Lordy, lordy, look who was deported.

 

It’s been a week and a half since I happily packed my bags in anticipation of traveling again, even if this time for only a few months. A week and a half since my daughter Hannah and I happily chatted as she drove me to the airport about the places we were going to explore when she met up with me in a month. A week and a half since I looked forward to being in London for August, pet sitting in East Dulwich again and then going on to Germany.  A week and a half since I traipsed my happy little ass down the aisle of Norwegian flight # DY7058 and settled myself into my “middle middle” seat. A little over a week since I landed in Gatwick and rolled my brightly colored rolly suitcase down the series of ramps and into the Passport Control area of Gatwick. A bit over a week since I was pulled aside, questioned, locked up, and “interviewed”. It has been one week since I found myself back in Orlando after being deported from the UK.

I am the first person I have ever known who has been deported. Well, I was anyway…until I shared my tale and discovered that amongst a few of my friends and acquaintances were hidden stories. I also have the dubious pleasure of being a supporting character in the new stories the others detained with me will be sharing (or perhaps hiding) from their own friends and family.

I’ve been struggling with how to approach this. Should it be nothing more than a step by step regurgitation of each moment?  In all honesty, that would be tedious to write, which would make it a giant bore to read. And in truth…it is not what happened to me that has affected me so much as it is the emotions that roiled through me during the experience and still continue to. Maybe there were things that I could have said or done differently that could have resulted in a different outcome. And then again, perhaps not. My fate may have been unknowingly sealed from the moment I walked off the plane.

I cannot claim complete ignorance of the UK border policies. I have heard horror stories…but when you are a cocky little fuck like I can occasionally be…you figure you’ll be ok. After all, you AREN’T trying to live and work in the UK illegally, and you have enough money for your trip…so you think you’ll be fine. I mean, I always got nervous when going though immigration no matter where it was…( For my whole life I have had a great fear of being incarcerated for something I didn’t do)….and each time I handed over my passport I always imagined alarms going off and a cage coming down from the ceiling trapping me inside as a voice over the loudspeaker grandly proclaimed  “AHA! We have caught the infamous Nottinghamshire Weasel Muddler!” …accompanied by raucous applause and scathing looks from my fellow travelers as I was dragged away proclaiming my innocence.

I’m also very aware that how your Passport Control experience plays out can come down to something as simple as who is behind the desk when you approach. The personalities of the officers, their moods, prejudices, and work habits all factor in, as well as how long they have been at their shift, is it close to break time, are they new at the job or long-timers, do they have anything to prove, are they feeling well, are they training another officer…so many factors. The same things that affect everyone in their day to day interactions…except that in their case the stakes are much higher for those they interact with because they have all the power and you have very little.. The same as when dealing with the police in the US, or any law enforcement. And there is the extra added fear of being an “outsider”, and not knowing what rights you do have.

They are no more, no less than any of us (and often are the best of the best) and I in no way wish to malign any law enforcement officer from any country. And I will not do so here.  But the fact remains…it matters.

I am not going to go into great detail about what I said when questioned, or the questioning itself as I am not the least bit interested in hearing what I “should have said”, nor do I want to get into a debate about politics. Not to mention the fact that I very much wish to eventually return to the UK and the last thing I want to do is piss them off. I want to make nicey nice so I can go back to my favourite seat at the National Gallery espresso bar and write about Britishy things like bacon butties, brown sauce, Doctor Who and the national treasure that is Olivia Coleman.

The story begins after I de-planed and schlepped down the ramp into the large room housing Passport Control.  I took a place in line, immediately logging on to the Gatwick free wifi (you get 90 minutes) to let my daughter Hannah know I had arrived. (She may occasionally be referred to in this piece as “my Spawn”.) After about 40 minutes of weaving, I was finally waved toward an open cubicle. I handed the gentleman my passport, and he started asking me the usual questions….how long are you staying in the UK, what is your purpose for the visit..etc. Then came a few more. “Where are you staying? How do you know them? Do you have a return ticket? Are you working while you are here?” I replied to all his questions, and my first inkling that there was a problem was when he started writing my answers down. He then told me he needed more information, could I follow him please… and he escorted me to a little pen containing about 12 seats in the center of the room occupied only by one young woman seated with her luggage piled around her. (Others came and went during my time in “the pen”.) I sat down and immediately messaged my Spawn.  She reminded me that I hadn’t done anything wrong…and I tried to chill but my body was having none of it. My brain was screaming and freaking out, and my stomach was trying to climb up my throat…probably in order to reach my brain and choke it into silence. (My brain can be VERY annoying. I am actually quite surprised that my other organs haven’t already staged a coup and replaced it with a kidney.)

