I have never had a yearning to travel to New York, in a conversation with a girlfriend some years ago she was quite shocked that I hadn’t been. But then again I had never had a yearning to travel to any of the places I had just spent the last six months wandering around, so what changed, what made me do it. A sense of needing time and space to process the end of my career working in a corporate environment and what happened during those last few years. A time for myself after years of motherhood, and being a wife, looking after everyone else and being at the bottom of the list. A time to think about what’s next and decide on whether or not I had the energy to do it. New York was the final stop the last night before flying home, and I was lucky to be sharing that with my good friend Wilma who was also travelling home to see her family.
We had booked a hotel not far from Penn station which was on a direct line from Lancaster, no changes. But I am getting ahead of myself a little, we had had quite a late night the day before, Wilma working and me keeping her company whilst watching some silly reality tv program. So we both slept late the next day and awoke with less than two hours to get ready before we had to leave. We were already mostly packed, I cooked us a good breakfast and was going to make us some lunch to take on the train, but simply did not have the time. The Uber was ordered and I was juggling with phones, my American one had run out of money the day before, I had tried to top it up but was unable to because I didn’t have an American zip code that would work, obviously! Why do American systems always think you have an American address. Anyway, having booked the Uber I was trying to get in touch with him to confirm where we actually were and failing miserably, so I was standing on the doorstep looking for him when I neighbour ambled past and asked how Wilma was. Well not quite in those terms, I know the lady who lives here, where is she... I explained I was a friend from England and had been staying with her. So then I was quizzed on my opinion on the breaking news about the Russian diplomats being asked to leave after the poisoning of a Russian man and his daughter in the U.K. Did I think Theresa was doing the right thing and then he started to tell me that she had got it all wrong. I started sticking up for our Secret services and Theresa, thinking I could do without this, when along cane Mr Uber, saved by the Uber, I was so thankful.
We loaded all our stuff into the cab and took the short trip to the station, took the elevator to the platform area, and waited for the time to descend to the platform. We had to walk through to another carriage once on the train to find a luggage holder as we simply were not going to be able to lift our cases into the overhead rack. A step too far, anyway we found an empty luggage rack and a seat nearby and spent an easy three hours traveling. Almost in New York I was trying to get the skyline on camera, but it was an impossible task, so disappointing, every time I thought I had an opportunity something would get in the way. Anyway here are the results.
Finally we arrived and got off the train, tried to find a lift with all the luggage, stairs were not a real option, which took some time, and then trying to find our way out, such a huge and confusing station. Made even more difficult by pulling luggage around. Finally we found a way out and were treated to the sight of the Empire State Building, we had google maps open to work out how to get to the hotel, it turned out it was five minutes by cab and five minutes to walk, so we decided we would walk, and walking through the hustle bustle was really quite exciting, very different vibe to London which I am very used to having lived and worked here for more years than I care to remember. How is it different, I suppose it doesn’t have that English reserve, people seem more individual and they are definitely louder. The streets were packed and the roads jammed. Well that was my first five minute experience view of New York.
Once in the hotel, we had been upgraded to a room on one of the top floors, but it had a double bed, so we asked for a change to a room with two singles, and moved down a few floors, much to my relief. The room was bigger too, which was good, you don’t get much floor space for your money in New York. Wilma was still working on conference calls etc., and we had arranged to meet one of our new friends from the weekend at the Roots and Blues festival, David Fleming the harp player, that evening. So first of all we decided we needed to eat something, Wilma found a little Italian around the corner, great place and I had a fabulous plate of spaghetti with clams, so good, service was just great, wonderful vibe.
Walking to the restaurant I realised I had been to so many cities in the last six months, that in a way the New York which I had maybe been a little afraid to visit, was just another city. Every city has its own vibe, all different, some better than others, but it just hadn’t occurred to me until that moment just how far I had travelled in so many ways. Physically, in terms of miles and in terms of steps, emotionally in terms of reviewing my life, revisiting difficult feelings of loss, feeling thankful for my wonderful family and especially for my boys, hopeful that I would be able to make a new life when I return home, and start a new adventure, energised, relaxed and happy.
We were able to have a little rest before getting ready to go out, Wilma decided to join us a little later. I met David in the bar downstairs and got my first taste of New Yorkers in the bar, the woman next to me trying wines because they were no longer selling the one she wanted, and not being satisfied. I ordered a glass of Merlot, and then David arrived, we chatted away over a drink, and then he took me in a cab to the lower east side, to his favourite place to eat, which was a hot dog place. Inside there was a telephone kiosk which you went into and lifted the phone to try and get access to a speak easy next door. So the place was filled with suits hanging around waiting to get in next door, and non suits eating hot dogs. I must say the dogs were great. We then went to a bar where there was going to be some live music, and were joined by David’s young lady, Mystie and Wilma. We listened to a couple of great sets and then they took us to a punk bar, for cocktails, which was much fun. Finally we got a cab home, a bit the worse for wear I have to admit and crawled into bed around 1 am.
