People in England come to Miami for sun and to escape the rain. This year the roles are reversed. People tell me there is a heat wave in London. Looking out of the window in Miami airport I see torrential rain. My Mexican friend with his maternal-dash-across-the<-border US passport gave me a lift to El Paso airport. Immigration saw I had a ticket to leave in a few hours so caused me no problems this time. The flight here was unusual. It was a stopping flight. It took off from El Paso. The stewardesses handed out soft drinks and snacks. Then we landed. Some people left. Some got on. We took off, gobbled our snacks and landed again. I’m not sure how many stops we made. Four or five I think. From here it is direct overnight flight to Heathrow. I have spent the last of my money on airport taxes and snacks.
Last night I boarded my British Airways plane and immediately felt at home. Not only were people speaking English, they were speaking it with a British accent. We were each given a little menu card so we knew what we would be eating, and the steward changed to serve dinner. All very civilised. I had an empty seat next to me so I lay down and slept for most of the journey. We were woken for breakfast and then landed in England almost eight and a half months after I left. I now realised I shouldn’t have spent the last of my money. Heathrow is about 20 miles west of London, I needed to be about 30 miles east of London. I was just thinking I would have to hitch hike when I spotted a branch of Midland Bank, my bank. I withdrew the few remaining pounds I had, then a bus, a tube, a train and a short walk and I was home. I went through the side gate and was greeted by the dog Rory. The noise of the gate and the noise of the dog meant that Mum was looking out of the back door to see what the commotion was as I walked around the corner. I think she was quite pleased to see me. A quick phone call and Dad came home for lunch. I am really happy to have made my journey, but, sitting at the table with my parents, unemployed and in debt, I am happy to be home too.
I got a new job quite quickly after my return. My new manager told me that the independence and self-reliance shown by my trip was the thing that made my application stand out from the rest. At that company I met Anne. We got married in 1980. You could say that my life has been directly shaped by that one trip. Anne and I have made some adventurous journeys together. The Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian railway from St Petersburg to Beijing probably the most famous. We have two children, both grown up and married now. When they wanted to they both set off on their travels to see some of the world. It wasn’t till we waved goodbye to them that I started to understand what my own parents must have felt all those years ago.