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On Thursday morning it was time to wake early and leave the Philadelphia apartment after a most enjoyable stay. I had done most of my packing during the previous afternoon, so it was just a case of finishing off and closing up the cases. At 6am I ordered an Uber cab and shortly afterwards Ivan helped me load my cases into his car and off we set to the airport as a beautiful sunrise lightened the skies. Ivan was from Honduras and on discovering that I came from England he instantly starting talking about soccer – congratulating the England team on their performances at the recent European Championships, ‘they are a young team, will only get better!’ His loyalties (soccer-wise) lay conflicted between USA and Honduras, ‘I don’t mind which wins, but Honduras were leading USA last time and then the manager changed 4 players – 4 players! And they lost!’ Next onto the World stage: ‘So Barcelona or Madrid? Ronaldo or Messi? Boxing, you like boxing? The English crowds at boxing are amazing!’ I was beginning to wish that I had touched the ‘No Conversation’ tab on the Uber app! However the drive was short and he was a very friendly and nice man.

I checked my cases in and, as previously, was given the offer of checking my smaller roller case for free as once again the flight would be full and there was only limited overhead bin space. As my boarding group was 7 it seemed unlikely that I would find room so I checked both. From bag drop to security and the line was long, very very long. Not only was the zig zag area marked out with extendable fabric barriers completely packed, but another line disappeared way up another hallway and what was worse the line didn’t seem to be moving. This was exactly why I had left the apartment at 6 – Philadelphia airport often has these long lines, especially for American Airlines flights which, as Bob had pointed out the evening before, all seem to leave at the same time of day. Eventually a representative of the airport came along the line saying that he had opened another checkpoint over in concourse A and it was empty, just walk down those stairs, along the rail platform and back in the next door, and it was clear. Many people bolted for that option, with the result that for those off who elected to remain the queue started moving very quickly and in a matter of minutes my ID was being checked and I was taking my boots off for the security check. Gratifyingly the lady in line behind me said ‘what great socks!’

The next priority was breakfast but there were no good restaurants or grills open so I made do with a Breakfast Sandwich from a burger joint. Not desperately appetising but it filled a hole. At the table I got out my laptop and wrote the previous day’s blog post which I finished before it was time to board. Sure enough when group 7 was called the bin space was already used, so I had made the right decision earlier. I settled into my seat and prepared for a 2 hour flight back to the Mid West. As soon as we were airborne I scrolled through the entertainment options on the American Airlines App and decided to watch the classic war film, The Great Escape, with Steve McQueen, James Garner, Dickie Attenborough, David McCallum Charles Bronson and many other great names from that time. For some reason The Great Escape was often shown as a Christmas film in my childhood, I don’t know why, but it was lovely to watch again. The movie passed the time very effectively and as the pilot brought us in to land, so the iconic Steve McQueen motorcycle chase was taking place and as our wheels touched the earth so The King of Cool’s wheels left it as he jumped over the barbed wire border between Germany and Switzerland.

It was strange to be back in the Mid West just a few days after leaving it, normally I would drive from Kansas City to Omaha or from Omaha to Kansas City, but because of this years’ disrupted schedule and the original plan to appear in California, the journey that would usually take me around 3 hours had actually taken me 5 days to complete.

We taxied to the terminal building and at baggage claim I was reunited with Kimberly Howard who has been bringing me back to the Kansas City area for more years than either of would care to mention!

There was no pressure on the day, as my first show for the Mid Continent Public Library Service was not scheduled until Friday evening, so Kimberly drove to Liberty, where I stay, and we exchanged our respective news. Once more the weather was beautiful,. clear and sunny and the colours of fall foliage, not something I would usually associate with Missouri, were absolutely stunning. Apparently there are warnings of bad weather coming, but for now it was beautiful.

I got checked in to the Hampton Inn which is so familiar to me now, and dropped my bags to my room before joining Kimberly again for lunch at a nearby Panera Bread, where I had a delicious avocado salad. While we ate we discussed the coming days and once again the question came up of how to organise the question and answer sessions, especially at the larger venues. I told Kimberly about the plan Bob and I had come up with regarding getting people to write their questions as they arrived for the show and then having a hosted session at the end, and she liked that idea and decided to instigate it.

Lunch over I returned to the hotel and Kimberly went to the office to get everything finalised for the next three days, My first job was a good old laundry session! I got a roll of quarters from the front desk and spent the next couple of hours making repeated trips from the third to the first floor where I loaded and unloaded the washer and loaded and unloaded the dryer until I had a bag of fresh clothes to see me through to the end of the trip.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was my own, and after doing some more blog writing, I lay on the bed and watched TV. It amazed me that the Christmas ads are already on the screen and dear old Ebenezer Scrooge has been pressed into action again, on this occasion by Peloton fitness equipment. Grumpy old Scrooge finds happiness and gets his mojo back by working out on an exercise bike. Incidentally I have also been sent a link to a Christmas ad from the UK for Aldi supermarkets, The story is set ‘In Dickensian Days’ and is called A Christmas Carot, featuring as its central character a miserly banana, called Ebanana (a rotten banana). He has been made jealous because all of the other delicious produce from the supermarket is devoured with relish, whilst he is left alone on the plates. It is beautifully made with some excruciatingly awful puns along the way. I shall post the link at the end of this so that you can make your own minds up about it! Not only are Christmas ads being played but also Black Friday sales are being flagged up already!

Afternoon drifted into evening and it was time for dinner decisions. As I didn’t have a car I would need to walk to a restaurant (I could have ordered something to be delivered to the hotel but having been in the room since lunchtime I rather wanted a change of scenery). Fro previous years I had remembered that there was a Longhorn Steakhouse on the strip mall, so I walked down there only to be told that there was a 40 minute wait for tables, unless I didn’t mind sitting at the bar, which option I took. Whilst sitting I got into conversation with a guy who was doing the same, and we chatted again about soccer (it turned out that both of our daughters had taken the sport up this year). Eventually his wife arrived and a table was found for them, so I continued my dinner at the bar alone. A Ribeye steak and baked potato where perfect, and as I ate I wrote a few notes on a pad for possible book ideas.

It was still quite early when I returned to the hotel (of course I had lost an hour in flying from east to mid) so I watched a little more television before beginning to feel tired. I knew that by sleeping early I would wake early, but that’s OK. Another day came to a close.

Here is the link for the Aldi ‘A Christmas Carrot’ ad