Tuesday, July 6, 2010

if i was flying on a plane above your town, and you were gazing at the sky, i'd feel somehow intact and reassured, if you began to wave goodbye

I woke up at least once an hour between the time that I went to sleep and when the phone alarm went off. But I woke up awake (that’s what I call it – you know, as opposed to waking up all groggy), and got ready with my stuff gathered in time to make the 6:05 airport shuttle.

The shuttle was stopping at both the south and north terminals, but I had no idea which one my flight was leaving from, and the printed itinerary I had didn’t say. So I just got off at the south one, because what difference did it make?

I went all the way up the very long ramp. The signs didn’t say which terminal delta was at.

Finally, at the top and down a hall and into the main part of the terminal, there was a sign that listed all the airlines. Delta was at the north terminal. Rats. So I had to go all the way back down the ramp again, and take a shuttle to the north terminal.

I finally got there, and got inside, and found the screen with all the flights listed so that I’d know what gate to go to.

There it was.

Delta 811 … 9:00am … CANCELLED

Oh dear. Now what? I was glad now that I had a long layover in Atlanta. At least I had plenty of time to figure out a new flight, if I could get one. Time to go find the Delta people.

I saw a Delta service desk, but when I went to it, it said “position closed”, and no one was there. This gave me the momentary worst-case-scenario impression that Delta airlines had suddenly gone out of business entirely and no one was left. However, a few moments later I saw the main Delta desk… with lots of people in line. There was also a Delta employee nearby, so I asked him where I was supposed to go if I was on the cancelled Atlanta flight, and he directed me to said line. (Rats. I’ve been in the states too long. I’m already calling it a line instead of a queue.)

I joined the line, and spent the fairly long wait chatting with a stocky, dark-haired young man behind me – comparing travels, and wondering what they were going to do with us.

When we asked one of the airline workers, she said that some people would probably be sent to Heathrow, and some might be sent on other airlines if necessary. As I had lots of time to spare to make my connecting flight, I was satisfied with this.

A bit later – when I was about halfway through the line – I heard another person ask a different worker the same question: what was to be done with us? This worker said the same thing, but added that they were rerouting some people through different cities – Houston, Denver, Detroit

“Oh, send me to Detroit!” I said, excited but not very loud, to no one in particular. If I went to Detroit, even if I couldn’t get a flight to Grand Rapids, my family could come and get me! My new friend and I discussed how much we hoped they were smart enough to reroute us based on final destination and not just send us all to Atlanta regardless of where we actually wanted to be in the end.

I finally made it to the front of the line, and to the desk. I pushed my itinerary printout forward on the counter.

“Where are you going?” the lady asked me.

“My final destination is Grand Rapids,” I replied. She asked for my name and stuff also, and then punched lots of things into her computer.

“There,” she concluded. “I’ve got you on a flight from Heathrow to Detroit” – I jumped up and down, literally – “that leaves at 10:30 and gets into Detroit at 2:30, and then a flight from Detroit to Grand Rapids leaving at 3:30.”

“Hurray! I’m going to be home six hours early!”

“Well, I’m glad it worked out for one person, at least. Here’s a certificate for food, but you’ve got to hurry because you need to get to Heathrow. Here’s your voucher for the shuttle ticket – but ask at the shuttle service desk because I’m not sure whether this counts as your ticket or you need to get one from them.”

So I ran off with my luggage, and followed the signs until I got to the service desk for the shuttle. I did need a printed ticket from them, and the next shuttle would leave at 8:00 – in fifteen minutes. So after I found the place from which the shuttle would leave, I had just enough time to go to the nearby Costa Coffee inside the airport, and get hot chocolate and a banana nut “breakfast loaf” – basically a little bitty loaf of banana bread.

When I came back out, the shuttle was there and people were just starting to get on it – there was a pretty big queue to get on. I gave them my luggage to put below, and got on.

There were few enough people that I could get a window seat, so I curled up there with my hot chocolate and banana bread.

The traffic was pretty bad, so it took us about 45 minutes to get to Heathrow. But it was a beautiful drive – my last glimpses of the English countryside.

And there was this cool truck of huge mirrors.

It also involved me periodically bouncing up and down in my seat, saying in a sing-song voice, “I don’t have to go to At-LAN-ta! I don’t have to go to At-LAN-ta!”

When we got there, and I got off at Terminal 4, where I belonged, and got to the Delta check-in gate, and they found out how soon my plane was leaving – it was already closed for boarding apparently – I got a personal escort to run with me through the airport. One advantage of having no time to get to your flight (if it’s the airline’s fault) is that they don’t fuss about your suitcase being three pounds overweight.

So I ran through the airport, and got through customs as quick as I could, and ran to my gate. Fortunately, people were still boarding, and I joined the line. I didn’t have any trouble getting through – though I was kind of out of breath from running – and I was so incredibly happy to be getting on a plane that was taking me straight to my home state.

It was a great relief to finally be on board the plane. The seat I was assigned was not a window seat, but it was next to a seat that was, so I could see out some. I was next to a middle-aged lady who was friendly but not too talkative - this has been the case with nearly all my seatmates on journeys. I have had good luck with seatmates.

I heard the two teenage girls behind me talking before we took off, and we realized that we had all been at the concert the night before. So I turned around in my seat and we chattered excitedly about that for a bit. I think the lady next to me thought we were all crazy teenagers. But she didn't seem to mind too much.

