Home is where the heart is.
We have been home now for a week, but my heart is still firmly in Macau.
We passed a wonderful few days in London both catching up and missing dear friends. Of course we weren’t really in ‘London’ at all as the delightful LD lives out near Richmond which has all the benefits of being close enough to ‘town’, but is so far removed from the city that you could imagine yourself to be in any quaint English country village. We strolled around the parks and had lattes and ice cream down by the river with the ‘yummy mummy’ set, of course having a bi-lingual child and having just returned from a month in Macau we fitted right in, although I’m not sure my sunglasses were quite large enough for me to fully gain acceptance into their ranks (phew). Our one foray into central London to meet JJ for yet more coffee, was quite enough and I managed about 4 hours before the long lost urge to run screaming into the night almost overwhelmed me. But then if you are ridiculous enough to tackle Hamleys then half of Oxford street sans valium then I suppose you have no-one to blame but yourself .
Despite LD’s torturous essay and exam schedule we did manage a whole day gadding about together,
and took the sweetest little foot ferry across the Thames and did coffee and cake at a ‘terribly nice’ garden centre. How very. Moo was deeply disappointed when the elegant Ham House turned out in fact to be made of boring old bricks, but the discovery of the magical trees that grow
smartie cakes, that just so happened to be ripe for harvesting, more than made up for it.
When it came time to depart I was heard to mutter under my breath ‘ I don’t really want to go home’. Well good old karma must have heard me and when we arrived to board our Eurostar to Lille we were met with the sight of several thousand people, with their several thousand suitcases, all patiently waiting to check in for trains that were due to depart around an hour previously. Not good.
It transpires that a carbon monoxide sensor had been triggered in the tunnel in the early morning and there would be no trains until it had all been checked and cleared. The rumour amongst the crowd was that there was to be a delay of about an hour, but as it was already over an hour since the first train was
supposed to have left I had my doubts. But then the hi-vis angels appeared at the check-in desks and we began to filter through. When it was our turn I informed the lovely lady that I had a connection to make, but as there was 2 hours to make it there shouldn’t be too much of a problem. From the heavy sigh and the stamp on the back of my ticket, I got the impression that the connection would be lost. And so onto security where Moo was way ahead of the rest of the pack with her jacket already off and her shoes ready to go in the tray, (this is one travel savvy 5 year old), when the very nice security lady told her she could in fact keep her shoes on Moo then quizzed her why it was OK to wear shoes for a train, but not for a plane. We still haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer for her.
Instead of moving forward through passport control we were told that the departures lounge was now full and we all had to stay in the small empty space, unable to go back into the main station as we had been ‘screened’ and unable to move forward through passport control. The glittering illuminated sign for ‘Nero’s coffee’ just beyond the gate, so near and yet so far from my reach, did little to calm my slowly fraying nerves. After about 20 minutes in no-mans land Moo uttered the words I dreaded to hear, yet came to adore. ‘Mummy, I really need a wee’. After a quick scan of our holding pen revealed no facilities (there weren’t any chairs so I wasn’t really expecting to find a loo, but I looked anyway), I spotted a loitering security guard who informed me that there weren’t any toilets in this bit and I’d have to wait. I politely informed him that in that case he had better go and find a mop and as the realisation dawned he quick marched us through passport control and pointed us in the right direction. Now we were actually no nearer to getting on an actual train, but at least I could now get a coffee while we waited. Much better.
The time dragged on and by 1pm the 9.20 departure was finally boarding to the sound of much cheering, not least by those still confined in the holding pen, sadly our departure wasn’t scheduled till 10.57, but it was a step in the right direction. By 2.45 we were on our way to Lille with all thoughts, even with the time adjustment, of making our 2.54 connection thrown to the winds, but the hope that the next train wouldn’t be too long after.
Hope is a curious thing. Marvellous and life affirming when rewarded, Crushing and soul destroying when dashed.
When we arrived we were informed that the previous service had departed just 3 short minutes ago and, to add insult to injury, the next service had been delayed by an accident and would now depart in a little over 3 hours. It was at this point Moo externalised my internal emotions and threw up all over the platform. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
With mopping up done and a remarkably swift recovery made, our bags were deposited in left luggage we headed out into the sunshine of Lille to send frantic text messages to the person who was supposed to be picking us up from the next station. Thankfully timings were successfully adjusted and new arrangements were made for later that night. Mrs HV I salute you (although she did later confess that she was actually quite pleased we had been delayed as she didn’t really fancy driving into the centre of Le Mans at 5.30 on a Saturday afternoon, and having done it myself I don’t really blame her).
The courtyard area outside Lille Europe station is spacious and actually quite pretty with it’s bizarrely beautiful brightly painted metal flower sculpture/kids climbing frame and arching fountains, and despite the annoyance of our delay and the seemingly never ending parade of small children sent out to beg as their parents soaked up the sun, we passed a pleasant couple of hours basking in the early evening warmth.
At last it was time for our train and this time lady karma was kind. Our train supervisor for the journey was an exceptionally tall and charming young man who, after regarding the original time on out tickets and hearing our tale of woe, was at great pains to lessen the stress of our remaining journey. He moved us form our cramped two seats in a full carriage onto an empty table for four in pole position in the deserted buffet car, thus facilitating Moo’s need to wander about, and my very great need for more caffeine. Small acts of kindness can bring forth sunbeams from beyond the clouds.
I somehow managed to keep Moo and Myself awake for the last section of our journey, (waking up in Nantes is not something that would have enhanced the day), and we fell into the waiting car and drifted back to the house. I poured Moo into her bed, had a quick coffee and catch up with my friend before bidding her a fond good night. As I finally shut the door on the day, in contrast to my thoughts at the days beginning, I couldn’t actually be more happy to be home. And although my heart is still many miles away, this time I’m going with the wise words of Pumba, (yes really the warthog from ‘The Lion King’).
Home is, in fact, where your rump rests.