Updated: Jan 17
I am wearing a sweater, my favourite soccer-mum one that I wore on my holiday to the UK in October 2019. I often wonder if it knows it has travelled? Does it remember the wait at Pearson International Airport from and to home? Does it reminisce about the second bottle of wine at my friend’s house? Am I strange giving personal memories to sweaters? Through ten years on Facebook, I have come across an impressive set of people. Not impressive by number but by heart and quirkiness. Some have left me due to my anxious disorderly posts and neediness, some I have dumped due to cyberbullying and blessing the cyber world with poorly worded memes. The few that have held on for their dear lives I had met on the trip I will chat about here. My friend with the spillable wine can tell you about the soccer-mum sweater.
My memory is foggy, which is what I get for not taking notes. This will be a remembrance of observations and loveliness in no particular order. I wrote part of this at a sports bar, eating salt and pepper dry ribs (not good if you are trying to type) and drinking a Strongbow. I may have run The Refuge in Manchester dry of cider when I was there. Dry ribs were not even part of the menu. Well, maybe they were, but they were not on the mind. Parts were also written at a Starbucks, a place I entered twice in the UK: first, at Paddington Station in London with Steve (buying me a five-shot Americano) and second, a brief moment in Northampton (my friend Dee decided to vape a fruity liquid rather than take in the lovely coffee vapour). The remainder was written at home after my attempt at being an electrician.
(No fires were started in any of the moments writing this piece.)
I had to work the day before I left. My co-worker suggested my husband and I stay at her place due to my early leaving. I was travelling alone, but having Richard there made me feel less scared. I was so glad to have had the time to share supper and conversation with her and her family; especially the musical conversation with her son. I decided to sleep in my sweater (and a tee-shirt), but sleep, in this case, was a construct. We got up just after 4.00 am for me to check into my 6.00 am flight. The sweater and tee-shirt stayed attached to me for the seven-hour layover at Pearson, collecting nervous tears and the odd cookie crumb. It survived a six-hour flight into London. As it was October and relatively decent in the weather department, I also carried a light jacket for those chilly morning moments. After three days of this, I finally purchased some underarm deodorant, a SIM card (needed to communicate with my UKHOMIES) and gum (my breath would not be a run-down as my clothes) at Heathrow before hitting the train to Paddington, where my hero Steve met me. He was the first human I recognised in the country. He got me through to Euston, via the Tube, where I was to take the train to Manchester. At Euston, Steve and I had time for a beer. My first beer in the UK.
I told Steve how much I could not believe he was a real person, a sentiment said with different words to me a week later. Letting me hold his hand when I lost footing and sharing my hopes and jokes, took away some of the misapprehension I carried from Saskatoon to London. Walking me to the train, and getting permission to help me board, I gave Steve a big hug and prepared for Manchester. Steve promised we would see each other again. When alone, I started to cry lots, you know, the kind where stuff falls out of your nose.
The trip to Manchester was not uneventful. Getting myself a seat with a charging port, I began to charge my phone, and taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, I watched YouTube. I booked my train tickets (yes, more than one) online before I left, and the wait to get going did not take long at all. I had heard stories of lateness, seat uncomfortableness and poor coffee. I also discovered I was sharing this trip with two businessmen. I should have taken the advice of another passenger who showed me a set of unoccupied seats, which if done right, would be perfect for a lie-down. I declined, partially due to being seated with my book and bags all cozy, but mostly due to a low blood sugar moment. The two men could have moved to the other power ports across the aisle. When I am under stress my blood sugar crashes (forty-four years with diabetes). Without making too much of a fuss and to not cause the entire car embarrassment, I kept my clothes on, even though I was on fire.
The men who shared my space worked for a power company. For those not aware, most utilities, like gas, electricity, water and telephone, are privatised. The topic of conversation, though pretending not to eavesdrop, was about the concept of adding solar power to their power options. I found this rather interesting, as SaskPower had only decided to halt their solar power net-metering programme. As they discussed their plans, the train made its way past farms with cows, sheep, hay bales and houses. These houses became part of their conversation – potential clients? The older of the two gentlemen (I assumed they were gentle, as neither swore when they realised they forgot their mouses) talked about his daughter, studying Agriculture in Canada, who mentioned how farms are looking at alternative energy sources. I don't know what kind of farmers she was talking to, as most here will spend their dying days attached to oil and gas. Wind? Solar? Coffee with accented names? Never.
Milton Keynes was the central stop on the way to Manchester. It was unknown to me how much this place was going to mean to me in a weeks time. Saskatchewan has only a few train stops and people transport is only available on Tuesdays out of Saskatoon, it was interesting to see the stops along the way. As it was just past noon, there were not a lot of people, but from what I could see, Milton Keynes was a regular stopping point. My power-hungry seatmates got off at this stop. I was able to stretch out my right arm a bit more once Older Fellow moved out. That was of some relief, as I needed the space. I had also finished the Cherry Coke I purchased at Heathrow to help bring the sugar back to a functioning level. I was able to get enough fingers to work to let my friend Tee Dot know I was pretty close to making my appearance in Manchester. I also used this time to remind myself not to walk my suitcase in front of me like I did when I met Steve - the fall down frontwards was scary - plus my ticket would not open the turnstile. I started to cry again.
Tee Dot's emojis and exclamation points made me realise I was going to be okay. I was scared to disappoint him. For those who know me, I am very good a forward-concluding, most of the time with lots of misfiring and wrongness. I was hoping he would wear his newsboy cap. And he was! Hauling my belongings off the train was not that complicated (I even minded the gap), making sure I faced the right door; thankfully there were a set making their way to Manchester's Piccadilly Station, so I followed them. I could not believe how busy I found the place, but like Euston, people had places to go and people to meet. Seeing Tee Dot from the platform made my heart move at a quick pace. He started waving and I almost broke into a run; we were both excited. I decided to keep my glasses on, but I did not need to, as Tee is rather tall. I checked my sugars again and found I was still too low to make any complicated decisions. I felt like I was in a movie when I met Tee Dot. I held on to him for a bit, mostly due to unstable emotions. We headed off to get a drink, Tee Dot taking my suitcase and racing to the elevator. The elevator - what a blessing!
Check out BritCan Two for the Manchester adventures.