Then I turned back around, and tried to use the screen in the back of the seat, but it wasn't working yet. So I got out a book or a notebook or something. It was somewhat annoying to be having to kill time when the plane hadn't even taken off yet. I don't like sitting there not moving.

We didn't have a terribly long wait, though, and I was really happy when we were in the air. I kept wanting to bounce up and down with my "I'm not going to At-LAN-ta!" song.

The flight was... long. But not terrible. I tried to watch Sherlock Holmes, but the screen was dark so I couldn't see it very well, and the earphones were cheap so I couldn't hear it very well, and I gave up. I crocheted a bit, and read a bit, and wrote a bit...

When it was about twelve-thirty England time, they brought us a meal. It was seven-thirty Michigan time, so I chose the scrambled egg meal instead of the chicken meal, in hopes of beginning to shift my internal clock to the right time. The scrambled eggs were kind of gross, though. Made from powder. But if you didn't think about the texture and only focused on the taste they were okay. And I was hungry. The "sausages" were inedible, though.

We went through some turbulence. And the fasten seatbelt sign went on. And it stayed on and stayed on even after we weren't jerking anymore. And I had to go to the loo. So I walked up there and went anyway. And then realized that it was the first class loo, so I'd double broken the rules... oh well.

At one point, already feeling like I had been on the plane forever, I looked at the time. Four hours down, five to go. Oh help. This seemed unbearable. I needed to find a position where I could sleep in order to kill some time, or I was going to lose my mind.

I put down my tray, and put a folded blanket and then my pillow on top of it, and then lay down my head on my arms. That was reasonably comfortable, and I was so tired that I fell asleep quickly.

I really crashed, because when I woke up - I think someone came by with a cart - I had no clue how much time it had been, and one of my arms was totally dead. (This always happens to me. I find sleeping with my head on my arms incredibly comfortable, but then my arm goes dead.) It felt like it had been about half an hour. I checked the clock on the screen - it had been two and a half hours! Only two and a half to go! That was doable.

Two of the more exciting parts of the flight were flying over Iceland and Greenland. This is Greenland:

The dinner was good. I don't remember what the main part of it was now, only that I enjoyed it, and that it came with cheese and crackers and a roll and real butter and some other kind of good side dish and a mini chocolate chip cookie bar. Oh! I remember! It was french bread pizza. And it didn't come with all that stuff; the breakfast did. I ate those things as snacks during the afternoon.

The last two hours went faster than I expected.

The moment that they said we could use cell phones, I got mine out to call my mother. I couldn't wait to tell her that I was in Detroit and that she could pick me up in Grand Rapids in two hours. I would say, "What are you doing this afternoon? Could you come to the airport?"

I dialed, and she answered almost right away.

"Hi, Mommy."

"Hi. Does this mean your plane has landed?" Her voice was very happy in a quiet sort of way.

"Yes - "

"Do you know where we are?" I didn't know what to think. Could they be at the GR airport already? But why would they be?

"No, where?"

"Rebecca and I are sitting outside customs at the Detroit Metro airport."

"What - how - but!"

"We got an e-mail that your flight was changed to Detroit - I'll have to tell you whole story. But we'll be here when you come out."

"Now I am crying!"

"Me too."

The doors were finally opened. I got my things out of the overhead compartment.

Out of the plane and into the airport. I suddenly realized that I'd lost my water bottle. I dashed back - and they let me back on, and I found it, rolled a few rows up from where I'd been.

Now I was really arrived. It was a long walk through dim hallways and down an escalator and along a moving walkway, and finally we reached the luggage carousel and customs. I waited in line, and waited in line. I should have switched lines, but I didn't, and by the time I realized it would have been faster it wasn't faster any more. The lady directing us was friendly and seemed like she was happy for us to have arrived, as though she knew us and was welcoming us there. I had the impression - through the blur that mind was - at the time that she was treating us special because we'd been on the flight that was canceled, but looking back that doesn't really make sense because most of the people weren't from the Atlanta flight. So I think she was just a very kind lady.

It was much easier to go through customs back into the States than it had been getting into England. He asked a couple questions about my trip, and I explained. The funny thing was that I used two different English expressions, and I kept almost talking in an English accent. But he didn't seem to care. He looked at my passport, and sent me through.

I had to declare - or thought I did - because I was bringing food back. But I think that that really only counted if it was produce. Oh well. They sent me through very speedy, so that was all right.

Then we were all sent to a queue for re-checking in. I could see the doors to the rest of the airport, and I was going to go through them, but then I thought maybe I was supposed to tell someone that I wouldn't be on the flight to Grand Rapids. So I asked an official lady who was standing there. And she said that I did need to tell them, and to wait in line. Rats. I was too blurry-headed to argue, so I went and got in line. But it was a very long line that seemed to be going very slowly. Having to stand in this line for an hour just to tell them that I wouldn't be on the plane, when my mom and sister were right outside the door, seemed like a terrible thing. But then the lady came up to me again.

"You just need to tell them that you're not on the Grand Rapids flight?"


"Okay. You don't have to wait in this whole line - I'll let them know. You can go."

"Thank you so much!" I ducked under the queuing barricade fabric thing - knocking it loose in the process, which was embarrassing - and finally got myself and my luggage out the door.

