Leaving Austin for London, midweek, has not proved to be such a difficult task, especially since our office is now less than a mile away from home, so any last minute items can be retrieved within a short period of time, and the stress factor has been reduced considerably. Leaving Austin for London mid-March, was not such an easy transition!
Although my life is somewhat less structured than it would be if I lived in England, I do have some regular patterns, and leaving town to go across the pond at this time of year, somehow, threw me!
I tried to remain calm on Monday, despite leaving the office rather late, and making a trip to the post office just before they closed their doors, but my mind was tapping constantly. Had I forgotten something? Was I meant to buy something? It was going to be an impromptu trip, and for one purpose only, and that was to meet Jamie. However, although I thought I was rather clever in not publicising the fact that I was making the trip, I made the mistake of putting it in last week's post, for the world (and I am not sure how many people across the world this encompasses) to see! It was not that I did not want to see my friends, but I knew a week, or six days as it would turn out to be, (realistically five and a half once I reached home,) would leave me very little time for socialising.
I had been to the mall and got some 'bits and pieces'. Steph finally relented and gave me a list, worrying that it would be expensive, and that I would have too much to bring, but I assured her that as this was not a scheduled trip, the regular orders would not be fulfilled.
The repacking took place on Tuesday, and I had become much calmer by Wednesday morning. Samantha took the dog, and some coffee to the office, and then came to collect me, cases, and all! I had one big, one medium and one small suitcase. I felt a little like an alternative Goldilocks; perhaps I should be renamed Silverlocks!
Driving to the airport was quite swift, and I walked my three bears in to the desk. "You are going for a week, alone?" said the lady behind the counter, no doubt looking around for daddy bear and baby bear. I changed the subject. "I am going to meet my newest grandson", I chimed with pride. This seemed to take her mind off my missing entourage, and she happily tagged my bags, and sent me on my way!
I sat in the lounge awaiting my first flight to Newark. Yes, Newark. This was another reason for my angst. I had managed to secure a 'confirmed' upgrade, using my air miles, as the new policy is that an upgrade can be requested, but not necessarily given. Although I was given a more elaborate status, I am still somewhat of an ant in the pecking order! Two men were sitting at a table next to mine. One of them asked if I was using the chair nearest to them, and I replied that I was not and they could take it. "I love the accent. Is it from Bristol". I smiled and told him very nicely that I was from the eastern side of the country, not the west, and he was rather apologetic. "At least you have the right country", I responded.
After checking my phone app, (I have given in to some electronic twenty first century things,) it appeared that the incoming flight had arrived early, and we were due into Newark a few minutes early. I was going to have a couple of minutes under the hour to connect, and this would give me just a few more minutes breathing space. I sat back, had a cup of soup, and relaxed.
When I reached the gate, I saw that the phone app had been mistaken. Another reason for not being too up to date with twenty first century electronic stuff. The incoming flight had come from Newark, and apparently, the Air Traffic Control team were not 'playing ball', and were limiting flights into the airport. I started to regret having the soup, as I suddenly felt rather unwell. I asked the lady at the gate how late the flight was expected to be, and she said it wasn't expected to be late at all. I showed her the sign above her head. "Oh" came the response.
The flight was going to be taking off almost an hour late. An hour late, and under an hour layover, this was not looking good. I asked twice, as the ground crew whispered among themselves, whether we were going to be any more delayed.
Eventually, the pilot and 'first mate' arrived at the gate, and sauntered on to the plane. I was slightly hopeful, as I was 'doing the math' and there was still a chance that I would make it, provided this plane landed at the gate next to the one I had to catch! Breathing with a little more ease, I sat back and continued to crotchet in the hope it would help my tension reduce. The door opened and I expected to hear an announcement. Instead, the 'first mate'; appeared and walked out into the terminal. She was going to get a coffee! It took all of my strength not to run after her and drag her back! "You have a plane to fly, lady!" I heard myself say, fortunately only in my head.
I decided to stand in line with a few other people who had given up their seats in the hope that a queue would force some sort of action.
The door finally opened again, and we were invited to board. The man in front of me took his case and put it in my space! He offered to stow mine, and passed it down to the end of the cabin! My plan to grab my bag and run was diminishing, but I had already decided that I was going to miss my connection, so it really didn't matter. I was now wondering if I would have to stay the night in the airport, if I would be sent to a hotel. Perhaps I would have enough time to pop into New York City, although I was not sure where I would go or what I would do. "Do I detect an accent?" asked my neighbour, breaking my day dream. "I'm sorry", I said, not quite catching the sentence until a couple of seconds after I had responded. "Is it New Zealand, or Australian?" Bristol would have been nearer! I smiled sweetly. "No, I am English", I said. "Hmm, no. I would not have said English". I was not going to catch my connection. I was not going to get to see my grandson for another day. I was not going to get to sleep as I was going to be in a deserted airport all night, and now I was not even English! I had to make an attitude adjustment. "Would you like to join us for dinner?" asked the stewardess. Why not? After all, it could be my only meal of the evening. The attitude adjustment was taking its time to kick in. The gentleman who thought I was an Antipodean, asked what was for dinner. "Beef in gravy and a selection of root vegetables". This delayed the attitude adjustment even more. "Stew with potatoes and carrots, then?" The hum of the aircraft made it difficult for her to hear, so I just smiled.
