chrishansenhome: (Cartoon)
That's a hell of a journey to start off with. So, last Tuesday I flew from Heathrow to JFK in New York. I used the Hail-O app to schedule a taxi, and it arrived in the right place on time. I had been a bit concerned that with my air-cast on, I'd be a bit hampered getting around, but I wasn't at all. I negotiated the Heathrow Express quite well, and arrived at Terminal 5 with ease. This is where it gets teejus.

I stood in a queue for the check-in agent, as all those ahead of me had tremendous problems and I, of course, always choose the wrong queue to stand in. After check-in, I was told to go from Area B to Area G to wait for my wheelchair…the podiatrist told me to request wheelchair transport in the airport.

So, I toddled over to Area G and sat there for more than an hour while others who had earlier flights got transported to their gates. When it was my turn, a very nice lady porter got me into the wheelchair and wheeled me to security. I had some doubts about security, of course, but they were set to rest. I was wheeled through, avoiding the metal detector, and without standing up I held my arms out and got a pat-down from a very pleasant security person. No shoe removal, no cast removal, very pleasant.

I was wheeled to the gate, and got the lift down to the plane. The wheelchair left me at the door of the plane and I toddled down to my seat.

I had to take the air cast off and substitute a shoe for it; the very nice stewardess helped me do that and stow the cast in the overhead. When my seatmate arrived, she found another seat for her so that I had no neighbour and could get in and out. Very very lovely person: British Airways, you have a great stewardess.

Food was crap: chicken with 3 mushrooms, cole slaw (I think), a roll, and chocolate mousse. Oh, well. The flight was uneventful, and I arrived at JFK on time. I put the air cast back on and the wheelchair was waiting for me at the plane door.

I got through Immigration in the wheelchair lane. The agent was, of course, pretty snarly. Is there any way they could be severe, do their job, and yet not seem like they really wished I'd go back to London? Got my baggage very late, no problems with customs, and now for the first hitch.

I'd booked a coach ride to Westchester where my friend Fr. Jerry was to meet me in White Plains. No coach was in sight. I tried to call their 800-number, but my UK phone couldn't get through. So I called Jerry and asked him to call the coach company. He got through and the coach arrived. Cue a long boring ride to White Plains.

When I got off the coach Jerry appeared behind me and said, "Hi!", scaring the bejesus out of me. We dined at Outback, and I went to stay with him. Met his pastor, who was quite a nice guy, and got the 10-cent tour of the church. I did little or nothing the next day except post some packages to various friends and lunch at Chat Restaurant in Scarsdale. Next day I had lunch with a seminary classmate, John S., at the same restaurant. Wednesday I had their meatloaf, which was extremely good, and Thursday I had the burger, which was also very tasty. It was nice to catch up with John after so many years (35, I believe!).

Thursday evening I bade farewell to Jerry and trained it down to 125th Street, and got a cab to my friends Chaz and KK's place on 106th and First Ave. I booked a cab down to Penn Station and the dispatcher told me that to get there in plenty of time to take a 7:15 train I had to leave 106th Street at 5:30 am. I was dubious but not in any state to argue. So I was a bit apprehensive about standing on 106th and First with two bags and a shoulder bag waiting for a taxi at 5:30 am, but the cab was right there and delivered me to Penn Station at around 6.

I scanned my booking reference and got my ticket printed (great service, by the way) and got to the waiting area, where I was bombarded by "Be Careful!" videos from Amtrak. A lovely woman who sat next to me was from the Economist, oddly enough, and we had a long conversation about living in London, Rasa Sayang restaurant in Chinatown, dual citizenship, and working for the Economist. She gave me her card and I shall email her the link to Rasa Sayang. A red cap got me to the train for Buffalo.

I do recommend taking the train to Buffalo, by the way. Sit on the left hand side and you'll see great views of the Hudson. However, bring food with you. The turkey sandwich I had was perhaps the worst one I'd ever tasted. And, at $8.95, it should have been heavenly.

At Buffalo Exchange Street Station I got off, and was waiting for my friends Jeff and Michael to pick me up. There was a nice waiting room, but the agent said, "Closing in 10 minutes" so I went outside and sat on a concrete block to wait. A lovely woman was waiting there to meet someone from the next train, so we had a long conversation about Buffalo, Trenton (where she was from), and the stupidity of Amtrak in not opening the station until the last train arrived.

Jeff duly arrived a while later and we went to Anchor Bar, the originator of Buffalo chicken wings. What a disappointment. (If you follow the link, there's disappointment there too, as there is lots of noisy Flash animation.) The spicy wings weren't, and the blue cheese dressing had had some old cheese waved in its general direction. The cole slaw wasn't very tasty, and the beef-on-weck sandwich Michael asked me to try (roast beef on a special bun) was dry as dirt and very tasteless.

Onward to Niagara for the falls. They were OK at night from the American side, but overrun with tourists and the sight of the Las-Vegas-style casinos on the Canadian side at night was pretty grim. But, onwards! Immigration Canada was gruff but we got through OK, and ended up in the Radisson. I got out of the car, put my hand out, and said, "It's raining!" No, I was told, it's the mist from the falls.

Next day we visited the falls after an IHOP breakfast which was a bit too much for me. The observation area was crowded and rainy from the Falls, which are spectacular. A picture of me with a Falls-produced rainbow behind me was duly taken and I'll see whether I can post it when I get back to London. But there was too much tourist and rain for me, so after a visit to the souvenir shop, where a T-shirt, a stuffed moose toy, and a hat left with me, we went on to Toronto.

We landed at the Town Inn Suites hotel, near the gaybourhood. I went out to dinner with Chris Ambidge, and we got each other up to date on issues and things. Jeff and Michael went out with their friends, and I didn't see them until much later that night. The suite was great: two bedrooms, a large living area and a kitchen.

Next day, back to Buffalo. We had dinner at Outback, including a blooming onion, the second outback meal of my trip (with one more to come in Marblehead), and Jeff and Michael brought me to the hotel in Buffalo: Best Western. The front desk lady was really nice, and the room was quite comfortable. Jeff and Michael saw me to my room and left after a big bear hug. I'm really grateful for their companionship and their driving skills throughout a lovely weekend.

Next morning I went down to breakfast and had a bagel and coffee. But what made me do a double-take was the waffle maker! I'd never seen one in a B&B before. No waffles for me though.

I took a taxi to Amtrak Depew Street station. It was $40! Jeff had recommended it and I thought it was close to the station, but it was close to Buffalo's gaybourhood instead. I had no interest in nightlife.

I already had my ticket, so I sat down and shot the breeze with two Canadian truckers on their way to Springfield, Mass. to drive some trucks down South. Nice guys, very good to have someone to talk to, since the train was 1-1/2 hours LATE. What a pain. Freight has priority there and the Ford plant on the other side of Buffalo needed its empty car carriers more than we needed to get to Boston.