There they were - Mommy and Rebecca. And we hugged and everything, and they helped me with my luggage, and we went through the airport until we finally got to the car. It wasn't really that far; Mommy had had extraordinarily good luck in selecting a spot close to the gate where I was landing.

The day was bright and sunny, and the carport seemed warm and familiar even though I'd never been there before. Maybe it was just the presence of our tan van - which looked much more beat up than I'd remembered...

I was so excited about the presents I had for my siblings, and kept wanting to talk about them, but I made myself wait.

I thought that the parking lady who took our money on the way out had an accent, but Mommy and Rebecca said that she didn't. So apparently I was just hearing the Midwestern accent.

When we'd gotten ourselves out of the airport and onto the freeway, Mommy said,

"So, now we have two hours to kill."

I was confused. I hadn't yet figured out why exactly they'd come to get me instead of letting me fly to Grand Rapids, even though it was nice. I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, but eventually the light dawned - my cousin Rachel's graduation was tonight! In Ypsilanti! And I was going to be able to go to it! We would wait around for two hours until it was time, and in the meantime my father would be driving all the rest of the family in the white van. And all the cousins and the grandparents would be there! And they didn't even know I was coming!

We went to Tim Horton's for a sort of supper - it was about 4:30 by this point, I think, but my brain and body were totally off, and it didn't feel like any time in particular. So we just had soup and sandwiches, and doughnuts afterward. And then we still had a lot of time to kill, so after I changed clothes out of my rumpled dirty ones, we went to the Payless that was next door and shoe shopped. The poor lady spieled at us even though we had no intention of buying anything.

Eventually we continued on to the graduation, and got there without any trouble. We were quite early, and we sat in the parking lot waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. Then, finally, they did, and pulled up next to us, and they got out and we got out, and they all took turns hugging me. Then I could absolutely not wait any longer, and made them go to the front of the car while I got all the presents out of my suitcase.

They were telling me to hurry - family was starting to arrive, and they'd seen the van, and would be wondering why we weren't coming in. Finally, I had all of the presents into cloth grocery bags, and brought them to them at the front of the cars.

These were the presents:

Thad - a .3 lead pencil and a copy of the Apocrypha from Oxford

Bram - a junior cricket set, and postcards of the tram engine that inspired Toby

Josh - socks that say Mr. Strong, a red journal, and a pencil from John O'Groats

Zach - fancy yellow and black pencils and a Welsh flag

Rebecca - a ring with a star on it and a mobile phone cover that says Rebecca

Lydia - a porcelain spoon with pink flowers on it from Kensington Palace

Jae - a pirate captain Playmobil set

Mommy - sand from John O'Groats, and something else but I can't remember it

Papa - a flag sort of thing from John O'Groats

When I was all done giving them out, we went inside. There were already lots of people there. I found my cousins and surprised them with hugs, and then my uncle and aunt and my grandparents. Then I found my cousin's boyfriend's graduation display, because I had to investigate to see if he was worth of her.

Then it was time to go into the auditorium for the ceremony. Each graduate's parents gave a two-minute introduction/speech/spiely-thing about him or her, which surprisingly enough wasn't boring. They kept them short, interspersed them with music and stuff, and said interesting things about them. It was fun to feel like I knew them all a little bit. My cousin Rachel did a dance to Jeremy Camp's 'My Desire' - I love her choreography so much.

Then it was done, and we all went into the gym and had food - vegetables and fruit and meatballs and you know, the kind of thing one always has at that sort of event.

And then there was music... and then there was swing dancing. Oh yeah. A lot of swing dancing. Rachel's boyfriend Michael is quite good at it, plus another friend of theirs [friend of theirs is COMPLETELY ungrammatical. This just occurred to me. It should be "friend of them". But nobody says that.] teaches dance. So Thad danced with Rebecca and I danced with Josh (mostly - we switched it up some, too, and Zach and Lydia and Jae joined us sometimes) and they taught us lots of new moves. And we danced for hours to dozens of songs, and had homemade cookies and fruit, and I was very happy.

For the first part of the evening, my brain had adjusted to the Michigan time and it felt like the time it actually was. But by the time 9:30 arrived, my exhausted brain and body had switched back to England time and it felt like 2:30am. Everything was surreal, like a strange but pleasant dream. We left at about 10, I think. They let me have the back seat all to myself so I could sleep. If you don't count the sleep on the plane or in the car, and count getting up to going to bed, I was up for 24 hours - on 4 hours sleep.

Monday, May 31, 2010

in chilly subdepth railways the weathered concrete stairways provide me with a means of getting home - if i ever leave

[My photos wouldn't all update before, so here's the picture of the Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear porridge. I'd already put brown sugar in mine before I remembered that I wanted a picture.]

Despite having missed things from home the night before, when I woke up on Sunday morning I was really sad that I was leaving.

I got up and got ready and we went to church. Jack had told me that Clive (the pastor) wanted me to say something in front of the church since it was my last day, so I made a list of the things I had thought of and hoped that I could make sense when I was actually up there.

Well, it went fine, and I didn’t forget what I wanted to say. Jan and Jack said afterwards that it was very good, so that was a relief.

We left fairly quickly after church, and there was just enough time to gather up my stuff and put it in the car and leave for the bus station.

Goodbye, bed. (This was only my bed for the last week, after Eleanor took her queen size bed, which I had been sleeping in, to her apartment.)

Goodbye, keys I always use.

