On Monday morning it was time to head home and once again I was resigned to spending the best part of a day, and night, in a mask. The first job on waking was to complete all of the paperwork and make sure all of the correct forms were uploaded to the VeriFLY app (I wonder who it is that decides what to capitalise and what not to?). Yes I was vaccinated, Yes I had purchased an approved testing kit which I would use within two days of returning to the UK, No, I was not travelling from a Red Zone country. When at last everything was approved and uploaded I was ready to pack.
My costumes had aired (a polite way of saying dried out) and They went in to the cases (one in each) first. Then I stuffed my top hat with socks, so it wouldn’t bet crushed and wrapped the thick green woollen scarf, that Liz knitted for me a few years ago and which features in the show, around the outside of the hat. Everything else was carefully folded and packed until the only thing left was the wooden cane which just fits diagonally across the top of my large case. Kimberly arrived to pick me up at 10, and soon we were on the road to Kansas City Airport. There is something very reassuring about KCI, all of terminals are built to the same pattern, a large semi circular concourse, with check in and very limited retail on the outer side of the curve, and the gates on the inner. It is an old airport and frankly there is not enough room for the facilities that the modern traveller expects, but it IS KCI, there is no other airport like it, and that is a wonderful thing. However the area around the terminals is now a construction site and in two years’ time a big new sparkly terminal will be opened and KCI will be just like a hundred other airports. Kimberly and I said our goodbyes and I began the process of getting home. On entering the airport I was greeted by a notice on the automatic door: ‘DOOR CLOSED FOR THE SEASON’ What a strange thing! I made my way to check in and as has been the norm it was suggested that I check my carry-on roller case all the way to London, so I just had my leather shoulder bag to take with me, and felt rather sauve and wordly-wise. Security was busy, but I’d left myself plenty of time and was able to grab an early lunch before boarding my first flight, to Charlotte. In fact the flight was delayed by 30 minutes, which didn’t effect me but was causing great consternation among those with tight connections. I sympathised fully, for I have been in the same situation on many occasions and know that feeling of complete helplessness.
The flight into Charlotte was utterly beautiful, at one point the sun caught a river to create a silver slash across the landscape, and as we made our final approach the fall colours were stunning. You can always tell when you are flying into a Southern city for all of the schools are dominated by huge football fields, and usually not simply fields but stadia.
As we landed those passengers who had tight connections were panicking about getting to the correct concourse and gate in the few minutes available to them, and bemoaning that their bags would not make the flight. It seemed very unfair, therefore, that my connection for which I did not have to rush was at the very next gate.
Charlotte used to feature a great deal in my early touring years and it is an airport that I have always loved, the main concourse being like a giant conservatory complete with trees and white rocking chairs. Somehow there seems to be a slower pace in the airport which befits the South. In those early days there used to be a small booth that sold writing equipment and I would always pick up boxes of ink cartridges for my Waterman fountain pen (this in the days before Amazon Prime) there.
On the concourse there were advertisements for ‘Mini Suites’, which I have seen before, but this year the focus of the marketing had changed and tapped into to passengers’ current needs, for the sign proclaimed ‘Unmask and Relax in a private suite’
I had two hours to wait, so I bought myself a coffee and a pastry and sat in a rocking chair watching the world drift by.
With forty minutes to go before the flight I returned to Gate D5. There was quite a crowd and nearby a young girl was telling an older couple that this was to be her very first time on a plane. Was she nervous about flying, asked the couple. ‘Oh, a little,’ came the reply, ‘I keep thinking what might happen if things go wrong’ That was a cheery note for us all to board the plane to!
I got settled into my seat, and heard the same girl a row or two behind telling her neighbour in the next seat that she was excited to be going to England, at which he, a Brit, commenced telling her everything she should see in England, Scotland and Wales – he spoke in a very dull monotone voice, so maybe her first experience of flying was not destined to be an altogether positive one. On and on he went, his flow only interrupted by the safety announcement which she wanted to watch.
We took off on time and as the night was clear I could easily see Philadelphia as we flew over, and then New York City with Times Square glowing brightly and the black void of Central Park beyond it. Food was soon served and then the lights were turned down and I slept on and off through the night.
It was still dark as we made our approach to London. The wheels touched British soil, then bounced into the air again before settling down for good.
I have just over two weeks at home and then I will be flying to Boston to begin a whole new chapter of my adventures.