Gui-tars and Garter Stitch

British friends and rellies thought we were mad.

I thought we were mad.

Hurricane one had already hit, devastating Houston. Hurricane two was limbering up in the wings, gulping steroids.

Somehow we’d booked our flight to Texas for the lull between the two. Slipped through to Austin after its allocation of rain – seven inches – had already fallen.

So the sun was shining when we arrived, extra weary, at four in the afternoon.

Extra, because of the taxi. Which arrived to whisk us off to the airport at five in the morning.

Five in the morning the day before we were due to fly.

As I padded out into the front garden, with just-woken-up-to-the-phone-ringing eyes, barefoot, in my pyjamas, panic set in.

Please don’t tell me we should be leaving now?

Please don’t tell me I have to pack, shower and be on the road in five minutes?

I hoped I was right. That the taxi was wrong.

I was.

Next day, five am (and another taxi driver) found us ready and waiting.

We sped down a motorway already hectic with lorries to our first flight, from Manchester. An airport which may leak (it does) but is at least designed for ordinary mortals.

The first time I saw one of these at Manchester airport I almost believed it was a collection point for the charity Wateraid, but was rapidly disillusioned. That was years ago – and still it rains in at the same places. Rain, btw, is something Manchester is famous for 😉

At Heathrow, as the hours pass, walking the lock-in shopping mall that is Terminal Five drains me of hope for civilisation. The stratospherically upmarket shops. Screen-fixated folk of all nationalities trailing dangerously erratic wheeled luggage.

Fortnum and Mason, though ranked with the stratospheric emporia, does at least sell biscuits. Albeit at ridiculous prices for baked butter and sugar.

Florentines dredged with real gold ended up in my carry-on, being something the mother-in-law probably doesn’t get too often in Texas.

And though she was the main destination for our trip, when we arrived at four in the afternoon, it was destination Mexico.

Or rather, Mexican restaurant.

For a frozen Margarita.

Texas is the only place I drink frozen Margaritas. Yeah. That’s right. Because I’m worth it.

Just joking.

Next day the opulent biscuits – in our company – headed for the nursing home. Where I was arrested (not in that way) by a sign outside the door:

In Texas, now, you’ve no need to conceal your weapon.  Carry your sub-machine gun with pride. Take it to class at the university if you want. Just not to the sports field, OK?

Back at Dripping Springs, some things remained sane. Or nicely insane.

Like Elvis.

A rescued house cat, Elvis is rarely allowed out – for his own good – here he enjoys a rare moment lounging on the deck, wondering if he has the energy to chase a humming bird… (He hasn’t)

Still driven to distraction by the prof’s sandals. Still inclined to insinuate himself where he’s most visible – if not useful.

‘Who me? In the way?’ Elvis inserts himself between the prof’s older brother and his daily online chores

On the porch a trio of exotic birds – wooden ones from Zambia – swung in the breeze, ignored by  Texas Hill Country wildlife.

A gift from us several years ago these Zambian birds were rejoicing in the great sunny outdoors while their indoor space was being decorated

Everything is bigger in Texas… This Common Garden Spider was eating a grasshopper 😦

Buzzards soared. Cicadas poured forth waves of orchestrated noise.

Within 24 hours family had accumulated like finches around a seed feeder.

Which was lovely. But to someone who spends all day, every day, alone, with her head in another world, a trifle daunting.

We had (we thought) a whole week, so I dug in mentally. Which is perhaps why I found myself clutching a large, inflatable dragonfly as we traipsed round the local supermarket.

In the days before his tail drooped I felt like my energy was sustained by his presence.

Nursing home visits for the prof followed, daily.

Sunday, a talented niece-in-law wowed in ‘Chicago’.

There were humming birds and fireflies. Wine and beer and tacos.

A restaurant in Johnson CIty (a jaunt we had) in a Nissen-hut style building (I’ve forgotten what Americans call them, it’s different) and the old jail

Dinner dinner dinner dinner, dinner dinner dinner dinner, Batman?

The Pedernales River flowing through Texas hill country – ahhhh (relaxed feeling very soon to end as we learned of our mistake….)

Then came the bombshell.

Thel and I were talking (drinking wine) when the brothers came home looking stressed.

We’d mistaken the day of our flight.

It left next day.

We dined on take away pizza, drank two nights’ allocation of wine.

Next morning I packed and the prof crammed in two lasts visits to his mom.

We arrived at Austin’s airport feeling mentally breathless.

It’s always had a relaxed yet also city-slicker feel. Stetsons for sale alongside Mexican Frieda Kahlo shopping bags.

It’s changed.

Signs of Terminal Five infection are visible, but still the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ spirit lingers.

A live band was playing. And it was good.

Asleep at the Wheel was the name of a band originally, now the name of a Road House – and here’s another live band playing at the airport  (faces squished technologically btw to preserve privacy)

 Austin Java coffee house – you can see that the gui-tar is quite a theme of the city that hosts the South by South West music festival

Great facility – refill those plastic bottles and save the planet 🙂

Embarked, in the middle of three seats as usual, I waited anxiously for the window-seat-voyager to arrive.

