Having enrolled online before we went to the U.S., upon returning to the U.K. on Saturday I was allowed to join the U.K.’s Registered Traveller scheme. It enables some non-EU passport holders to enter the country through immigration e-gates at international U.K. airports, as well as the Paris, Brussels and Lille Eurostar terminals. No more filling out a landing card.
To do so, I had to mention it to the young woman border agent – on seeing her I thought she rather resembled singer Leona Lewis – who happened to be processing me. She knew what I meant immediately. She followed by asking for my invitation letter.
I handed it over. She scrutinized it and questioned me further. I passed muster. She concluded the formalities, “That’s fine. Let me get you a membership card.”
I fly a lot. Obviously everyone’s Number 1 concern is with safety. That assumed, when flying we all do also crave some “style” and even “romance” aboard. After all, we’re flying! – something humanity for countless generations before us dreamed of being able to do as we can, and we are!
(Uh, and in writing of “romance” there I don’t necessarily mean as in those romantic row mates I’d had years ago. Although our flight was exceedingly “romantic” for the two of them, I’ll grant you. Or, then again, maybe that’s your long-haul fantasy too? ;-) )
You may be in a frequent flyer program. For years we have flown British Airways whenever possible. Shopping around isn’t really worthwhile or practical.
Yet even with so many of us tied into those schemes, airlines still hope to get some of us regular flyers to switch our “loyalty,” of course. Naturally they also crave brand new customers as well. Both certainly in their sights, here’s a new Air France advert:
You slightly more mature, uh, younger people might remember this. I once saw him perform live. I still recall him leading Chicago ripping into the Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life” during the encore, and doing it possibly even better than Sir Paul.
Excuse me, with Frontiers now complete (and soon to be published), I’m just taking a moment:
“Whatever happened to our wild ways.
The hungry beat of our younger days.
We swore we’d never let them get away.
But so long to our wild ways.”
– Peter Cetera, 1992.
Happy Saturday. We’re flying to the U.S. for Thankgiving. My Dad’s (minor, hopefully) heart implant was yesterday pushed back from December 1 to the 8th. So I can’t be there. Oh, well. You never know with doctors and dates, of course, until they are actually in the operating room….
Family happenings are, in their ways, history: social history. So it’s worth preserving. I think fiction is a superb way to do it – and even when what’s written doesn’t always show everything and everyone involved in the “best light.”….
The removal guys are gone. Leaving 20 minutes after them, I spent 2 1/2 hrs driving too from north London: the M25, to the M4 (I passed them on the M4) to the A4. I got to Trowbridge just ahead of them.
Started unpacking. At one point I was putting the bed together to the sound of Steve Winwood singing of Valerie being as cool as jazz on a summer’s day. Great line. Great song.
Well, it’s definitely not summer. And it’s raining. There’s a surprise: the West of England and rain in October? Imagine that?
At some point I’m sure I’ll find the kitchen cutlery. I seemed to have found lots of stuff that’s of dubious functionality this first evening. No cutlery means, well, dinner at the nearby pub! :-)
UPDATE, October 21: The rain makes sense. Apparently Britain is going to have a storm of hurricane-like gusts today. 70 MPH plus winds. It’s really a gale out there right now. Yikes.
I spoke to my parents last night. I thought it was going to be a routine chat. What was I thinking?
“Rob, we had an incident,” my Dad calmly started to explain. “My Zoll defibrillator went nuts.”
I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. “What?”
He detailed what had happened. “Monday, I took it off to wash. After putting it back on, I walked downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the alarm went off. You can’t misunderstand it. What a f-cking noise! Holy s-it!”
He was laughing, so I realized there had been no problem. They had spoken to Zoll, and the woman operator said he probably had not dried himself enough after his shower. Likely a bit of moisture impacted an electrode.
“Your mother was in the kitchen on the phone with your uncle,” my Dad continued.
“Yep. She comes running out to me, and while the alarm is blaring its electronic voice is also yelling, ‘Don’t touch him! Don’t touch him!’ I pushed the button and silenced it, so it knew I wasn’t unconscious and it didn’t defibrillate me.”
I sat here, 3,000 miles away in London, listening to this semi-farce.
“Your mother dropped the phone at the alarm, so your uncle heard the alarm and all the commotion. After she got back to the phone, he started screaming at her to put me on. ‘Is he okay?! What’s going on? You want me to call someone?!’ Then he starts complaining his breathing is bothering him.”
I held my head. “You’re a comedy, the three of you.”
The Zoll operator asked for an upload of my Dad’s heart data off the device, just to double-check his heart hadn’t “malfunctioned” in any way. He did so promptly. She called back and said his data was fine.
Speaking with her after the “all-clear” had been determined, he said he laughed, “That thing going off like that almost gave me a heart attack!”
As a fiction writer, no way should you ever say you’ve run out of material. If you have, you’ve stopped living. Life is an endless source. ;-)
Their home search had a major requirement: a house needed to be near a train station. Why? The husband admitted on camera that he didn’t have a U.K. driving license, so he had to commute by train.
