A little tossing and turning, but overall an uneventful sleep. One note to insert here since I haven’t anywhere else. Easter appears to be a much bigger holiday in the UK than it is at home. At home I barely even notice it happens. Here is is all over the TV that “Easter is coming!” and the kids have a whole week off of school, etc. There are major ads for Easter candy everywhere, little pictures of yellow chicks, the whole deal. I guess we get some of that at home too… but I think a lot less.
I woke up before the alarm spontaneously, knowing that I had to get my stuff packed. I took a shower as soon as I got up and started trying to get as much packed as I could before breakfast. I was not quite done at time for breakfast, so I stopped what I was doing and headed downstairs.
This time at breakfast there was a second person. He had apparently been there the day before as well, but this was the first time I actually bumped into him. So I talked to him a bit during the breakfast, and as a result the breakfast seemed to go much more quickly, and I didn’t notice that it was a big breakfast like I had the other days.
Turns out he was in Aylesbury for medical treatment. He had been in some sort of accident a few years ago and sustained some brain injury. (It was not obvious at all from talking to him, but apparently he is not able to do some things he was able to do before the accident due to the injury… I did not inquire more deeply, feeling it was none of my business.). Apparently Aylesbury also has he foremost medical center for head injuries in Britain. He was there for tests and evaluations, etc. He talked a little about his family as well. He had a little daughter back home (5 years old), and talked about one of the upsides of his injury is that he had gotten to spend a lot more time with her in her early years.
In any case, I finished breakfast, rushed upstairs to finish packing, and then the Masons ordered me a cab to the train station. A cab was much better than walking I decided as soon as they suggested it. I signed the guestbook, and got another picture of the Masons. I tried to get their great grand daughter too, but she was shy and hid every time I got the camera out. Then the cab arrived, and it was time finally to head home.
Cab to the Aylesbury train station. Grab a seat. Wait. Go. An hour later in London ay Marleybourne station again. I once again took the hint and got a cab instead of trying to walk and take the subway. I had been insane my first day here lugging around that big suitcase all over London on crowded subways and busy streets… Cab got me to Victoria station quickly.
At Victoria station I remembered that when I had bought my tickets from Gatwick to Victoria when I had arrived, the ticket guy had asked “Express or Regular”. I had asked what the difference is. He said express cost more and regular made more stops. I had been in no hurry, so I took the regular. That was that crouded train with no space where people entered right next to the streets every two minutes at a stop. This time I was going for express. Once I actually got on the express train I realized the number of stops was not the only difference. The “regular” was an older train with that bad design. The “express” was a brand spanking new modern train with luggage racks big enough for my suitcase, and plenty of space and legroom, and the train entrances where they are supposed to be. Whew! Much nicer!
And it was considerably faster. A half hour later I was in Gatwick, finding my way to my check-in counter.
At Gatwick I eventually found the counter for my flight. It was a bit hidden, but I did find it. My flight was Virgin Atlantic, but code share with Continental. Continental was in the basement. I found it. Checked in. Got rid of my big suitcase. Then headed toward the gate. Through security. No problems at all this time. Then through a shopping area. I wanted to check out some of the shops, but wanted to find the gate first to make sure I knew where it was. I found it. Then found that even thought the shopping area was after security, you could not go back there from the gate. I had to get rechecked by a security guy to leave the gate and get back to the shopping area. I still had an hour or so until they would be boarding my plane. I browsed a bit at some of the shops, and then decided to have one last meal in the UK. I picked a restaurant and sat down and had some sort of pasta dish. This was not remarkable.
What is remarkable however is that as I was leaving the restaurant to head back for the gate I saw a woman with a child. She was the spitting image of a woman I had worked with several years ago at work. And last time I’d seen the woman she was pregnant. The child here would be the right age. But I could not remember the name, and was not 100% sure. So I actually ended up circling the woman from a discreet distance for a few minutes. I was more and more sure it was the woman from work. But I was drawing a blank on the name.
I saw that she had her ticket out though. And I realized that the ticket had her name on it. So I came up behind her, read the name on the ticket over her shoulder… Nancy Bennett. Yes. That was definitely it. That was the woman who had been on one of the same projects as me several years back. So I walked up and said “Hello Nancy”. I then introduced myself. She recognized my face when she saw me same as I had recognized hers, but also couldn’t place a name until I told her. But yes, it was her.
She was returning from elsewhere in Europe (forget where) to the states. She had been accompanying her husband on a business trip of some sort. He was staying a couple more weeks to take care of some things. She and the child were headed home. We talked a little bit about what we were each doing with our lives. She introduced me to her son, who was a little under the weather and was eating chocolate ice cream to feel better. Then we said maybe we’d see each other again at the gate and I headed back to the gate while she helped the boy (Neal I think) finish his ice cream.
When I got to the gate they were already boarding. So on to the plane I went. No seat by myself this time. But not bad. Nice gentleman with his family in the next row. And a little bit later off we went…
Once the plane was taking off and was getting up to altitude, I saw Nancy’s boy popping his head up over the seats and looking around. A couple seconds later I saw Nancy standing up in order to look after him and do various things. They had not yet turned off the seatbelt sign. The stewards started yelling at Nancy from wherever they were sitting that she had to sit down. After she ignored them for about a minute two of them came up the isle to make her sit down. I was amused.
During the course of the flight a little later Nancy came back and asked if she could get a ride back from the airport. She had planned on taking the train and such, but since I was there… I of course said that would be no problem at all… I’d love to.
Then the flight continued. I wrote some more of the trip log thing, I watched another DVD, I answered some email… all that sort of thing. Nothing too exciting. I watched the coastlines of England and Ireland go by as we left, then closed the window for most of the flight over the Atlantic.
But then I opened it up again right as we were crossing over from the ocean into Labrador. It was a great view. Lots of ice, glaciers, all that sort of thing. Just great.
Then as we got into Maine the clouds started. The last part of the trip was completely in cloud. Nothing but white out the window. As we approached landing and saw the altitude drop down to 1000 feet, still all white. Now, I know all this is done with instruments, and there is no actual need to see anything, but still, I like to be able to see the ground before actually hitting it! As it was we dropped out of the clouds and could finally see ground less than 30 seconds before touch down. Fun. And this meant that the weather in New Jersey was much worse than anything I’d seen in England! Bleh! Welcome home!
The airport wasn’t too exciting. Going through passport control coming back into the US took a lot longer than entering the UK. The bus to long-term parking took forever, etc. Oh yeah, and the plane overshot the spot for the tunnel thing to be connected to it, so they made us sit down again while they tried again. But eventually Nancy and I got through all the various hoops, got our luggage, found my car, and got on the way back toward home.