Home? - Tuesday, September 5, 1995

I am now on a plane to Saskatoon, heading back to the place that has been my home for the past year in Prince Albert. The day is fairly cloudy yet it has not really had a chance to begin yet.

Yesderday was quite a ride and did not exactly start off with a smooth beginning. After my breakfast, I was packed and ready to go, having known that I was a bit over the 30 kg weight restriction on the plane with the numerous books I had brought AND that I was over the limit for the value of goods that I could take back to Canada without any duty costs. My pre-booking of a trip to the airport did not exactly follow through, I waited for about 45 minutes before the manager of the place I was staying came out and had called the shuttle service as they were so late.

The Underground had severe service restrictions again this day because of the ongoing negotiations of one of their unions. This made service difficult but not impossible, though there were a lot of busy cabs on the street. I was grateful that I was not on the Underground as I was a few days ago.

The place in London I stayed at, I don't know if I commented about it. It is a smaller Bed & Breakfast-type establishment with three floors and both single and double rooms. It is run by the Salvation Army but don't let that fool you, this is not for the “down and out” nor is it for the terribly thrifty traveller. It is located only about 3 blocks from the King's Cross station, yes, that is the station that had a fire about 5 years ago and killed a number of people. The surrounding city area is not the nicest in London but certainly the people are friendly and there is a lot of “atmosphere”. The people running Cambria House are quite helpful and are willing to go the extra mile, this made all of the difference in the world. The rooms are small, but clean and quiet. Toilets (NOT washrooms or bathrooms, remember!) are located on each floor and there are about 4 per floor so getting into one is not normally a problem, though the lack of any reasonable number of showers was disappointing, only one per floor, have to get in early to have a shower.

Eventually the manager helped me hail a cab and I proceeded to Victoria station. It was interesting in that this was the first time travelling from the B & B to downtown on the roads of London so I was eager to see what I could see. London is busy, yes, but personable. What I mean is that it has character and it is very inviting, it seems to me. Not that there are no rough edges, certainly, but that is to be expected from any city the size of London (and the age). I found it very welcoming and interesting. The cabbie drove by Buckingham Palace and on to the train terminal which has a direct (non-stop) service to Gatwick, the airport I left out of.

The ride to the airport was quiet and I was impressed that to catch the train I just went down the elevator and got on the train, no tickets to purchase (you do that on the train), and when I got off, I just walked to the terminal, only a few steps away. Only to be greeted with a line that was absolutely incredible waiting to be checked in for my flight. The airport is severely congested but I eventually managed to pick up my boarding pass, check my luggage, convert all of my money (English and French) to Canadian and pass through security. I had already noticed that being in the terminal was much like being in a shopping mall as there were lots of stores and restaurants, fairly reasonably priced (I suppose, because of the competition). After I passed through security I was even more startled to be in the middle of what can only be described as a mall, the only different thing being that there were a fair amount of “duty-free” shops and there were signs to the terminal gates.

I proceeded to my gate to be again surprised that we had to get on a small shuttle train to get to the area of the airport where our plane was waiting.

The flight was uneventful, service was not fast but certainly acceptable. We stopped briefly in Halifax and then proceeded to Toronto. I was amazed that Halifax seemed to be in the middle of no-where, or perhaps this was my perception from where the airport was located, there were a lot of trees, and the area looked very new. From the air, the city was small but it does look quite nice, I wonder if I will ever visit?

Toronto was busy, I was pleased that in Customs I was informed that the limit for duty-free purchases had been raised and that I was within that limit (on the edge, at least) so I did not have to pay duty, though I did have to wait about half an hour for my luggage. Wondering around aimlessly for a few minutes I finally caught the bus shuttle service to the terminal my return flight to Winnipeg was in and checked in without any further mishaps.

I did talk to my grandmother from the airport. She is always so brief on the phone, though I really enjoy talking to her. I will have to visit her the next time I am in town. She is the one that talked me into writing this epic of my England trip.

Fairly relaxed, I had time to grab a hamburger, the first one in a long time I am happy to say and walk to the gate. I was very tired by this time and tried my best to stay awake during the return flight. By this time I had travelling for about 12 hours so my attention span was…lacking.

I finally made it to Winnipeg and grabbed my luggage, disappointed that Karin was not waiting but I stuck around for a bit and she eventually turned up. My luggage was not exactly 100% as I left it as my shampoo bottle had exploded, luckily, many of my signed first editions were in plastic bags and those not were unharmed. I was quiet much of the way home, being very depressed and not in the best of shape physically. Seeing the house did not help, with the leak in the roof Karin had told me about and the fact that it really is not my house in the strictest sense of the term. It has been a long time since I have actually lived there, about a year.

I began unpacking and was quite happy to have a call from mother who cheered me up somewhat as I began the conversation with bitter complaints about the state of the house, and my current lot in life. Eventually, we moved on to better things and I let her know about how my trip went, where I visited. She is visiting London with her husband Alex, next month so I was busy pointing out various things she should do (even those I did not have time to do while I was there).

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