Tag Archives: England

How to Render Your Husband Speechless, Again

Originally posted in WWN101 in 2012 this salacious tale seems worth repeating at this stage of our . . . . . our what? Confusion? Clarity? Travels? Decision to settle? Whatever.

After returning from the doctor’s office himself said to me, “The nurse told the doctor, ‘They’ve been right down to Key West and back. I wish I could do that,’ so I said to her you should change places with my wife.”

He sees this as proof enough that we should continue to travel, not settle down.

Of course she’d like to take a road trip to Key West. She’s working full time in wet Washington State.

I’ll bet he didn’t qualify the dream with the drawbacks. Would you give up your home, family and friends and emigrate to another country to satisfy your travel lust?  Would you give up free health care?  Could you survive in a tin box with your other half for years without coming to blows or calling a divorce lawyer?  Would you mind looking like a ragamuffin because your best clothes (probably moldy now) are in storage?

I appreciate the fact that I’ve seen 47 of the 50 states, something most Americans will never do. Of course I feel privileged to have seen most of the top National Parks.

And I hope himself has read this far before he’s blown a gasket and called me an ungrateful cow.

Just to confirm how right he is and how wrong I am – always worth a victory lap in his book – we had a memorable moment with Courtney in the course of our travels. As we approached a gaily decked out espresso hut the NASCAR bunting made me smile at the thought of our day at the Daytona 500.

Jimmy’s big day at the Daytona 500

Better still, after hearing, “I’ll be with you guys in a second,” a dark-haired leggy lovely appeared, dressed – I use that term loosely – in skimpy – that’s being generous – stop-light-yellow shorts and a NASCAR-emblazoned yellow top that had more fabric in the sleeves than the whole of the rest of the outfit.

As my mouth dropped open, she smiled brightly. “What can I get you guys?” I dared not look at Jimmy’s expression. Rather than place our order, what came out of my mouth was, “I like your outfit.”

“Oh, thanks. We were losing business to the bikini baristas so we thought we needed to make a change, but to something tasteful.” I really daren’t look at Jimmy then.  Her navel piercing and cleavage were particularly eye catching. I managed some sort of coffee order for myself, Jimmy stuttered out his tea order and whaddayaknow! the tea bags were on the bottom shelf.  Did I mention that her shorts were very brief?

“I like you guys’ accents. Where are you from?” I gave the concise Baltimore/England answer. “Awesome! Are you guys traveling?” I explained we’d been all around the country. “Awesome! Do you have family here?” I informed her that my brother lived up the road. “Awesome!” And a brother in Tennessee. “Cool!”  And children and grandchildren in England. And a brother-in-law in Wales.  “That is so cool!” And a daughter in Sydney. “That is an awesome excuse to travel.”

Score several points to Jimmy. Although I have to tell you he wasn’t counting points right at that moment.

“What’s with the NASCAR theme?” I asked.

“There’s a racetrack down the road. We thought it would bring in some business.”  Jimmy remained mute despite the motor racing reference, usually a favorite topic.

“Have you ever been to a NASCAR race?” I enquired, as the only one of her two customers capable of conversation.

“No. I’m from a little town called Elma. I’ve never traveled.”

“We went to the Daytona 500 in February.”

“AWESOME!” Well, I just had to agree with her. Had he been capable of the power of speech Jimmy would have agreed with anybody about anything right then.

You can stop looking for a picture of Courtney now. Sorry guys, there isn’t one.

More excitingly, Courtney had a cousin, equally skimpily dressed. We encountered her after our trailer wheel caught fire:

“Yer wus a fur!”

“What?” Jimmy bellowed.

“Yer wus a fur!”

“OUR WHEEL’S ON FIRE!!” I shrieked.

Read more of this post . . . 


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Photo Challenge: Split-Second Story, Take #2

Which photo tells the better story? This one?

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall, ENGLAND

Or this one?

Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall, ENGLAND

Please ignore the tourist in the bottom left showing utter disregard for my dying scene.

Photos taken at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall.