After about ten minutes the man came back over to the pen and asked me some more questions…one of them about whether I had had surgery in the UK. I said yes, and explained what happened.

He left again. I made eye contact with the young woman(who did not speak English), and we smiled at each other weakly.

After about 25 minutes… during which time I spent messaging my Spawn, trying not to throw up, and aggressively hating the happy clueless tourists all around me…the man returned. He asked me a couple more questions, went to leave again but I stopped him and bluntly asked “Am I being kicked out?”  Because we all know….NOT knowing what the hell is happening can feel worse than the actual result.  “You are going to be “interviewed”, he replied and walked off again. At that response, part of me went “Phew!”. The other part thought “What? I thought that is what this was. Fuck.”

By this point my 90 minutes of free wifi was used up, and I had to resort to texting Hannah. (At overseas rates of .50 text sent and .05 text received our next phone bill is going to be insane.) I told her the current situation , and also that I had to pee. By that point I had been there for two hours and had consumed mucho coffee and water on the plane. I’m actually surprised I didn’t have to go way before that. (I always have to pee.) I am assuming the fact that my sphincter was clutched so tight in fear had something to do with it. (Same muscles. Try it.) I ended up having to signal a passing officer, who remarked that I had been there an awfully long time (the other girl had long been led away, but we will see her again, oh yes we will) and that he would go check. In the meantime, he opened the little gate and I was allowed to go to the toilet, which was in the rear of the room near the entry ramp. Almost immediately after I came back, another man came over, asked if I was Rebecca Carlton, and when I answered “yes’, he turned around and began to walk away. I stood and watched him until the officer who let me pee laughed and said ‘You need to follow him!’ (Well, how the hell was I supposed to know that?) I struggled to grab my luggage and follow him to the escalator where he remained at least ten steps ahead of me the whole time. I’m pretty sure he never even looked to see if I was following until he got to the to the top of the escalator. In fairness, where was I going to go? Don’t laugh, but there were three times I genuinely thought to myself “You could run”.  One was when I went to the toilet, this was the second. The third comes much later. Luckily, I still retained enough of my sanity to immediately reject that option each time…but I still thought it.  I was then led through the type of door you would never notice unless you were looking for it, down a hallway and into a small room with a table, where I was told to sit and wait.

 

And here ends part one. This thing is already over 1500 words, and I’m fairly certain there are at least another 3000 to go. Probably more. Part 2 will be certainly be chock a block with bits.  Look for that in a day or two. Or maybe tomorrow, depends on whether my brain is being a childish whiny little shit who can’t focus or acting more like a proper grown up and settling down to get the work done.   And then, of course, part 3 will follow.

As always, I thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, and once I have finished telling you this particular story, I shall return to sharing new tales of exploration and discovery.

Rebecca

(A brief aside…I was writing this while sitting in a Starbucks here in Maitland…and I’ll be damned if there wasn’t a British man sitting across from me. I mean, what are the odds? Really? In Maitland? I did chuckle to myself, because humor in the dark is how I survive. )

 

 

 

 

Goodnight sweetheart, well it’s time to go….

I’m parked at the National Gallery again. I’ve even managed to snag my favourite seat in the Espresso Bar. Its the end seat of the long wooden bar, closest to the restrooms and facing the Rembrandt and Rubens Gallery. FYI…It’s the only one with both the electric and USB plugs working, should you find yourself here in the future. And you should…find yourself here in the near future. London is a remarkable city. I’ve seen a few in my day. Paris, D.C, Chicago, Geneva, L.A., Denver, Miami,Toronto, San Francisco, Baltimore, Rome..and quite a few more. Even lived in NYC for four years(and I love her as well). But London..she is something else. First of all, she is ancient. Over 2000 years old. And there are still old bits around that you can touch (if no one is looking). There is the London wall, from the 2nd/3rd century AD. Parts of it are scattered around the border of the City of London..at The Museum of London and Tower Hill for example. There are quite a few churches that date back as far as the 6th century A.D., and other places such as The Tower of London,  which was finished in 1078. Its ok to touch the tower. In fact, my DNA can probably be found all over that thing. There are even bits older than the city itself. in 2010, archeologists conducting a survey on the shore of the Thames near the MI6 building found some timber piles they have dated as far back as 5000 B.C. so, yeah, she is ancient.

