DAY 2 - SATURDAY 4TH AUGUST

It’s the usual restless night in an airport hotel. The room is very nice and the bed is comfy, but the efficient air conditioning is a little noisy. To be fair, even if it were whisper quiet, it probably wouldn’t make any difference to the way I sleep.

At 6.00am we are all awake. Due to this being an exciting day, I decide The Old Grey Mare should be performed and launch into an enthusiastic rendition. Other than derisory laughter there is little response from my audience. Even the finale, where I dive from the top of the wardrobe into a glass of water while juggling pomegranates, receives nothing but polite applause. These people know nothing about fine art.

Around 7.00am we catch the shuttle bus to the airport. There is a lot of improvement work going on at Heathrow and parts of the airport, particularly around the Virgin check-in desks, are a real mess.
Despite this there is a very short queue for baggage drop off and we are done and dusted very quickly.
Security for entry into the departure lounge is not too bad and we are through by 8.00am.

We all have bagels for breakfast, except Georgia who has a pastry thing with raisins in .
Some (thankfully) light shopping follows where I buy a book (Peter Kay’s Sound of Laughter) and Ind buys make up. It’s all going very smoothly as we board the VS003 to New York at 9.00am. It’s an Airbus with a 2-4-2 seat configuration and we have two rows of two behind each other. Georgia and I are sat together and there is a discussion over who gets the window seat. Unfortunately there are a few tears until Georgia agrees to let me have the window seat for takeoff. Woohoo!

We pull back from the gate on time at 9.30am, but then sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes due to, and stop me if I get too technical for you here, lots of aeroplanes taking off and landing.
We taxi to the runway and sit there for a while before the plane turns around and heads back to the terminal. I’m just in the process of telling Tam this doesn’t look good when an announcement over the tannoy tells us that there is a computer fault and we are returning to the gate for an engineer to take a look. I told them not to upgrade to Vista!

The engineers clamber on board and start fiddling. (With the computer, they’re not playing the violin). I swear I can hear faint mutterings of ‘I hate bleedin’ computers’ and ‘Have you tried pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del?’
System re-booted, problem solved we’re off and running.

Problem solved? I think not. As we taxi towards the runway another announcement tells us the computer is playing up again and we are returning to the stand. This ain’t fun anymore.

Time passes. The offending piece of software has now been ‘locked out’ whatever that means. Let’s hope it isn’t the ‘deploy landing gear’ software. We’ve been sat on the plane for 4 hours when we push back from the gate again.
And at the third time of asking, we’re off! Tam suggests I do The Old Grey Mare in celebration. She says I can wear a sock to protect my modesty. I’ll leave you to guess where that is, suffice to say it would need to be a big sock.

I choose to watch Shrek 3 and Spiderman 3. I think this quite appropriate given that it took us 3 tries to get airborne.
Of the two I prefer Spiderman. It’s all action and we get a couple of new villains. I think the Shrek franchise may be reaching the end of the line. Not that it’s a particularly bad film, just that it’s getting a bit old now.

We finally clamber off the plane at 4.00pm local time, 3 hours late. The queue at immigration is the usual huge snaking line, but we are through and picking up our luggage by 5.00pm. Unfortunately one of the cases has not made it intact. I can’t think why, after all I paid nearly 5 for it in China. The wheels have broken off and I can’t carry the thing all holiday, so we have to buy a set of wheels for it for $30. The only alternatives in the airport luggage shop are suitcases costing $500! No thanks.

We ring Elaine and Michael (who we are staying with for the next 2 nights) to let them know we have just landed and head off to catch the Air Train to Jamaica Station ($5 per person). This is a driverless train you so often find at airports, but it zips along at a fair rate. As I look out of the window I can’t believe what I see, there are a bunch of blokes playing cricket! See, these Yanks are civilised after all.

At Jamaica Station we switch to the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station ($3 per person). At this point we have a bit of bad luck as we’ve just missed the 6.11pm train to Short Hills and have to wait nearly an hour for the next.
At least this gives us the chance to give the girls their first glimpse of Manhattan. You come out of Penn Station by Madison Square Garden (Beyonce is playing tonight) and you can see the Empire State Building. It’s very warm and muggy even at this time of the evening; lord knows what it’s going to feel like in the middle of the day.

The train out to Short Hills takes about 45 minutes and is an interesting mix of industrial areas just outside of Manhattan giving way to prettier small towns and suburbs. It’s certainly been an interesting way of getting from the airport rather than taking a cab.

Michael is there to meet us at the station. Elaine used to go to school with Tam many years ago. I think they used to share a slate. She’s lived and worked in America for many years and married Michael 3 years ago. They now have 2 children, Grace (2years old) and Alex (7 months).
Their house is just a couple of minutes from the station and is lovely. It’s in a quiet street with lots of trees and greenery. They’ve only been there a few months and are slowly doing it up. That’s my kind of decorating, slow.

Michael cooks hot dogs on the BBQ for us and it’s lovely to sit out in the garden on a balmy evening listening to the cicad…. shika…. chica…. listening to the crickets, which are incredibly loud.
We chat for a while enabling Tam to fill in Elaine with all the gossip from our hometown. The girls are starting to flag a little now, so we all have quick showers and it’s off to bed by 10.30pm.
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such a long day of travelling before, with all the delays and everything, but it’s certainly been interesting.


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