This extraordinary theater was carved into a rocky seaside cliff almost single-handedly by Rowena Cade. Dragging shipwreck timbers up from the beach for building materials and converting a World War II gun post into a ticket booth she worked on her project on a piece of Cornish coastline bought for £100 in the 1920’s until she was well into her 80’s. It is still the venue for Shakespearean plays today. As you can see.



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Confused DNA

The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo
The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until John Cabot, that well-known Italian explorer (otherwise known as Giovanni, Juan Zuan, Zuam or Zoane depending on how he felt that day) started poking around in 1498, Native Americans were the only residents of Maryland’s rolling landscape and bountiful Chesapeake Bay. The English decided to set up house in Maryland in 1634, hence my propensity for speaking the King’s English. While Congress was still busy penning the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Maryland was doing its own thing with a state constitution “of the people only . . . .” already dumping allegiance to the King of England.

Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay (Photo credit: slack12)

Technically the state of Maryland is in the south being south of the Mason Dixon Line. Virginians would dispute that as they claim “the south starts here.” Maryland remained part of The North during the Civil War but with much Confederate sympathy in the state, men staying put to face the bloodshed in the Union Army numbered only two to one to men fleeing south to join the Confederacy.

Brother fought brother as Maryland was a border state, spanning the north and the south, with planters using slaves, but free blacks in the state numbering nearly fifty percent before the war even started.

My mother’s family stayed firmly rooted with their farm in Maryland since the 17th century. My father’s family came from North Carolina and shunted between the south and the north.

Stick with me. I’ll pull this together soon.

English: Daniel Harvey Hill
English: Daniel Harvey Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My great, great, great uncle General Daniel Harvey Hill, born in South Carolina, served under southern General Lee but never resided in Maryland. He only set foot in my home state to take part in Lee’s Maryland Campaign culminating in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in U.S. history with a shocking 23,000 casualties. What had been instilled in me as a child, a sense of pride for my ancestor now fills me with shame, both for the senseless slaughter and the principles he defended.

So it’s in my DNA to be confused.

Am I a southerner? Don’t think so. What’s with boiled peanuts (or chitterlings, hog jowls, turtle soup or grits)? Why would you want to eat them? Am I a Northerner? Don’t feel like one.

The fact is, though I would never give up my American passport and am a loyal and patriotic American despite the George W. Bush years, I don’t feel like an American any more – north, south, east coast or west coast. Like Maryland’s history, my history is more convoluted than Italian tax laws.

I feel more European, more English. But I’m not European. I’m alien to them. Although my accent sounds English to Americans, it sounds American (or Australian, Canadian, Kiwi, Dutch or German) to the English. The Brits can’t place my accent any more than I can place myself. The term to encapsulate my curious mix used to be mid-Atlantic. I feel more cast adrift. Unanchored.

Divergent plate boundary: Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Should I start swimming? Divergent plate boundary: Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And detached. Detached from English family and friends and – although this is a very banal admission to make – detached from my stuff. I would like to start unpacking my kitchen equipment. Then after getting rid of two non-digital TVs, a washing machine on its last legs, a desktop computer from the ice age and at least three jackets with shoulder pads, we’d still have nothing to sit on. But we need a house first. Then I could prepare a delicious meal whilst dressed in decade-old clothes and we’d eat off our laps whilst sitting on the floor.

All the old feelings are starting to surface again. A displaced person. I never really considered myself as an immigrant when I moved to England in 1975. At the time it seemed temporary, part of traveling. Even though I was resident for many years in the UK, I never fully assimilated. Does one ever in a country not of one’s birth?

Cover of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Ar...
Cover via Amazon

So I’m confused, as confused as Mark Twain’s Hank Morgan in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” who after a knock to his head in 19th century New England comes to in merry ol’ England 13 centuries earlier. He manages his circumstances by remembering a 6th century solar eclipse from his history studies in Connecticut. As a trick he pretends to “blot out the sun” and quickly becomes pals with the king laying claim to a percentage of the country’s GDP. Could I pull off something similar? Would it help me to feel at home?

Have you moved away from your place of birth? Would you? Could you? Am I doing the right thing?

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Travel Theme: Rivers

Ailsa of Where’s my Backpack? has posted her travel theme this week of Rivers. Visit her post to learn how to join the challenge.