Second of all, she is historic. It’s one thing to have a bunch of old buildings…it is quite another to have had all sorts of interesting and historically relevant goings-on in and around them. Kings and Queens, writers, artists, revolutionaries, scientists, mistresses, explorers, adventurers, religious leaders, heroes, villains.   And then there were the wars, victories, heresy,attacks, upheaval, persecution, and celebrations. Just think of all the bits of history that you know of that have taken place just in the 1,572km squared (611 square miles) of London.

She has art. Really, really fantastically brilliant art that moves you down to your core and can change your view of yourself and the world…but also really really shitty bits of rubbish that you enjoy the same way you enjoy probing a sore tooth with your tongue. And she supports all of it. Because that is how she stays so alive…by allowing the new and the scary and the brilliant and the weird to all exist together and rub on each other and by allowing ideas to flourish and grow she always stays innovative and vibrant. And for every art form, there is a museum/theatre/festival/street corner/pub where you can dive right in and roll around as much as you want in the experience of it.(And most of the museums are free!) I have to say, all of that makes her incredibly sexy.

She has a pub on damn near every corner. And all sorts of pubs to suit all manner of temperament and taste.  You could stand in any spot in the city, and if all of a sudden you fancy a pint, you could have a cold glass of your favourite brew in your hands within minutes. As far as I am concerned…this is the pinnacle of human achievement. Well, this and maybe elevators. But I bet more brilliant ideas have sprung from having a ready brew than have ever come from standing in an elevator.

She has a brilliant transportation system.  And lets face it, nothing is more fun then getting the top front seat on a London double decker bus. For 1.50 quid you can get a Queens eye view of the city. Forget paying for one of those expensive open top city tours. Just download Citymapper on your phone and double decker your way around the city. For only 3 quid (two bus charges and two free transfers)you can get from Westminster Abbey, to Trafalgar Square, over to The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and all the other famous bits in the middle. If you are even more adventurous, take the buses all the way to the end and explore the outer zones- Clapham, Hackney, Hampstead Heath, Peckham, Streatham, Brixton, Crouch End and so many others. (But not Croyden. Croyden needs a time out)

She has the South Bank and the National Theatre. The South Bank is my favourite bit of London…with the National Theatre being the centre point. She is where I go when I need to feel a bit of comfort. I guess you could go so far as to say that for me, the National Theatre is like the kangaroo pouch of London and I am a needy joey. The NT has many floors with cozy benches and tables where you can plug in and write…she has cafe’s and restaurants so getting a coffee, wine, beer, snack or five course meal are all options. She has a bookstore fully stocked with all the best sorts of books, plays and British/theatre doodads. And then, as if all that wasn’t enough…she has three theatre stages- the “Olivier”, the “Lyttleton” and the “Dorfman” where in my opinion some of the best shows in London are produced with many of them going on to the West End and Broadway.(The NT also produces “NT Live”…which are live productions filmed and broadcast in movie theatres around the world. I bet your local theatre has hosted some. I myself have seen ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Hamlet’ at the theatre near home.)If you know anything about me at all, you can understand why the NT is my ‘Happy Place’. And lets not forget,right next to the NT is the Waterloo Bridge. If you stand on it and look down the Thames to the east, you can see The Shard, St. Pauls Cathedral, the National Theatre, the Tate Modern and Tower Bridge. Then turn around and face west and you see Parliament, the London Eye, and Big Ben. Sometime I just stand there and stare at the view for a bit, in awe that I have been allowed to spend as much time with her as I have,sadly always aware that a goodbye will eventually happen.

And that goodbye is tomorrow.

Last Saturday evening I met a friend at a pub down by Blackfriars, which is near to London Bridge and Borough Market. I had planned on staying in and watching Doctor Who, but got a message from a friend who wanted to meet for a pint before I headed back to the states. So I changed out of my Doctor Who jammy bottoms, got dressed like a sensible grown up and met my friend for a drink. I didn’t stay very long as I was tired and had a full day of travel happening the next day, so left the pub around 9 ish and headed toward my bus stop. I’m not terribly familiar with the area and got turned around and ended up by London Bridge. I didn’t walk across it, but did take in the view by the Thames for a few minutes before skimming some free wifi from a pub, Googling my bus stop and finding my bearings. I was on the bus on the way when I heard about the attacks happening in the spot where I had been less than an hour before. A buzz started on the bus…an unusual coordinated sort of hum….the hum of those with cell connections hearing about the attack from alerts on their phones, or family and friends calling. Since I did not have wifi I had to ask my seat mate what was happening.

