It’s 10 p.m. Moroccan time, which changed yesterday from Daylight Savings Time after starting in on June 1st. The mosque is pouring forth a melodic chant, on and on and on, which I take to mean Ramadan has started. My internet connection leaves much to be desired, so tonight I’ll post my story, and tomorrow (insha’allah) I’ll post pics to go with it.
First we visited friends in Worthing, on the south coast of England. Ilsa made a Scottish friend, and claimed to now have a Scottish accent. She claimed her friend now has an American accent. I must say that I personally was unable to discern these new accents, but it’s okay—the two girls have invented a new alphabet and language to go with it. I suppose they will soon both be sporting “Top Secret” accents (I am not allowed to know the name of the new language).
Then we spent some time visiting my cousins and aunt in South Wales. That was super. The last time I saw my cousin’s daughter, she was 4; now she is 20. I know! Isn’t that just wrong? But it makes sense, considering airfares from Seattle to Swansea, or even Nouakchott and Heathrow.
I grew up mostly not knowing the Welsh half of my family (My mother was Welsh and met and married my American father when both of them were working in Ethiopia), except for one memorable trip when I was 8 and my grandmother had a stroke, and Mum took me with her to nurse her for a couple of months. I retain vivid memories of that trip; daffodils and stinging nettles and fizzy lemonade and lime popsicles when I wouldn’t eat, offered by my kind uncle, and how scary I found my grandmother, who was very sick, and a shameful glimpse of my great-aunt in her pale blue panties on the one night that I worked up the nerve to not sleep with my mother but take up my great-aunt’s generous offer of her bedroom, and she of course had given up on me and was in there getting ready to sleep in her own bed. I remember my grandmother’s roses, and the woods full of bluebells behind her house, and my cousin Helen, 8 years older, taking me out for ice-cream and styling my hair on Saturday nights. I remember school lunches and how they didn’t make me buy a uniform although I secretly wanted one, and I remember eating “99” cones which have a Cadbury Flake stuck in them and are so good! We ate lamb chops and tiny green peas, and my great aunt put ketchup on her tomatoes because the doctor had forbidden her to use vinegar. She was a stubborn woman, as was my grandmother, as was my mother.
When my brother got married in 1983, I think it was, Helen came out from Wales for an American vacation. The next summer, Mum and I went to my other cousin’s wedding, and I ended up being a bridesmaid in sky-blue taffeta. That started several years of back-and-forth-ing between the families. One year my brother and his wife went to Wales; another year my aunt and uncle and some friends came to America. But this ended in the mid-90s. Everyone was married. Although the older generation made several more trips, my generation didn’t. We sort of lost touch, although we knew basic news (births, divorces, cancer announcements, in the last couple of years deaths).
How to pick up after 16 years? We did okay. We talked not about the intervening years but about the present, as you do with someone you haven’t seen for a very long time. It was good getting to know her children a bit. Catrin, 20, was invited to a party one night and didn’t want to go. “It’s not really my scene,” she said in her precise voice, which we found amusing as we couldn’t imagine her scene was sitting round the dining room table with us old folks trying to decide between gooseberry cobbler with elderberry ice cream or rhubarb/strawberry cobbler with orange mascapone. I had both. Wouldn’t you?
We hiked on the cliffs of the Gower peninsula, and went shopping in downtown Swansea, visited a little with my aunt who is sadly changed since my uncle’s death 2 years ago, and on the third day caught the train up to London.
Donn said of London, “It’s the only city in the world where it’s cheaper to stay at the airport.” Truly, the UK is very expensive, mostly because of the exchange rate. We visited a few attractions, such as the Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral, where sadly the choir was on vacation, but resisted many things because of the money involved. We picnicked on the grass and admired street performers and trudged endless miles through the streets. The kids climbed the lions in Trafalgar Square and I said to Elliot, my little history freak, “Tell us about it,” so he did. He knew much more detail than I ever did. It is very handy having a history freak in the family. I plan to keep him.
We flew easyjet to London and I feel the need to issue a public service call on them to change their name! I am suggesting squeezyjet, but they can do something else if they like.
First of all, I have no problem with them not providing services, because they are really cheap. (they don’t give you anything to eat or drink and you don’t get assigned seats, which makes waiting in line to board especially fraught with excitement, and you are only allowed carry on luggage) Their planes are clean and bright and new, and at first I was prepared to like them very much. We changed planes in Madrid, and I thought it was silly that they couldn’t check our one case from Casa to London, especially since it’s the same airline. Did that really save them money? I can’t see how. But again, I can flow with that. Whatever.
What seemed excessive was that we were 2 ½ hours leaving Casa. The pilot apologized for the delay, and that was it; no free coke or anything. Then, our flight from Madrid was nearly 2 hours late as well! This time, no reason or apology was offered.
At least this time, we didn’t have to deal with the mood of the airline personnel being the deciding factor as to whether our carry ons were too big, rather than the fact that they are industry standard size or the fact that they fit in easyjet’s little orange basket being the deciding factors. Also, they let us bring our own sandwiches.
Coming home, we flew Royal Air Maroc. They not only matched easyjet’s price, but they let us check luggage without charging us extra, and they didn’t fuss about anything. They even fed us! I know who I’m flying next time!