At first I thought I hadn’t any photos of rivers. But guess what? I’ve got loads. Oh no! I hear you say. I’ve whittled the number down to just a few (phew!):

The Niagara River tumbling over the falls from Lake Erie to lake Ontario:

Niagara Falls

Our practically mute and taciturn river guide at Magnolia Plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, cutting a wide swathe through the algal growth on the Ashley River and scaring away all the wildlife except Batman and Robin here:

In the town of Confolens, France, the river pictured is most probably the Vienne but possibly the Goire, as Confolens is at the confluence of the two rivers as the name suggests. Or I may have just made that up.

Confolens, France

The Chicago River. Happy daze in the Windy City on a not so windy day. We were gorging on Chicago-style hot dogs while others engaged in more energetic pursuits. Note the distinctive Willis Tower in the background:

Chicago River in Chicago

The Deschutes River in Olympia, Washington State after a heavy rain. Just upriver was a ‘no swimming’ sign. As if.

Deschutes River, Olympia, Washington State

“Drove my Chevy to the levee. But the levee was dry.” We didn’t drink whiskey and rye on the levee of the Mississippi River at St. Louis Missouri.

Chevy on the levee, St. Louis MO

The Rio Grande River at Big Bend National Park – Texas to the left, Mexico to the right:Rio Grande River at Big Bend National Park

Jude, at Travel Words asked in her Travel Theme: Rivers, have you taken a river cruise in England? Yes I have! And there is the very boat on the River Avon in Bath, England. We traveled upriver above the weir. What is a weir? Look here!

Avon River at Bath

Scared half to death as himself towed our travel trailer in narrow lanes of heavy traffic across the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River in New York City, I didn’t dare reach for the camera so Wikipedia will have to suffice:

George Washington Bridge
George Washington Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At this distance it looks a doddle. It wasn’t.

Is doddle a word in common usage in the United States?




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A Little Ray of Sunshine

I’ve been nominated for a Sunshine Award! I’ve never thought of myself as someone’s little ray of sunshine. Himself thinks it’s hilarious. Don’t think him unkind. You don’t have to live with me.

My nominator, Joanne took the trouble to research the award so rather than reinvent the wheel I will pass on her words to you.  “It is an award given by bloggers to other bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogoshere.”  (Questionable punctuation is mine.)

Gosh. Thanks Joanne for the nomination. You are my little ray of sunshine with your wonderful blog http://mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com/

I am to nominate up to 10 blogs – hard to keep it down to 10 – and think of 10 vaguely interesting things to say about myself – horribly difficult.

I’ve read these types of lists on other blogs and admired the author’s imagination, ability for introspection, self-knowledge and sense of humor. I panicked and blanked at the very thought of it but here goes:

  1. I was The Alien in England for 30 years but I feel like an alien in my own country now. I’m told things move on. Get over it.
  2. I am the only person I know who likes cottage cheese. Isn’t that riveting?
  3. I love words but fear my vocabulary is shrinking.
  4. I’m sure I lived in France in a previous life.
  5. I miss family and friends in my adopted country of England. And my garden. But the garden thing obviously isn’t on a par with family and friends.
  6. I never take myself seriously.
  7. I cooked on a charter yacht in the West Indies for two years. Walter Cronkite chartered that yacht. I can still hear his voice as he read to us each night.
  8. I am easily moved to tears. Too easily. It’s annoying.
  9. I can’t think of a single favorite food. I love everything I eat. I deserve to be fat(ter). As it is I always have that elusive 10 pounds to lose.
  10. I am fascinated by the lives of my blogging friends around the world, most of whom I’ve never met.

My blog nomination choices are a combination of travel, RV travel, photography, history, poetry and humor. I am following dozens of blogs and would like to list them all and have agonized over choosing just 10.

Please visit these blogs and prepare to be amazed:











I wanted to nominate http://multifariousmeanderings.wordpress.com/  for the Sunshine Award but she had the unmitigated gall to accept the self-same award from someone else first!

To accept this award please:

  1. Display the Award on your Blog (nightmare scenario for me. Finally figured it out!)
  2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present up to 10 Bloggers with the Award.
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of they are being awarded with a comment.
  5. List 10 interesting (printable!)  facts about yourself.

