Forgive any typing errors your might spot, the crust constantly forming over my eyelashes, filled sinuses and general fatigue might impede my ability to type coherently.
Well, Gill and I are back in Canada but it didn’t happen easily.
It never happens easily.
For those of you I email regularly about my vacations, haven’t any of you spotted this trend in my emails in the past? Something always goes wrong. Horribly horribly wrong.
Generally one of three things happen. Either 1) I get sick, 2) I get injured, or 3) Something major breaks down in the itinerary and the trip becomes a sinking ship. My first trip to Amsterdam with Gill was a 3) due to Gillian forgetting where she left her passport on a trip that had non-refundable tickets. Our second trip to Lille and Amsterdam with Gillian meant to make up for that non-starter had both 2) and 3), due to a fall down the stairs the night before the trip followed by a hotel room that was booked for the month before, not the month we were there – again, non refundable. Even the least disastrous holiday, our Honeymoon, had some 3) in it, due to the locker room our bags were kept in being shut down for hours by police due to a bomb scare, we were supposed to leave with six hours to spare, which we were going to enjoy on board the ship. Instead we barely made it to the ship before it departed.
But this is, perhaps, the first time I’ve had the full Triple Crown of 1) 2) and 3) together. At some point in the early days after I left Soho Books for my vacation I suffered some kind of back injury. Not a clue how it happened, but for over a week I was hopped up on painkillers and heat-packs on my back while traveling all over London, Leicester, and Edinburgh going shopping, visiting museums, and watching West End shows. That was a small but manageable annoyance.
But then, on the last full day in Edinburgh I came down with what later turned out to be either the Flu or the Plague… I’m still not sure which. Several large trees were felled to provide a soft two-ply home for all the mucus my sinuses were storing. Apparently my sinuses are bigger than my brain.
After Wyatt left for his flight back to Canada (and his own world of hurt, no doubt. Whenever I gripe about my problems I’m always humbled by the thought that Wyatt looks at that and thinks “not bad… for an amateur.”) I got worse. Before it was just sore throats and some nose running. Now I was having muscle weakness, fever, the whole nine yards. And I still had over 75 kilograms of luggage to get from the apartment to the airport. A taxi was out of the question, it was too far and expensive. So we decided to take the bus, but I was so weak and tired dragging these bags behind me from the local bus stop to the National Bus Depot I almost missed my first bit of good luck.
A woman saw our predicament, a bus driver, I think. She saw where I was heading and said “Tsk, you should take the Gatwick Express train instead” I almost missed this entirely, thinking my destiny was locked in because the train entrance was a few hundred meters back. But then I passed a side entrance back to the station and realized, “no, it’s not too hard to get back in there, why not?” It ended up costing a little more, but it was faster, linked very close to the station and, more importantly, saved me dragging 75 kilos of bags behind me for another half mile.
At the station, however, the luck went south again. Gillian is normally a real trooper when it comes to travel arrangements. She got us great flights at great prices, as well as hotels and hostels (well the hostel had its own set of problems, but 3 people for 3 nights for 72 pounds is a hard price to beat, even if the water pipes don’t shut off and the other roommates get up a half hour before you do). But this time she slipped up. She didn’t book us the hotel (called a Yotel, based on the Japanese Capsule hotels in Tokyo and very affordable, like 50 pounds) because she thought she could get it on the day.
It was St. Patrick’s Day, where god knows how many drunk people needed a place to sleep it off. The Yotel was booked solid.
My condition was getting worse When we rested at a coffee shop I was getting cold shakes and feeling nauseous. I didn’t want to move unless absolutely necessary. We could get a hotel, but it had to be close. Unfortunately, the only other hotel in the airport was the Hilton, and they only had 4 rooms left. Gill booked us there. When I asked her how much it was, she said “You’re not going to like it.”
She was right.
The cheapest room at the Hilton at Gatwick was 180, almost two and a half times the amount of the Yotel. For one night. But I didn’t care any more. What was more important was that the Hilton had a bathtub, and I needed several long long baths to get in any kind of serviceable shape – the last of which I ended up taking at 4:30 in the morning. By daybreak, I almost felt human. This was also partly due to Gillian getting some different medication, the stuff I was using had no effect.
But we’re not done yet.
Remember the 75-plus kilograms of bags we had? Well, rules and regulations for our airline state that if you exceed their allowances (20 kilo per stored bag, 5 kilo per carry on, each passenger allowed one of each) you must pay 10 pounds per kilo.
We were 27 kilos over.
That’s 270 pounds we were looking at paying ($400 for our Canadian viewers). And there was no way to lower the amount reasonably without leaving behind our X-Box, Wii, Laptop, etc… We were pretty much screwed again. Except for one thing – Thomas Cook overbooked the flight. They were offering a night at a 4 star hotel, meals, and $320 in vouchers for future flights each if we stayed an extra night. Believe it or not I walked past this offer with a “thanks, but no thanks” wave of the hand before we discovered our overweight predicament. Then they sweetened the deal and said they’d waive the overweight charges if we volunteered as well, even of we got on the flight at the end of it all.
How could we say no? It was win-win all the way.
We hung out for half an hour, then checked back in to see if we could board. We could, and as promised, our overweight fee was waived. I actually wish we had waited just five more minutes, because then I’m sure we could have got the hotel and vouchers. But, hey, saving $400 is nothing to sneeze at, either…
…speaking of sneezing. The flight was uneventful but my flu wouldn’t let me rest easy. All the tissue use had made my nose and lips raw, it looked like I had a pencil thin fleshy mustache over my upper lip. After we landed it and Gillian’s parents picked us up it escalated. By the time we got to their home my eyes were bloodshot red with puss-like globs floating around and crusty eyelashes. The corners of my eyes were very pale white, while the bags under them dark purple. This was all rather new to me and I wasn’t sure if I should panic or not. I decided not to and simply wash my eyes out repeatedly. But even as I write this now they are irritating me. I’m hoping a good night’s rest in my Home and Native Land will set me right. If not, well, at least we have health care… oh wait, I’ve been gone so long, I need to be here six months before that kicks in.