TMiddy and I are jetsetters. You all know this. Sometimes I wish that this involved things like being invited to someone's villa in Ibiza, or onto someone's yacht anywhere, but it does not. Usually it means that I travel back and forth to Auckland, and TM travels back and forth to St Louis; sometimes, when other people are paying, we go to Germany. And that's about it. True, we were recently in Spain for another category of trip, known as The Holiday We Cannot Afford. But that was for TM's biggest-ever birthday, and absolutely brilliant and worth it in every way, not least because lots of other people came as well, and we got to laugh and eat and drink a lot, and play charades with categories like Tudor Women and Books By Hitler.
Today is a jetsetting day, by which I mean we woke up this morning in Sheffield and now, about seventeen hours later, we're in Dulles airport in Washington DC. We missed our connection to St Louis so we'll be here for some time.
Here are some things I observed along the way today. On the walk from our place to the train station in Sheffield, we saw a smashed wine bottle, a scattering of squashed chips and a shop coathanger (size 14), all strewn in close proximity. The coathanger was broken. A crime scene?
In Manchester airport, without any cash, we dusted off my United Club card and attempted to infiltrate every possible executive club in search of a free breakfast. This was unsuccessful until, after overhearing my plaintive call to the United helpdesk (confirming that we have no access to anything anywhere in the UK other than Heathrow), the desk guy at one club took pity on us and let us in. This was a lesson I learned living in the US. (Thanks, America!) Be polite but be persistent: you may wear someone down. The reward, in Manchester at least, will be free cereal and tea.
When we jetsetted off to Spain last month, we flew with Lufthansa and Swissair. On these airlines, the crew are polite, professional and friendly, and they speak several languages. Today we flew with United. The crew members dealing with those of us in the cheap seats did not smile. Not once. Actually, I was impressed at how resolutely unsmiling they could be for almost nine hours, thrusting polystyrene cup of teas at us, and barking "beef, chicken or vegetarian?" when serving our one meal. No free drinks, of course, or menus, or pleasantries. It could make sense if United were a budget airline, and politeness was one of the dispensed-with frills, but it isn't. This trip cost us a fortune. I'd rather deal with the bare-bones Ryanair: at least they're jolly.
Today's jetsetting highlight, though: a very clear view of Greenland. I've never seen it before. We were passing the southeast corner, I think, so all we could see was a great tumble of rocks, everything jagged and icy, various inlets dotted with trawlers. No towns or houses or rivers in view. I tried to take pictures with my phone, but the clouds and the ice and the frosty sea blurred into one on the screen - Greenland defying technology. A part of me hoped we would have to make some unscheduled stop there, and possibly spend the night.
Here at Dulles we had an hour to make the connection, and most of that was spent queuing in Immigration, or listening to desperate people shout and complain and beg in the security line. Still cash-free, we're spending the five hours until the next flight in the United lounge, watching football on TV, abusing the free house cabernet, and eating a tasty and nutritious free dinner: yoghurt-covered raisins, mini-carrots, greasy cheese squares in plastic wrapping, etc. I think I may have seen a commercial on TV for pizza made with cookie dough, but I may be hallucinating.
This is true jetsetting, FYI. The world of Sheffield - broken glass and coathangers, the pallid smear of cold chips - seems a universe away. By midnight we'll be in snowy St Louis, the home of toasted ravioli. If we're lucky, our bags will be there as well. In my carry-on I have three boxes of mince pies and all our American Christmas cards, and my mother's garnet ring, which I'll wear to my nephew's wedding in Mexico next week. In Tom's carry-on is a copy of The Economist, just pilfered from the United lounge. Please don't judge us because of our glamorous life.