Once on the train, I found myself in a carriage with an Amish or Mennonite family. A big family. Must have been around 20 of them. Some of the younger guys were quite yummy-looking, actually, but the kicker was the baby. A three-month-old girl, dressed in black swaddling clothes and a veil and wimple! I felt for it, until it started to cry. And cry. And CRY. All the way to Boston. 12+ hours. I was beside myself.

The train was held up a few times more for freight, so we got to Boston an hour+ late, even thought they'd made up some time on the way. Night had fallen just after Pittsfield, so no scenery to speak of after the Berkshires.

My sister's friend Linda was to pick me up, but we had trouble connecting. We finally found each other, and I got to Marblehead around 11, and shot the breeze with my brother until 1am.

Tuesday was slow. Stayed at home all day watching TV and decompressing. We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner (with my sister), and the waiter managed to misunderstand "Macaroni and cheese" as "pepperoni pizza". He must have been new. He did see me injecting my insulin and we had a conversation about being diabetic (he's Type I). Home and to bed.

Today we're waiting for HWMBO to arrive this evening at Logan Airport. The rest of the stay will be catching up with friends. But, after this entry, I'm bushed. Off to get ready to face the day.
chrishansenhome: (Cartoon)

It's been a while, but I need to keep a record of my visit to the Antipodes. This is my longest trip ever (7 weeks away from home and HWMBO) and it may be my last longhaul trip (although I hope not).

I arrived in Singapore on March 9, having spent 13 hours on a BA plane in Premium Economy. It wasn't cramped, but the holstered remote control was loose. so I couldn't watch the screen as every time I shifted it turned the set off. The food was meh. Keep these facts in your mind for the moment.

I was met by my friends Choo Beng and BK, at whose place I stayed for that week while I was getting over jetlag. He even sacrificed his own bedroom for me, and slept in his TV room, which was formerly his spare bedroom. I hope to be back in April.

During that week I went out to dinner with many people. A gang dinner with the aforementioned two plus Leslie and Louie and Edwin. Dinner with Sashawoody and Sgboy01 from Twitter, Kevin my good friend for many years, Alex Au and Roy Tan, the last two gay activists in Singapore for many years. I will be seeing others when I get back on April 13.

So on Saturday Leslie and I went to Sei Ling's place to have lunch with her and her husband and adorable family. Her husband then drove me to the airport, where I was to take Qantas to Brisbane on my way to Auckland.

Now those of you who have flown Qantas in the past may be aware of this, but their Premium Economy beats BA's all to hell. The cabin attendant came by with dinner, placed a white linen napkin over the tray table, and asked, "Mr Hansen, what would you like, beef or fish?" My only response was to say, "How did you know my name?" He just smiled. The food was good, and I had no one sitting next to me, which was good.

When we got to Brisbane my first sight of Australia was limited to a very dry airport. I had to clear security again, and then waited for a regular economy flight to Auckland. Again, no one sat next to me and the flight went relatively quickly.

Getting into New Zealand is relatively difficult compared to other places I've been. They are very cautious about bringing food into the country as it could spread diseases that the local flora and fauna have never seen. After queueing for Immigration, I got my bags and then joined another long-ass queue for Customs control. They then directed me to the X-ray machines. I was already frazzled but tried not to show it. Some Aussie cricketers tried to muscle in ahead of me but I wouldn't allow it.

Then to the taxi rank, where I caught a cab into Auckland. Now, here's tip No. 1: unless you are quite tired or quite wealthy, do not take a cab into the city from Auckland Airport. It takes around 45 minutes and costs NZ$90. I only had NZ$100 on me so I gave him a NZ$5 tip and had $5 left (assume all amounts subsequent to this are NZ$).

The hotel is a 3-star but somewhat run-down at the heels. The staff are Eastern Europeans for the most part and are very nice. I got to my room and had a mini-meltdown. I lay down on the bed and passed out for a few hours, then tried to find my blood glucose meter. Tore my bags apart then found it under one of them. I thought I had left it in Singapore.

Once I awoke, I decided to go looking for a cash machine, and walked down the hill and found one. More on the hills later. The ATM spat out my card saying "Invalid card". I was horrified and terrified at the same time. Didn't know what else to do so went back to the hotel, collected my thoughts, and went downstairs for dinner. Having a foreign ATM eat your card 12,000 miles from home must be the worst nightmare of every tourist.

I didn't sleep very well. The plumbing makes a very loud whistling sound in my room when flushed from above. It sounds different at different times, perhaps depending on from which floor the flush originates. This continued at intervals all night. I don't expect that this will be fixable except by moving rooms, so I will just endure it. Later note: it's the aircon. Turning that off fixed the sounds.

This morning I had breakfast downstairs, again putting it on my tab, and asked the front desk person about ATMs. He wasn't very enlightening (for whatever reason) so I walked down the hill again and found another ATM further down which happily gave me $300. I was now a happier bunny.

I decided to walk to the Sky Tower, which is the tallest freestanding tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Went to the top, looked around and took some happy snaps, then bought two discounted T-shirts and some postcards and stamps. Will get to filling them out shortly. Bringing pages of preprinted labels was inspired.

Subway is ubiquitous in the downtown area, so I bought one just to see how it compared to a London one. It's about the same except you get a choice of cheeses and they don't offer sweetcorn as a topping option. Brought it back to the hotel and could only eat half, surprisingly. So the other half will be dinner.

After resting my feet I decided to go out and get some Diet Coke and munchies for this evening. I walked left rather than right. Auckland is built on hills, and they are steep. STEEP! I managed to walk up the hill, went to a grocery (called, confusingly, a "dairy" here) and bought the soda, some crisps, and some Oreos. Walked back down the hill and availed myself of the occasional park bench placed by the sidewalk for the travel-weary. I would note for posterity that those guys and gals who were wearing shorts or berms had the most well-developed calves I've ever seen. Must be from walking up and down those hills. Seriously, this place has hills steeper than San Francisco.

I took pics but they're on my phone and I can't connect to the Internets on it for various reasons I won't bore you with but have to do with the room charges for WiFi. So I may wait a while (perhaps until I get back to Sg) and post them in one fell swoop.

Tomorrow I shall get a 2-day ticket for the tourist bus and use it to get around the various sights. Must be fully packed Wednesday night as I shall be taking the train to Wellington Thursday morning and hope to take lots of pics from that, as it's said to be very scenic. I fly to Sydney on Palm Sunday and then to Melbourne on Easter Day.

Dinner time!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

chrishansenhome: (Default)
I'm off! I shall be in Singapore beginning Saturday afternoon, then on to New Zealand the next week. Auckland for 3 days, then a train trip to Wellington, where I'll be for four days. The week after to Sydney with a day-trip to Canberra, then after another week Melbourne, with a side trip of one night to Hobart, Tasmania for the Museum of Old and New Art. There was an article in The New Yorker about it, and after reading that I couldn't imagine being that near to it and not visiting. After nine days in Melbourne, train to Adelaide, where I'll be staying for four days. Then back to Singapore, with a four-day long weekend in Bali. Then home to London, arriving back home on April 26th.

If you're in any of these cities and want to meet up, please leave a comment below. I'm hoping that my feet hold out, and that I get back safe and sound.