Jan dropped us off close to the bus station and then parked the car and came back and found Jack and I. We waited in line to get on the bus for a long time, but finally it came, and then Jack put my luggage in the back of the bus. And I said goodbye to them, and I got on the bus. There were no window seats open, so I sat by a late-highschool age boy with glasses who looked friendly.

I got all my things I was still carrying stowed up above the seat and sat down. At first we didn’t talk, but after we got going we started chatting. It turned out that he was studying American politics, so he had lots of questions for me. We talked about our nations’ perceptions of each other, and the differences in words and customs. The time went by pretty quickly, and I gathered up my things and went on a search for the loo and the left luggage place. I found both without too much trouble – although the fact that there were a series of single-stall toilets and then a bunch of sinks, which both men and women shared, was kind of weird.

I had to leave my luggage and then go back to find a cash machine and then go pay, because the luggage place only took cash.

After that, since it was about five o’clock, and the concert doors opened at seven, I walked to the bus station and figured out which bus I needed to take to Shepherd’s Bush for the concert.

When I got there, I had to walk a little ways to find the place where the concert was because I went the wrong way and had to ask for directions. There was no mistaking it once I found it, though, since there was a long line and big letters that said, “OWL CITY” on the building.

I got in line, and felt silly because I was carrying a plastic bag with my food in it. But I found friends – a girl with pink hair and her boyfriend, in front of me, and a twelve-year-old girl with her mom behind me. We all five talked together and had a lovely time – until an employee of the concert place came to tell us that this line was only for people who were standing and the seats line was on the other side. So the girl and her mom and me left the pink hair girl (who, incidentally, reminded me very much of Carol) and her boyfriend and went over to the other side.

Then we waited for another long time, and I worried because the luggage place was going to close at 10:45 and that meant I’d probably have to leave the concert early. I realized that I could take the tube, though, instead of the bus, and that would save me some time.

After what seemed like a very long time, we finally were let into the building. Fortunately, the merch table was already open, so I could buy a t-shirt and not have to worry about missing out because of leaving early. I also asked the man at the door when the concert would get over, and he said about 10:30. Rats. I’d definitely have to leave early.

I found a good seat – my ticket was for the lower balcony – that was close to the front and on an aisle so I could leave quickly when I needed to. I chatted with a couple of guys behind me, and asked them about the time to get back to Victoria. They reckoned 20-30 minutes at this time of night, so I decided I should leave at 10:10.

The first act was a rather geeky young man with a guitar, singing all by himself. The music was rather nice but hard to get into.

The second act was a band called A Fair Frenzy, and I liked them. The lead singer was a red-haired girl who reminded me of Leah Hoffman (the girl who played Puck and Anne, if you saw any CU shows this year), and not just because of her red hair. It was also her spunky attitude and the way she moved. I liked their music a lot but I wished that I could hear more of the words.

After that it was finally time for Owl City. It was so wonderful. During ‘on the wing’ I felt like I was really up in the stars because of being on the balcony. And he did some new songs that I really liked, as far as I could understand the words. (Even with owl city, it’s hard to hear the words if you don’t know them already.)

Happily, I got to hear all of my favorite songs as I had to leave. 10:10 came in the middle of Vanilla Twilight, and I tore myself away and made a dash for the tube station.

Running down a two-story escalator is really fun. It’s like a combination of feeling like you’re flying and feeling like you’re plunging to your death. I had already figured out which lines to take, and everything was going swimmingly until I got off to transfer to a different tube line.

I ran up an escalator, right behind two guys who were also running up. We all got to the top, ran toward the hall where the Circle line was – and simultaneously stopped short with looks of horror upon seeing that the line was closed.

“How do we get to Paddington?” the other guys demanded desperately of the tube worker who stood nearby. He gave them directions to a different line, and they took off.

“My turn,” I said. “How do I get to Victoria?”

“Take the Central line to Oxford Circus and then take the Victoria line.”

“Okay.” And I ran down the two-story escalator and had to wait to get back on the line I had just been on.

By the time I had gotten to Oxford Circus, gotten on the Victoria line tube, and gotten off it, the clock above the line said 22:49. Oh help. I ran the three blocks between the tube station and the coach station like a maniac. Why oh why had I left my luggage at the coach station when I would be leaving from the rail station anyway? I could only run as fast as I could – choking on cigarette smoke all the way – and hope that the person working at the left luggage would still be there.

I dashed into the station and to the left luggage – no, no! I could see the closed gate! – but no, it was only closed half-way, and there was light coming out from under it! I dove underneath and popped my head up above the counter. The man working there looked at me with mild surprise.

“I – need – my – luggage,” I gasped out.

“Do you see it?” he asked.

“Yes – it’s – right – there,” I said, pointing.

“You do know we close at this time,” he said, pointing to the sign that said they closed at 22:45.

“Yes! – why – do you think – I nearly – killed myself – running?”

He just gave me my luggage after that, and I thanked him very much, and went out. And then had to walk all the way back to the rail station, where I could get the train to Gatwick airport.

Victoria Rail Station was ridiculously crowded with people walking in all directions very quickly, which seems to be usual for it. You can’t stand still unless you stand against something stationary or you’ll get run over.

I was going to buy a ticket at the computer kiosk, but I wasn’t certain which train I was supposed to be getting, so I went to the normal ticket counter instead.

