I woke up early on Sunday morning feeling (and no doubt looking) a bit like the “littlest hobo”. I had done more travelling in 5 days than Michael Jordan in an NBA finals but at last it was time to take things easy. We had a traditional English breakfast to start the day. I had actually forgotten what bacon tasted like until my Mum dumped the remains of half a dozen pigs on my plate. In the USA “bacon” consists of small hard strips of something that smells kind of like burnt cherries and tastes like wood. The bacon in England actually originates from real pigs and has a meaty taste and smell. My wife didn’t like it because it was unfamiliar to her but for me it was like manna from Heaven. I ploughed through my rashers, some eggs and the customary piece of freshly incinerated toast before heading off to Mass. Church was as I remembered it being give or take a few old folks who’d since been replaced by previously young folks who had aged since I last saw them but all in all it was your typical Sawbo service. The main event of the day though was the birthday party.
My sister was pragmatic enough to make sure her second son was born around the same time as my daughter so that if we were ever to live in the same area we could kill two birds with one stone by having a joint party. The time had arrived for her plan to come to fruition as we celebrated my lonely only and her youngests big days at the same time. I dragged along my fellow Who fan Dorney and his new girlfriend to liven things up a bit. He fitted right in to the otherwise strictly family affair by starting an impromptu class for five year olds in the art of stage fighting. My sister can sleep more soundly at night now knowing that her 3 year old can pull off a convincing right hook and that his older brother knows how to dodge a sword blow to the head. My sister laid on a lot of food which was something of a relief as she had in the past had a reputation for taking a Mr Bumble approach to meal times. Once when I was younger my parents had left her in charge of making dinner and she literally sliced peas in half so that we all got four and a half peas to go with the egg sized jacket potatoes she had made for us. Somewhere along the line I assume the penny dropped when her house guests kept dyeing of malnutrition so on this occasion she laid on quite a feast for us.
I had wanted to end the night with a visit to the local pub quiz but the folks I used to go with were either on the road in camper vans doing audits for B & Q, studying sheep herds in Aberystwyth or in the case of my younger sisters were just old fashioned cheapskates. We went to bed early without so much as a pint of the nasty stuff from the pub where the landlord would dump the drip tray overspill back into unsuspecting punters glasses. I mean I guess avoiding the risk of contracting hepatitis from the most unsanitary ale house in England should be a good thing but when you’re accustomed to something you miss it.
Monday was the day I had been dreading. It was time to ride the “London Eye”. I really hate heights and I am claustrophobic. Only the sickest of individuals would therefore think it was humane to force me to endure an 40 minute “ride” in a fragile looking glass bubble millions of feet above London. The guide book said it was 135 metres high but that was a lie. I know for a fact it went higher because when we were near the top we passed through two meteor storms before the roof got dented by some debris from Saturn’s outermost ring. They say that you can get some nice pictures from the “eye” but I really couldn’t tell you because I spent the entire ride with my feet firmly planted right in the centre of the capsule with my eyes glued to my camcorder as I pretended to perform emergency repairs on said item. I wasn’t alone. Another guy older and uglier than me was pulling the same stunt much to the chagrin of his even older and even uglier “life partner”. The old guys excuse was a faulty Mp3 player. Not much of an excuse really as it wasn’t exactly critical to make sure you got your dose of Lionel Ritchie to enjoy the ride. More people believed me than him and I think it was a nice touch when I feigned disappointment at missing the sights as the camera miraculously “came back to life” 30 feet from the ground.
Once we were off the ride I got away from it as far as I could because I have an irrational fear of giant bicycle wheel shaped objects falling on me. We quickly made our way onto some kind of ferry boat thing that looked a bit like the starship enterprise and made our way down the Thames. Our next stop was the Millenium Dome. It was pretty massive. It would have been ideal for the tent parties we used to have after school plays each year as there was no shortage of room in it and it looked liked it would take all of 2 seconds to knock down when you were done with it. The reason we were there was to see the Tutankhamen exhibit. The Egyptian authorities had also entered in a secret pact with me and my sister which tied King Tut tours to the birthdays of our offspring. The display itself was very impressive. The colours of the artefact’s had lasted much better after 3000 years then even the reds on the brightest sweaters on Persil automatic commercials. I was kind of sad that Tut himself wasn’t there but they did bring his coffin which was probably more aesthetically pleasing that his withered remnants plus we didn’t have to worry about the curse of King Tut killing us and that was a blessing on a day when my nerves had already been put to the test.
That was that and after a couple of pints of Guinness with Grandad, a visit with my old piano teacher, a bottle of bubbly with family friends and the customary squabble with a sister we finished our trip and came back to Gainesville. If I had time I’d tell you about how the airline lost our bags for a week and laughed about how stupid I was to expect to safely get 4 bags there and back but that would be unkind since they did give a $350 of gift vouchers after I (falsely) told them I had started legal proceedings but lets let bygones be bygones and aside from that I am knackered.