Many thanks, poppets, for your birthday wishes. You're all lovely, and it really made my day.
Good Lord. I'm 31 years old. When my mother was my age, she'd been married for eight years, and had three children. I, at 31, barely manage to feed my goldfish a few times a week. The cat gets fed, but only because it moves around and that tends to remind me.
(Don't feel sorry for the fish, by the way. The thing is indestructible. Who ever heard of a $1.69 goldfish lasting for 7 years? Aren't those things supposed to be disposable?)
* * *
Right, so I promised you stories, didn't I? Proper English stories, where I wear a rather large hat to weddings, and speak with very round vowels, and call myself Philippa, or Charlotte. Except, as Stewart told me, it's a silent R, and so I'd have to introduce myself as Chaaaalotte.
Hello. I'm Chaaaawwwlotte. Do you like my hat?
Look! I'm speaking English.
* * *
Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Iíve never been met at Heathrow.
Actually, thatís not true. The second time I went Ė the first and only time where there would be nothing to do with making a living Ė I was met by a tour guide that would usher me and 50 others into the city and leave us to our own devices for the week. She didnít have much to offer, but in true London fashion, her mobile was forever in her hand, and she was wearing a fantastic coat.
Still, it doesnít matter. Iíve never been really met at Heathrow. Not by a friend or loved one, and making the long trek into the city by myself has become old hat.
So when Stewart called me the day of my departure, demanding my arrival times for the next morning, I was knocked off centre, and suddenly, flying into London meant making sure I didnít look like deathís door when I got off the plane. Stewartís gate may swing the other way, but heís a gorgeous man with lots of taste, which is all it takes to make sure my vanity-machine is working. And besides Ė heís my friend, and he was trekking to Heathrow at stupid oíclock in the morning. The man deserved a little lipstick.
So, until that Saturday, Iíd never been met at Heathrow. Unfortunately for Stewart, until that Saturday, my arrival time had never been delayed, de-planing had never taken forever, and Iíd never been in a customs queue that had 15 flights and four hundred and seventy thousand people in it. Before Saturday, Iíd never had my worst travel nightmare come true and had a bag misplaced by the airline. Before Saturday, the tube station at Terminal 4 had never been closed, and the Paddington Express had never been inaccessible.
A full two hours after I was supposed to, sore of body and red of eyes, I walked out of the gate, and it was only the sight of Stewart that held me together. The darling had waited patiently, after taking the tube from Outer bloody Mongolia all the way to the airport and fortifying himself with 8 cups of coffee, then not being able to escape to the loo, because he was sure that would be the moment I'd finally come through.
With little fuss, Stewart poured me into a black cab, which is one of my most favorite things about London, and off we set. Let me tell you; Stewart is wonderful about finishing touches. He even had Buckingham Palace do their little Changing of the Guards routine just as we were driving by. Isn't he lovely?
The gorgeous Amazon met us at my hotel as I was checking in; between the two of them, my fatigue was banished, my jetlag was marinated into something of little consequence, and my worry over my missing bag was eased. Iíve never had a first day in London that wasnít fraught with worry; the irony is that this is the first time I was ever faced with anything real to worry about, and I kept it together all day long. Of course, I was plied with friends and food and wine, which does every amount of good. And at just the very second that I needed it, they let me take a nap for a while before rousing me for more.
And you know what one of the very best moments was? We got to my hotel room, and I asked Stewart to call my room phone with his mobile so I could test the ring and find out if I heard it or not. And he did, and I did, and I cheered, and they both cheered, and it wasn't embarrassing at all. Y'know? That's... well, that's comfort, you know?
And it's a really nice thing to find 3000 kilometers from home.
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