Cheers! to you all!
chrishansenhome: (Default)
I checked the mailbox today and noted a letter from the last pension provider from whom I was expecting a lump-sum. I was expecting around £3,000 as a lump sum to me, and around £9,000 to my pension company. Imagine my surprise when I opened it and found that they were depositing £12,000 in my bank account as a tax-free lump sum, and £46 to my pension company.

I immediately called the pension company and, after following it up, they called back and said that, indeed, the £12,000 was a tax-free lump-sum due to me. However, if I want only 1/4 of that, then I should send them back a cheque for £9,000. What a bunch of twits. So this will push back my beginning to receive my pension for quite a while—probably about two weeks or so. I will be calling the contact at the pension company to enquire tomorrow morning. And I now have to look out for a deposit of £12,000 into my bank account.

I got the pension call as I was exiting Kensington High Street Tube station to walk to Trailfinders. They have a good reputation for long-haul complicated holidays, and mine will be both. I landed with a good-looking guy named Ross, who patiently worked his way through my wants and came up with a good approximation of what I wanted. He had lived in Auckland, NZ, Sydney, and Melbourne, and knew Wellington, so I ended up with two train journeys: Auckland to Wellington, and Melbourne to Adelaide. The rest of the long-haul flights are Premium Economy with a couple of exceptions. The accommodations are three-star. The eye-watering total so far, without living expenses and sundries, is £5,639 (US$9,169). I was thinking of £4,000 (around US$6,000).

Now I can easily pay this with my pension payout. And I am certain that I won't be spending lavishly (although a £8 pint of beer in Australia is the norm—not that I drink beer, but it's indicative. Usual price here is around £3). There's more.

I shall have to enquire about travel insurance. I can get normal travel insurance, but it won't cover pre-existing conditions (none of them do) and all my conditions are pre-existing. I shall have to call Diabetes UK and see whether they have any ideas about possibilities for insurance.

Now, I may be able to stay with friends in Adelaide, and that will save around £400. But otherwise I'll be in the soup.

Here's the first pass at the itinerary:

Arriving Singapore Saturday 9 March 17:05.
Leave Singapore Saturday 16 March 21:30, arrive Auckland (via Brisbane) Sunday 17 March 14:35
Leave Auckland Thurs 21 March, arrive Wellington the same day
Leave Wellington Sunday 24 March 15:25, arrive Sydney same day 17:05
Leave Sydney Sunday 31 March 12:00, arrive Melbourne same day 13:35
Leave Melbourne Tuesday 9 April 08:05 on The Overland train, arrive in Adelaide same day 18:00
Leave Adelaide Saturday 13 April 15:00, arrive Singapore same day 21:00
Leave Singapore 25 April 22:55, arrive London Friday 26th April 05:00

So, a week in Singapore, 4 days in Auckland, 3 days in Wellington, a week in Sydney, 9 days in Melbourne, 4 days in Adelaide, and 12 more days in Singapore.

Any LJ friends who are in any of those places are welcome to get in touch, as I'd love to meet friends from all over. And if anyone has any suggestions on interesting things to do while I'm in any of those places, please feel free!

After giving it some thought, I expect to have spent, when all is over, around £10,000 (around US$16,000). But this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I'll have more left over when I'm done. I doubt I'll be in that area again, so I need to make the best of it. I hope I'll enjoy it, stay healthy during it, and return home with a lot of experiences.

More when I know more.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
I will turn 60 on November 8th. Big effing deal, one might say. Well, in the United Kingdom, it is usual that private pension funds "mature" on your 60th birthday. Any time after age 50, you can take your pension money and buy an annuity with 75% of it, and take as a lump-sum the other 25%, which is not taxable in the United Kingdom.

A few weeks ago my pension fund carriers noticed that I was about to turn 60. Therefore, I began to get material about it. However, the one time I clicked on a Facebook ad was for an outfit that shops around for the best deal with the money you have.

Briefly, the (gay) agent who spoke with me has gone through the entire process, and we have discovered that I will likely be able to take a lump-sum payout of a little less than £26,000. and buy an annuity that will provide me with around £430 per month. Those sums translate to a bit more than US$41,000 and around US$680 / month.

Now for the catch. While the lump-sum is not taxable in the UK, as I'm still a US citizen I will have to pay US taxes on it. My US tax accountant does not think it'll be excessive but I suspect that I'll lose up to 25% or so of that to Uncle Sam. Oh, how I wish I'd followed through and renounced my US citizenship a few years ago.

So, let's say that I'm left with around US$30,000 or around £19,000. What to do with that money? I have two ideas. The first is something that I've wanted to do for decades: take a trip to Australia. My health isn't getting any better, and if I don't do this now, I may never get to do it. I'm thinking March 2013. I would go to Sydney and Melbourne, with perhaps a trip to Ayres Rock on the way. I think this will cost somewhere around £4,000 for travel and lodging and mad money (just a wild guess). I would stop off in Singapore on the way there and the way back, of course.

But the other thing I would like to get is a gastric bypass. As the NHS is unwilling to pay for it, I would like to use the rest of the money for the operation and recovery. I think this will cost something around £13,000 in the UK. There is also the option of going abroad for it—Thailand and India specialise in this kind of operation for expats with ready cash and I suspect that it will be a bit cheaper there.

So after filling out the forms for actually getting the money, I will have to do some research on travel and health. In two years I will get my US Social Security (which I would have gotten even if I'd managed to renounce my US citizenship) and that will add another £600 or so to my monthly income. In five years, if I'm spared, I'll get my state pension here, which won't be a heck of a lot but will probably add a few bob to my total income.

I will continue to update here as I make my decisions.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
I am finally back in St. Matthew's Court, but not after a lot of effort.

So Thursday I did all that I had set out to do: washed the bed linens, fixed Harold's computer, and finished packing. The computer was a pretty hairy experience. Harold (not a computer buff) said that when you turned it on, it just did nothing after the POST. I booted it in safe mode, rolled back to the last known good configuration, and booted again. It did work, but this particular configuration hadn't been one where the Ethernet connection was enabled. I found one that had, only to discover that the display adapter wasn't fully working in that one. After about an hour of futzing, I figured out which drivers I needed and got everything working. Of course, that then turned up the interesting fact that the last known good configuration was Windows XP Service Pack 1. So I spent another 3/4 hour downloading and installing Service Packs 2 and 3. Then there were 110 Windows Updates that had to be installed, and then some other was nearly 5:30 pm before I finished. However, my brother now has a working computer.

I had begun to soak my insulin pouches while I was doing this and forgot them. They then absorbed too much water and became quite distended. I shall have to wait for weeks while they slowly dry out.

So, around 7 pm our friend Linda drove my sister and me to the airport, after bidding farewell to Harold. I was apprehensive. Tales of woe about the TSA are legion and I had visions of going berserk like that gentleman last week and tearing off all my clothing at the barrier.

At bag drop I was happy for two reasons: first, I was exactly at the limit above which I would have had to pay a shedload of money for an overweight bag. Second, a large group of teenagers arrived after I did to check in, so I was in front of them, rather than behind.

