Monday, September 19, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere - Almost

It is T-day (T for travel), and just barely 7:00 in the morning. Ensconced in my favorite chair with a cuppa, Kat, Megan and Jonathan asleep in the adjoining rooms, I'm having difficulty keeping my mind on the journal. Instead of philosophizing, my attention goes to the big flat screen TV on the wall where highlights from yesterday's Patriot win over the San Diego Chargers are airing along with some very biased (and welcome) commentary. This is good. In our little corner of central Virginia Pat's news is sparse and you can't really celebrate their successes. Timing is everything, they say, and today is planned down to the minute. If all goes well, we'll head north to New Hampshire to have dinner with a loved friend and her 16 year old daughter who we have not seen in 8 years. First we have to get these two kids home and off to school, do some laundry (we pack light, only enough for 5 days), and be at Boston's Logan airport in time for our night flight to London. Goodbyes, though necessary, are the part we are looking forward to the least.

Monday - September 19, 2011 - Little Compton, Rhode Island

Kristin moved like lightning, preparing lunches for three of the four children (Jonathan was a bit under the weather and flying monkeys could not have gotten him off the couch) moments before the bus pulled up in front of the house. Our little Jami, under the emotional weather (she hates goodbyes more than we do), would be driven by Mom.

I dropped Kat at the schoolhouse then headed to Island Park to have breakfast with Adam at a local diner. I cherish the one-on-one time spent with my adult children. It's fascinating to hear their views and perspectives on life, marveling at how much (or little) impact I might have had during their developing years. I am proud of all of them. Alone for the first time in a long time, I headed for a windows down ride around the Ocean Drive - ten miles of some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. The Atlantic (the repository for the ashes of both my mother and father), was gentle this morning, advancing and receding with barely a sound.

The one sound that did intrude was my cell phone chirping away, demanding attention. It was Adam telling me that the well pump at the schoolhouse had failed and Kathy was unable to do all those things necessary for us to leave that morning. As unlucky as it was for us, it was fortunate for him that it failed while we were staying there rather than a paying guest who would not look kindly on this inconvenience. By the time I got back to Tiverton I knew our plans for dinner with Michelle and Vanessa in Nashua were not going to be possible. A real disappointment.
(Ed. While we were in London Adam replaced the pump and all was well with the well).

By 5:00 pm all the clothes (and us) had been washed, the school bells had been rung, the bags packed and the final pictures taken. Jonathan was feeling better and Jami was in a much better frame of mind (and was she ever surprised to find us still in Little Compton when she returned from school). Hugs, kisses and smiling kids sent us on our way to Boston and beyond.

Tuesday - September 20, 2011 - Bermondsey, London, England

There's something a little thrilling about boarding a plane in the thick of the night and arriving in a foreign country, with the sun shining and everyone going about their business. Nothing good happens at nighttime anyway (that's what every morning person says), so we hadn't lost anything. Kathy and I had arranged to meet Lucy upon her arrival from San Diego, and together we would rendezvous with the owner of the apartment where we would be staying. Lu and Rich had swapped a week in their San Diego house for a week in London. How we were to accomplish this meeting was still a mystery to us. The first part was easy. All we had to do was collect our bags, clear customs, change terminals and await Lu's arrival (which according to the arrivals board was running a little late). While we waited we bought 3 Oyster cards to cover bus and Underground transit for use during our stay. Terminal 5 where Lucy was to arrive looked brand spanking new, all sparkled up in anticipation of the Olympics which would be held in London in 2012.

And arrive she did, smiling as usual, accompanied by two very dear friends: Rick and Letty (a friend since grammar school) who coincidentally were starting their month long trip throughout Europe in London. British Airways had initiated non-stop service from San Diego, and though long (about 9 and 1/2 hours), was priced in the sweet spot.

A little about our rendezvous mate and the plan; Jaz (yup) is a successful single woman who travels the world for her self-owned business. Her apartment is in the southeast section of London called Bermondsey (Burr-mon-zee accent on Burr). While Rich has been in India she and Lu had communicated and decided that we would call upon our arrival, take the Underground to Green Park station (conveniently on the same Piccadilly line that connects Heathrow) whereupon our exiting she would be waiting in her silver convertible in the midst of downtown London during rush hour, ready to whisk us to the apartment. Really?

It worked. With four exits available to us we somehow picked the right one, and there she was not 20 feet away idling at the curb. It is no wonder Jaz is successful. She has all the positive energy and self-confidence one could hope for. We loaded our small suitcases into the boot, and moments later were hurtling toward Trafalgar square. Croatian born, she had been in the UK for the past 18 years, and my guess was that she had spent a good amount of that time driving taxi, aggressively. I was riding shotgun, the ladies in the back, and it was a little disconcerting at times not to have a steering wheel in front of me or a brake pedal at my feet. Jaz was superb. I had heard, and read about the horrors of driving in the city, but she made it seem easy, chatting away as we went, seemingly oblivious to the chaos all around. I was just getting my bearings when she zoomed across a bridge, negotiated a few round-a-bouts and deftly maneuvered us into a quiet neighborhood of apartment buildings. We were home.

Jaz was very generous with her time and information as we settled into her apartment. We felt like we were kicking her out, but she assured us that was not the case. Her mom and dad had a place just a few miles away. She walked us around the neighborhood and to the bus stop where we could pick up the number 1 bus to Canada Water (an Underground station), which would take us directly into central London. It couldn't have been easier. She also showed us THE shortcut, a path down a steep overgrown hill, and through a wrought iron fence, that knocked about 5 minutes off the transit time to the bus stop. She explained that at one time there had been another, better shortcut but the council (authorities) had discovered it and made it impassable. The masses would not be denied however and we made good use of the new route.

Rich had Google instructions to the apartment (he was on his was to London from India and was scheduled to arrive in the early evening), but we had the shortcut knowledge. We figured he would be exhausted so while Lucy manned the apartment, Kathy and I walked the neighborhood on the lookout for my younger brother. We did a recce of the area, gaining valuable knowledge as we went, locating local restaurants (the BEST fish and chips in Bermondsey), grocery stores, and landmarks that would prove useful in the future (One of these landmarks was a London cab which I hoped belonged to a driver that was on a week long vacation). Picking up some staples (wine, yogurt, milk, cream, butter, apple juice, cheese and rolls) we arrived back at the apartment hoping Rich had arrived in our absence. He had not. It was too early to worry, but we all would have felt better if he was in the nest. No sooner had we broken out the provisions than the doorbell rang and the weary traveler trudged up the stairs into welcoming arms. It was so good to see him.

We talked a little, ate a little, then all present and accounted for retired for the first sleep any of us had had in way too many hours.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

Reading your blog brings back great memories of our time together in London. Thanks!!