition of the offending part, as I spoke to the gate official. Richard rang me at that precise moment, and laughed at the news. I did not find it funny, and wondered why she had not just said, "There is a delay". Rick explained, as best he could, through giggles, that she had probably not been warned of my phobia! I returned to the lounge, and ate some more, whilst listening to the remainder of my radio show. "Flight 5", was all several of us heard, about an hour after our plane was due to take off, and several of us surrounded the desk at the front of the lounge for an update. "No", said the attendant, with a slight grin, "I called for one passenger. We will let you know as soon as we have an update". They were very patient with us. I let all relevant parties know that I was delayed, and was awaiting a 'call'. My cousin suggested it may be in the form of a chirp! I told her she was 'so not funny'! Samantha and Richard were apparently sending each other emoticons of birds and planes. Does no one feel my pain? Eventually, three and a half hours after our original departure time, we were told that the plane was boarding, and we could finally leave our temporary home!
Dana had managed to secure me a seat on the later flight out of Houston that evening, although when I came to collect my bags, connecting flights had already been secured for all. The only difference was that I had a decent seat! The gentleman at immigration asked (as they always do) what I was doing in England, and I replied, "Visiting my grandson". Compassion flooded across his face, as he asked if I cried when I had to leave him, and was he the only one. "So far!" I responded, and seeing my angst, he said, "Okay, Tracie, put your left hand on the screen". His very personable attitude did help, as I was nearing breaking point! The flight was excellent, and I had no one sitting next to me, which meant I could spread out, but I failed to sleep a wink! I collected my bags, and headed for customs. "So, Tracie, did you bring back any food", asked the official. "Chocolate", I said with pride, "and chips!" The official looked at his counterpart sitting to his left. "Did you hear that", he said, feigning an English accent. "Chocolate chips!" Rather than correct him, I laughed heartily, and he waved me through! I retrieved new boarding passes and headed for the lounge.
"We close at nine, and clear away at eight forty-five", said the rather rude member of staff, who was quite indignant when I went to gather some refreshments. She had already started to clear away the crockery so that no one could partake of the new and improved delicacies that were on offer. "It is 8:30", I responded, wondering how she knew how much I had eaten today, and over the past week, and further wondering if she was protecting my health! However, she presumably had just had a very long day, as she stopped the end of day routine, and walked off with a huff! I took some soup, chips and some olives, and sat down. The Internet was not working, and no one could connect. "It worked for everyone earlier", said another member of staff, who it appeared had been the victim of the same events as the one clearing away the food. I wondered if they were empathising 'in like mood', with the long day I had experienced!
I left the lounge, taking a banana for good measure, (after all, I had not eaten anything for about ten minutes, and my stomach was curious as to why I had stopped feeding it,) and made my way to the gate. I boarded, enjoyed my bi-annual bailey's-on-the-rocks, and arrived in Austin a little after 10. Dana was at the gate to greet me, and we headed home after claiming my bags. I fell into bed at 11am, and slept, until 1am when I sat up thinking that I had been asleep for hours. The rest of the night was virtually sleepless.
I was, as always, filled with mixed emotions. I leave one part of my family to return to the other. Life is never easy when your loved ones are so far flung, but at least I had the opportunity to spend time with my son and grandson, as well as my mum. I would have loved to have spent more time with my sister, but work commitments do not allow us to do so, as much as they used to! We said we would make more time to see each other over Christmas, when hopefully I return. I pray that this will be the case and my posts in December will not tell a tale of woe, in .......... another story!