Herewith begins the account of England 2023, part 2. Oh what a treat I have for you.
At the moment I am in the gazebo, back, reeling from a 22 hour travel day in which I think I got two or three hours of thin sleep. Birch is by my side having adjusted in a trice to my return after an exultant welcome; Wife is asleep. After midnight local time; 6:12 AM by body time. I don't think I've ever had a day like today, with such fraught travel contrusions - but that's Friday. For now we rewind the clock and return to last Sunday, when this opportunity of a lifetime began. So:
Destination: Swiss Cottage! Wikipedia:
According to the Dictionary of London Place Names (2001), the district is named after an inn called The Swiss Tavern that was built in 1804 in the style of a Swiss chalet on the site of a former tollgate keeper's cottage, and later renamed Swiss Inn and in the early 20th century Swiss Cottage.
We are not there yet. We have not yet begun. We are in Minnesota, and I think this proves that assertion:
At present I am consulting with a marvelous thing, canned wine. It resets your expectations with crisp precision. As it happens I know this particular brand - notice I didn’t say vintage, because such terms ought not apply in the realm of things like canned wine - so I am neither deceived, surprised, or dismayed. It’s a dry solid red and that is all I asked of life right now.
The gate agent, reading the list of people whose passport needed to be checked, just called “Bradley Frankenstein.” As usual, the gate agent in charge of making announcements does not appear to be a native speaker of English, and is a timid woman. The idea that someone who staffs the PA should be able to be understood seems like a relic from a more sensible aide.
The wine should ease me into a sleep. That’s the hope. I rose early, had my last cup of coffee in the morn, walked the length of the airport. I had a hamburger at a fast casual restaurant, and asked for pepper.
“It’s around the corner.”
Me: “No, it’s not. There’s salt, and there’s sugar, but there isn’t any pepper.”
Counterperson: “We’re out of pepper.”
Me: “You’re out of pepper.”
Counter person to manager: “Are we out of pepper?”
Me: “A burger restaurant, and you’re out of pepper.”
Manager: “Don’t have any.”
This is not a completely accurate transcription; I’m making them sound more articulate and compassionate than they were.
Elsewhere, there were donuts. I don’t know about you, but I’m not entirely attracted to dripping donuts.
Anyway, I am at the gate and to my distress I could fall asleep now. This is not good. I have to power through supper before I slip off to Lethe. Oh - they just announced the plane will be landing early, which means less time to not-sleep, I guess. Six and a half magic hours!
5:55 PM On the plane, but that doesn’t quite mean what it used to. After sitting around for 15 minutes we are heading back to the gate for a minor maintenance check.
I wonder what that’s code for.
4:25 AM I think I got two hours. That might be enough. I certainly can’t go back to sleep now, tired as I am; nothing seems to work. Not deep breathing or white noise or getting up and punching the two ladies who are standing in the aisle jabbering about some nonsense, unaware that everyone else is trying to sleep. I am also between two toddlers, one in front and one to my right, and each seems to be alternating its pants-filling sequences, so the perfume back here in the 40s is just great.
I have just hit the FARG IT point, ordered coffee, switched off the chill and the ambient and fired up the Beethoven. The map on the back of the seat puts us halfway over the Atlantic.
Dinner, by the way, was very good; Butter Chicken. Alas, a confused salad - chunks of tomato and mozzarella with a few fronds. I’m sure it has a name. I think I fell asleep immediately afterwards, with just a few chin-on-sternum jolts.
Let us all agree that Monday will, indeed, bite the wax tadpole, but on the other hand, I’ll be in England.