So, as I already knew it would be, yesterday was long. I woke up an hour earlier than necessary and eventually got up and showered and finished packing.
About the packing. Before even getting to Janis and Peter’s place, I knew I’d need to come up with a new luggage plan, because the gifts and souvenirs I’d bought, though small, did take up actual space and I had no more of it to spare in my carryon and backpack. Then when I arrived at Janis’s cozy flat, she had a little tower of gifts waiting for me—things that had belonged to her late mother, whom I knew and loved as Aunt Jen. And Janis had a solution to my packing dilemma also—she and Peter were willing to part with a large suitcase into which I could pack my carryon and the other things. All the other things. Then I could check that large case and have my backpack as my carryon.
So far so good. Everything easily fit into the massive green suitcase. But guess what? I couldn’t actually lift it. Since my surgery I’ve been on a lifting restriction so I am even more of a weakling than I would normally be. Janis had a hanging scale and according to that my suitcase weighed a little over fifty pounds. To me it felt like a hundred! But it did have two wheels and a pull handle, and I thought that all I’d have to do was lug it from one platform to another at Euston Station in London, and then to the luggage check-in at Heathrow.
Oh, if only that had been true! And remember, I have an injured toe that is quite painful inside a shoe of any kind, so walking long distances was something I hoped to avoid. Janis helped me get the suitcase onto the train and the trip to London was without incident. Unless you call this amusing announcement an incident:
“Seats are for bums. Please don’t put your feet on them.”
The scope of my challenges didn’t begin to sink in until I arrived in London and struggled to get my massive burden off the train platform and headed toward the Underground. There were stairs. And then instead of leading to another part of the same station (which is being remodeled), the signs pointing to the Underground led outside, down the sidewalk, and across a couple of roads.
Pulling that suitcase down the bumpy street was the most physically challenging thing I’ve done since giving birth. Puffing and sweating, I’d drag it for a few yards, then stop to catch my breath before switching hands and starting up again. I saw my generous time margin beginning to dwindle.
I reached the Underground station and had to get the case down a long flight of stairs. Each “bang” as it went down a stair felt like a hammer blow on my hand. But I had to keep going. I couldn’t just not go home! Halfway down those stairs, a kind young African man showed up to help me. He easily lifted the case and carried it down to the bottom for me. I was so grateful—but I still had a long, long way to go. And when I had a look at the diagrams on the walls, my heart sank, because this station was not on the line I needed to be on. I didn’t know what to do. I was already exhausted. I also needed desperately to use the “facilities” but there was zero chance I’d have the strength to haul the big case into and out of a railway station bathroom!
I found an Underground employee and asked for advice. He suggested I go to the Baker Street station, switch to another line, and make for Paddington, where I could get on an express train to Heathrow. My plan had been to avoid taking the express train because it is quite expensive, but my options were dwindling and so was the time.
I honestly don’t know how I got the thing to the platform, onto the train, then off the train, then to another platform and another train. Stairs were involved also. I had to remove my cardigan because I was perspiring from the sheer effort I put forth. My arms and legs were trembling. Finally I made it to Paddington and inquired about the express trains after struggling to reach someone who looked official. There was one going in two minutes on a nearby platform. I looked over there and knew there was no possible way I could get there in two minutes.
The guy I’d asked for advice took pity on me and suggested I get into the train at the closest platform, which wouldn’t be leaving for twelve minutes. I made it! By then several people had stopped me and asked me if I was all right. I told them I was, even though it wasn’t true. I was very close to something like despair, because this whole process seemed to be just beyond my physical capabilities. Yet I had to make my flight somehow!
Arriving at Heathrow was not the blessed relief I had expected it to be. There were long, long distances to walk while pulling my wheeled millstone. I had to stop and rest often because I was so, so weary. At last I got to the automated luggage check-in. It took many tries before I hefted that case up onto the conveyor belt—and then the thing stopped working. Once again, I had to seek help. The case’s weight was the issue, but I didn’t get charged excess baggage. The lady just put a tag on it that said “heavy,” which I knew only too well!
I thought I was home free then. I only had my heavy backpack and shoulder bag to carry, and I just had to find my gate. Which was a long, long way away and involved another train ride and more stairs. With the big case no longer distracting me, I realized how much my feet hurt, and especially my injured toe. But I kept going.
I had hoped to grab a quick bite to eat before my flight, because I knew they’d have nothing I could eat on the plane, but there just wasn’t time. I finally made it to my gate about half an hour before my plane started boarding. The whole process had taken about six hours! I felt so victorious. That was by far the most physically demanding goal I’ve achieved in many, many years.
You can imagine how delighted I was to sink into my seat on the plane. During the long ten-hour flight, I was able to take several naps. My shoes came off the instant I sat down and after that my toe felt much better. The plane left late and landed late, but at the end of it all, I had a cart to put that suitcase onto, and a husband waiting to help me get it in the car!
We drove into our own driveway at about 11:30 last night, and my poor husband still had to go do his cleaning job before he could go to bed. And he is also sick with a cold. I am sorry to say I did not wait up for him. Midnight our time is 6:00 in the morning in England! But I am so glad to be home and to have the things I went to so much effort to bring with me! Everything arrived intact.
One of the lovely windows in Lichfield Cathedral