I’d pictured this scene a million times over in the last 121 days.
I imagined tears, nervousness and even immigration control problems.
I dreamt of beaming smiles, deep kisses and immense hugs.
I agitated over him being there before me and not knowing where I was (I had a 4.50am start!) and tripping up on the escalator down and him waiting for me at the bottom. Actually there is no escalator down to the arrivals area – I must have imagined that bit.
The Radisson Edwardian Grafton Hotel on Tottenham Court Road is fantastic. Not only are they gracious each of the eight times I confirm the reservation but when I get to the hotel at 7.30 am, several hours before check in time, they take my bag and welcome me to the Aston (Martin) lounge to use my laptop to access Virgin Atlantic flight status. Whilst there, I barely have a couple of minutes to get on-line when the lovely South African or Australian, I can never tell which with only a few spoken words, comes through with my overnight case, 2 key cards and my room number. He has secured early check in for me. Fantastic!
Now I can catch up with any early emails, freshen up, check the room and make my way to the airport in a leisurely fashion. I leave at 8.50 picking up a coffee on route and aim to be in the arrivals lounge before the estimated 10am arrival, giving an hour to get through customs and luggage collection.
It’s just before 10am on Wednesday 12th August 2009. I’m in the arrivals lounge and boyfriend and I have already made text contract, he’s collected his luggage so I should see him any second now for the first time in over 23 weeks. He’d text to say the plane left 90 minutes late and I checked status when checking in at the hotel so I now know it is going to be an hour late.
I’m wearing a bright red shirt dress so he can spot me although all he has ever seen me in is heavy winter layers. I called him last night to help kill time whilst he was waiting to board although he already seemed too tired to talk. I’m assured his US phone works in the UK so we can find each other if anything goes of the mark but I give him directions to the AMT coffee place just in case I’m late.
I guess that’s where he was heading when I looked to my left and he was striding back smiling, towards me. This is it. Four months of waiting is over.
I get the usual smile and a kiss and off we go to AMT for a little breakfast.
I can’t believe he’s here, sitting next to me, chatting like he’s always been here by my side.
He’s flown overnight, as I suggested, on Virgin, ditto – and is understandably exhausted, a little delirious with jet lag and totally scruffy. His shorts are covered in the red ink he has been furiously writing with on the plane. I can see I’m going to have some tough laundry to do.
Now that I have him, the few minutes we spent apart whilst I got him is hot toasted bagel, blueberry muffin (he chose in case there was no bagel) and orange juice as he made himself comfortable, were only just endurable.
I sit down next to him and we chat like we’ve not spent all these months apart. The result of us communicating almost daily and chatting a couple of times a week I guess.
I feel bad about dragging this very tired man on the tube but planned it meticulously so there is only 1 change for 2 stops and then we’re 30 seconds from our luxury hotel.
It’s lovely to have the hotel so early in the day so the BF can flop straight onto the bed whilst I catch up on work and unpack. The room is as expected, luxurious but on the small side with the requested bath tub. I work furiously but quietly and as soon as I can, join him on the bed, guiltily knowing my movement would wake him but secretly pleased to get a cuddle.
I state the time at 2pm which has given him a couple of snoozing hours and we’re both starving even after I have nearly demolished his now cold but still delicious AMT bagel, saving him just a morsel as it really did taste good. (Note to self: buy next time at Heathrow). I suggest an awakening walk followed by a local lunch. As we step outside southbound on the Tottenham Court Road, I take the New Yorker’s hand and promise to not let him out of my sight for two weeks until his safe return home, especially with his playful concern at not knowing from which direction the traffic is coming from.
I hold that promise as I strain to see him and he disappears behind the screens and heads in the security section of the departure lounge 13 days later.
We walk in the London sunshine checking the local menus unwittingly to Soho Square, walking past Ian Hislop – a moment I would never normally notice – and then turn back to go to one of the pubs close to us on Tottenham Court Road. The pub is quiet on a Wednesday afternoon so my bangers and mash and his steak burger and real chips arrive quickly. Our respective comfort foods and BF enjoys his first meal in England.
On the way back to the hotel, I stop in the Heals/Habitat building to pick up a cupcake from Peyton & Byrne. I have been researching/pleading for real American cupcakes via Twitter and this is on my list. I am trying to find out why we have started calling our fairy/queen cakes ‘cupcakes’ just by putting more elaborate piles on creams on them. They don’t taste like cupcakes. (Also why we call flats apartments and ask for latte and not coffee now). As it happens Peyton & Byrne call their cakes ‘fairy cakes’ so the research was non-founded but the cake, devoured the next day, is lovely.
Later, as we had eaten a large meal late in the day, as usual, we take a walk in the other direction and plan to pop into the already clocked M&S Simply Foods on the way back for evening snacks with TV and then an early night. Unfortunately we went a little too far towards WC2 and I couldn’t find a quick route back. By now BF had lost his second wind so I dragged him into the nearest tube, came back to Tottenham Court Road and walked up so as to pop into M&S on route to hotel. By this time he was delirious again and was hopeless in choosing what he wanted food wise. In fact he could barely stand and I had to drag him back to the hotel so as he didn’t just lay down on the first bench and fall deeply asleep. He was rambling about the hotel being too far away even though we could actually see it now. Boy is he heavy to drag when he is tired!
Part 3 to follow.