We were picked up by the same driver who had dropped us off at the station when we took the train to Agra. A very nice man who didn’t speak much English but smiled widely when he saw us (we have such an impact!) and was grateful when I offloaded all the excess bottles of hand sanitiser. We drove quickly and I just wanted to drink in all my final sights and sounds of India.
We boarded the Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi and disappointed to be served curry for breakfast at 9.30 in the morning. Man alive, I am all curried out and can’t eat it any more. We have also been totally vegetarian the whole trip and I silently craved for some chicken (I don’t eat other meat). I didn’t think it appropriate either to drink wine at such an early hour so sat and drank water and ate a stale roll.
A quick arrival in Abu Dhabi and we made our way to the duty free to freshen up. After trying on some designer Dior sunglasses we made our way to the cosmetic counters. I applied a full face of Lancôme, smothered myself in Jo Malone and gave any exposed skin a nice little body massage with Clarins . We had a wonderful cup of earl grey tea and shared a chocolate twist which, after curry, tasted like heaven on earth. The new “carefree SA”‘ then attacked the lipstick counters and arrived at check in for our flight to London looking like a cross between Danny La Rue and Miss Piggy. The security lady took my mobile out of my bag and commented on the screensaver shot of my handsome Archibald. Hannah quickly saved the lady from being shown my full saved album of my beloved Archibald – I have saved pictures from 9 weeks to his current age of 12 so it could have taken some time.
The flight, again, was not full and we quickly managed to change seats after discovering we were sitting near a family of six small children and a father who snorted and was ready to spit the contents of his mouth out at any moment. We sat behind each other with 3 seats to ourselves and next to the window – bingo!
Once the flight took off we quickly and eagerly ordered G&Ts and I think the air hostess noted the pleading in my eyes and gave me a double. Lunch was served and no curry! I chose the chicken option and waited desperately only to pull back the packaging and discover to my utter horror there was mash potato!!! For those of you who know me well (especially the Pie and Bubbles Gang) know that I detest mash potato (so dramatic!!) ; it is, in my mind just wrong, wrong, wrong!! I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and wondered what those lucky folk on the upper deck were eating – I bet their potatoes were either roasted or sautéed and I could guarantee they weren’t mashed! I felt my third meltdown of the trip erupting but pulled myself together, in the new SA style, closed my eyes and ate it all; albeit each mouthful with a sip of gin. First example of India having a good effect on me – I can take on the world including mash potato! I finished the gin, thanked and smiled sweetly at the air hostess and complimented her on the wonderful food. Note to self; On arrival in U.K. write politely to Etihad and suggest mashed potato is so last year darling and might they serve sautéed potato instead!?
We circled London and, due to the busy air traffic, we were treated to a 40 minute exciting view of the entire city. It was magical to point out all the landmarks of our treasured and wonderful capital. The view of the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park was an amazing sight (Francesca was there and I tried so hard to spot her and her friends but gave up!!). the difference to the world we have left behind in India really hit me.
Arrival at Heathrow was like something out of Love Story and I ran like mad with tears rolling down my face towards John and Mum leaving all my dignity and decorum on the flight! Gosh it felt so good to be home with my fabulous John and my adored Mum. John kept saying how proud he was of me and I held him so tightly.
The main difficulty I have after 8 years at boarding school is the overpowering sadness I feel when saying goodbye. This can even be when, ridiculously, someone has been to stay for the weekend or when something in my life comes to an end. I struggle to gather together all the positive feelings but that moment of goodbye hits me so hard like a ton of bricks and it is something I work hard at. Well saying goodbye to my darling, fun- loving, gorgeously beautiful (I tried her “no make up” policy but failed miserably – I realised I needed at least a splash of tinted moisturiser and mascara to resemble something at least half decent), reliable and adored travel companion was heart breaking. I just couldn’t let her go and we clung to each other until her 24 year old self pulled herself together and tried to look cool whilst my 52 years and 10 months (dear lord!) self couldn’t stop the tears flowing. We have laughed and cried so much these past two weeks; it has been incredibly special. Off she went, backpack on her back, chirpy as ever to catch the underground back home – thank you my darling from the depths of my heart. I’ll see her in two week’s time for Christmas but it didn’t stop me trying to gain an Oscar nomination with my farewell scene.
I chatted all the way home, catching up on all the news at home and telling tales of my adventure. My darling Dad had been unwell whilst I was away and I was anxious to get home to see him and hug him like no other! Quick chat and catch up and Mum and Dad left for home whilst Archie and I caught up with love and cuddles! I long to see Francesca who returns home on Sunday; I ache to hold her. So good to be home.
And now here I am at 5 am unable to sleep (my body obviously thinks that 5 hours sleep a night is good enough – tell that to the huge bags under my eyes!!). Images and thoughts running through my head. Images of scenes I don’t ever want to forget – a man riding his motorbike with his wife sat side-saddle on the back in her highly colourful sari (I haven’t seen black clothing for two weeks) on her mobile whilst the man holds on to this small baby who is asleep at the front; the lady at the side of the road in Delhi with her three small children none of whom were wearing shoes and didn’t look as though they had ever washed and one of the children (who was wearing no pants) was playing (I kid you not) with the electricity box!; the sight of the highly colourful ladies in their saris working hard in the fields with their homemade pick axes while the men laze on their Indian day beds (I really, badly want one for the garden – I am on a mission to find one); the peace and the prayers in the many temples we have visited; the mixture of smells in the air; the constant ringing of bells and horns, be it from the vehicles or the bells round the necks of the cows: the eclectic range of animals we have seen, from peacocks and chipmunks to camels and elephants (and the blasted monkeys!); the list goes on and on.
For two weeks we have been treated with smiles and happiness and it has been so infectious I want to cling to it forever. I don’t want to be sad, don’t want to be stressed, don’t want to fret about the small and silly stuff, don’t want to worry. I want to deal with everything head on and never forget that away from this charmed and comfortable life I lead there is a world of struggle and strife and yet smiles and happiness carry them through. Sounds simple? Well why does everything have to be so complicated, why do we always have to think what if? – let’s just embrace what we have and just bloody strive to help others! That’s it isn’t it – don’t let us allow struggle lets just live and help each other. Too much power and politics in the world – sickening.
Would you consider it corny for me to end my blog with two quotes from Mahatma Gandhi?
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”
Over and out you special and fantastically wonderful people – it’s been a blast. Champagne? Chapatis? – I’ll drink and eat them both together thank you!
Today’s worry or fear? Currently at 5 am on the 9th December 2018 I worry and fear I will never again achieve more than a 5 hour sleep!
Love and peace, and happiness, and family, and friendship and sheer darned smiles!