The man there said that there were two different trains to Gatwick, the express and the normal one. The normal one took 20 minutes longer and was about £7 cheaper, so I decided to take that one since there was one leaving in ten minutes. So I got my ticket and walked quickly – well, as quickly as I could with all my luggage – to the platform.

The train doors hadn’t opened yet, so I waited in line with the others until they finally did. There weren’t any window seats left, so I sat next to a young man who had that modern-day hippie look. I had no energy to make conversation, and he didn’t say anything, except “excuse me, this is my stop” when he had to get off. And then I sat in the seat by myself. And was greatly entertained by two English men having a spirited argument about cricket.

When we arrived at the airport, I followed a lot of signs and arrows and went down a long ramp and finally arrived, at what felt like a very late hour, at the stop for the hotel shuttle. And waited in the dim depths of the bottom of a parking garage for it to come. Fortunately, it came after about fifteen minutes. A man who was also getting on helped me load my suitcase, and I crashed into a seat.

It wasn’t a very long ride to the hotel, which was good because I might have fallen asleep.

The hotel was quite posh. I checked in and went up the elevator to my room, and with great relief set down my stuff. It was past midnight, and I was hungry. I looked at the room service menu. Eeesh. Too expensive. So I went on a quest for a vending machine. It said that there was a soda machine on the second floor, so I went there in hopes of finding a snack machine as well. When I was waiting for the elevator I heard a voice that made me jump – but it was just the elevator saying “doors opening” before the doors opened.

There was no snack machine with the soda machine, so I went down to the lobby and walked up to where a middle-aged grey haired man was at a window. When I got up to the window I realized that the sign said something about rental cars and things like that, but I decided to ask him anyway.

“Hello. Do you know whether there’s a snack machine somewhere in this building?” He said that there wasn’t, but there was a gas station right across the street.

Walking to a gas station alone, past midnight, just didn’t seem like the best idea to me…

Then he asked me what I wanted. I told him a snicker’s or milky way or something. I needed something with some nutritional value, but that was easy to describe…

“What if they don’t have snickers or milky way? Then what do you want?”

“Anything with nuts in it.”

“Okay.” And I gave him £1.50, and he vanished, and reappeared a short time later – I think he must have gone to the gas station! – with a candy bar and my change.

“Here, they didn’t have snickers or milky way – is this all right?” I took it and examined it – it was a “Picnic” candy bar – chocolate with raisins and peanuts!

“It’s perfect,” I said happily. “Thank you so much!” We bid each other good night, and I went back up the lift – reminding myself not to be scared silly by it talking – to my room.

I ate my candy bar, took a shower, and went to bed, setting my phone alarm for 5:30am the next morning. I planned to catch the 6:05 (or 6:25 if I missed that) shuttle to the airport. My flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

home is a boxcar so far out of reach

On Friday, Jack and I went to Peterborough so that Jack could get the windscreen of the car fixed – a rock hit it – and I could buy presents. He dropped me off at the roundabout a couple blocks from Queensgate (a mall that also has a strip mall outside it, so there’s about a million stores) and continued off in a different direction to the car place. He would call me when the car was done and I’d meet him at the Peterborough rail station.

It was nice and bright and sunny. I got to the market and found W H Smith right away – it’s a books and office supplies store, which also has movies. I was hoping to find Hero of the Rails for Bram, and maybe something for Josh or Zach as well.

I found the movie spot and looked through it – and found Hero of the Rails for £5! Hurray! So I bought it – after a lot of rigamarole about my credit card not being signed – I always mean to write SEE ID on it and never remember – and then went on back out into the street. I looked in a couple toy stores for diecast trains but didn’t find any, and around the market-y stalls that were set up for other presents, but didn’t have any luck. There was a candy floss stand, so I thought I might come back and get some before I left if I had time. I went on into the mall.

I walked through the mall looking for a toy store where I might find diecast engines for Bram, and also looking for a store index sign that would tell me where toy stores were. I didn’t find either of those, but I found a mall worker so I asked him. He directed me to the information desk, so since it wasn’t too far away, I walked over there. The girl at the desk told me two different places that might have toys – Argos and John Lewis and one other place that I don’t remember now because she told me it wasn’t very likely and I didn’t end up going there.

I went to Argos, but when I looked in I didn’t see any stuff – just computer portals with people at them. So I didn’t understand. I thought perhaps you had to order things and they mailed them to you, and there certainly wasn’t time for that. So I went on to John Lewis. I found some Thomas things, but they were only wooden and not diecast. I asked a sales associate about diecast trains but she said that was all the Thomas things they had. So I took what I did buy – I don’t remember what it was now… oh yeah! Jae reminded me! It was a pirate captain playmobil for Jae.

So then I wandered around a bit to a couple other stores to see if I was struck by any inspiration for a present for Josh or Zach, who I didn’t have presents for yet. I didn’t have any luck, though, and after I’d wandered about for a while, Jack called to say that the car was done and how soon could I be at the railroad station.

“Well, I’m right outside Waitrose now [a store that’s near to the walkway to the railway station], so however long it takes me to get down there is how soon.”

“Oh, okay! Good. See you down there.”

It ended up taking me a bit longer that it would have to get there because I had trouble finding the walkway and had to stop at the loo and was lost in the car park for a bit. But eventually I found the way, and made it to the rail station where Jack was just starting to call me.

We went to the tip after that because Jack had a bunch of weeds and branches and things from the yard. And we also stopped at Thorney Abbey! And I got to go inside this time and take some pictures.

