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Many parents get to the stage in life where they are ridiculed (in the nicest possible way) by their children for old habits and ways of doing things that the kids deem foolish — or at least inefficient, embarrassing or just plain nutty. I think they think we are so set in our ways we are incapable of learning new things. And to make matters worse, we rejoice in our stubborn adherence to doing things ‘the way we’ve always done them’.

I realized, after my recent trip to visit Gill in England, that I have reached that stage. But I present here evidence to the contrary — so listen up Gill, Crazy D and L’il Sis. I’m NOT ready for “The Home’ just yet.

First off, Gill ordered me to be careful not to bring what she calls my ‘flappy bags’. Now she presented this as a safety issue: as in, “There are lots of pickpockets and such on The Tube and along the crowded streets of London. If you bring a flappy, unzipped beach bag as is your standard modus operandi, you’re gonna be robbed and given that you weigh 90 pounds soaking wet, you’re a target and I’ll have to step in to prevent your being mugged. You’re used to small town Ontario or fancy Caribbean resorts. London is not either of those!”

Well, okay, I figured I could humor her paranoia. I did take a ‘beach bag’ but it was not flappy and it was totally zipped up. I also pared down the size of my suitcase –without being asked– to make the schlepps easier. (I knew she’d be wheeling the suitcase, not me, so I was doing this out of consideration. No matter that I could only bring three pairs of shoes and a couple of frilly tops for dress-up, not my usual array of frippery.

Gill also warned me to pack snacks as the airline food on offer would not be to my picky, precise tastes. Pot calling the kettle black, anyone? Does she think I’ve never travelled before? I reminded her that I have seen much of Europe, a lot of Canada and the U.S., Mexico, and have been to Australia twice in the last two years. Despite her skepticism, I think I am rather well-versed in the art of packing snacks. She says I eat like a squirrel and I accept that…a trail of nuts, seeds, crackers, fruit and the odd chocolate bar follows me wherever I go. You’ll not find me at the mercy of ANY airline!

I admit I did need her guidance using The Tube and train system. It was confusing, overwhelming, and awe-inspiring.  Gill gave me many explicit instructions as to how to use the turnstiles, when to retrieve the tickets after shoving them into the gob of the machines, when to leave them. I did learn and became, if I do say so myself, rather adept at whisking through the turnstiles. I thought it hilarious, however, that I was traveling using her disabled person card — a wonderful little perk she received after she got her NHS hearing aids! Since she was then obviously ‘disabled’ she got a cut rate on train travel AND a discount for her ‘minder’! I assume that was me. I made the comment in passing that the train conductors probably assumed I was the designated disabled one. Ha! We pulled a fast one on them! Not that I look disabled, the way I dart and weave through crowds (one advantage of being small and nimble — nobody sees me coming as I dodge and flit like a stealth weapon). but I AM obviously the old lady in our group of two, so the ageist conclusion is that I am the frail, crippled one. We showed them!

Gill warned me not to leave my stuff unattended in washrooms, airport lounges, train stations. Well, of course I wouldn’t. I didn’t just come in on the last turnip truck. I kept a close watch on my luggage at all times — leading to some rather comical contortions in the toilet stalls. But the one thing that surprised me was her admonition about leaving my raincoat briefly on a chair in the train station. I mean, really, people! Who would want a bright fuchsia raincoat, size itty-bitty, the pockets filled like a chipmunk’s pouch with nuts, seeds, and cracker crumbs? And if anyone wanted it that desperately, they probably needed it way more than I did…

Gill did warn me that we would have to move sharply to change trains a few times. I took her words to heart as one of my worst fears is getting caught in the door of a subway train. I used to have nightmares about such things. I would say that I  pushed little old ladies out of my way to make the next train, but since I myself AM a little old lady, that might not fly. But I did feint and nip around others as nimbly as a football player trying to make a touchdown. I slowed down a bit after a pub lunch with wine, but that’s to be expected…

And the thing I’m most proud of, my ‘best new trick’ as it were, was that I take lots of pictures of weird and wonderful things. The kids had been bugging me for years to get a camera and actually make a record of the interesting places I’ve been. Be careful what you wish for. Gill humored me a fair bit but staunchly refused to pose for a picture beside a huge Christmas (yes, it was only  September but the stores in Bath were rife with all things Christmas) window display of a reindeer fashioned from pine cones, sea shells and other random bits of nature. I had a vision of the picture — it would have been so artistically phenomenal. The fact that the shot I wanted of Gill right beside the reindeer’s butt end was of absolutely no consequence. But she took umbrage and refused. Damn! It would have been nine kinds of brilliant and ten kinds of quirky! My kids wanted me to learn how to use a camera and this is the thanks I get? No old dogs here…