Well, before years fly by, I thought I’d better tell you about our little stop-over in England last summer. Like many of my stories, the ones I keep giggling over are the ones I should probably blog about.
On the way to Albania last June, we had a layover in England. We knew that the stop coming home would be longer, so we didn’t plan to do much besides eat and sleep. That turned out to be a very good thing.
The plane ride that night was long and cramped, topped off with circling Heathrow Airport three times (it turns out that it takes that many times for two out of our three kids traveling with us to throw up). So one of them threw up in a pillowcase, cause they were sitting with Dad, (duh, where else?) , and the other lucky winner (sitting with Mom) got an actual barf bag that split at the bottom after the first…retch. (Which is why I will never, ever get on a plane with fewer than 18 BRAND NAME ZIPLOCK bags. Ever.) Due to quick thinking and grabbing my seatmate’s blanket to mop up the spill (I didn’t ask her since she “didn’t speak English”…unless of course she was ordering food or drinks…I just assumed that she would want to share with us. I mean, who wouldn’t?!), we had minimal odor considering the catastrophe. We hobbled off the plane and into the bathroom to access the damage. Not too bad. We were glad we had traveled with carry-on-only, so some of us could change clothes and brush teeth.
Down at baggage, we found that all of our checked bags (things for our missionary friends) were happily sitting in L.A.
Or, possibly JFK.
Still, very nice people helping us. We asked if they had any suggestions of where to get something to eat. Then things got interesting. After some quibbling, they settled on “The Three Magpies”. Excellent, we were off to get our rental car, because Michael does not use public transit if there are rental cars to be had.
It would be difficult to describe the terror of the next few minutes. I never, ever want to ride passenger in England again. Not ever. Wrong side of car, wrong side of road. Michael yelling while careening around roundabouts…
Unfortunately, The Three Magpies was strategically placed so that it would only be visible if you were actually a magpie.
Which meant we went in circles. Actual circles. Sort of like when we circled around Heathrow three times in the plane. It had the same effect on people’s stomachs…
“Dad. I’m not feeling too well.” “Hold on, I can’t stop…dang it, I’m headed back to the terminal again…Mother Goose, sorry, there’s no shoulder here. You’ll just have to make it.”
After THREE tries, (three magpies, three tries, three circles) we found the restaurant. The fried food odor met us at the street. We all lunged out of the car, one of us ran to the side of the parking lot in full view of at least 20 patrons enjoying their outdoor meal, and threw up-violently.
I was earnestly trying to convince Michael that there was no way we could stay there since it smelled SO horribly of fried fish. Michael is a very persuasive person, and had been up all night. So he was in a bit of a determined mood.
And then began the British hospitality. Seriously, everywhere we went in England, people were incredibly friendly!
A customer had rushed in to tell the waitress that we had arrived. (I can only imagine what they said), and a moment later, the waitress was bringing us a glass of water, and fussing over our sick kids.
We crept through the gauntlet of ALL those friendly eyes as we entered the dark rooms. The first room was pretty airy, but then we got up to the main area and felt the oppressive friedness in the air. The head waitress immediately leaned over the counter and in the best British accent, asked Joel “Aww, poor man, do you need a cuddle?” Unfortunately, “poor man” wasn’t finished feeling sick, and a cuddle was about the worst thing he could think of.
We were then seated in the smelliest room. But in their defense, it was the room closest to the bathroom…maybe they were hoping we’d use that next time.
I was so tired of sick children that I wouldn’t let them order anything fried. The one “well” child will always remember this as “the time Mom wouldn’t let me get anything GOOD to eat.”
Since I am adept at noticing white lips, I decided that we would move to the airy room. So we all traipsed out again.
Everyone watched us warily.
We settled down and naturally, Michael decided he’d better start with “bangers and mash”. Which, surprisingly, is not quite as good as it sounds.
As we were sitting there trying to get ourselves put back together, a very nice man came up to tell us that he also used to get car sick, and that you have to sit in the front seat (with an experienced english driver, no doubt) with the window down, and suck on wine gums. Wine What? How long have I been in England, and they’re trying to give my children wine?!! (Of course due to the accent I can’t be sure he didn’t say “wine goblet”, which would make more sense for the under 21 crowd. Although magically producing a wine goblet to suck on whenever you’re carsick didn’t seem quite right either.)
We smiled and nodded.
We thanked him just in time to rush out to the bushes for another go around in front of the sympathetic customers STILL attempting to enjoy their meal.
It was the same people…still sitting there.
Michael did not need any convincing to leave this time. He paid the bill, and we were off. We decided to take the man’s advice and put the sickest child in the front seat.
I have to adjust my previous statement about being passenger during Michael’s first drive in England. It doesn’t even come close to sitting in the BACK SEAT during Michael’s first hour in England. I just knew that if the round-about won, we were doomed.
Incidentally, I was also reminded of how backseat driving is never really as helpful as the person in the backseat thinks it is…
All the kids fell asleep, and I quit giving driving advice. It was mercifully quiet.
Then I finally looked around…and officially fell in love with England.