I’m back in one of my most common blog updating places – an airport lounge. My nine month stay in the UK is coming to an end as I sit in Terminal 3 waiting to see from which gate AC851 to Calgary leaves – I’m well excited (slept in a bit more that I should have this morning – awoke with a start at 0800 remembering with pleasure a dream about Canadian singletrack). This week has been one of mostly packing & saying goodbyes to various friends & family & unfortunately not too many photos to break up my prose. Tuesday in London started off with a jab in the arm – a booster Hep. A shot that should mean I need never have another one. Finally got to finish off the RAF Museum after that, the Battle of Britain hall was reasonably small but packed with great WWII era aircraft. As well as the Hurricane, Spitfire, Me110 I was most pleased to finally see a Stuka – that fearsome bent wing dive bomber that did so well in the early advances of the Wehrmacht across Europe.
The Sunderland flying boat was impressive due to its sheer size.
Vittoria was quite excited by the arrival of someone to play with; in amongst all the games & trips to the “hospital” & having my apparently broken leg treated by the smallest doctor I’ve ever seen, I somehow ended feeding a often-dribbling Amelie – once again, teething looks like no fun at all. After a rather quick goodbye to Vittoria, she was off to bed – trying to explain that it would be some years before she saw me again was a bit difficult as the outer limit of a long time to a two year old is probably the week or so that is often between my visit, if not shorter. Shelley had done wonderfully well whipping up a pavlova topped with kiwifruit & it was not without some sadness that I took my last walk to Rayners Lane & sat on the Metropolitan Line down to Baker St.
Wednesday’s outing was up to Great Notley (near Braintree & Stansted) for lunch with first-cousins-once-removed Keith & Carol & Keith’s father Alan (my great-uncle). The oldest of his siblings & approaching ninety (but don’t tell him that) Alan is doing remarkably well living in his own flat & pretty much looking after himself – there is some hope I might not go doolally (a much used word that day – one I hadn’t heard for quite a while). Thursday was mostly more cleaning of my bike in the morning & then I headed off to meet Matt (the primary school friend from twenty years ago that I met a few weeks ago) at the Imperial War Museum. This was, at least, my third visit to the IWM & on entry & I thought I would only be having a quick look around. But upstairs I discovered a new exhibit – this one on that most harrowing of subjects, the Holocaust. We got lost in there for quite some time as there is always a lot to absorb & try to comprehend. It was quite well done, & while sobering not nearly as depressing as the Holocaust Museum in DC. All of a sudden it was 1730 & time to head off to meet Chris after work. This time I had a genuine reason for taking that shortest of tube lines – I actually wanted to go to from Waterloo to Bank. I sat waiting for Chris reading my free Evening Standard on the steps of the Royal Exchange for the last time, taking in the wonderful architecture that is the Bank of England & watching thousands of suits scurry around. Avoiding heading in to the melee that is getting on to the Central Line in the evening rush at Bank, we walked for quite some time west & I was pleased to be able to share some of my knowledge of small London museums that are worth seeing with Chris. We headed out a little west to Chris’s neighbourhood, had a pint at his local before I got the tour of his flat (which was pretty short at two rooms) before we walked & tubed to Paddington to meet Annie – a good friend of Chris’s that I had met at his sister’s wedding in Tuscany almost two years ago. Annie is now living in Melbourne & over in Europe for four weeks. Now that it’s the northern summer there are plenty of people coming this way – it is somewhat unfortunate in that respect that I am skiving off to Canada now – there are at least six people coming over that I would have like to have seen. But that’s a small price to for what promises to be a great year of riding & skiing. After my last pints of lager for what I imagine a while & a great time catching up with what we’ve all be up to, I said goodbye to Chris & Annie before heading off to catch the last train back to Sidcup. I was sure it wasn’t just the lager messing with me, I couldn’t find that train anywhere (it’s not like they’re a set of car keys – nice Snatch reference) & sure enough it had been cancelled & I had a slightly longer & more circuitous trip home.
Somehow yesterday I managed to squeeze a lot in to my Macpac & bike bag – somehow the pack has ended up heavier than the bike bag, which is a first. A quick visit to get shorn & then it was off to say goodbye to Nora. That was one of the most difficult visits yet as, it would be fair to say, after seven weeks she is a little tired of the mundane hospital & she was really quite angry & it took quite a while to calm her down with many more rounds of Gin Rummy. The powers that be have finally decided that Social Service will pay for her residential care, so hopefully Trish & Jan can find a place they like this weekend & Nora can move to a much nicer environment next week. The final farewells were last night over dinner at a great Asian buffet in Orpington. Jan & I managed to squeeze my four bags in to her Swift her this morning, a much easier trip to Heathrow than my last one (the four hour trek across London in the snow on buses, DLR, tube) on the M25 & I was shortly saying goodbye to Trish & Jan – I’ll miss my English family, they’ve been very good to me. Well Gate 29 is open now, so this is a good spot to stop & make sure I get on the waiting Airbus.