I want our church to have a pipe organ...

And then we went to Wisbech. It was past lunch time by then, and we went to the bakery to get buns. He asked what I wanted, so I looked all around, and came back to the register, and there was a plate of smiley-face doughnuts that looked very delicious. I was just about to say that that was what I wanted, when Jack ordered one for himself.

“That’s what I was just going to say I wanted!” I said. So we both got hot chocolate and a smiley face doughnut and sat at a table to eat it.

Jack had a medical appointment in Wisbech, so when it was time for him to go he left me at the table, and after I finished the last of my doughnut, I went off to WHS (there’s one in Wisbech as well as in Peterborough) to find presents for Josh and Zach, and also look for the toy store that Jack had said was there that might possibly have diecast engines.

I went to the toystore first. It was a splendid place, and had playmobil and lots of diecast engines. But the diecast engines were the wrong brand, and none of the playmobil was quite right. So after I looked around the store, and knocked playmobil off shelves and took pictures of engines and in general made a fool of myself, I left without buying anything. I hope that they do not hate me now.

Then I went to look around the 99p store and Poundland to see if I found anything, but I didn’t.

But I had better luck at WHS. They had given me a £5 off if I bought £12 of stuff coupon at the other store, so that meant I could buy slightly more expensive things for them without spending any more money.

I also looked for a book about the tram line that the lady at the toy store said that the Rev. W. Audrey was inspired by. But they didn’t have it at WHS, and said they would probably have it at the tourist office. So I went there.

The book was quite expensive and only had one paragraph in it about the Island of Sodor, so I didn’t buy it. But it was cool because it told about how the tram from Wisbech to Upwell was the inspiration for Toby the tram engine. The man there helped me find postcards that had pictures of the tram on them for Bram.

Then I went back to WHS. After a long process of deliberation, I figured out which things I wanted to buy for Josh and Zach – only to find out that the coupon didn’t work until next week. Sigh. All that deliberating spoiled. And Jack had already called to say that he was at the parking lot, so I needed to hurry up. I decided what to put back, and then ran out to Jack. Oh yeah, and it was raining this whole time...

I don’t recall anymore what we did that night, or what we had for tea. I know that Jack went to his artist club, and that the theme was “sport” and he wasn’t that thrilled (except they say ‘chuffed’ instead of ‘thrilled’; and then ‘dischuffed’ is like ‘annoyed’ – isn’t that interesting?) about it. Oh! Whatever we had, we had custard tart afterward. Unless that was a different day. One of the days of this week we had hummus and naan bread for lunch. It’s kind of jumbled in my brain now…

On Saturday morning, Jan made porridge, and we could be papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear one more time. I have found out why mama bear’s bowl was colder than baby bear’s, because Jan puts lots of milk in her porridge.

After breakfast, Jack took me to go to WHS again to get something for Josh since I still didn’t have anything. It took me forever to decide, but I eventually figured out what I wanted to get, and then I spent all afternoon packing. I kept having to unpack and repack to fit everything in, and when I did get everything in it was too heavy and I had to put my books in my backpack.

Saturday night was a very nice last night, especially since I completed my packing at around 4 or 5 and had the rest of the evening free, except for sometimes wanting to cry because it was the last night.

We had a big dinner with all the things I liked best of England – a roast with roast potatoes and parsnips, brussel sprouts, and Yorkshire puddings. And watched Doctor Who and the last two Lark Rises that we hadn’t seen yet, completing the season. And had strawberries and cream, and chocolates. When Jack offered me chocolate it made me sad because he did that almost every night and tonight would be the last night.

That night before I went to sleep, for some reason I missed Geoffrey Ford a lot – I kept remembering him saying “I don’t want you to go away” – and I was glad that I was going home.

oh what a lovely seaside holiday

I forgot to post this picture when I wrote about mowing the lawn...

On Sunday, Jan and Jack and I went to Hillsong. It was big and loud. But I don’t mind big and loud. I like it when I can feel the music vibrating inside me. The message was excellent, although I still don’t think I approve of women preaching to men. I got a lot out of it, though.

After church, we drove for a long time and I fell asleep and then we stopped at a service plaza for lunch and went to Pizza Hut. They sold french fries with the pizza, and called them french fries, which I thought was strange. Jack’s theory is that chips are thicker than fries, which seems reasonable, although he said that he just made it up on the spot.

We were all dead tired when we got home, especially since Jan and I had both gone from a week of non-stop activity into the conference. So when we got home we pretty much crashed.

I spent pretty much all of Monday and most of Tuesday blogging.

On Monday night, Jack went to a meeting, and Jan and I watched three episodes of Doctor Who in a row – all the ones I’d missed while I was gone. We were only going to watch two, but the second one ended with a cliff-hanger…

I could never watch actual scary movies. After Doctor Who I had to work really really hard to not think about it so that I wouldn’t be too terrified to sleep. I just barely succeeded.

On Tuesday I endeavored to help Jack with the ironing, but upon finding that if the iron was too hot it melted Jan’s blouses and if it was too cold it dripped mineral deposits, I surrendered after doing the pillow cases and Jack’s shirts and left the delicate task of ironing Jan’s blouses to Jack. I was bound to ruin at least one of them if I tried it.

