Friday, October 4, 2013

Taking Friends' Advice

I had asked for travel advice from all of my hosts and hostesses before I left Japan. After all, they live in the UK, I was just going to visit. However, for some reason I don't remember, I opted to take my own advice about crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland and England.

I have already recounted that I took the ferry to NI. It had been my first experience on a ferry and it had pros and cons. It had seemed like long enough to be on board, however.  I wouldn't like to look at longer trip without a bunk, but I hadn't booked one on the upcoming trip on October 4 and for the first time I realized that it was indeed a much longer journey.  It was already booked and paid for, however, so I thought I would have to take it. When I really looked at the timetables I realized I would not reach Gloucester until near midnight. I was realizing that the advice of both of my NI hostess and my Gloucester hostess had been to consider flying that leg of the journey.  I had ignored them.

Very early in the morning of October 4, I received a phone message from the ferry line stating that the ferry would be delayed an hour leaving the port. This was the final straw.  Alison was up as there was breakfast and lunch to prepare for the children as they needed to go to school. I went to the kitchen to tell her the news.  I asked if it still might be possible to schedule a flight to England if I could cancel the ferry. Alison is a wizard at the logistics of transportation. She got on the Internet and I got on the phone to Stenna.  I canceled the ferry ticket stating that the changes in time had made it impossible to make connections at the other end. Alison found me a very reasonably priced flight in the early afternoon for Birmingham. which is a reasonable train ride away from my next destination.

This change in plan meant that I had a bit more time to spend in Northern Ireland.  There were three alternatives for a morning's activity. I could go to a local shopping mall for a look around, or I could spend the morning with Alison's mum, who I knew from her visits to Japan, or I could go to "Mum's and Toddlers" with Alison which was held at their church.

I think she was surprised that I chose the children, but I was really happy to have the opportunity to see how this was done.  Mums in the neighborhood are invited to bring their children to the church for the morning. Activities are provided for the children; one large room for the older toddlers and a smaller room for the younger ones. One group of people talked to the mums while the children played, another group directed the children's activities and yet another group made tea and toast for morning tea break. I was able to help with the tea as well as working with children at a table activity. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We went to Alison's mum's house for lunch and then to the airport for my flight to England.

Belfast Airport had the highest level of security of any I visited on this trip.  After putting my carry on luggage on the belt for the x-ray, the female security person frisked me.  We chatted pleasantly throughout the process and I didn't feel at all put out by it.  Of course I knew I didn't have anything on my person that I shouldn't have.

A quick up in the air was followed by the descent approaching Birmingham.  Painless.  I should have listened from the start. It was the best way to go.

Hannah met me at the station.  She was walking up as I was exiting. Great timing. She had her car so I was able to stow my luggage and we went for a little walk along the river.

After our walk we went to Tesco's  and then to Hannah's house.  She cooked dinner and we chatted. It was great to catch up with her face to face and to see her cute little house.

I was feeling the onset of a cold, so we opted for a relatively early evening and agreed on a bit of a lie in and relaxed morning the next day.

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