Security was not too harrowing; I always get ready by taking off belt, removing wallet, keys, and everything from my pockets before I get to the security area. Got through OK; I was a bit apprehensive about the X-ray screening but it was fairly easy. Then I emerged and a very big, very beefy, TSA agent man of colour with a very bushy beard stood in my path and said something I didn't catch. Turns out I just had to wait until people cleared out of the bag pickup line.

Then came the long wait with crying children, large group of teenagers (the same one that I beat to bag drop), and too few seats. As the flight left at 10:20 pm, I figured that they would serve a snack before turning out the lights, and then a fuller breakfast than usual. As diabetics need to eat regularly, I had a roast beef and cheddar sandwich and a Diet Coke, plus a chocolate chip cookie for emergencies on the plane. Keep all this in mind.

More mindless waiting. One of the teenagers, lounging around (as teenagers are wont to do), leaned against one of the emergency exits and set a very loud alarm off, and then I boarded. Plane was full (I think they all are these days) and I sat next to an Indian guy who took out his noise-cancelling headphones and put them on immediately. No Chatty Cathy here, I thought.

Well, we took off and, about an hour later, the air stewardess came to me with a full tray (I'd ordered diabetic meals). I told her that as a diabetic nearly midnight was too late for me to eat and I'd already had dinner. I took the water, refused the food, and felt bad about it, but I didn't think it was a good idea to stuff myself when not hungry.

Then, of course, I had to endure the food smells for an hour while everyone else ate dinner (except for my neighbour, who was asleep).

So, as one does, I had to use the lavatory. When I returned to my seat, i tried to slither in without disturbing any of my neighbours. I started to slip, and grasped the headrest, which promptly fell off the seat. So, I tried to put it back, but it wouldn't stay very well. I just wedged it between myself and the seat and got about 1 hour's sleep before they fed us again and circled Heathrow for 20 minutes before landing.

The Indian guy, when he took off his headphones, ended up being a Chatty Cathy, but I just had to man up and take it.

Terminal 5 is one of the wonders of modern technology, but there is one problem: it's too big. We got off the plane and walked for around 10 minutes before getting to the train, which would take us to the main building and Immigration. Of course, a couple of escalators were out of commission, forcing a long shuffle out of the train and up to the Immigration hall. I was by then too groggy to note that since I have an electronic-tagged passport, I could have used an automatic machine to read it and verify my status here. Instead, I waited in line, got through, and went down to collect my luggage.

In contradistinction to the Boston arrival, my bag was already on the carousel when I arrived there so I got out almost immediately. Off to the Heathrow Express and then arrive at Paddington. The taxi rank used to be to the right as you got off the Heathrow Express. Well, they've constructed a new one, but (like everything nowadays) it was far far away and in another galaxy, it seemed. It's now to the left, all the way at the rear of the station and up an escalator. Got home £25 later (but with a very nice taxi driver, who I will thank here).

After all this aggravation, I guess I was due for a pleasant surprise. There's always a pile of post when I get home, and it's never really pleasant to go through. So many magazines to read, letters from hospitals, and misdirected post—I normally despair.

There were two letters from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. These rarely are good news. However, when I opened the smaller one a cheque for £511.66 fell out! It was a tax refund for the year 2008-2009. I was flabbergasted! I had no idea I was due one. (Note to USans: if you are a wage slave and have no or few investments, no matter how much you make here the tax removed from your paycheck is considered sufficient and you don't have to actually file a tax return. However, this means that if you are due a refund HMRC takes its own sweet time in returning it.) Being greeted by a cheque is one of the best ways to return home, only exceeded by greeting HWMBO when he returned home after work.

I'd like to thank all those who took the time to see me, have a meal with me, or just hang out with me—you know who you are, [ profile] vasilatos, [ profile] rsc, [ profile] jwg, [ profile] momshapedbox, Sarav, Bob, Margaret, Zeke, and especially Fraf. And, of course, thanks to the family, now enlarged with proto-sister-in-law, nephew, and niece. My brother put up with me injecting my insulin at the kitchen table, wanting to watch BBC World in the morning, and cooking soup he can't stand.

I don't know when I'll be back, but I will try to come back within a year, the state of my feet permitting. I'll also try not to break the seat back on the plane and eat better.

Oh, and happy 86th birthday to Her Majesty the Queen! I am well and truly back!
chrishansenhome: (Default)
I am just now discovering the utility of discarding things when you return from holiday.
  • I would normally have carried an almost full bar of soap with me. I have left it here for my brother.

  • I would normally have come back with my 1/2 full small bottle of mouthwash. I've left it here, along with the nearly (but not quite) empty pump jar of Epaderm skin lotion. I've got lots at home.

  • I removed my insulin pen needles from their (relatively largish for the number left) box and put them in a small Ziploc bag.

  • I have removed almost all packaging from the things I bought here, unless it actually contained what I wanted.

This will leave me with a couple more grams, perhaps as much as a pound, in which to take things home and not fall foul of the 51 pound/23 kilogram limit on a bag. Will test it out when I get it fully packed. That is not to mention the increased room in the suitcase.

I've also discovered that rolling your jockey shorts, t-shirts, polo shirts, and jeans when placing them in the suitcase is much more economical of room (and make more cushioning) than folding them, however, carefully. I may carry a shedload of rubber bands next time to ensure that they stay rolled.

We shall see anon. It's 11:05 am, and I'm close to the end of packing now…
chrishansenhome: (Default)
It only remains for me to write about my last week in Marblehead and the impending trip home.

Monday was quiet. My sister and I went shopping for the traditional materials I take back with me. Irish Spring deodorant soap (British soap is terrible), Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter (ditto British peanut butter), minced clams, Bell's seasoning, and aspirin. I also bought, at the request of HWMBO, some socks which have turned out to be extremely good; I am very happy with them and I bought a dozen pairs.

Before this we went to a new sub shop in Danvers called Firehouse Subs. It is a chain from the southern US, I gather. However, I was a bit put off on entering the shop. The staffer who opened the door said, "Welcome to Firehouse Subs!" So far so good. Then all the four staffers inside yelled "Welcome to Firehouse Subs!" I was put off.

Then one of the staff went through the menu. Any menu that takes more than 10 seconds of explaining is already in serious trouble with me. We gathered that all the subs were toasted except for a couple that I can't remember. There are all sorts of things about the subs that she told us that I've now forgotten. I ordered the equivalent of Subway's BMT, but a small one. It was toasted, and, while perfectly edible, does not stack up to Subway's bountiful goodness.

That evening I made American chop suey for the family—as usual my culinary efforts were praised as it was one of my mom's favourite ways of stretching a pound of hamburger.

Tuesday was Lodge night. Before Lodge my friend Rick took me to a retirement party for the Harbourmaster of Marblehead. He had been a neighbour of ours when I was growing up, and now he's retiring at 60. I would have passed him by on the street, I fear, but best wishes to him and his family in their retirement, although he admitted that he'd have to find something else to do to occupy his time.