And speaking of sunshine, here is a favorite sunshine photo:

Sunset at Porth Beach, Cornwall, England
Sunset at Porth Beach, Cornwall, England

The Alien on Foreign Soil

“I hope that ice soon melts.”

Our noisy back seat passenger.
Our noisy back seat passenger.

“Me too.”

Our distracting back seat passenger was a cooler of ice water. We were on our way to Tubac and the ice rattled with every gear change, stop, start and turn.

“We’ll be very nearly in Mexico today.”

“It’s just another 20 miles,” I said after glancing at the road atlas.

“I hope we don’t get stopped by the Border Patrol. I don’t have my passport and green card,” said himself blithely.

“Shouldn’t you carry your green card with you all the time?” I said suddenly alarmed. The ice rattled in accordance.

“I don’t know.”

Foreign soil? I19 is measured in kilometers in the U.S.
Foreign soil? I19 is measured in kilometers in the U.S.

“I think you should.”

“You don’t carry your passport in England.”

“That’s not relevant. It’s a different country.”

“I know that,” said himself indignantly. I think the ramifications were beginning to sink in. “Anyway, you haven’t got your passport either.”

“I don’t need mine,” I said complacently. “It’s not against the law for an American not to have their passport with them on American soil. Not everyone even has a passport. I’ll just say I’m American and they won’t bother with me. You could try that.”

“You don’t sound American.”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said in my best clipped accent. “I’d be telling the truth.”

A few tense minutes passed as the desert landscape with mesquite trees crowding the road, distant mountains and Interstate signs marked in kilometers slipped by.

Uh-oh! If you've traveled in the Southwest, the distinctive Border Control canopy is immediately recognizable.
Uh-oh! If you’ve traveled in the Southwest, the distinctive Border Control canopy is immediately recognizable.

“Oh, bugger!” Jimmy exclaimed and he took a deep breath. The Border Patrol checkpoint loomed ahead on the other side of the highway. Every vehicle was being stopped coming north from Mexico. There was no way to avoid it on our way back.

“I’ve got my own truck keys. If they detain you and confiscate your keys I can still get home.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Fancy a crocheted typewriter?
Fancy a crocheted typewriter?

We managed to spend a pleasant afternoon in the artist colony of Tubac, strolling in and out of the shops, admiring the artists’ work, not spending $500 on a four by six inch painting and buying a pair of earrings instead, enjoying a Mexican lunch with Washington and Chilean wine and ignoring the elephant in the room.

Communing with some rusty old friends.
Communing with some rusty old friends.

During our alfresco lunch I commented, “I’ve got a beautiful view of the desert, mountains and blue sky from here. Shame about your view.” Jimmy was facing a rather large patron stuffing down a rather large lunch.

Quick as a flash he turned to face me and said, “Why? You’re just as beautiful as the desert, and sometimes just as prickly!”

Well! I wasn’t sure how to take that.

No escape.
No escape.

If you are wondering how we fared on the way home, we had no choice but to queue with all the other traffic for the Border Patrol checkpoint on the only road home from Tubac. I kept my mouth shut for once, knowing Jimmy might be feeling anxious. We rolled up to our turn for the interrogation and document check. Jimmy put his window down. The patrolman glanced at our American truck, with Arizona plates, then at the two harmless-looking old gits in the front seat and said, “You folks have a nice evening,” and waved us through.

Out of interest I Googled  Jimmy’s stance with regard to carrying his green card. The law states failing to have your green card with you is a misdemeanor and if you are found guilty you can be fined up to $100 and put in jail for up to 30 days.

Should the FBI, CIA, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, Arizona State Police, local sheriff or ICE want to come looking for Jimmy, his oversight had no criminal intent.

And he won’t do it again.

The reference to The Alien in the title is from my emigration to England many years ago. I was referred to as The Alien by the Foreign Office until I received permanent residency status. My then mother-in-law found this very funny so it became an enduring tag. I think to her I was quite alien.

Now Jimmy is The Alien.