The captain then decided to make an announcement. He apologised for the delay, and then explained that the Newark Air Traffic Controllers were really causing a few problems for the pilots. He said that we had a six twenty slot for take off, and the flight would be three hours and five minutes. Working out the time, again, it now seemed possible that I would make my flight. The pilot also announced that he might be able to make up some time. Things were looking up. "However".... said the pilot, and things started to plummet! It appeared that even if we did make up the time, and even though we were due in an hour earlier, those pesky Air Traffic Controllers may not allow us to land! I took out my wool and began my therapy course!
We did circle. We did land. The gate crew were not ready for us. I have no idea why, as they had three hours and five minutes of warning! We landed at gate 128. I had to get to gate 90. Both in the same terminal. However, on the concourse where I landed, gate 128 was at the tip. Gate 90 was at the tip of the next concourse. I pushed everyone out of the way, asked politely if the gentleman standing below the overhead that housed my bag would kindly get it for me, and then tried not to scowl as he ignored me. I pulled the case down, and, not on purpose, missed his face by a whisper. (The 'not on purpose' did not mean I meant to hit him!) I grabbed my other bag, and ran. I ran through the concourse, then slowed to a fast walk and then to a slower pace, as I could not catch my breath. As I approached the next concourse, I asked one of the men in charge of the electric carts if he could 'run me down' to the end of the concourse. "No", he said. Well, Dorothy, you are not in Kansas anymore, I thought.
I had less than five minutes before the gate was due to close, as I approached. A crowd was gathered around the gate. In fact, the crowd were the passengers. I joined the end of the line. "Have they not started to board yet?" I wheezed. "No", said the young man at the end of the line. "The inbound flight was late! Something to do with the Air Traffic Controllers being weird!" Oh joy!
I had a lovely seat next to the window. I had two lovely seats next to the window, which was a blessing, as my entertainment system had a sound problem. I swapped the headphones, but that did not make a difference, so I started the film I selected on two monitors, simultaneously and watched, while I ate my second dinner. As the flight was a little over six hours, I selected the 'eat it all at once' option, as I did not want to 'enjoy' the more relaxed sauntering of the food trolley. I ate, and despite all my own rules, lay down on a 'full swtomach' and slept for abut four hours. I did not miss breakfast but chose fruit and cereal instead of omelette and sausages. We did have to circle a couple of times, which gave me a little more time to snooze. Finally, we landed, deplaned. I had made it!
Immigration was painless, and I was pleasantly surprised to see my bags come along the conveyor belt, one next to the other! Silverlocks, the big case, the medium case and the small case, went through the 'green' door, and out the other end.
I took the lift to the 'lower deck', and stayed on board, as no one had pressed the button, despite my request. I knew that I wanted '0', but responded kindly when another passenger asked me where I wanted to go. "What's so complicated" said a woman who was apparently with the kindly man. I had managed to undergo the attitude adjustment, as I had managed to complete my itinerary, so I refrained from saying, "Everything!"
My bus driver who took me to collect my car was an old friend. "I remember you", he said, as he took me and my three bears to the facility. The process to get the car took very little time, and I was told to take my pick from line one! I wasn't sure which one to choose, but as I almost picked a small silver model, a blue ford fiesta came around the corner. Although I was not particularly partial to the fiesta, I knew the model, and was happier with familiarity.
The drive home was quite quick and mum was quite delighted to see me! Richard arrived with the precious package (or precious packages, as I now have two) and I spent the next two hours cuddling my newest grandson, Jamie.
I spent the rest of the week, and weekend, enjoying spending as much time as possible with Richard, Steph, and 'the boys'. I spent the evenings with mum, which proved to be good quality time.
Although I did not plan to make arrangements to see anyone else, other than family, I did meet up with Dawn, whom I have known since my teenage years, and who moved to Australia thirty years ago, and whom I sound nothing like! She was in England for a few months and the exception was exceptional! Although we do 'skype', it was great to 'catch up' in person, and to meet her husband, Neil. Two hours was not really enough, but it was as good as a feast!
Mothering Sunday was a special treat. Although my daughter is wonderful at making sure that the 'proper' mother's day is celebrated in style, spending it with my grandsons was marvelous. Ollie and I spent time playing in his 'house' in the garden, his 'house' under the table, and we even went to the moon in a lego rocket. Who could ask for more!
With two days left before I have to leave, I plan to spend the next two days with my boys, which will have to last me for a few months.
Wednesday's homeward flight wont be quite as stressful, as I am not going to lose any days, should my flights be delayed. I hope it will not be traumatic, or eventful in a non-comformative way, but I am sure it will make it into ..... another story!