My week with Gill went so quickly. We packed a lot into the time: met several of Gill’s friends, walked my foot blisters around part of London, did a thorough tour of Bristol, spent a day at the beach in Exmouth, went to Bath Spa for a morning. It gave me a real feel for Gill’s life in England. Oh, I’ve seen her flat via Skype, but it is totally different seeing it in person. I hadn’t been to the UK for decades, so it was fun to be reminded of the often quirky heating and plumbing systems, the tiny appliances(although hers were bigger than what I remembered), the reliance on public transport rather than the individual car.
We laughed over silly things: lugging the mattress off her bed and taking it downstairs so I could sleep on it on the floor. This was the third iteration of sleeping accommodations. First, I slept in her bed –the one with two mattresses — the one that came with the flat and the futon on top of the original. I was kind enough not to remind her of the ‘Princess and The Pea Fable’ to which we were veering alarmingly close. Gill initially, being the good host, slept on an air mattress in the main room. Prior to this, she had been aware of a leak in the air mattress. “Oh, it’s just a small leak. It will be fine!” she announced confidently.Two nights in, she came hobbling upstairs — crippled with her arthritis and having had a lousy sleep. “Ma, I know you’re old and frail but I’m arthritic and crippled. I win! I can’t spend another night on this damned air mattress.”
I offered to sleep on the couch in the living room. It was too short for her but perfect for my tiny elfin self. It did for one night but I feared I would end up as crippled as Gill, my elfin self having morphed into a troll-like, twisted wreckage after many nights on it. So we tried to drag her futon down the stairs for her to sleep on but couldn’t maneuver the behemoth around corners and down stairs. We decided that the original flat mattress would be fine for me so we took it downstairs. Gill would sleep on the futon in her bed. After several days of playing musical beds, we found this to be a workable solution.
And speaking of silly: she has fridge magnets that look like dog bums! They stick out, of course, as bums do, and every time I went into the tiny kitchen I brushed against them and knocked them down. Seeing the tiny ass of a black lab or dalmatian on the floor first thing in the morning doesn’t do much for one’s sanity.
All in all, I was sad to say goodbye to her at the airport…and I suspect she didn’t want my usual blubbery farewell, so she had timed things perfectly. If she hurried away, she would just be able to catch the train back to Bristol. To be fair, I was grateful that she had escorted me to and from the airport –otherwise, I would probably still be lying somewhere by the side of a road crying pitifully. It’s quite complicated — especially for a foreigner. I made a note to myself to tell L’il Sis and Crazy D how much effort she expends each summer and Christmas to make the trek home to visit us. I don’t think I appreciated what a production it was before.
I arrived home on a Friday evening. It was dark, I was tired, but the first thing I had to do was find Mrs. Beeton, my pink parakeet. (This is not to infer that she was possibly having a rowdy night on the town.I had ‘grounded’ her and she’s hardly the type to climb out a window.) Although I had neighbors looking after the birds, I knew Mrs. Beeton would feel my absence much more acutely than the canaries. She is the one who gets to lunch on the deck during nice weather; she gets to sit on my shoulder to watch bad television at night– she hates the U.S. election news but adores ‘The Voice”. I had left instructions that, if she wouldn’t go into her ‘house’ (cage, but we don’t use that word around her — she finds it demeaning) by herself at night, the neighbors were to leave her out (resting on the canary cages) and close the door to their room. She would be fine until morning when they came to feed and water the flock.
Sure enough, when I flicked on the light in the bird room, there she was, hunkered down on one of the cages. Her little head popped up and, as soon as she realized it was me, she let loose with her favorite song, “Sweet, Sweet…” She was so happy to see me. And I her. I had missed her silly presence for the week. I put her in her house and hefted it (it is actually a palace and as such,cumbersome) into my bedroom so we could watch television together for a bit. It’s a funny thing with pets…when you go away for any length of time, they can be delighted to see you upon your return, or they can be pissed and hold a grudge that you left them! Thankfully, Mrs. Beeton took the mature approach and welcomed me home with open wings.
L’il Sis and Groucho came for a visit a couple of days later and I was able to tell them all about our adventures in Bristol. L’il Sis and I shared some laughs over the stories. Groucho was, in my opinion, less interested than he could have been. But he probably knew that I had a supply of ‘chicken and salmon disgustings’ in the freezer for his dining pleasure. And really, what’s in a story when there’s food to be had?
It was good to be home but I was so glad that I’d been able to see Gill’s life in the UK up close and personal.