I’m back in Wales and it’s been a three-day event.
My son and I had dinner together before he dropped me off at the airport. Every time I go away I tell myself this time I’m going to travel light but there are Christmas presents to bring, a lap top, two weeks worth of clothes and of course, the books and magazines one needs for one’s in-flight entertainment.
As you board and find your seat, you wonder who your fellow passengers will be. It’s a strange thing, really, a group of random people coming together for this shared experience in close quarters and then dispersing at the other end, never to be seen again.
The overnight flight is long and tedious. Impossible to get comfortable. Too tired to read but can’t sleep. You hang suspended in this non-waking, non-sleeping state, drowsily aware of things going on around you. You aren’t really in the time zone you’ve left behind and your body certainly isn’t in the time zone of the place you’re going. On this flight, the crew did not dim the cabin lights during the try-to-get-some-sleep part of the program, so the waking state seemed to have the upper hand. The aircraft engines drone on. The person in the seat ahead is a recliner, so that invades my space, what little there is of it. Somehow, the hours pass, although you try not to look at your watch too often. And then we’re on final approach into Manchester. We can see some snowy patches on the ground, but not a lot. It’s a gloomy, grey, rainy morning. We shuffle off the plane and after a very long walk, enter the immigration hall. Some of us enter the non-EU line, British passport holders join the much-shorter EU line. (When I first started coming to the UK, it was Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth.)
So finally, after about half an hour, it’s my turn to present my passport to the UK Border officer. He asks me what I’m doing in the UK. I tell him I write novels set in Wales and I come here twice a year. He looks at me and says, “I know you.” I think, “oh, oh.” He says I’ve checked you in before and then flips through my passport and shows me an entry stamp from a year ago. “That was me,” he says. What an amazing memory. He must have met thousands of people, from everywhere, over the past year and he remembers me?
And it’s on to the baggage hall, pick up my case and am on my way to the airport train station. There’s been something funny going on with the Arriva Wales trains, industrial action, they call it, so no direct train from Manchester. I take the train into Manchester, find out what’s happening, and am told to take the train to Crewe. Oh, and you’ll have to hurry, it’s leaving in three minutes the woman says, picking up what looks like an old-fashioned walkie-talkie. “I’ll let them know you’re coming.” So off I hustle, with my bags, feeling disoriented and as if someone has been rubbing my eyeballs with sandpaper. I make the train. As soon as I board, it leaves.
At Crewe I have to lug my cases and bags, which are becoming increasingly heavy, to another platform where the train for Llandudno is about to leave. I climb on board and we’re off to Wales! But I fall asleep and this time, in the non-waking, non-sleeping zone, the sleeping part is winning. I hear the announcements of the stations along the way, loving their familiar names … Flint, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Llandudno Junction, Llandudno.
The journey takes about two hours and we arrive at Llandudno, end of the line. I walk along the familiar High Street to my friends’ house on Church Walks, but because of the cases, don’t go into any of the shops. I’ll be back later. The rain is falling harder now, cold and sharp. So I finally reach their home, climb the steps and the door opens to a warm welcome from my friends and their three noisy, affectionate dogs. I climb the stairs to my room overlooking the street, glad to be back. The heater is on, everything looks wonderful and one of the dogs, a pretty blue merle called Jasmine who reminds me of my Dolly back home, stays with me while I get settled in. I set up my laptop, check my e-mail, let son know I arrived safely, and then slide into the beautiful bed that awaited me at the end of a long journey. Bliss!
And now it’s 3 a.m. on day three and I’m wide awake. Meeting Eirlys for lunch in Llanrwst. It’ll be good to see her again and she’s promising a surprise with a Royal connection!