I've had a long time love affair with England. The first time I ever step foot in the country it was dark, I had been on a ferry boat all day, I had the flu, and had a skin treatment on my face for some kind of rash. I was almost 12 years old, and it was 1987. That moment, I couldn't be happier. For the first time in 2 years, I felt like I belonged somewhere. The connection I had with the United Kingdom was unexpected, and it was instant. It was as if I was home... good golly, this is sounding like a traditional affair, isn't it?
I visited the country again when I was 13, and the chemistry was still there. Sadly, I moved away from the European continent soon after, and haven't returned in 21 years. To be precise... because I can be... it was exactly 21 years, 1 month, and 14 days since I had been in Europe.
As explained in my previous post, I was given an incredible opportunity to visit London this summer, made possible by some very kind and generous friends, of whom I feel unworthy. There was months of anticipation and planning. The primary reason for going was to see U2 at Wembley Stadium, but I also wanted to catch as many sites as I could, as well as spend some time visiting colleagues and making connections.
Unfortunately, the only way to get to London that won't take several weeks if not months, is to fly. I'm terrified of flying, and was filled with dread. I had a flight from SLC to JFK, a very brief layover, and then on to London Heathrow (famous airport in various scenes of Love Actually, Bend it Like Beckam, the video for "Beautiful Day" by U2, among others). I was delighted to discover that my fear of flying has mostly vanished, though I still had a little trouble remembering to breathe during turbulence. I confess to self medicating a bit with a glass of wine to calm my nerves, which seemed to help.
On the flight between JFK and LHR, two business men sat across the isle from Julie and me. When almost everyone else on the plane was sound asleep, they started with the alcohol. The flight attendant kept bringing them alcohol and didn't charge them for it, and they kept drinking and laughing. Eventually I fell asleep, but when I woke up, I noticed Julie's face looking over at them and smiling big. One of them had completely passed out, and the other was taking all of his garbage which included wrappers, used tissues, banana peels, etc., and was placing them all over his friends body, who was too drunk and passed out to notice. Then he borrowed Julie's eyeliner and started drawing on his neck and bald head. Then he took his phone out, and took some video. It was getting close to landing time, so the flight attendant had to wake the sleeping guy up. He woke up to see Julie and I smiling at him and thought we were hitting on him. It took him 5 long mintues to realize he was covered in crap. His friend took pity and didn't want him to have to go through customs with writing all over his head, so he helped him wipe it off. When we were waiting in the very long customs line, Julie and the perpetrator had to go to the bathroom, while I stayed behind in line with the victim, who promised me revenge would be sweet. If only I could see the outcome of that!
No lost luggage, no delayed flights, nothing scary. So far, so good... and here I am, making my triumphant return to London. As I sat at the airport waiting for the cute little black taxi to pick me up, I was exhausted, worn out, and unaware of the week that's to come. What if Julie and I don't get along? What if I run out of money? What if I get robbed, or worse? What if I get lost? what if things fall apart at home... either with the kids or with work? What if the hotel loses our reservation?
Luckily all of these fears were unfounded. Stay tuned for future installments that will answer the following questions, and more!
What is it like to be mistaken for a prostitute by men from Kuwait? What did I do when I got lost? How did I get suckered in to doing work? Why did a woman bark at me (like a dog) on the tube? At what point did I find out I was staying right around the block from the mormon temple? Did I really meet a guy with eyes as dreamy as Jude Law's?