Finally Friday 21 June arrived. Everything was ready and packed for departure by the time I left for school at 7:00 a.m. I was there but I really wasn’t truly present. The butterflies were going crazy in my aging tummy. I felt like a 20 year-old anticipating her first trip abroad. My girls were angelic – they did their last formal tasks as if it were a normal school day and then I let them draw, colour and play in activity books they’d brought from home. The morning flew by. Carol (a room parent who isn’t a parent) was there from 9 and stayed to help set up the classroom for next term. By 1:15 everything was done and dusted and with more butterflies joining the ones already there I dashed home. My darling husband arrived 10 minutes later and by 1:40 we were on our way to the airport. Earl left me off at the drop and go and then went to park the car. I’d checked in on line so all that was left to do was check my luggage through. This happened at the speed of lightning so E and I went to have coffee before I went through to departures. Parting from my husband was a tad emotional. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was going abroad alone! The last time I travelled alone was 25 years ago and then I had my 8 year old with me! I fought back the tears and hurried through to Passengers Only.
We took off in high winds and driving rain – very bumpy and I am not a happy flier. I had a window seat which I gave up to the lovely young man next to me. The last thing I wanted was to look at the world thousands of metres below – how scary is that! Soon the weather cleared and we had a very pleasant trip. After some polite conversation with my travelling companions I settled into the story on my Kindle!
It was painless getting through Customs at Oliver Tambo. I asked a woman around my age whether this was the queue that I needed to be in. We got chatting and I thought wouldn’t it be nice if we ended up sitting near each other on the flight. What were the chances? Well pretty good it turned out as we were right next to each other! “You’re a teacher, aren’t you?” she said. It’s that obvious! “You are too,” I replied. Yes – the principal of an independent girls’ school in Johannesburg. And so yes – we had a lot to talk about!
I never manage to sleep on a plane but because I was so exhausted after the hectic end of term schedule I managed to doze fitfully. Arriving at Heathrow was a huge thrill. London at last! I got through customs without a hiccup and my bag was on the carousel the minute I got to it! I grabbed a trolley and headed for the exit – did not see my brother so went to get a sim card and then did a quick look round again – could not see him – got the sim into the phone – didn’t work – took it back – got another one and tried again – got it working and dialled Nicholas. “Where are you – I am right at the start of the exit – I didn’t see you. Didn’t you see me” “No can you see me now – Oh there you are!” Big hugs and happy reunion and giggling that we’d missed each other we headed for his car. The weather? Exactly the same as that which I’d left in Cape Town – Windy with driving rain!
Our first stop was his local Tescos. I enjoyed exploring the aisles and comparing them to Pick ‘n Pay. Nicholas needed Milo so I headed to the beverage aisle. – No Milo – I asked a lovely young black lady staring at the same shelves. “Do you see Milo” “Try the Caribbean aisle” she said. Caribbean aisle? Yes – and the South African, Mediterranean, Eastern, Polish etc etc. I was gobsmacked. Milo is consumed in the Caribbean but the British don’t know it.
My brother is a man of many facets and passionate about his various interests. He is a priest, a political animal, history buff and a Royalist of note. Entering his home is like walking into a small museum. Later, I will post pictures and comments on the many things he showed me when he gave me the grand tour. Watch this space.