Off to Lodge at 6pm, where two men would be initiated. The last time I saw a Philanthropic initiation, I had not yet initiated any men into Goliath Lodge. So the fact that I could now compare and contrast the two ceremonies was instructive. The Lodge was full.

Dinner was steak, and it was fantastic. Not too many places you can get a $15 steak dinner.

Then back to Lodge, where seven men were honoured with pins for having completed 50 and 60 years in Philanthropic Lodge and Freemasonry. The 5 or 6 men who had completed 65 years did not make it (seeing as they would be in their upper 80's, not surprising). The District Deputy Grand Master had arrived, in top hat and purple apron, with a large retinue, to distribute the pins. He then took himself and the retinue away, and we completed the initiation ceremony in solemn form and perfect harmony. The business meeting (with a much reduced attendance as most of the Brethren had left after the initiation was completed) concentrated on the impending increase in Grand Lodge dues (to around $60 from $30) and the impending increase in mandatory initiation fees from $100 to $300. There is little chance of the second passing, but the dues increase is likely to pass. Much discussion on this point. Lodge was then closed at around 10:30pm.

When Harold and I went to his truck, someone had parked within a couple of inches of his front bumper and illegally too close to the corner. Harold went back to the Temple and found the Brother who is Police dispatcher. He found out who the owner of the car was, and roused her to move it. She was mystified as to how they'd found out where she was, but she moved her car and we drove home.

Wednesday I started packing during the day, and secured (I hope) the rye whiskey in bubble wrap and cocooned it in clothing in the suitcase. I do hope it gets through. I did not take all the stuff I bought on Monday—my sister will pack it and ship it by slow boat. In the middle of all this I cooked split pea with ham soup, using the bone and meat from Easter's ham. Neither my brother nor sister like it, but my brother's girlfriend and her son do, so it's a parting gift for them.

In the evening we were off in search of a Kindle Fire. Harold's girlfriend has one and he and I both wanted one. The difficulty is this: it is only fully operational in the United States. In the UK, its functionality is severely limited. Had I done some online research, I could have saved Harold some money as I would probably have skipped it. However, we tooled off to Peabody's Northshore Mall (one of the first malls in the country) to Radio Shack to buy one. We wandered through the mall; I tried to get them to stop at a map but it's hard to tell a Marbleheader to stop and look at a map. Finally we discovered that we'd passed it and, when we finally got to the spot, the shopfront was empty. It had closed.

So we were off to Vinnin Square in Swampscott, where we scored one. I managed to connect it to Harold's WiFi, bought a book, and discovered the limitations I was about to have. I did want to subscribe to the New Yorker, as the Kindle Fire is the only online venue for a subscription to that magazine, but the subscription can only be bought in the United States with a US credit card. Rats. I live in hope that the device will soon be rolled out worldwide and that some of these limitations will be lifted.

The great thing about devices such as the Kindle and iPad is that, with one fell swoop, items that were expensive or unavailable in one place can be made available at minimal cost. The exposure of these items will be much more general, and global civilisation will be enhanced (in the case of the New Yorker) or degraded (in the case of lots of these games available on the Kindle). The difficulties stem from worldwide copyright and exclusivity agreements, which serve not to enhance the availability of information and literature, but to restrict it. I hope I survive to see such agreements ended.

Afterwards we had burgers at Five Guys. I had never been to one, and was a bit apprehensive. The bacon cheeseburger was quite oily, and loaded with stuff, but tasted good. I only had about 6 fries, and found them limp and oily without being crisp on the outside. I hadn't ordered any, but only nibbled at my brother's serving (a large order, which spilled over into the bag). I'm glad, as my blood sugar was normal this morning, which it would not have been had I eaten lots of fries. I don't know about my brother's blood sugar, but I'll bet it was a bit high this morning.

Today is the final day here in Marblehead. I'll be washing the bed linens, finishing my packing, trying to get Harold's computer working, and getting myself psyched up for the trip. I'm leaving at 10:30 pm from Logan, and getting in around 9am to Terminal 5 at Heathrow. So the next time you see me here, I'll be back home. On tap this weekend: I have to write a sermon through my jetlag, and attend a PCC meeting at St. Matthew's to approve a shedload of financial accounts for forwarding to the Diocese.

It's been fun, but I want to go home!
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The headline says most of it. I was very nervous about flying for the first time in three years. Security has been rumoured to be a pain at airports, and I was also flying with insulin in cold bags. Plus, I had to leave the house in rush hour, which didn't make me feel any better.

However, Fate smiled on me, it seems. I packed on Monday and Tuesday, and made lists, which I crossed out when I'd completed each item. The only thing I forgot is a non-Masonic bow tie.

I took the Heathrow Express after getting to Paddington on the Underground. I only had to carry my suitcase down one flight of stairs, and my backpack was not too heavy, so I made it without incident. When I dropped my suitcase off at Terminal 5, it was 19 kg, which is four kg under the limit, thus leaving me lots of room for all the things I need to buy here and carry back with me.

The gate that the plane left from was almost the furthest away from the centre of the terminal you can get. I had paid to select a wider seat than normal, the only drawback being that it was almost at the rear of the plane. It was worth it, though. More legroom, only one neighbour (who hardly impinged on my consciousness), and only two screaming babies. Watched "The Iron Lady", which I thought good, although Denis Thatcher appearing all the time as a hallucination to Lady Thatcher was kind of unnerving.

I had asked for the diabetic meal, and it was surprisingly good. Chicken paella, a roll and salad, and (I think) rice pudding. They kept after me to have wine or liquor, and I refused and asked for Diet Coke, which they ran out of by the middle of the flight. Then an hour before landing at Logan, they handed me a sandwich, labelled "Chickpea Paté and Tomato". It was surprisingly ungood. I had to ask for a coffee to choke it down.

Decanting at Logan was very slow. The Indian lady across the aisle kept getting up and swinging her capacious handbag around, clobbering me in the head. Being long-suffering, I didn't make a fuss. Immigration was slow (as I was almost the last to get into the queue), and when I got up to the agent he did ask more questions than usual: how long have you been away (18 years, said I. Oh, you live there! he said.), what do you do (rather than explain everything I just said "Retired"), why are you here ("Visiting relatives").

And then there was the luggage carousel. Apparently they were examining the bags more thoroughly as they dribbed and drabbed onto the carousel. The non-US citizens line was also travelling more slowly, so the carousel was full of unclaimed-as-yet baggage. A woman agent was taking bags off the carousel and piling them up to make room. Sod's Law meant that mine was one of the last bags to come up the ramp. Out the door into the wide US world.

My brother and sister were waiting outside the airport in a parking lot for my call that I was out of Immigration and Customs and ready to be picked up. My mobile phone took forever to connect to the network, but I managed to call and duly got picked up.

My friend Fraf, who is the local-colour columnist for the Marblehead town newspaper, called and suggested that we take a ride around town to look at all the ugly new buildings that are going up. There are a lot of new McMansions on Marblehead Neck, most of which are pretty ugly and just show that, zoning laws or no zoning laws, there is no accounting for taste. I still haven't been downtown to see the scars left by the demolition of the old YMCA (now a parking lot) and the old movie theatre and First National Store (now a building site). Must try to do that this afternoon.