There are many beautiful and extraordinary things about the city of London, but the MOST beautiful and the MOST extraordinary are the people who call it home. Their kindness,tolerance, fortitude and brilliant and unflagging sense of humour are legendary, as are their quirks:

Dear god, make sure you stay to the right on the escalator

Don’t look anyone in the eye on the Tube. Seriously, just don’t

They apologize for everything, even if clearly YOU are the one at fault. You will hear “sorry” at least 20 times a day

They do not really say “cheers” when toasting, but they do say it many times a day meaning “thank you’ or ‘goodbye’.

They really do love talking about the weather. Always a safe topic if you at a loss for words.

They love eccentricity and celebrate it.

They hear every accent in the world in London and they aren’t impressed by yours.

Respect the queue, or be prepared for a chorus of “tutting”…which is the native sound of the annoyed Londoner.

I could go on for pages, but I wont because the gallery is closing soon. As is my time here.

It has been one hell of a year folks. Almost exactly one year in fact. I flew out on this ridiculous adventure on June 16th, 2016. And I am flying back to the states on June 8, 2017. I never, ever thought I would make it this long. I mean, I HOPED to, I WANTED to, but did not expect it.

It’s been one hell of a year, and I thank you for coming along with me. I am going to continue the blog…sharing the different kind of adventure I am going to have trying to re-insert myself back into normalcy and the lives of my family and friends in Orlando. I also plan on traveling again in August as I’m afraid I have caught the “travel bug’ and am not the least bit interested in being cured of it yet.

See you on the other side!!

Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glasgow…go go go!!

Well, after a bit of a strange bus ride from Glasgow to London I am parked back in one of my favourite spots in London… the National Gallery Expresso Bar. I have to admit, I enjoyed Glasgow more than I expected to. Not that I thought it was going to be rubbish.. I was just moody from having left Mull and knew that most people deride Glasgow as being not as pretty or interesting as Edinburgh. But I enjoyed myself immensely and was very glad I had decided to end my stay in Scotland by zizzing around Glasgow. And zizz I did..as I only had the one day to explore. I managed to pack in quite a bit and was knackered when I returned to my hostel, The Tartan Lodge.

The Tartan Lodge

But not too beat to engage in some delightful conversation that evening with Raj..a 30 year old who is originally from India and is now living in Dublin and working in finance… and Charlotte, a mum my age from Bristol who was traveling solo for two weeks for the first time and loving the hell out of it. The previous evening I met Caroline, a woman from Edinburgh who was in Glasgow to teach classes on decoupage, furniture painting and stenciling. She specializes in ‘upcycling’…or ‘creative reuse’ if you will…converting old or discarded materials into something useful or just simply beautiful. Her website is http://upcycledworld.com if you are interested in learning more.

On the train ride from Oban to Glasgow I read up on what the city had on offer so I had a plan when I set out on Friday morning. (And it was actually morning when I set out as opposed to early afternoon as it usually is. This was due to two prodigious snorers AND a ‘pooter’…or ‘butt trumpeter’ whose emanations forced me to make an early morning escape. These people need to see a doctor pronto.)

If you are not into art feel free to skip down to the next part with cool things floating in jars and other weird shite. But you really should look at the art, you heathen.

First up was the Huntarian Art Museum. While I chose this particular museum for its extensive collection of Whistler paintings, I found myself completely charmed and captivated by the works of “The Glasgow Boys”(who were largely influenced by Whistler)…a group of male artists from the late 1800’s up till about 1910 who veered from the traditional Edinburgh oriented Scottish art and instead focused on naturalism and realism. Following the Glasgow boys were the ‘Scottish Colourists’…four artists whose work became a distinctive Scottish idiom during the 1920’s and 30’s. Their distinct style is immediately recognizable.

