I picked up a few groceries last weekend and the friendly young man with an engaging smile who rang them through told me he was pretty sure that winter was here to stay.
“It’s sure been cold this week,” he said, as he helped me fill my cart.
“Actually, I’ve been away,” I replied. “I’ve been to London. London, England,” I added, somewhat haughtily.
“London,” he replied, his voice rising a notch, properly impressed. “Wow.”
“Yes,” I said, flashing him a secretive, Mona Lisa sort of smile. “It was very cool.”
“Cool,” I thought as I drove home. “My goodness, you’d think I could come up with some better words to describe London.”
I close my eyes, which is somewhat hazardous when one is driving, and a kaleidoscope of images flash through my mind.
London is a different world. It is a world I was ill prepared for, having agreed to go along on this trip armed with about as much knowledge about the city as a child. But, even so, I was excited, not so much about the trip as about spending quality time with three people I love dearly, my daughter, my granddaughter and my sister.
That is, indeed, very cool!
And, for sure, it was the people, not the trip itself that made it wonderful, amazing and filled with those shining moments in time too special to be forgotten.
We arrived at Gatwick airport on schedule and suitcases and exhaustion in tow, we boarded a train to Victoria Station.
Confusion battled determination as we set out to find our new home. A woman taxi driver parked outside of Victoria Station refused to take us and our suitcases anywhere, telling my daughter the flat we had rented was only just around the corner.
“What corner?” Ahh, that was the question. After walking for what seemed like forever, we finally discovered we were, in fact, walking the wrong way.
Finally, still lugging our suitcases and looking for all the world like lost and weary travelers, which we were, we found our flat. I remember it still. 98 Belgrave Road, a clean, bright and charming little flat, set inconspicuously among around 1.1 million other clean, bright and charming little flats.
We rested, but briefly, before my daughter informed us in no uncertain terms this was London, for goodness sakes, we’d better get up and get going. There were sights to see, places to explore and fun to be had. And we dared not sleep. And so it came to be that we began, in our own somewhat confused and directionally challenged way, to discover London.
My daughter had the foresight to plan and re-plan and organize the trip. Humbly we followed her, even when she went left instead of right and boarded busses going the wrong direction.
Each day, we walked and walked and walked some more. Luckily, we all liked walking, but, perhaps, we liked it a little less by the time nightfall arrived.
My sister, who traveled with a cast caused by a hairline fracture on her left wrist, never complained except once. “My toe hurts,” she moaned. She kept muttering, “8.4 million people here. Wow. No wonder they considered Canada a colony.”
My granddaughter seemed to absorb London into her very self, and it was a delight to me just to see her smile when she climbed on the backs of lions at Trafalgar Square and walked up the many steps inside the Tower of London and explored the Sherlock Homes Museum on Baker Street.
My daughter, on our last night in London, made a list of all we had seen and done, sighed and said, “We did pretty good considering we were only here for such a short time. We saw a lot and did a lot.”
As for me, I will always and forever remember my granddaughter wearing a red dress and black running shoes, striding through the darkened streets of London, purposely, confidently like she knew where she was going.
She didn’t, of course, but we followed her, anyway.
And I will remember the sites; Big Ben, The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, The London Eye, Baker Street, the British Museum, the Thames River, London Bridge and oh, so much more.
But, mostly I will remember one week in October, one exciting memorable week; and the way we were: three generations of women who got lost a lot, walked a lot, laughed a lot and talked a lot as we explored and discovered London together. Actually, it was cool! Very cool!
Treena Mielke is the editor of the Rimbey Review and writes a regular column for The Pipestone Flyer.