We went out to dinner in the evening with my brother's girlfriend, whom I have never met in person but only spoken to on the phone. She is very nice—a much better match with my brother than his ex-wife ever was. We went to the big Chinese restaurant in Salem, which never ceases to amaze me. You get Chinese tea without asking (you always have to pay for it in the UK), they bring rolls and butter to the table (just bizarre), and the meal is so big that you can never eat the whole thing. I got orange chicken, and the amount was absolutely stupefying. We took about 1/2 of it home and that's lunch, I think.

We went food shopping for Easter. Lots of ham, onions for creamed onions, dip stuff, cream cheese with olives, the whole nine yards. Her adopted son is Korean—quite a hottie, if I do say so, and quite straight. He's a nurse; his girlfriend is Filipina, also a nurse. I believe there is a daughter as well but am slightly unsure. I'll meet them all on Easter.

Jetlag is minimal at the moment, barring being awake at 5 am. I've hooked my netbook up to a full-size monitor and keyboard and mouse, and use LogMeIn to connect with my computer in London. So I've not had to accumulate thousands of emails on the servers while I'm away; I can download them to London from here. I haven't gotten the WiFi password here yet—my brother is not computer-savvy so I'm unsure how to get it. I think that his girlfriend's son might know.

The only downer here is that my brother's dog, Mickey, is 14 years old and infirm. He pads around, eats a bit, barks very little, and has cataracts. I don't know what my brother will do when Mickey gets to the point of being so ill that he has to be put to sleep. Time to go watch BBC World now.
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…not mine, alas! The pictures are fantastic!


Aug. 25th, 2009 08:31 pm
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I've had a reasonable day today. While I don't care for wearing the boot, it seems to be doing its job. I'm hoping that by the time HWMBO's holiday to Singapore and my weekend in Manchester (25-28 September) I won't have to use it.

I decided to make a stew today, and by golly, it was the best stew I've ever cooked, I think.

Mother Hansen's Beef Stew

1-1/2 lbs of stew beef,
three large potatoes,
a turnip (rutabaga, swede, call it what you will),
about 10 medium carrots,
three onions diced and two whole,
four stalks of celery diced,
two capsicum peppers diced,
1/2 head of garlic, minced,
a container of button mushrooms, whole,
4 tbsp barley,
a can of lima/broad beans, drained.
1 pint bottle/can of indifferent beer
salt, pepper, basil, oregano, concentrated liquid beef stock, tabasco

Sauté the garlic, diced onions, celery, and pepper in oil until transparent, add salt and pepper. Dredge beef in flour with salt and pepper, then brown it and add it to the pot. Add the bottle of beer, nothing fancy, and water to cover. When it begins to boil, add the leftover flour and stir it in. Add whole onions, cubed potatoes, cubed swede, mushrooms, beans, barley, and chunked carrots. Season with bay leaves, basil, and oregano. Add some concentrated Oxo liquid beef stock, tabasco to taste. Cover, return to the boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 3-1/2 hours. Add more water if it gets dry but it probably shouldn't do that. Turn off heat and let it cool for 15 minutes, then serve. Garlic bread goes well with this, as does a green salad. As usual, it's better the day after but it was delicious tonight so I'm looking forward to tomorrow lunchtime!

I threw in the broad beans on a whim. I have used other kinds of beans in the past. I wouldn't care for chickpeas but it's up to you. I had a bottle of beer in the fridge that had been taking up space for a while and is probably past it's best-before date. So, I used it for part of the liquid. You could use red wine if you wanted to. Save some to drink with the stew. Vary all the amounts as you like except for the barley: too much of it and you'll be asking your nearest-and-dearest: "Care for a slice of stew?" I have tried rice but it doesn't work as well.

While the stew was cooking I booked train tickets for Liverpool for a day trip on Saturday 26th, from Manchester. My friend Nicky, who lives in Manchester, will be accompanying me. I've never been so will be going for the cathedrals and the waterfront. Nicky will want to go shopping. I suspect we'll be able to do it all.

Also while the stew was cooking, I got a phone call from Fr. John at St. John's Larcom St. One of his curates was called away to what is thought to be his father's deathbed. John will also be away so he was hoping that I could preach next Sunday.

Normally I like to have a couple of weeks to ruminate over the readings, but I'm like Bertie Wooster, I never like to let a pal down, so I agreed. The reading is from Mark Chapter 7, vs. 1-8, 14-15, 21-23, with the Pharisees taking Jesus and the disciples to task because they didn't ritually cleanse themselves before eating. With the current swine flu and MRSA-bug scares going around, I think the direction of my sermon is pretty clear. Karl Barth said that you must preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. I suppose as long as you've washed your hands, you can preach holding whatever books you like.
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It occurred to me this morning that I have been very remiss about finishing up the blog entry about my US trip.

There is a very long post with lots of pictures here cut for your convenience )

All in all, a good holiday, barring the foot troubles.

DC and NYC

Jun. 3rd, 2009 10:35 pm
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Last week I flew from Boston to Washington DC. I hadn't been in DC for more than 20 years, so it was a real treat. I stayed with our former flatmate Brett, who is a superb chef and the kind of person you just like, automatically. He lives on M Street NW, and when I landed at Dulles I had no idea how far away everything is there. We had to take a strange bus to another building, then walk for miles (it seemed) to get luggage. I found Super Shuttle, boarded that, and then sat back for a 3/4 hour drive into DC proper. I was flabbergasted. I understand that the Metro will be extended out there in the middle future. It will be much easier to get into the city when it is.

Brett is, as you would expect, the superb host and we chatted and ate most of the time he was there. He had to duck out for a food gig in New York over a long weekend but otherwise we enjoy each other's company and have much to talk about.On Thursday night we had dinner at a lovely Mexican restaurant across from the Verizon Center.

During the week I had a lovely visit to the National Portrait Gallery with [ profile] legalmoose, which was just wonderful and very educational for me. The pictures of Richard Nixon were quite amusing. That evening I had dinner with [ profile] tim1965 at Annie's Restaurant near Dupont Circle, where I had a lovely burger. Afterwards we walked around a bit, saw the White House at night, and took pictures.

I nearly forgot! When I was checking in for the flight, the clerk told me that my suitcase was 5 lbs. overweight, so I shifted some stuff into my carryon. When I got to Washington, I discovered that my camera's LCD screen was cracked. I presume that pressure from stuffing that material into my carryon is what did it. It took me a few days to find the Best Buy, but I bought a new camera, 12.5 megapixels, and it seems to work well. I hate airlines.

On Saturday I spent the day in Virginia with [ profile] mouseworks, who is a friend from soc.motss. She was kind enough to drive me far into the horse country in Virginia, where we lunched on (in my case) a burger (surprise!) We then went on to Chrysalis Winery and had a tasting, with some pretty good wines and a couple real stinkers. We were herded out in advance of a wedding party. We ended our day at a Chinese restaurant where I got attention because of my man bag (bought in Shanghai with "To serve the people" written on it in Chinese). Had Ma Po tofu which was a bit too white-peppered for me. Spent the evening at home.