That afternoon, I went for a very nice bicycle ride up to Sutton St. James. It was nice and sunny and a good temperature for cycling. Everything felt odd and dreamy and unreal, probably because I had spent most of two days on the computer after spending a week going non-stop and never getting enough sleep, but the world was very pretty. There was one little road that forked off from the main road and went between two pink-blossomed trees and then off into blue sky and greenness, and sort of seemed as though it wandered off into dreamland, so I went that way. And I came back via Tydd St. Giles which was very nice because there is a little bit of woods there, and I love cycling under the greenness of trees.

I went by the daffodil field but it is all done now, which is too bad.

When I got back Jack was just finishing up making supper, so it worked out very well. It was chicken and noodles and vegetables all mixed up together. I like shallots very much, but I can’t decide if my siblings would like them or not.

Wednesday was a nice peaceful sort of day. In the morning Jack sent me up to buy a pork pie for lunch, and that was a nice walk to the butcher’s as it was bright and sunny. On the way back the primary school children were out for recess, and I said hello to a couple of them who were near the fence. After that they followed me all along the fence, saying “Hello! Hello!” every time they appeared from behind the bushes.

“Let us out of he’e! We’re in jail!” pleaded one mischievous boy dramatically. I just grinned at him.

That afternoon I cycled to Wisbech to buy postcards and presents.

I didn’t have much luck. They didn’t have any London postcards, and the Wisbech ones were all black and white and old pictures and not of what I see here now. I did manage to buy stamps, though, after I convinced the post office lady to swipe my credit card in her machine. UK credit cards have this little chip that makes it so you insert one end in the machine to make it work, but of course mine doesn’t have that and has to be swiped, but there wasn’t a swiping spot on the machine that faces the customer.

I wandered about the shops looking for presents, and found two, so that was good. I talked myself out of buying shoes. They didn’t quite fit me properly anyhow.

On the way back I took some pictures. There's a place where the path branches off from the road and goes along the river for a little while, so I went down there. It's pretty.

And this place was soooo pretty...

This is the "rabbit roundabout" in Wisbech.

That night they talked incessantly on the news about the election, and we figured out how to send me to the seaside.

On Thursday I went to the seaside. Jan gave me money for a coast-hopper ticket from King’s Lynn, and Jack took me to Wisbech to catch the bus to King’s Lynn.

When I got there, there was a bus with a bunch of 9th-grade-ish girls standing about outside it, and everyone was saying the bus was broken and there wouldn’t be another one until “half nine” (nine-thirty). It was about 8:15 at the time.

“Is this the bus for King’s Lynn?” I asked the driver. He said yes it was. Rats. I texted Jack and Jan to tell them, and then suddenly there was Jack, come to get me to take me to King’s Lynn. (We realized today that the bus that was broken wasn’t actually the King’s Lynn bus that I was supposed to take… but oh well.)

As we were driving, we could see a line far off where the cloud cover ended, with sunshine beyond it.

I arrived at King’s Lynn a good while before the coasthopper bus was due to arrive, so I went into the Sainsbury’s that was right there and wandered around so that I wouldn’t be cold. I also bought a little container of yogurt to have with the cereal I’d packed, since I’d woken up late and didn’t have time for breakfast.

I was glad when the bus came and I could settle in. I ate my yogurt and cereal and looked at the schedule of stops to figure out where I should go. Jack had mentioned a place that had a good trail to walk along the coast, so I texted him to ask where that was, which was Holkam, about a third of the way through the route.

The land was just lovely, and it was so exciting to watch the edge of the could get closer and closer until we finally shot out into the brilliant sunshine. About that time my camera suddenly decided to stop working again, which was very unfortunate, because I don’t have any pictures of the rest of the lovely day.

When we got there to Holkam, I got off and figured out how to walk to the beach. It was down a sunny dirt road with a row of trees on either side, and past the trees on the right was a field, and past the trees on the left was marsh. It was windy, and I was almost too cold but not quite.

At the end of the road it turned to a sandy path that went up a hill and through a wood. It reminded me very much of Hoffmaster.

The path came out on a perfectly enormous stretch of sand, with the ocean a long way off. My shoes were long since off, but I put them on again – sockless – for part of the beach where the sand was gicky.

The beach was huge and wild-ish and almost empty. There were about five other people there, but I could never see more than two or three at a time, and they were mostly a long way off. The sand was perfectly lovely, and the tide was coming in and washing up pretty shells. I waded into the water and it felt so, so wonderful. Every year I forget how much I love the feeling of cool water around my feet and ankles. I walked up and down a little stretch of beach, looking for nice shells. At one point the waves came up and got my stuff wet because I didn’t realize how fast the tide was coming in… no damage done, though.

I stayed until time to catch the hour later bus (the coasthoppers run every half-hour) and then continued on, because although that beach was very nice, I wanted a beach with some place to eat. I made it back to the stop just in time.

I looked around at every place, but nothing seemed quite right – Wells-next-the-sea sounded pretty, but the beach was a very long way from the bus stop. I asked a man about a good place that had a nice beach with a place to eat near it, and he seemed a bit cranky about answering but recommended Sherringham. Another lady told me that if I went on to Cromer, there was a restaurant right on the beach. Jack had said that Cromer was a pretty typical English seaside resort town, so I decided to continue on to there. When we went through Sherringham, it did look very pretty – very seaside-like, and it had a railway station which made me think of the Thomas episode where an engine takes people to the seaside.

