Home at last

Having spent several pleasant days in Copenhagen and picking up a few words of Danish from watching the subtitles on the Dharma and Greg show (the only other TV option in English was endless CNN, and that can become very painful indeed after a while), and from reading the multitude of signs proclaiming sales and bargains of all types, we finally struggled with our luggage to the airport and winged off to London.

We arrived at 5 pm Friday afternoon, so while Nick was there with his trusty new (old) car to collect us, he had to contend with some fairly serious traffic getting us to his place at Basingstoke, about 30 miles away from Heathrow. With some rearranging of his back seats, we actually managed to get all our luggage into his Citroen, which would have been as much of a surprise to the poor car as it was to me. It was great to see Nick (and not just because it was someone else to help carry my luggage). He looks well and seems quite settled in his new environment. He has taken up kayaking as a recreational activity and is enjoying his work. His friend Helen was at her home about 3 hours away and so we did not get a chance to meet her.

Nick went all out to entertain us, even arranging for the annual Balloons over Basingstoke festival to be held on the very weekend of our visit. We headed off to that soon after our arrival. There were ten balloons, but unfortunately because of foot and mouth restrictions they were not permitted to launch them, so they had to be content with tethering them only a few metres from the ground. However, the most spectacular part of the evening was the night glow and laser show. After sunset, they lit the burners which caused all of the balloons to glow. This was choreographed to music and was then followed by a spectacular laser show. The English summer evening was a bit cold, but it was worth freezing to see the show. After that we went to visit the Litten Tree pub where Nick worked for most of his early months in England. I thought it would be one of those lovely old pubs where we could escape from the cold and have a quiet drink with the locals. Wrong. It is the wild hot spot for all the young people in the area (and half of London as well judging on the size of the crowd), and the noise and smoke were hard for an old lady to take.

Saturday morning saw us head out to explore the sights of the area. We went down to Aldershot to see the hospital where my grandfather spent some time recovering from his injuries in WWI.

We also walked through the ruins of the old Basing castle and learned some of its amazing history.

Nick took us for a walk along the towpath of the canal where he goes kayaking, and drove us around where he works at Sony and to many other places too numerous to mention.

We had lunch in one of those lovely old pubs where you can escape from the cold and have a quiet drink with the locals (at last!!).

Dinner was a gourmet delight cooked by chef Nick himself.

Sunday morning saw us stuffing all the luggage back into the car and heading back to Heathrow. Our departure was delayed because one passenger had failed to show and they had to unload two pallets to get his luggage out (with the recent bomb they weren’t taking any chances). The pilot then informed us that because of that delay, we had missed our slot for takeoff and we had been given a new time slot – in one hour! Sitting on a plane is bad enough but when it is not actually going anywhere it is very tedious indeed. We finally did take off and headed west to Chicago. A change of planes there took us to Indianapolis where we were greeted warmly by Peg and Dave Ertmer and their large van – no trouble with luggage here. They were a bit disappointed we had so little. They assured us they could have coped with a few trunks. They took us home, fed us, drove us around to check out our apartment and then took us back to their place for a good night’s sleep. I estimated it was probably almost 24 hours since we had gotten up to start the day in London.

Now everyone knows the best way to recover from jet lag is to rest the next day, but did we do that? I don’t think so. Dave lent us his other van (I was too terrified to drive it, it looked too huge altogether) and we set off to try to get ourselves set up in the apartment. We got the key, dropped our luggage, and hit the shops and the goodwill stores. We bought a bed which would be delivered the next day, checked out all the “back to college” specials which we found in brochures kindly supplied by Peg, and bought linen, a complete kitchen, a table and chairs, and sundry other items. We found some real bargains, getting a toaster, iron, coffee maker, and mixer at one store for $6.99 each. We had also planned to buy a car, but that didn’t eventuate. We went around to Peg and Dave’s again to let them know how we were going and to see if we could keep the car for one more day. We must have looked pathetic enough as they said yes, and invited us for dinner again. As we hadn’t actually bought any groceries at that stage, we stretched our welcome and stayed for blueberry pancakes with syrup, sausages, and fruit salad. Food is very different here.

Tuesday, we did buy a car. It is a teal blue 1995 Ford Escort with air conditioning, power steering, cruise control, electric windows, central locking, and very scary seatbelts which slide up the door and attack you as you get in. All this for $2500.

We managed a few other feats such as getting insurance, opening a bank account and finishing all our unpacking (and assembling all the new furniture we bought). My cuckoo clock, picture of Cliff, picture of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), my fairy, my angel bear, Bev’s chook plate, and my quilt are all in place and it almost looks like home.

Tomorrow we plan to get up early and use the gym facilities at the apartment complex.

Are you tired after all that? I know I am.

Hope you are all fine. I will write again if Peter ever lets me use the computer again, having tied it up for about two hours this evening.

Let me know what’s happening in the real world.