Sunday I did laundry, then met my friend Randy, who owns Integrity Lightspeed, an email list for LBGT Anglicans and their friends, for lunch at a Thai restaurant at Dupont Circle--I thought it was called "Thaifoon" but can't find a clear URL for it, so maybe not. Green chicken curry (natch) was very good, as was the conversation with Randy, whom I haven''t seen for many years. Lovely to see him again and hang out in the park watching the world go by.

That evening I had dinner with Brett's and my friend Bev at the Sofitel hotel at McPherson Square, near the White House. The dinner and conversation were superb, and Bev being the head pastry chef there knew everything on the menu. The waiter was hot, too.

Monday I took a ride on the Red Line to its end in Maryland and back. Somewhat scenic. Then Brett returned from his (very successful) New York gig, and we had dinner at a Belgian brasserie close to downtown. Then I had to pack for travel on Tuesday.

A very sad goodbye to Brett, then a taxi to Union Station. I took the 1 pm Acela Express first class to New York. It was a lovely trip--the food (beef tenderloin) was excellent, much better than anything I've ever gotten on a plane. Taxi up to East Harlem where [ profile] mc4bbs and KK live and where I am now staying. Their friend Susan gave me the keys and explained the key system, then left me alone to enjoy my stay here, as [ profile] mc4bbs and KK are elsewhere at the moment.

Today I discovered that my left big toenail has separated from the bed yet again and a bit of fluid and blood squirted from underneath when I wiggled it. I cleaned it out with alcohol and put a plaster on it while I debated what to do. In walking to the subway I discovered that there is a foot doctor around the corner. I will call them tomorrow morning and perhaps get seen. I don't think it's infected. I bought some gauze, Bactine, and adhesive tape this afternoon and have disinfected and taped it up. I will keep tabs on it. However, I will need to go to the foot clinic at Kings next week and demand that they refer me urgently for orthopedic shoes, as they have promised three times. I need to protect my feet when I travel, as that seems to be the situation where things happen to my feet.

I went down to South Ferry to see the new subway station there. It was quite interesting how they have shoehorned it into the small spaces available down there. Now there is no reason to sit in the first 5 cars when going down there. I got a sandwich and Diet Coke for lunch and ate it in Battery Park.

Then I decided to get to 14th Street to buy an additional bag to travel back to London next week, and then get to 1st Avenue to take the bus up to 106th Street. So I got on the W train. Who should then walk into the same car and sit down but Nick Dowen, my good friend from Integrity/New York who lives on Staten Island! Such coincidences happen in New York! We will probably have lunch next Tuesday before I go.

This evening I went to dinner on 118th and First at Patsy's Restaurant. Had 1/2 a pizza and a Caesar salad with my friend The Rev'd John Halborg, who lived on the floor below me in the Bronx and is now a retired New York priest. We discussed sad events such as the death of a good friend and laughed over memories of days past.

Tomorrow the reunion begins with a cocktail party in the evening. I hope that my foot cooperates.
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I have continuous wifi again!!! I will blog some more tomorrow about my week in DC, but suffice it to say that I have arrived in NYC courtesy of Acela Express, first-class. Thanks to [ profile] mc4bbs and KK, who are not here but who have graciously lent the use of their apartment.

If anyone in NYC wants to have lunch or dinner this week or early next week, respond to this post and we'll see what we can do.
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I shall be arriving in Washington DC on Wednesday. I'm staying a week. Thus, those who wish to can email me at chris at christianphansen dot com or comment in this journal, and we can get an evening together to meet, greet, and eat somewhere in Washington. I have not been there in more than 20 years so I expect it's changed quite a lot. I won't be able to wander through the Capitol building unescorted this time, unlike last time. I gather the Metro is quite a bit more extensive so I'll be interested in doing that.
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We went into Boston yesterday to meet [ profile] celloboi and have lunch. Relatively uneventful bus ride in, but that was the last uneventful thing that happened.

[ profile] celloboi, being in university, is fairly lively and a late sleeper. So, we met at 1 pm infront of the Boston Public Library. Ended up at a pub where I had a lovely burger and HWMBO had a tuna melt. We set the world to rights over beer and Diet Pepsi.

[ profile] celloboi then took his leave to resume his nap, and we decided to go to the Institute of Contemporary Art. It's quite a big building in the pier area of the harbour. HWMBO took pictures; I didn't bother. There were a couple of interesting exhibits, including one of the artist who created the iconic "Hope" poster for the Obama campaign. It was free night (they normally charge $15 to get in!) so we went to the shop and got a few things.

Then we had two choices. We could get a bus back to Marblehead, or we could eat and then get a bus back to Marbkehead. We wanted to do the bus, but none came at the scheduled time. So, we thought we'd missed one. We went to the Boston Beer Works. First problem: HWMBO (who is 43) did not bring any identification, and they carded him for beer. He ordered root beer, and I ordered a pale ale. Well, the beer was vile. Any Brit would have thought it tasted worse than pee.

HWMBO ordered shrimp, and I ordered prime rib from their "Brit" menu. It was the "Prince" size. We waited so long that I caught a passing waitress and asked for a basket of chips and salsa. She said "I'm not your waitress, but I think I know who is." I could only mutter "You all look alike." The chips arrived just after our dinners did, so I sent them back.

The shrimp were tasteless (according to HWMBO), and the "prime rib, medium" was grey and dry. Dry prime rib??? Whoda thunk it? There were gobs of fat on the periphery, of course, none of which I ate (but all of which I paid for). The fries were passable.

We made a mistake with restaurants. But, we still had lots of time to get to the bus. We waited. No bus. Another hour. No bus, no word as to when one would come. Finally a T inspector came and said there had been an incident. A bus would finally arrive. The lady with the wheelchair was relieved as her battery was about to go dead. We got home at 11:45 pm. Whew!


May. 20th, 2009 10:02 am
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I am in Marblehead. What a saga this has been.

Monday evening I took the Heathrow Express to Terminal 5. My first time flying out of that terminal. First thing to say: it is huge. It is unimaginably huge. The Universe is a micron compared to that terminal...oops! Wrong comparison.

I got there and dropped my bags. Had a Welsh agent. I said, jokingly, "You're not from around here." and he replied. "Yes, Italy. I badly needed a laugh.

Security is interesting. The trays aren't handled manually: they circulate in the machine. They appear under your place at the chute, you take them out, put your stuff in them, and they disappear at the end of the chute on the other side after (I hope) you've removed your stuff.

There was the usual selection of duty-free bumpf, Harrod's halls, and toney food joints. Had an iced latté at Starbucks while trying to use the free airport WiFi. Slow (must ha e been a heck of a load) and waited for the gate announcement. It came: B23.