Bugs and Trees

During a recent trip to England, a plague of ladybugs in Tennessee had taken up residence in our trailer and accompanied us to North Carolina, reminiscent of our flies encounter in Washington. Taking it in turns (which we argued about naturally, “There’s one.” “I got the last one.” “I only just sat down! You get it”) we scooped them off windows, walls and ceiling and carried them to the door.

As they were launched into their new state, some did a swan dive and arced gracefully into flight while others took a nose dive and concussed their little heads on the pavement. After placing the next dozen or so ladybugs carefully on the step, I took a hard stance and launched them all, no longer suffering angst over their fly or dive abilities.

102208Smokies 017
The Smoky Mountains living up to their name.

A day trip to the Smoky Mountains had been disappointing for the autumn color but in the Blue Ridge Mountains the trees were just about a week away from bursting into glorious Technicolor. We noticed daily changes in the intensity of color and I was waiting anxiously for Jimmy to experience his first full-blown encounter with an American autumn.

Whole mountainsides would be ablaze with flame yellows, ember oranges and dots of hot reds – a sight which is possibly taken for granted by the Americans who see it every year and perhaps think oh, that’s nice but in the words of the mum in the changing room in England with her daughter who was trying on a prom dress, “it’s stunnin’ innit!!”

Looking for  “stunnin’-innit” views we set off full of anticipation for the Blue Ridge Parkway, a winding road that makes its way along the ridges of the mountain range. Gasping with appropriate tourist awe at the trees that were dressed in their seasonal best we had relaxed into our glazed but happy mode saved for when we think we know what we are doing.

So Grassy Knob Tunnel came as a bit of a surprise when the automatic headlights on our car did not automatically come on. Lack of headlights combined with wearing sunglasses meant we were plunged into complete blackness and as Jimmy’s are his prescription glasses, taking them off was not a helpful option. He said . . . well I can’t tell you exactly what he said, but the gist of it was, “I can’t see anything at all.” As he stomped on the brakes and fumbled for the light switch, we heard the impatient blast of a car horn behind us. We told ourselves self-righteously that the car was traveling far too quickly but the fact is the driver was probably quite startled to come up behind a car all in darkness tooling along at 10 mph on a blind bend in a tunnel.

As we approached Pine Mountain Tunnel, I saw Jimmy’s hand snaking discreetly towards the light switch in readiness. He wasn’t about to make another daft-old-man blunder.

102608BlueRidge 036
Close up photos show color
102608BlueRidge 045
Distance shots, well, maybe we should have given it another week.

It was a perfectly glorious day; Jimmy was delighted (not!) to stop for me every half a mile, at every overlook, along the 40 or so miles we cruised of the three-state-long Parkway so I could take 116 photos of breathtaking views across the valleys, many of which in the photo folder on my computer now look dull, flat and exactly the same. We drove until the sun started to dip in the sky and then turned ‘round to retrace our steps so we could view it all again in the soft afternoon light and return to our trailer. Easy, yes?

You probably know the answer to that by now.

Don’t like to drone on too long. To be continued. And you may wonder why it is suddenly autumn. See The Confession.

France is all in Code – #1

Apologies WordPress followers!! I’ve been offline for two weeks. Really to rethink the technology thing for our travels. Here’ the latest. Will try to post every couple of days to catch up to ourselves:

One can read the road atlas of a foreign country printed in English, book accommodation at reception with mute gestures, go to restaurants with pictures on the menu and supermarkets where you can wander and dither over purchases without speaking to anyone and look at the till for the total and pay up without understanding a word from checkout clerk. That will only propel you a very little way into the ambience of your host country.

Jimmy and wished for more interaction. At least I did. Jimmy seeks sunshine, warmth and good food and wine and one can’t disagree with that.

We found the village post office on the town plan and stood outside a locked door reading the opening hours. Numbers we understand. I’d bought a postcard knowing I’d almost certainly come unstuck trying to buy a stamp, never guessing my fist hurdle would be on the doorstep of the post office.

“It says here they’re open 8:45 to 12:00.” Our watches read 10:00 am. We tried the door again. Non! There were no windows to gawp through and shrug in a Gallic fashion to signal to someone inside.

Perplexed and confused – a frequent state of affairs for us – we were startled to hear a French voice, “Il est fermé?” It’s shut?


