Photographs © Elizabeth West unless otherwise indicated
After the Airport Saga From Hell, I’m home.
Someone had a medical emergency on the plane whilst we were boarding, and we left Heathrow an hour late. By the time I got to Atlanta, went through Immigration (they have kiosks now; it’s brilliant. So much easier.), collected my checked bag (WTF, they don’t even look at it again—why can’t it just go on through? It’s already been accepted at Heathrow!), turned in the bag again, and ran to my gate, my connection was gone. There were no other flights to my dinky airport on any other airline that night.
Delta gave me a hotel voucher. I had to drag my overstuffed carry-ons through Hartsfeld-Jackson Airport in search of the ground transportation and the hotel shuttle. I was so tired of carrying my souvenir duffel and my shoulders were so screamingly painful that I ended up dragging it behind me on the floor like a dog on a leash.
I finally found ground transport, and I spent the night at Country Inn. The next morning, I got to the gate for the plane to my city. We had to wait ten minutes for maintenance. Then we boarded. We sat there for fifteen minutes before the pilot came on the intercom: “Folks, we’re having a mechanical issue and you’re all going to have to return to the terminal while we try to find another plane.”
After another hour in the terminal, we re-boarded and took off. FINALLY! I figured my bag, which probably had gone on without me, might be lost, but I had to wait until I got to MyCity Airport to know for sure. It turned out that they had held it back and it was on the plane with me. One cab ride later and I was home.
Then I went to work for three hours. Then I went home again and crashed.
Now here we are. My hotly anticipated holiday is over, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I debated somewhat whether to post this or not. It almost sounds like I’m whinging (whining), but I suppose it’s valuable to remember that things aren’t always perfect.
Some of this I wrote before I left, and corrections are in brackets (parentheses).
Things that have changed since the last time I was in the U.K.:
- The red phone booths. I saw two of them the day I went to BBC. That was it. I did see a black one, but I was afraid to step into it, in case it went down to Knockturn Alley.
- Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a red post box either. Dammit! (Correction: I did see one in Kingston.)
- The iconic sound of British sirens (warning: turn down sound before clicking). They sound like American ones now. I only heard one like this. How sad. It doesn’t sound like London without them, just a city.
Things I wish had been different:
- I wish I’d met someone. I didn’t. I wonder if I ever will. Even traveling 4,000 miles from where I live, I can’t get it right.
- I wish I had had more time. Or didn’t have to leave.
- I wish I hadn’t started packing so early. I ended up OVER-packing and had to lug all that crap back. It was tempting to donate all my clothes, including the gorgeous black dress I got at Macy’s and packed just in case and never wore, and just take back what I bought. In the end, I left a few things behind to donate and some stuff my family member will ship to me.
- I wish I’d gone out at night by myself. In the U.S., I’ve done it and either been shunned or harassed. I just don’t do it anymore, and I dislike sitting by myself in a room full of people who are with their friends.
It might have been different—but it might not have. Maybe I was afraid it wouldn’t. Nothing is worse than going out and sitting at the bar alone and feeling like a blowsy hag and getting hit on by fat old rummies.
Things I’ll especially remember:
- The moment Welsh appeared on the signs when I approached Cardiff on the train.
- How good Welsh cakes are, especially when you eat them in the deserted remains of a medieval abbey.
- Gazing down from the top deck of the bus.
- The excitement of using your Oyster for the first time and knowing that you can go anywhere in London.
- Smooshing up next to strangers on the tube at peak time–and everyone just does it. Without even thinking about it. Now you know why no one likes to make eye contact there. No personal space equals an expansion of mental space.
It didn’t bother me to do this, nor did it bother me to share tables at crowded pubs and restaurants with strangers. You just sit and eat your meal and don’t look at each other. I’m so used to being ignored everywhere I go that London was absolutely no different.
- How easy it was to assimilate. At first, I found it amusing that people read the paper (an actual paper!) on the tube or the bus. By the end of my holiday, I was swooping down on abandoned copies of the Metro and the Evening Standard on the carriage.
And the day I went to BBC, I got off the tube at Warren Street Station, looked at the sky, and got my brolly (umbrella) out of my purse automatically without even thinking about it. Twenty seconds later, it rained.
- Tying my scarf in a knot or doing the European loop to keep the wind from blowing it off me.
- Wearing a scarf in the first place. I don’t normally do that, though I will probably continue after this holiday, especially since I have a couple of new ones I really like. (Yep; I’m wearing one of my Primark scarves right now.)
My online community is having a meetup in London in the spring, and I’m itching to go back. Despite some disappointment, I can’t stay away.
Can you blame me? Ah, London. You’re silly, sophisticated, noisy, quiet, crowded, lonely, happy, melancholy, old, new, ugly, beautiful, backward, and progressive. And I love you.
See you soon.