• Me: [Thinking. There’s nothing wrong with the train. But, God, aren’t you embarrassed admitting that on U.K. national TV? Pass your bl-ody U.K. driving test, and stop embarrassing other Americans living here by giving British viewers the impression we can’t manage to drive in their country.]
While I had become distracted by the driving silliness, my mother-in-law was still on the issue of the boy’s name:
• Mother-in-law: “Over in Ireland, they often don’t have traditional names on children either. [She waves an Irish Independent at us.] Look at this? Apple iCloud. What sort of a name is that?”
• Me: [Thinking: Did I just hear her right?]
• My wife: [After a pause followed by a roar of laughter] “Mum, that’s not a name!”
Seems I haven’t yet entirely “escaped” my personal Seinfeld episode either. It continues on this side of the Atlantic too. ;-)
So I’ve left my Dad in recovery in Pennsylvania from his August 9 heart failure. After two weeks there, it was time to leave: I could do no more, and I couldn’t stay forever of course. He looks excellent, and is in the (now calmer) hands of my mother and my sister.
Having flown into Newark back on August 14 was my first trans-atlantic flight alone since 1999 – pre-marriage. Flying back yesterday evening from Newark to Heathrow was obviously the second. We almost always fly British Airways – as I did for these flights too.
Some journeys are arduous. Others relatively easy. This was the latter.
There were no hassles with the car service to Newark Airport, no fuss at bag drop, no real wait at Security.
It was also a strange feeling prepping to fly alone across the Atlantic again.
The flight itself – on a 787 Dreamliner, which is quite a plane – was unremarkable. (Also, I noticed no one getting to know a row-mate rather, uh, well.)
After landing in London, matters were similarly routine: disembarked quickly, and UK border control moved smoothly. (Unlike last time, today’s passport officer – another woman – displayed absolutely no interest in my occupation.)
The luggage was on the reclaim carousel when I reached it. I exited and found myself so early – the flight had also landed early – that my “driver” on this end (my wife) had not yet arrived. I took a seat near one of the “meeting points” in Terminal 5.
Killing time, I checked email, Facebook, and decided to have a tweet. The tweet was (I thought) innocuous. However, it attracted a response from Heathrow Airport’s official Twitter feed:
First time I’ve ever been welcomed by “an airport.” ;-)
With my Dad doing better than we’d expected, Sunday afternoon I took an opportunity to venture up to the Catskills to check our house, and use Monday to mow the lawn and deal with anything else that may have needed dealing with. I admit I could also have called it my “24 hours of tranquility” away from the rural Pennsylvania Seinfeld episode in which I am currently trapped! ;-)
We have no broadcast TV in the house right now. Quickly I decided on an evening in front of the DVD player. I treated myself to the first few episodes of Mad Men from the very first series/ season.
Okay, trivia question: What are Roger Sterling’s first words ever said on the show?
Answer: “Morning girls.”
When I returned to my parents’ place last night, chatting I happened to tell my mother. She had worked in midtown Manhattan as a secretary herself briefly – pre-marriage – in the early 1960s. She laughed:
It’s true. They were my father’s age. That’s actually what they used to say to us.
Around the same time, she had also actually considered becoming a Pan Am “stewardess” – she who had never (and still has never been) on a plane. We discovered that when she revealed it to us at some point while the Pan Am TV show had been on the air. I still can’t believe it.
But I digress. Although there was no TV in house, I did have mobile internet. I wasn’t totally, uh, “cut off in the Catskills.”
However, pardon me here for maybe seeming a bit out of touch in this way. Recently I’ve been seeing bits on the net here and there about a site called “SoundCloud.” I did again on Sunday night.
I finally decided to click over and have a good look around on it…. and a listen. Noticing what was on the site, how it generally seemed to work, and with time to kill (after having overdosed on Mad Men), I searched for a couple of songs that were running through my head recently courtesy of radio (oldies) play. As a new novelist, I thought maybe I’d find cover versions by “unknowns” who might be worth a listen?
For “The Letter,” I stumbled on this singer. Incredible. Well, I just HAVE to share this:
Barba Gwen31 has **some** voice. As we know, the web lets us now independent/ self-publish books. (Which, after all, is why I’m on here! ;-) ) Now it also allows singers to be heard globally whom we otherwise probably would have never heard of.
One frustration, though. I’d PAY, iTunes-like (yes, I’d separate myself from some money) to download and own it. However, I can’t figure out how? I don’t see how to do it? Ugh! :-)
Have a good Tuesday! I’m writing this post at my parents’ kitchen table. Near the sink, time to take his pills, they are on at each other…. again. Apparently he’s too inept to take them without her careful oversight:
“I love you, dear,” he told her off as she read the directions to him yet again.
“Read the rest of it!” she barked, handing him one bottle.
“It says, ‘Take one a day,'” he pointed to it.
“Old people get crazy taking medications. Oh, s-it, see what I just did!” she yelled as she took another of the bottles. “I’ll mix them up!”
“You’re an old person!” he shot back.
“Angie Gonzalez [an elderly, now deceased, relation] used to mess up her medication….” my mother droned on. “Oh, no one’s listening to me.”
“Mom, I am. Please stop now.”
A few more days remain in my Seinfeld episode. “Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane….” ;-)