Our plan for the morning was to go to MOMA but we were just too tired, so after much indecision we packed went down to reception and checked that our late checkout was still ok. No, they hadn’t sorted it out the day before, but they brought our bags down and we went out to look for something to eat. By this time a late breakfast was really a lunch. We were going to go to a bagel place but the queue was enormous, so we found an Irish Bar, good place to be, after all the next day was Paddy’s day, yes I am married to an Irishman, so I am allowed to call it that. The bar was well decorated in readiness. We had a good lunch and a couple of glasses of something, and made the decision to get a yellow cab to the airport. I couldn’t use my Uber account any more because I had been unable to change my telephone number back to my English phone, and the issue was still with Uber tech support, had been for over 24 hours. But we discovered that a yellow cab to JFK was a fixed price. We couldn’t face the train, because we would have to change and we just had too much stuff. So eventually back to hotel and they found our luggage and got us a yellow cab and I would like to say we sped off to the airport. But no we crawled through traffic, although I must say the cab driver was amazing at cutting through, changing lanes and reducing the time the journey could have taken.
We were both leaving from different terminals and I was dropped off first for my Delta flight, once Wilma was checked in she came back to my terminal, to try and get us into the Delta lounge, but no joy as she wasn’t travelling with Delta, even though she was a member of their points system... the things we do for a free drink!
So we said our farewells and I settled down to wait for my departure. Reflecting on my amazing journey and looking forward to seeing my family, but not looking forward to the final leg of the journey when I got off the plane as I had told them not to come out to Heathrow to meet me. The journey was easy, but the plane a little smaller than the other transatlantic flights I had been on, so not as comfortable as usual. I had a delightful lady to chat to, she was off to visit her daughter in London to help her move house. We both slept fitfully, as usual my sleep was very limited, my mind full of what next. How could it be over so soon.
As we landed at Heathrow it was starting to snow, yes snow, I think in the last six months I had only experienced snow twice. Once in Colorado and once in Lancaster. I had hoped that I would be coming home to spring, and had been so thankful I had missed one of the worst winters the U.K. had experienced in many years. Snow, snow. No please. No thank you. Arrgghhh. I know I am from Iceland but I hate snow. Oh well.
I made my way through the airport, it was great not to have to stand in a long queue at Passport Control for once, and my luggage arrived in one piece. Incidentally it weighed in at 20 KG, how about that for a result. As I reached down to pick it up, I felt my back go a bit, amazing that never happened whilst I had been away. It wasn’t too bad but I thought oh no, now I have to get two tubes and a train and then walk from the station with all this stuff and my back is in danger of hurting big time. I was, I have to say, feeling quite sorry for myself on so many levels by this time. I walked through the doors and had a quick look around in case the old man had come to the airport despite the fact that I had told him not to. I didn’t have my glasses on for some reason, but my eyesight isn’t that bad, then I spotted this big white board, which said at the top Wanted. I thought that’s a funny thing to write on a board looking for people, it must be a list of people they are picking up. The next line I read was One Mother, oh I thought, next line was Recently Retired, then I looked up and saw my son Ásgeir and his girlfriend Tayla, laughing. What a wonderful surprise, we had the biggest hugs and I was whisked away home via the M25. The old man had bought me lots of flowers and was very pleased to see me, and Ásgeir cooked a lovely family dinner, I did have a small nap to get me through the day.
Of course that’s not the end of this story, the story goes on. I have been very busy getting my house ready to sell, and helped Ásgeir and Tayla move into and decorate their new flat as they start a new life together. I have spent a week in Liverpool visiting family and friends. My house went on the market yesterday and tomorrow I am off up to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow for a week of meeting up with more friends. A lot of activity in the five or so weeks since I have been home, plus of course I have been trying to catch up with as many people as I can which has included trips to Art Galleries, lunches, dinners, a retirement party and much more. One change in me which I was quite surprised about is that I am seeing things more as a traveler now, not taking for granted where I am and moved to take photographs wherever I am. I am very much enjoying that change, but I suppose it is also about having and taking the time for myself.
I am going to set up my Mentoring business and have lots of ideas and plans, so watch this space. My next task is to publish my story which I talked about a few months ago. Now the house is finally straight after being in a transient state with my son moving all his stuff in and out as he prepared to take possession of the first home he has bought, and my house went up for sale yesterday. I have as I was once taught, cleared a space to make a place for the new things that are coming into my life, the things I am so excited to be working on. I have to also admit I have now got the travelling bug, I am planning another trip to Australia and Bali, I want to spend some proper time in New York, and we are going to France for a month in June. Fingers crossed that the house sells and I can move to my landing place soon.
If you are interested in mentoring or being mentored please get in touch through my contact form. It will still be a while, but plans and ideas on how and what and when and why are formed and will be implemented soon.
On a sadder note, my good friend Ira Nottonson passed away on March 27th, it was not unexpected and I am so thankful I got to visit with him one last time in Colorado, and to rekindle my friendship with the wonderful Sam his partner for over fifty years and meet Sam’s daughter Kelly, precious memories.
Rest in Peace Ira, we will all miss you.
I do hope you have enjoyed the ride so far and that you will stay on for the next part of the journey.