Terminal 5 is so big they have a train that goes between A-gates, B-gates, and C-gates. I got to the B-gates and sat down and waited. A rather disshevelled man came up to me and asked "Boston?" I nodded and pointed to the sign above his head, "Boston". He went away. When the agents arrived to get us on the plane, he went up to them three times to ask something or other. At first they were puzzled, then alarmed. After the third time, he sat down and Matron came. She looked like a retired prison guard on Cellblock H. She drew him aside and tried to talk to him. I think he was chemically-impaired (sorry, [ profile] trawnapanda, but I had to mention it) and perhaps either illiterate or unable to speak English. After a while, I think she got exasperated and I saw her use her walkie-talkie. As far as I am aware, he was not on the plane with us. Perhaps he was in First, or was the pilot.

I purposely picked a seat far away from the bulkhead, as the seat chart ominously put the word "Cot" on the bulkhead. Unfortunately, in a lightly-passengered plane, I did not get an empty seat between me and the window. I got Chatty Cathy and her husband, Silent Steve. I attempted my usual defense of noise-cancelling headphones and iPod, but was horrified to learn that the batteries were dead. There was no escape!! I was as curt as I could be without telling them to STFU.

Enter the cabin attendant. Another Welshman, although I think he was off Italian extraction. He was full of witticisms and jokes. When someone who is obviously 20 years younger than I am calls me "young man", I reach for my revolver. He got on famously with Chatty Cathy, of course. I was morose, so when he asked me what wine I wanted, I said,"Red." He asked, " Beaujolais or Bourdeaux?" I said "Surprise me." The screw top revealed that it had already been opened. The wine wasn't corked, of course. Corked would have been preferable to what I finally got.

When he came around to collect the tray, he asked, "You going to finish your wine?" I said, "Well, if you'd made it in your bathtub it would have been lovely. If it was the product of a winery, it was vile." He laughed a little, and said, "It's airplane wine." "The Aeroflot vintage," I replied, and that ended the conversation. I said to Chatty after he moved away, "He must have been made redundant from the Cardiff Comedy Club so he took a job with BA."

When I got my coffee, that too was viler than BA coffee usually is. I handed the empty cup back to him and said, "I see that the winery has a coffee grove too."

Of course, this time I really did have the last laugh. My seat was randomly selected to fill out the customer questionnaire.Yes! There is a God!!

There were five Bulgarians in the row in front of me and Chatty/Silent. They were forever getting up, being restless, and the like. I found out why when the cabin attendant came around with the forms. They asked about visas. The attendant couldn't answer their question, and went to check. They didn't appear at the carrousel in the luggage hall. I expect they're back in the UK now wondering what happened.

We landed and got to post a bit ahead of schedule. The immigration agent I got was confused by the expiration date of my passport (everyone who reads it is--I automatically say "Page 23" which is where the endorsement is.) and he asked me, "Vacation?" I said "No, I live there." thinking that he meant "Are you returning from a vacation?" He meant, "Are you here on vacation?" He then wrote a big "1" in a circle on the Customs form. Now I know to answer "Yes." to that question in the future. Got my luggage and HWMBO arrived with our friend Linda to pick me up. Home and to bed.

Yesterday was a bit frantic, what with jetlag and all. After breakfast to the main item of the day: enabling Harold's internet access. When my ex-sister-in-law moved out, he had the internet access removed, so the last few times I've stayed here I used my uncle's computer, until he died. Last September I had to go downtown and use the access in a café with a borrowed computer.

This trip I brought my netbook and thus I started getting him set up. I got partway through (hardware was ok, software got partway through) I decided to call the cable provider. I got the usual menu hell, and selected "internet service help" and, of course, got the telephone line help. When I got to the internet service customer rep, I got Will, who is a person of colour, I think, and was really good at what he does. We got the problem sorted out, and I thanked him at the end. He then said, "Thank YOU for being such a good customer--normally I have a hard time getting the information I need out of customers but you've been very good and given me exactly what I needed to know. This call has been a real pleasure to deal with." Now that is the first time I've been complimented by the customer service rep on a call. I was duly impressed.

Then I got the wireless router working and my iPhone is now connected when I am home. Very good too. I read my email and answered tweets. Now I have to get Dick's old computer up and running, and the printer as well. Then my brother will be connected up to the internet.

We walked around downtown yesterday afternoon and at the end of it I was bushed. But I then had to go to Lodge last night. So I got dressed, went to Lodge with Harold, and had my steak dinner. it was on the house, too! Normally $15. Tender steak, nice fries, just right. Some of the brothers are starting to get excited about travelling to London next year to see my installation as Worshipful Master of Goliath Lodge. I think there will be a significant contingent, including my brother, who's never been abroad before. I shall have a significant bill for guests at dinner next May.

Then we went into the Lodgeroom for our concert and awards. A junior high school chorus from Swampscott sang, and then two former choristers who are now freshmen in university sang with the chorusmistress. Very nice.

After that the Deputy District Grand Master arrived with about 50 men to hand out a 60-year pin, four 50-year pins, and a shedload of other honours. By this time I was almost fast asleep and Harold had to nudge me from time to time to keep me awake. There was supposed to be a business meeting afterwards, but we cut out early and I came home to bed.

Today is lunch with [ profile] rsc and [ profile] jwg, and the rest of the day to ourselves.
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I have talked to the travel agency this morning, and for minimal money my trip is back on! I am getting on the same flight tonight that I would have taken on Saturday, arriving in Boston at around 10 pm Monday night. So the rest of the trip will be unchanged from the former plans I had.

My itinerary is thus:
Where I'll be Dates
Marblehead, Mass: 18-27 May
Washington DC: 27 May-2 June
New York, NY: 2 June-10 June
London, England: 10 June

I am immensely grateful for all the good wishes that everyone has sent my way. I'm certain that they have helped enormously. I packed last night (in anticipation of a successful conclusion this morning) so now only have to toss a few last things into the bags and I'll be ready. I have checked in and printed my boarding pass, so the only thing left is to get to Heathrow.

I would love to see all my Live Journal friends in Boston, New York, and Washington when I'm there.

Please reply to this posting and I'll see it in Marblehead and get to you. I shall make all replies screened, so if you can give me some contact details it would help.

See you!
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...because this morning I am feeling OK. I will call the travel agent on Monday and see if there is any part of the trip I can salvage.

If not, I will book a quickie to Marblehead in June for later on.

I got the first good night's sleep I've had in a week last night.

Life really is unfair. Had this happened yesterday I would have been waking up in Marblehead today.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
After hoping that the codeine prescribed yesterday by my GP would stop the symptoms of autonomic neuropathy, I was bitterly disappointed this morning to (1) still have the one problem, and (2) add to it projectile vomiting from the other end. I am really weak at the moment (although as of this writing all the symptoms seem to have abated, of course!) so I've cancelled my trips to Marblehead, DC, and New York, including my 35th college reunion. Yes, I know I could probably buy a cheap ticket to New York but, really, my heart's not in it now. I saw HWMBO off this afternoon as he is going to Marblehead to see an old friend of his from Singapore who has travelled from San Francisco to Boston to see him. He is probably getting on the plane right about now.

I feel very lonely without him.

August 2017

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