Updated: May 17
I have absolutely NO idea how I did it, but I managed to secure myself 'speedy boarding' through EasyJet for my flight from Athens to London Gatwick. When I say this, please keep in mind that 'speedy boarding' was nothing like first class... AT ALL.. It was nothing particularly fancy or posh... but somehow I'd managed to click on it... and probably... subsequently paid for it. It allowed me priority boarding rights... and a carry on, without the usual attached fee.
I'll say it again... NO idea how I managed to do it, but once the airline check-in clerk informed me of it, there was nothing I could do but accept it. I took it. Looking back, I must have had to pay extra, but nothing struck me as odd.
I was grateful after the fact, considering I saw other passengers being stopped and forced to pay for their carry only.
In fact, paying for luggage is often more expensive than the flight itself.
Speedy boarding wasn't as speedy as it sounds. They lined us all up... and then we stood there for the better part of 15 minutes... while the other passengers enjoyed the comfort of their gate boarding seats.
We finally got on and I landed in England to grey skies and drizzling rain. I was not surprised. Speedy boarding suddenly shone through as we were all first off and first out. As I didn't have any checked in luggage and the only immigration check point was a computer operated passport control, I was out within mere minutes! It scanned my passport, took a picture of me... and sent me on my way. No passport stamp though... so that was disappointing.
Stephen and Sharon were there when I came through the arrival gates. Can't believe it's been 10 years since I've seen them. We had a quick coffee at the airport and then headed back to Hayward's Heath, where they live in Sussex.
The first evening was spent deep in family chat & catch up conversation, accompanied by a delicious & traditional homemade Shepherd's Pie.
I think everyone enjoys the comfort of a home cooked meal, but the appreciation is off the rails when you've been travelling for the better part of four months, and your diet has consisted mainly of rice and beans.
My nails were atrocious and I was in desperate need of a little TLC in the manicure department. Throughout my entire journey, so many people have poked fun at my fixation on the state of my nails, and how I am occasionally on the lookout for a good salon.
But seriously... this is the truth.
~ I don't brush my hair. I don't even have a brush with me.
~ I've travelled through quite a chunk of the globe saddled up only with a small carry on.
~ I pretty much wear the same 3-4 outfits over and over again.
~ Often I wear an item of clothing more times in a row (without washing it) than would be deemed appropriate by ANY standards.
~ Sometimes I have to scrub my clothes in a small sink... with a cheap bar of soap...
~ I steal shampoo, conditioner and body lotion from budget hotel rooms.
~ I have zero makeup to even attempt to make myself look better.
~ I can't remember the last time I shaved...
~ I probably stink...
...and I don't care.
BUT... I have to get my nails done.
I have always had the nasty habit of biting my nails... and the ONLY thing that prevents me from doing so is to have my nails done. The hard gel manages to keep my teeth off of them.... sometimes.
How long have I been getting my nails done? About 9 years.
Have I kicked the nail biting habit by now? Hell no... as soon as a nail breaks... it's right back to the beginning.
So... I get my nails done.
It's my ONE vice.
Just kidding. That's a blatant lie.
Wine is my other one.
I had done my research. I was ready. There were a few nail salons in Hayward's Heath. I sent a message to a few of them via FB messenger. One of them got back to me and Boom! I was set!
Once my nails were a lovely shade of ever-so-sparkly cherry red, I meandered through the main street, popping in and out of the second-hand shops.
My mission? Winter attire.
As I was hauling around a wardrobe predominantly based around the weather of East Africa, Egypt and Greece. I was desperate to kill the winter chill and suit up. And I did it... I managed to secure myself a few items. Not sure if they'll make the trek across the pond with me, but they'll do for my jaunt through Northern Europe.
That evening, Steve took me down to experience a little bit of Brighton's nightlife. Sharon had gone off on a girls weekend, so it was just the two of us to catch up and do some sightseeing. By the time we arrived at the terminal, the sun had gone down and the wind had picked up. It was Baltic and blustery, but the chill factor didn’t stop us from strolling through the charismatic & lively back alleys of this hip seaside city. Although it was much too dark for fabulous photo ops (with my camera, anyway), it made me realize how much I really do have to come back to England and experience it in the summer months.
For dinner, Steve took me to one of his favourite haunts, an authentic Italian pizza joint, Fatto a Mano. I didn't really think I could do it, but I managed to devour almost an entire pizza. Emphasis on 'almost'… as I did leave a bit on my plate. I did make a valiant effort. There's just suddenly so much delicious food... and at every meal! I'm full all the time, but just keep on eating. Not good for me! I can already feel the pounds piling on! The restaurant was a gold mine… tables were not empty for long. We had to wait outside with a drink until something came available. But definitely worth the wait.
In a feeble attempt to walk off the meal, we sauntered down to the pier, but found most things either shut down or closed off. Not only was it just a little too early in the season, but the city was particularly quiet for a Friday night. After a little bit more sightseeing, we popped into an Irish pub for a couple pints... and then caught the train home.
I’ve found myself getting very tired lately... very easily. It really doesn’t matter how much sleep I get… I can’t help but continuously yawn and nod off. It’s odd... because I can do absolutely nothing… and I’m exhausted.
I can only attribute it to suddenly switching off.
Here, I can finally let my guard down.
I realize that I don’t have to be on my toes ALL the time and I think, as a result, I’ve worn myself out a bit. I will admit that I looked up reasons for such fatigue and there were a multitude of reasons. Iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, sleep apnoea... maybe I’m eating too much... depression that I have to go home in a few days.
Yes... I think it's the latter.
Yes, I think that’s it.
Speaking of falling asleep, I fell asleep on the train home from Brighton. Steve woke me up before we got off, and in my attempt to depart quickly, I left my favourite scarf on the seat. Could’ve been worse… could've been much worse.
But the journey is what the journey is... things come and things go.
On my final day, we did a bit of visiting. There was a quick pop round to visit Sharon's mother and Stephen's aunt & cousin. Then we trekked into the picturesque rolling hills of the Sussex Hills for a brisk walk. It was chilly, but it was good to get out and get some exercise... after all the food! It was especially good considering we dined at a fabulous Indian restaurant that evening.
My poor, full, bloated stomach!
I have decided to stay in London for my last two nights in England before I head home. Although I can hardly afford such an extravagance, I am certain that I will find something cheap and cheerful. I have become so reliant on my independence… and I don't like feeling like a burden.
It was really nice catching up with Steve. He's the only one of the McBrides that really makes an effort.
Unfortunately I have come to realize that I place an abnormal amount of importance on connecting with my McBride side of the family. Without even diving very deep on an emotional level, this obsession has got therapy written all over it. I think I’m always seeking the acceptance my own father never gave me… and failing miserably at every turn. The more I fail, the more I try… desperately reaching out… and I am acutely aware of how detrimental it is to my mental health. There is a best seller self-help book somewhere in me.. to be sure.
I recently turned 50… and it’s evoked many realizations in me. It’s almost like something triggered an epiphany. It only results in rousing bad memories, regrets and much bitterness… which subsequently provokes the torment of self-doubt, insecurity and an undeniably lack of confidence.
... and now…
Off to Germany…