On the way out he’d been the lumpen kind, elbow and thigh splaying into my ‘personal space’ throughout the flight.

It was a relief to see a skinny older man smile and wave.

‘I can tell I’m gonna like sharing with you guys’ said the Professor of Economics. He was a good companion. And slept well.

I’ll skip the disgusting breakfast for landfall at Heathrow, where a joyous experience awaited.

I walked past twice, in the hour our flight was delayed, before giving the knitting a go.

Yes, knitting.

Squares of garter stitch to make blankets, for charity.

I didn’t quite finish my masterpiece in red. But still received a reward – a travel-cushion knitted by members of the Townswomen’s Guild.

And by that time I’d learned the young woman next to me was Moldovan.

That her friends told her to keep her hobbies – painting, embroidery, knitting, crochet – for when she was old. Because they kept her indoors too much.

I learned that purple t-shirted Val had bad arthritis. Was hoping it wouldn’t reach her fingers.

That the young man in front of me was using a different technique Val wanted to learn, in case her worst arthritic fears materialised.

My Moldovan friend is the one on the right with the blonde hair in a bun, Val is in the purple t-shirt.The young man with the potentially useful technique is seated between them

I learned BA now has a direct flight to Inverness, origin of the knitting initiative.

That our blankets would go to homeless people around the UK.

All of us who stopped, knitted and nattered – young men, women of all ages – were enriched by this eruption of community spirit, taunting the glassy, designer-labelled, shop-filled behemoth that is Terminal 5.

As I left I remarked how much I’d enjoyed it. A woman looked up. ‘Me too,’ she smiled.

I’d been thinking of writing a piece called ‘oceans apart’.

But then it felt more like ‘oceans irrelevant’.

How nice is that?

The gift of the travel cushion made me unreasonably happy and still does. I look at it and it makes me smile 🙂

This entry was posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then, Texas and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Gui-tars and Garter Stitch

  1. What a wonderful thing to find in Terminal 5…the terminal for which the word terminal is all too appropriate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it? I hate the place. The building itself is so light and airy and it could be wonderful and inspirational (I used to love the museum and piano and library and humour at Schiphol) but no, it’s a temple to mammon. In one week a bar/restaurant we were going to try on the way back had been boarded up and will now be something else. I imagine guilty men (and women) buying gifts from the expensive shops on their credit cards for people back home they have neglected or forgotten. Things they won’t want but which say look, I spent money on you . Sigh. Transient world for transient people 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. seer1969 says:

    Another fascinating glimpse of another world by The Traveller! I love Texan humour, if you called your restaurant The Asleep at the Wheel Roadhouse in Britain, you’d probably have a visit from the local police advising it isn’t a suitable sign to display by a road, someone might be persuaded by it. I was bemused by your pixelating the faces of the band though, surely when you perform on a stage your privacy isn’t the first thing you think of?
    If all this air travel is starting to cause problems with your environmentalist conscience Mary, don’t panic! I’m planting trees for you, since my carbon footprint is as close to zero as anyone in this society can achieve and I like guerrilla planting trees. You are allowed one more trip this year and no more!

    BTW it’s called a Quonset hut in the US, though based on the Nissan hut, they have to change the name of everything originating here, then are surprised to find America didn’t invent everything!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah – Quonset – thanks.
      I didn’t pixelate the band’s faces – just a couple of people in the audience. You need to get your glasses’ prescription updated 😉
      I am glad to hear you are planting trees for me – I do plant stuff myself too of course and I love trees as you know. It is not a frequent transgression of the environmental code for me – but relatives and Larry’s work do mean I have to sometimes y’know? That and itchy feet. But at least thanks to illness our holiday requiring 4 flights was cancelled this year. Sigh… Watch out for the next post, no air miles involved, just a few miles in the hybrid and a little time travel 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • seer1969 says:

        Just my joke on the way it read, actually I thought the band members looked like a nascent ZZTop, aren’t they also from Texas? I guess there are lots of ‘mountain men’ around there.
        I know you plant too, just me being provocative, you know me, and it worked! LOL
        Just planted ten oaks [not seven] two horse chestnuts [more to follow], some cobnuts [is the tree called the cob?] and some I forget what they are but will plant anyway. Oh and a plum for the garden. Now’s the time for tree seed collecting, with late autumn throwing the branches about carelessly.
        Glad I don’t live in Florida, my friend in Miami [east coast so lucky this time] hasn’t got back in touch yet, as all electric is down. Hoping her house still exists.


  3. Thel says:

    Hi Mary,
    I loved the knitting idea!! Big Elvis is missing the African sandals! It was great seeing you again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jilldennison says:

    I love these pics, captions, and your story!!! Quite an adventure you had! I especially loved the inflatable dragonfly … and, of course, Elvis! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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