It may have taken the best part of two years to mature, but the events of the past week brought the sweetest of fruits to bear. After what has been a marathon trial of endurance, not only did Thanos finally get off the big comfy couch, but my wife and I were able to spend our first moments together since June of 2016, swapping the relentless heat of El Paso for a wet week away in Dunstable, and that was just the hotel room…
Because you guys are practically family now, given that I generally acknowledge your existence once or twice a week, I’ve been excited to share the news of the day from where it all began, on that glorious spring morning. Are you ready for this?
London Heathrow airport, Sunday, April 22nd. I’d spent much of the night and early morning tracking my wife’s flight as it made it’s way across the Atlantic like some kind of mail order bride I’d purchased on ebay, until the moment finally came that the wheels touched down and I eagerly took to the arrivals lounge with great anticipation. This gave me the perfect opportunity for a spell of people watching, which soothed my nerves as I witnessed an entire spectrum of reactions as loved ones were reunited left, right, and centre. A taxi driver holding up a name written on a used napkin: too British. A couple reaching second base on the industrial flooring: too American. I envisioned a happy medium with which I could greet my wife after 22 months apart. I carefully distracted my
chauffeurs parents with the adult equivalent of “Oh look, a rainbow” and sent them across to browse at some pamphlets on the shelves. It was then that I saw her. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy. Thank God my mum can’t make spaghetti. Her hair wavy, her skin golden, her suitcase looking heavier than I could carry. I turned away bashfully.
Within a matter of seconds, our time apart came to a most welcome end. We were together. We were home. If you’ve never endured a separation that spans thousands of miles and several time zones, I’m not sure you’ll ever comprehend such overwhelming satisfaction. It’s like gasping for that first gulp of air after being held under water until your chest begins to burn, or when Tallahassee finally found that Twinkie in Zombieland. She is my Twinkie.
Wisely utilising the final day of the freak April heat, we made a stop in the town of Hemel Hempstead on our drive to the hotel. Voted the “crappiest” town in the UK in 2013, it’s recent costly developments have made it into the Kylie Jenner of UK settlements.
We walked along it’s riverbanks and gazed at the flower beds in full bloom, soaking in the wonder of the occasion. If there had been any nerves lingering, then this was the time that they were cast aside completely, and what better way to capture such a moment than with a photograph to last forever?
Or perhaps three.
After such a long period of separation, my wife and I were understandably sceptical about occupying a room that shared walls with just about anyone, and so we decided to stay at The Old Palace Lodge Hotel, an historical building partially built in the 12th century by King Henry I, who’s walls had probably never even seen a pair of converse until my arrival. My wife put us up in the hotel, bought me jewellery, and showered me in new clothes and gifts. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, had her taste lied in Pokémon shirts and sour patch kids. She even opened our bottle of peach wine that I had arguably loosened with my own noble efforts.
If first impressions are everything, then The Old Palace Lodge won my approval from the moment we walked through it’s threshold and the kind of heavy studded door designed to keep the likes of me out. If this wasn’t enough, the smell of fading embers lingered in the air from a dying fire by the bar, the kind of smell you wish they sold in bottles. The barman reminded me of a young Lloyd from The Shining, and the staff had a genuine desire to fulfil our every need. They probably would have chewed my food and fed me like a mama bird, had I so asked. My only quibble, should I be so obliged to choose, was waking up to six fresh towels each and every morning. It was like opening up your third Lynx gift set on Christmas day and pretending you didn’t get the hint the first time. This would be our home for the next week, and what a home it made.
Given that decision making is never my strong suit, much of the week had been pre-organised to avoid any dire frustration.
One such item on the list was to check out the coffee shop that we’d always said we’d visit, yet inevitably never did. Something we rectified on day one. Once inside Jacc’s, however, I panicked and ordered a simple coffee, which happened to come with it’s own questionnaire. Weak or strong; cream or without. There was nobody else in the queue but I could already hear the sigh of the next customer walking down the street. I made a snap call and spent the next thirty minutes envious of my wife’s hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. I hate myself. Yet above all else, to sit across from my wife and to hold her hand as we enjoyed our hug in a mug, it made the coffee all the sweeter. We would go back there before the week was out and I would order a caramel latte like an absolute boss. I still hate myself.
A trip back to England wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to London. This time around I had managed to persuade my wife to tackle the Dungeons, an attraction that takes you through the gruesome history of London itself. The Plague, Jack the Ripper,
Tory Austerity, and Sweeney Todd are all given their moment in the lamp light as you’re whisked through a truly immersive and entertaining experience. To cap it all off, the new attraction ends by taking you into a 19th century London tavern, in which we spent some time interacting with a couple of absolutely delightful actors, and at £4 a pint, they even charge 19th century London prices.
The day wouldn’t be over just there though. Making the trip to Kings Cross Station, my wife was overcome with excitement as we approached Platform 9 3/4, and the doorway into the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Before we even joined the queue, I was warned against judgement of any kind, and as I listened intently, dressed head to toe in Star Wars merchandise, I didn’t have much of an argument. While we patiently watched as others had their pictures taken with the iconic movie landmark, draped in coloured scarves for the house of their choosing, we too made our choices. My wife went for Ravenclaw because she was wearing the shirt, while I decided upon Slytherin, because I’m a dick. This was the first time I’d been with my wife since the Harry Potter sickness had taken hold, and what a joy it was to see her light up the way she did with that wand in her hand. You just can’t put a price on that kind of happiness.
“Hey, look. I could actually own Hermione’s wand for just £55!”
It’s always one thing doing, and another just being. To be husband and wife again was probably the greatest thing that came from the entire week. Whether it was waking to feel her touch on my hand, sharing those knowing silences, or heatedly debating where the train station restroom could be located – although I’m often confused for the kind of guy who knows his way around public toilets – it’s the things that we don’t talk about and the things we take for granted that imprint themselves the most. We enjoyed meals, movies, and a drink from Lloyd at the bar, but however the occasion was dressed up or dressed down, the only thing that mattered was the company with which it was shared. Each moment together was as precious as the last, and I know that we made the most of every moment given to us.
Until we are brought together again, we have reassured ourselves of what it is all for. Everything.