“Babble, babble, babble et vous babble, babble comme ça.” An approaching post office patron pressed a button and a buzzer buzzed, the door clicked and she turned the handle to let us in.

 The post office operated as a secret society or it was just a security measure to protect the post mistress working on her own in the building. We’d seen no evidence of gangs or lurking criminals but who knows?

After buying a stamp – place addressed postcard on counter, say something incoherent and receive stamp after handing over a five euro note to be sure to cover the price – we were locked in. A kindly gent, waiting his turn, pointed out the switch marked appuyez ici pour ouvrir, press here to open, and we stumbled out feeling foolish and foreign. A fit of embarrassed laughter accompanied us up the road.

The same security measures detained the uninitiated in the town hall. The employees decided it was better to release me back out on the streets of the village than to confine me to Le Marie, the town hall, with them, so, again, pressed a secret panel to free me from their midst. I’d been asking for the name of someone to enlighten me with a few French language lessons. My French was so atrocious it took three of them to understand my request and a fourth to usher me out. I have a name and a phone number but I am not confident enough to call. Stalemate.

The Sub Sub Plan while Still Homeless

Can you see John Wayne waving at you?
Can you see John Wayne waving at you?
Route 66
Route 66 (Photo credit: eGuide Travel)

Please help us find somewhere to live. See opinion poll.

Due to Jimmy’s American wanderlust we have a Plan, a sub plan and a sub sub plan. The Plan is to find somewhere to live. It gets lost sometimes. The sub plan is to see as many national parks as possible as we ramble around. The sub sub plan is to take in every city and town and place in America that has crossed his consciousness while growing up in 50’s and 60’s England.

Song titles and lyrics, film titles and settings have led us on detours of hundreds of miles from the see-the-national-parks route by veering off to Tombstone, Cheyenne, Chattanooga, Route 66, El Paso, Houston, Deadwood, Monument Valley, St. Louis (but only if you pronounce it Sint Lewie) Laramie, Key Largo, Dodge City, Tacoma, Garryowen, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Tallahassee, San Francisco, San Antonio (abbrev. San Antone), San Jose, Seattle, New York New York, Chicago and on and on in a maddening zig-zag across the United States. Our route from west to east and then west again looks like Zorro has attacked the map with his sword.

The Plan has also been partly determined by talking to people everywhere we go. The simple statement, “We’re looking for the perfect place to live,” always elicits an enthusiastic response. We’ve added thousands more miles to our groaning car’s odometer. Back tracking and unplanned side trips have taken us to these perfect places:

  • Fresno, California
  • Murray, Kentucky
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Fernandina Beach, Florida
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Fort Bragg, California
  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Sarasota, Florida (A realtor told us everyone in Sarasota was happy because the sun shone all the time and all the old people were on drugs. . This cheered us immensely after our drenching
    in Washington
  • Bend, Oregon

    The Gulf coast. Lovely.
    The Gulf coast. Lovely.
  • Allardt, Tennessee
  • Beaufort, South Carolina
  • Natchez, Mississippi
  • Ukiah, California
  • La Conner,Washington State
  • Destin, Florida
  • France
Eiffel tower
Eiffel tower (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Each place has been visited and is under consideration and this haphazard list will undoubtedly be expanded, explored and rated one to ten but we’ve come to suspect that local pride in one’s own state, town, community or vacation destination may be a source of prejudice against the rest of the country. As endearing as this is, we are learning to sift through people’s comments and opinions in the same way you would read with suspicion a real estate agent’s glowing description of an aging or surprisingly underpriced house.

Our needs and tolerances seem to be so very different from just about everyone we’ve spoken to. Are we expecting year round perfection where it just doesn’t exist, just like the perfect man (or woman, before himself cries foul!) doesn’t exist?

Where is your perfect place? Please help. We’ll go and have a look and give you all the credit.

Bad Seat Karma

Back at Heathrow in the departure lounge after two weeks on my own in England and smelling like a tart’s boudoir after a visit to the perfume shop I settled down to watch the overhead screens for my flight.