I got off at Cromer, and walked down to the pier. But the beach didn’t look very nice – the sand looked gicky and there was lots of washed up stuff. So I went back to the bus stop to take it the other way to Sherringham.

I had a while to wait, but not really long enough to bother going around the town. There was a little café at that stop, but the food seemed to cost more than it was worth, and I wanted to eat at the beach. So I just sat at a picnic table. The road was on a steep slant, but where the café was it was built up to be level, so that the sidewalk by the bus stop was right below the table where I sat.

A lady was wondering about the coasthopper bus, and I startled several people by suddenly saying from above,

“The next one comes at 2:08, in about fifteen minutes.”

A man asked if I was the tour guide and said I’d forgotten my hat. I didn’t have any reply to that. I never do have replies to that sort of thing. I wish I could be cleverer on the spot. But it was nice to be the knowledgeable voice from the sky.

I was greatly encouraged in my resolution to go to Sherringham, because a lady waiting for the bus was from there, and told me about how nice it was. She said the beach was very nice when it was low tide but when it was high tide it was all rocks.

So I took the bus back the other way to Sherringham.

Sherringham is, indeed, a nice little town. Loads of little shops selling anything and everything, and cafes and ice cream places. I walked down to the shore, and found that it was high tide, but there were some nice big boulders with flat tops that would make a nice place to sit and eat. So I walked along until I found a café with suitably cheap prices, and bought a pork and applesauce sandwich – all the sandwiches were labeled “baps”, which was awkward because I didn’t know how to say it or if people really call it that, so I just pointed to the sign that told about the special...

I took my sandwich down to the edge of the water and found a good rock to sit on, and got out little women, and had a very pleasant lunch. I was cold until I remembered my leg warmers and took them out and put them on. They are a little too big on me and fall down when I walk, but they work when I am sitting still. They’re currently in the dryer and I am hoping they will have shrunk. Which reminds me, I need to get my clothes out of the dryer… be right back.

Okay, they’re fluffing. Remind me to get them in fifteen minutes, okay?

Now, then, where was I? Ah yes, lunch. As soon as I took out my sandwich, birds surrounded me. There were several gulls flying about, which was just annoying, but there was also an adorable sandpiper who hopped up quite close to me, cocking his head and jumping about interestedly. I would have liked to have given him something, but as the seagulls would certainly attack if the slightest morsel of food left my possession, I had to forbear. Much to my relief, by the time I was halfway through my sandwich all the birds but two or three had given up, and the ones that remained just sat on the rocks a little way away and didn’t keep flying over my head.

After I finished my sandwich, I sat there for along time and talked aloud and got my thoughts unmuddled. Sitting by water is good for that for me, I find.

Then I waded in the water, which was really cold, and the rocks kept eating my feet because they were so round and marble-sized and smooth and they slide over each other and my feet go into them. Despite this, however, I enjoyed the water – all the more because I suddenly noticed that a young couple who were about thirty yards from me, and had been standing by the edge for some time, now also had their shoes and socks off and were wading in the water with shrieks at the cold.

After a little bit of wading, I put my shoes and socks back on – as much nicer as sand is, marble-sized rocks do have an advantage in that they don’t stick to your feet – and walked back up into the town. I was on a quest for ice cream. There were ice cream shops with many types of ice cream cones, but for some reason I was in the mood for boughten ice cream – probably because I’d been planning on getting one at some point since I first arrived in England. So I bought myself a Magnum ice cream bar, and enjoyed it thoroughly as I made my way back to the bus stop.

I had caught the 5:40 bus, which would get me back to King’s Lynn at 7:55. But when I looked at the schedule, it turned out that the bus to Wisbech left at 7:50 and 8:50! Well, there was no point in waiting around King’s Lynn for an hour when I could spend the time at one of the seaside stops, since getting off and then getting the next bus would put me back at King’s Lynn at 8:42.

I decided to get off at Wells-next-the-sea, since it was a pretty name for a place. I wanted to find a shore with sand because I had a shovel I bought at Sherringham that I couldn’t use in the rocks.

Unfortunately, the beach at Wells-next-the-sea was a very long walk from the bus stop. And it was really cold, and my phone was out of batteries so I didn’t know the time. So I played a bit at a playground that was there. They had a cool boat play structure with lots of ropes to climb, and an obstacle course sort of thing. There were other people on the swings the whole time.

After a while when I asked a boy passing by who had a watch what time it was – it was about fifteen minutes before the bus was supposed to come, so I went to the picnic tables that were next to the bus stop and sat and read until the bus came.

There was one disappointment, which was that when the bus passed Hunstanton, I saw a lovely beach laid out, sand and beauty and a little food stand – just like I pictured when I first imagined the seaside. So I wished that I’d gotten off there instead of at Wells. But I didn’t know because when we went by the first time, it was high tide and it just looked like a pier and water and no beach.

I hate things where I have to make decisions because I never make them right… ah well.

I arrived back in Wisbech and re-turned on the phone and fortunately it stayed alive long enough to text Jack that I was there, so he came and got me. And I was glad when he came because I was freezing and exhausted and starving.

And he brought me home, and we were going to stop for fish and chips, but then the place was closing, and I didn’t really want fish and chips because I had gotten a little car sick on the bus. So when we got home he made me toast and fried eggs and it was just exactly the thing, and we watched the election results happening very slowly and all the politicians saying the same things and nobody answering the questions that anyone else asked, and eventually we gave up and went to bed.