One of our last nights in Atlanta was spent with my family, at a Thai restaurant, where the kids showed me and Craig their newest game. It only works at restaurants with paper tablecoverings-- unless you're very antisocial and don't mind being kicked out of fancier linen-type restaurants, that is. Anyway, using the place settings, they outline their forks, knives, spoons, bowls and plates onto the paper. Then they remove the actual thing, let's say, the fork, and they turn the outline into a character. Plate, of course, usually becomes a big moon face, and the whole thing ends up looking like an illustration of "Hey diddle, diddle."
Regardless, my point is that Craig really wowed them when he took the game to new levels.
Lynn, Craig and I met up at the airport, with Mama and Papa Dalal and Wayne in tow. Lynn and Craig only had one suitcase each, so I intended to buy a second bag for all three of us at $50 a pop, so that I could get all my crap to Manchester. There I stood, credit card in hand, as the service attendant informed me that they had already been paid for.
Sometimes even miserable places, like airports, can throw little $150 packets of joy your way. But it's rare, so savour it. Mmmm.
On the plane, Lynn quickly got to work becoming the new best friend of the girl sitting next to her. Remember Abby, guys? She was nice. She sat with us in the Toronto airport and ate Indian snacks and trail mix with us.
We got to London's Heathrow airport at, I don't know, 5.30 in the morning or something heinous like that. Lynn had boarded the plane well-prepared, with melatonin tablets and little less-than-three ounce bottles of various liquors, so she slept fine. Craig and I didn't think to partake of that goody-bag until long after she was passed out, so we didn't fare quite so well...
Then, from London's Paddington station, we had to get to Liverpool station. On the tube. In the middle of the morning commute. With six suitcases, packed to the very hilt of their 50-pound limit. No lifts. And definitely no sympathy from London travelers.
Not very clever. Craig was sweating and aching, I was doing my best to help lift the bags on and off the trains. And my best is pretty poor. And Lynn was just trying to keep everyone from hating us. Maybe we should have offered them the little bottles??
Anyway, we did finally make it to the Hertford (pronounced "Hartford," naturally, or as the title of this post punningly suggests, "Heartford") station, only to have a cabbie let us know that for three people and six suitcases, it literally would have been cheaper to just take a cab from Heathrow directly to Hertford.
Oh, very clever. We didn't even think of that option. Ahem.
Ann and Geoff are basically Craig's great-aunt and great-uncle. Geoff is Wayne's mom's brother. Ann and Geoff are wonderful wonderful people. They bicker hilariously with each other, they clearly love each other, they have a beautiful house and an amazing garden, and they have simply got things figured out. They know how to spend a day. I have great respect for that. Old souls, I tell you. These two know how and why to have fun. I simply can't explain it. I first met Ann and Geoff about four years ago, and I had really enjoyed their company.
Our first day, well, I was sort of useless. I took a nap and ate and just barely managed a few incoherent thoughts, but I know I had a stupid grin on my face. I was very happy to be at their place again.
But on our second day, we went on a field trip! Like, a trip to a field. I mean it--
A place called Wimpole Farm, it's a real working farm that's managed by the National Trust. It was beautiful, and we took a nice long walk up to the folley.
What's a folley, you ask?
Or, as Ann defined it for me, "It's just an old useless building that doesn't do anything."
Wimpole Farm also has a very nice little cafe and courtyard, wherein we ate some homemade fudge. That's my kind of farm. Ann and Geoff pictured below, with their grand-daughter Ruby in the foreground.
We spent a few days at Ann and Geoff's, enjoying leisurely mornings, light breakfasts with plenty of coffee, and delicious lunches of cheese, bread, chutney and olives. We went out to the Raj, a surprisingly good Indian restaurant in Hertford, and we went to the weekend farmer's markets. Hertford is a quaint town, with a village sort of feel. We walked along the river and found a HUGE community garden.
Some people even had little sheds set up next to their plots! Very cool.
While we were there, Ann and Geoff had all their kids and their kids' kids around for a little afternoon tea and get-together. A good wholesome family day, with some requisite parent-child wrestling and some forced-grass-feeding. What? You never stuffed grass in your dad's mouth? Man, what kind of sad childhood did you have?
This is Tim (Ann and Geoff's youngest) with his son Stanley. For some unclear reason, Stanley is trying to tear Tim's arm off, but Tim doesn't seem to mind, does he?
And it seems Nicole did manage to feed her dad Nick (Ann and Geoff's eldest) some tasty tasty grass.
I really can't thank Ann and Geogg enough for their hospitality, kindness and generosity; they've already invited me down for Christmas and invited me to visit during the year. I'm really looking forward to it, actually. I love being around Ann and Geoff, and I really like Hertford. It's a small town, but it has a really nice pace. And it's pretty, with cobblestone streets and all. Those few days with Ann and Geoff were so nice, comfortable and fun, we had to make a real effort to leave.
But Lynn only had a week in England, and Craig and I wanted to make sure she saw more of it than Hertford with us. Where to go? Wales? Scotland? At the bar one night, Nick, Rachel and Tim laid out one option each. Nick and Rachel both suggested heading West, but not going nearly so far as Wales-- too much driving. Tim suggested a radically different route: East. Well, north-east, really. Then Nick spilled his beer on Rachel. Then he told her to stop whinging about it. Oh, it was a fun time.
Anyway, Tim won, and we soon found ourselves driving toward Bury St. Edmonds. But that's for the next post--