Like the flibbertigibbet I am when tense, my eyes flitted from screen to book to screen to magazine to screen to newspaper to screen and took in nothing other than the fact that the departure gate hadn’t been announced for my 10 hour flight with only 20 minutes left until departure time. Had I missed something? Had the aircraft come and gone without me? Wishing my absent minder to share in my panic though there was nothing he could do to help me I decided to text him. Good journey to H’row. Watching screens for gate. Paying attn. Wont miss flight. XX.  He’ll know that’s not true and wonder what is wrong.

By perusing best sellers, window shopping, drinking cappuccinos, reading sensational headlines on tabloids before returning them to the shelf dog-eared, trips to the loo and trying on bracelets I’d ambled right down to gate 25. When my gate number popped up on the overhead screen for boarding – gate 1a – it was completely at the other end of the terminal building.

My minder would be cross with me if he knew. He would remind me of the time I missed my flight from New York to Baltimore because I was playing video games or the time all the cars on the Seattle ferry were honking at him because he had to wait behind the wheel of our car, engine running, while I stood at the rail of the ferry watching the approach of the fetching Seattle skyline oblivious to his ire (until I got back in the car that is). He would have made me stay put near my gate. Oh well.

I huffed and puffed the length of the terminal building carrying in my heavy backpack a large bottle of water, five magazines, three books and a newspaper for the flight knowing I would probably watch two films, drink the airline’s wine and fall asleep instead. Flustered, I sprinted straight through the now nearly empty gate to board . . . . a bus.

What? Where am I? The bus station? Mustn’t procrastinate when I’m on my own and pay better attention. Ah yes, the aircraft had been abandoned halfway across the tarmac and we were to be bussed out to it. Looking around for familiar faces on the bus to reassure myself I was in the right place, a few unfamiliar weary faces glanced back at me. I realised that as I’d checked in online, not queued at check-in, I wouldn’t recognise my fellow passengers. I could be about to jet off anywhere in the world if I’d bounded through the wrong gate and the ground staff happened to glaze over just at the point when I handed over the scrap of paper that I’d printed off as my boarding card. I made a mental note to check our destination as I boarded the plane, like some addled old dear.

Taking my pick of seats at the back of the bus, I chose an empty side-facing bench that would seat three(ish). A plump florid blond collapsed beside me and scooted across as far as she possibly could to leave a narrow gap between us. As the bus filled to capacity with standing room only I could see no further than the belly in front of my face. A voice speaking Arabic or Farsi made me look up to see a dark-eyed beauty homing in on the tiny space beside me. She began to rotate and I hoped she was looking for another seat but like a dog in his bed, she circled twice then began to reverse her ample bottom towards the gap between me and the blond.

Blondie and I exchanged looks of wide-eyed dismay. Either I hadn’t appreciated the size of Sultry Beauty’s aft section or how small the proposed seating area was but as Sultry Beauty’s left bum cheek made contact with my right shoulder I lost sight of Blondie. The large cheek slid down my arm, slithered over my hip, and on impacting the seat squeezed me into a bolt upright position, forcing the air from my lungs and crushing my ribs against the metal armrest.

Afraid to move a muscle for fear of disrupting numerous pressure points and squirting myself out of my seat and across the bus, I prayed that this was my bad seat karma for the journey knowing I could be this unlucky for the next ten hours on the plane. I was breathing shallowly, with eyes bulging when the bus driver eventually braked and eek, eek, eeked to a halt. As I was thrown from side to side my left ribcage was bruised on the arm rest while alternately my whole right side was cushioned in billowing flesh.

The dilemma then was whether to attempt to get up first and extricate myself like a toilet plunger stuck to the floor or stay put. I was wedged under the armrest on one side and a longitudinal section of my thigh on the other side was trapped under Sultry’s voluminous thigh with a pinching sensation as though a row of bulldog clips had been attached. My leg was going numb but rather than leave a strip of flesh behind, I awaited developments. I didn’t need to wait for long. My wide beamed travelling companion bounded to her feet with surprising ease. I gawped at her agility as I fell over across the seat upon release from the body trap and exchanged looks of bemused relief with Blondie, the remaining seat hostage, as Sultry Beauty was swallowed up by the crowd.

The outsome? Seattle flight. Aisle seat. Three seats to myself. Hooray!