11/22/2007

A sunny day in Thanksgiving

Another Thanksgiving, another trip to see Henry in England.

Of course, England is in mourning having lost 3-2 to Croatia last night, meaning that their hopes of entering Euro 2008 are now over. I watched the second half at my family's house in Dunstable, and everyone was upset. James went upstairs in disgust to play Freespace2, and then Jim stumbled home from the pub, distraught. Even Pam was livid, and was questioning why the about-to-be-sacked manager decided to play Carson in goal.

At the cafe where I went for breakfast, it was much the same. Elderly lady after elderly lady decried the result, and it seemed that everyone here is quite gloomy.

Except cousin Georgina, who thought it was funny that England are crap.

Today is not gloomy. I am bright and cheery and happy and well rested after my first day here yesterday. I worked up to the last minute, and dashed out the house, thankfully with everything intact.

Things could have gone wrong, as our Saturn is on its last legs and doesn't play well in traffic. Stopping at lights tends to overheat it, and I was worried it would die on the way to Dulles. So, I rented a car to get to Dulles. I decided against Enterprise, because they would have charged a $150 dollar drop-off fee. So, Hertz got my easy business, and will continue to do so in the future.

On the way out of town, my optometrist's office called to say my new lens were in, and I was about 4 minutes away at the time. I said I didn't want to get them because I was leaving town, but I'd get them next week.

Also on the way out of town, I spoke with a woman at Baker-Butler Elementary who told me they have in fact found my missing bag which contains an expensive Zoom recorder. A big relief that got me on my journey with a big smile, because that opens up the possibilities for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network without me needing to replace the recorder. So, big hurray there.

I got to the airport with hours to spare, as I always do when I'm traveling. I like to settle in at the airport, and watch people going from A to B. It never ceases to amaze me just how many people there are. Charlottesville is an incredible bubble that shields us from the sheer amount of men, women and childred who populate our country. So, it's nice to take in that sea of citizens, busy on their way to Thanksgiving feasts all over.

I even remembered to buy an adaptor kit to get my laptop connected. I wrestled with whether or not to bring it because this is a pure vacation, and I don't want to do any work. However, proposal writing isn't work, is it?

The flight itself was dismal, and was one of the worst experiences I've ever had on an airplane. That's because I had a window seat, and the people next to me were asleep within minutes, and I felt trapped and claustrophobic the entire time. I have a hard time sleeping on airplanes, but I wanted to try. The beer I had had at the airport bar sat there in my bladder, making it a lot harder to consider getting a good rest.

But the worst part was the lost passport scare I had. While trapped in the seat, I did a quick check to make sure I had it, but could not find it. When morning came and we had an hour left before landing at Heathrow, I searched all over the floor, the seat, my pockets, everywhere, and could not find the thing. In optimist mode, I thought at least I would get to be home for Thanksgiving! But, I panicked and panicked and panicked.

Then the plane landed, and we sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes. The claustrophobia continued, and they wouldn't let us stand. I wanted to check my jacket, but I couldn't. It went on for ever, as I played over and over again what I was going to have to say to Henry's mother to explain why I wouldn't be able to come. I pondered if the UK immigration authories would let him come visit me while I sat in custody, waiting for a flight back. In short, my cheery feeling was pretty much washed away in a sea of worry.

However, I had the passport, and relief coursed through my veins. And, then, it was off to see Henry!

Traveling to England for me is always a chance to check out different modes of transportation. I'm less than 48 hours into the trip, but so far, I've been on five buses, two trains, and a large plane. And several long conveyer belts as I walked through the concourses at Heathrow on my ways to the arrivals hall for passport control. That part was easy, and so was getting my luggage, which was right there as I got to the baggage carousel. That picked up, it was time to walk more so I could get to the bus station to catch a coach to Hemel Hempstead.

A lot of people in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area are interested in inter-town transportation. At Charlottesville Tomorrow, we had a lot of people return cards with the voter guide, and we asked them to tell us what we should cover. A lot of people want to know if there could be bus service to Crozet.

Well, at Hemel Hempstead, I was able to catch the 500 to Tring, and then walked a long, long, long way again to Henry's child minder. A long, long, long way. But, worth every step and strained abdominal muscle, as I finally got to the door and there he was, after about seven months, my Henry. He saw me, his eyes lit up, and he was so happy to see me, and I was so happy to see him, but then he got very shy. But I gave him a huge cuddle, and suddenly, there we were, Henry and Daddy together again!

We spent the afternoon at the park, at the library, at his house playing with the toys and games I brought him. Then his mother came home and we caught up on everything, and then it was time to put him to bed, and then go back to Dunstable, which is about 15 miles away, and an hour or so on the bus. The last one stops just outside his mother's flat at 8, and out I went after having a nice chat with Dean, Henry's mother's partner. He's an exceedingly good chap, and I'm glad he's in Henry's life.

When I went out, it was raining, and I waited by the stop. I wanted to double check the timetable, and looked up, but couldn't see very well, so I adjusted my contact lens, and a drop of rain hit me in the eye, and that was it for the lens. And that was it for my stereo vision! I used my cell phone (can't seem to call it a mobile, even though I mix phrases often) to try to give myself a little light, but it was useless. After about ten minutes, I had to give up the quest, and off I went, Popeye on the 61 over the downs and through little villages.

This morning, I was woke up after a refreshing six and a half hours of sleep, and headed into Dunstable to see if I could work something out. I stopped in at Specsavers, booked an appointment, and then headed to what turned out to be a horrible breakfast, and then back to the appointment. The optometrist was able to help me out, and now I type again, vision restored, with about 10 more minutes at the Blue Moon Net Cafe before I have to venture out to catch the 61 back to Tring.

And what will we do today? I don't care. It's Henry and Daddy time on this days of Thanksgiving, and I am certainly blessed that my children are thriving, the sun is shining, and that I am a lucky person who through this odd life I've lived now has the chance to come to England once or twice a year. What will come of this? I don't know. I know that there's a lot of work ahead, but I want to hold on to optimism, want to be positive, want to see if there's a way we can cast off the gloom, identify our problems as a country, as a world, and then find solutions that work for as many people as possible. There's a whole world of us, more than six billion, and I'm just one person part of something ineffable, something fantastic, something wonderful. How can we make it better? How can we encourage curiosity and tolerance and understanding? How can we try to strip out emotions from politics? How can we expect the best of ourselves and each other?

I don't know. But, when I come here, I feel fueled to write, feel fueled to explain the world outside the bubble. And, that's what I'll do wherever I can.

But, for now, time to catch the bus.

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