Posted by: mattburleigh | April 17, 2010

Unexpected holiday

Thursday 15th April 2010

My timezones are all a bit muddled but bare with me. I left Kona on Hawaii on Wednesday evening, catching the 9.20pm American Airlines flight to Los Angeles. Kona is a great airport, mostly open air, the buildings are I guess designed to look like traditional Hawaiian houses, and it’s so warm and humid you want to be outside anyway. You check-in outside, wait for the plane behind a little gate on the tarmac and walk out to it. The plane was late leaving and I was a little concerned about making my connection, but I had three seats to myself so stretched out and caught 2 or 3 hours sleep (unusual for me on a plane!). I got to LAX at 5am, and had three texts. The first was just a late “bon voyage” to me at Kona from Miranda. The second I almost ignored, thinking at first it would just be the usual “welcome to vodafone usa this is going to cost you an arm and a leg hahahaha suckers we’re in the money” text. But then I looked – Miranda: “Bad news”.

Now Miranda’s job at Heathrow means she has the inside knowledge of everything like this that happens, so I immediately seeked out the AA customer service desk, fearing the worst. And luckily the lady on duty was well informed: all flights to the UK cancelled. I wondered what to do: I was due to fly to JFK on the 7am, then onto Heathrow. But should I just stay in LA, maybe contact astronomy friends there (but it was 5.30am!)? AA offered me money off a local hotel for one night only, but I immediately realised this could go on for days.

Now Miranda was wonderful. She contacted her brother in New Jersey and he said they’d be delighted to see me. In the meantime AA found and offloaded my bag, so I  was re-booked onto the 8am to JFK, and at the ticket desk landside they got me a seat on a flight from JFK-LHR on Monday (19th). I must say, the AA staff were exceedingly helpful and I was very grateful.

At JFK a few hours later the problem was obvious. BA, Virgin and Aer Lingus planes parked well away from the terminal. Inside, the boards showed many cancellations, including (to my surprise) Paris and Zurich. Miranda’s brother Nick lives with his family in rural New Jersey, so I had to make my way to Newark, south of Manhatten (JFK is north) where he would meet me. This took 2.5 hours – New York was grid-locked in the evening rush hour, but on the other hand I got to see the sights of central Manhatten (had to change buses at Grand Central, but the drivers were all really helpful. Cost 22 dollars in case anyone ever has to do the same!).

And then at Newark airport there was quite a bit of chaos, with clearly many people turning up for evening flights to Europe and having to make new plans. So I consider myself lucky. Nick and his 3 year old daughter Maya picked me up outside the Continental terminal, and it was a nice half hour drive or so to his house in the countryside in New Jersey, a place called Califon. We stopped to pick up a Chinese and some beers from an off-license: I was like a kid in a toyshop – so many micro-brews to choose from. I bought 6 packs of Dogfish Head 60min IPA from Delaware, and SnakeDog IPA (which is stocked by Murree Squires in the Offie on Clarendon Park Rd in Leicester, just round the corner from me).  Dogfish Head IPA was incredibly hoppy, and dry, just like I love my beer. Good choice Matt.

And then I slept like a log. Earplugs helped of course, especially when Maya and her baby sister Lola woke up. But a week’s worth of travelling across so many time zones, working nights, not sleeping much in the Hale Puhako (boy does it need renovating), and anxiety about getting home – well, I was knackered. Probably had 7 hours sleep in preceding 48 hours+.

But I was/am really disappointed to not be going back to England. I had a great weekend planned: seeing Miranda and heading to Brighton for a day out and picking up my reconditioned bat from Newbery’s; a trip to Wembley on Saturday with the Preston lads for the Saracen’s game; and first match of the season Sunday at the Field of Dreams against Knebworth Park. I’m missing the lot, and especially missing Miranda.And I know she wishes she was here with us: it would have been wonderful.

Friday 16th April 2010

By the time I woke up I’ve had half a normal day. Soaked up some sunshine on Nick’s decking, emailed work to let my boss and students know where I am, bought some more beers and wine on a shopping trip with the little girls and Nick. A recommendation: Francis Coppola Black Label Claret  2007, $22. It may have a famous name fronting it, but for the price (good Yankee wines are massively over-priced) it was fantastic: full-bodied at 13,5%, dry, complex and smooth as a Bordeaux-imitation should be. Believe the celebrity hype. It’s worth the price and I wish we could get it in England: an evening of bolognese, The Godfather (Part I or II), good company  and a bottle of this would make any winter’s night eminently memorable.

Dinner with Nick and Kelly Lovegrove, Maya (front) and Lola, in New Jersey Fri 16th April 2010. So grateful they are putting me up!

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