My favorite Whistler..”The Blue Girl”

Below is Whistler’s actual personal palette. I found this compelling, as the way an artist uses a palette is unique to each painter. In the scenic shop, I can immediately tell which palette belongs to which artist co-worker. Whistler kept his browns and blacks to the right, white in the center, and reds/greens/blues to the left..all tight along the edge.

‘Fisher’s landing’ by Sir William McTaggert
‘Undershot Mill, North Wales’ by Alexander Fraser
‘Girls at Play’ John Quinton Pringle

And here are some of my favorite works by the ‘colourists”.

This is my favorite painting in the whole museum. It makes me happy.

And then this one which disturbed, yet intrigued me. Kind of like the men I end up dating.

After the Art Museum I mozizzed (moseying + zizzing ) across the street to the main campus of Glasgow University…which is the most beautiful college campus I’ve ever laid eyes on (and I’ve seen Cambridge)

 

It is also home to the OTHER Huntarian Museum. This one is much more like its twin brother in London, and is filled with all sorts of interesting things that Dr. William Hunter collected over his lifetime. There is an extensive collection of Lord Kelvin memorabilia. Glasgow is VERY proud of Kelvin if the number of places named after him is any indication. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Kelvingrove Park, Kelvin College, Kelvinbridge, Kelvinhall…and there are probably more but I topped out on Kelvin’s. I guess you could do worse than name a bunch of places after the man who invented the absolute temperature scale…amongst many other things. Dr. Hunter was also an anatomist, so both the Glasgow and the London museums are full of ‘people bits’ in jars and surgical tools from the time period. Also displayed are Scottish fossils and artifacts. Its quite and eclectic and fascinating collection. I will add a few pics here, the rest will be in a gallery at the end.

DINOSAUR!

Need a hand?

 

My next stop, after a brief ride on the cutest and cleanest little subway you’ll ever see, was the Riverside Museum and Tall Ship. The Riverside Museum is full of displays of what life was like in Glasgow from the turn of the century up until now. I will be honest, by this point I was starting to get ‘museum-ed’ out.. which happens when I try to cram too much into a day. I admit I only briefly looked at all the motorcycles, buses, subway cars, clothing etc… before heading out to the docks to check out ‘The Tall Ship”. I like ships. Especially old really cool ones. This particular one, named ‘Glenlee’ was never a pirate ship, but they kitted up the boat with various displays as to what life on a boat like her would have been like if you were sailing the seas as a buccaneer. It was cool. You could blow the foghorn, swab the deck, turn the giant steering wheel at the helm…and then go below decks and get a cuppa at the gift shop just like the pirates did! (More pics in a gallery at the end)

The Captains “Head”…
The Galley

 

 

By the time I was done with the ship, my brain was overloaded and I knew I was done with museums. But I had bought a day bus pass and by god I was going to get my 4.50 quid’s worth! So I went to the city centre in search of that most famous of Glasgow’s features.. the local pub. I didn’t want a Wetherspoons or hip trendy pub…I wanted a pub that is mostly locals. And I found it off of Hope Street…”The Pot Still.” The place was full, but I managed to squeeze my way to the bar and order a pint of Tennants.  The ratio was 10 men for every woman, and the Glaswegian accents were so thick I couldn’t understand a damn word anyone was saying. It was awesome.

LOOK AT ALL THE WHISKY!
Here is a cheery chap!
Tennants- a proper Scottish lager brewed in Glasgow

And by the time I finished that pint…I was beat. Got the bus back to the hostel, chatted a bit and then hit the sack. Luckily for me the snorers and pooter from the night before had checked out so I managed a fairly decent sleep and managed to make it to the bus the next day.  Had a bit of an of episode on the Megabus back to London. We had stopped in Preston for 10 minutes to pick up new passengers, and a young disabled gentleman had gotten off the bus to buy a drink. He was walking back to the bus.. only steps away, when the driver closed the doors and started backing up. We all hollered to the driver to let him know he was leaving a passenger behind, and his reply was “What do you want me to do about it?” and continued to drive away with all of the mans luggage, his wallet…and worst of all… HIS CRUTCHES still on the bus. We were all horrified. We expected the driver to get a call to return..but NOPE!…on we went to Manchester. (As a side note, later when we stopped at a rest area to use the loo as the one on the bus was not working, I have to say we were all back in our seats lickity split. Megabus don’t play.)

I have a few more days here in London before I go back to the states. She feels like home now…and I am going to miss her…

ART MUSEUM GALLERY

HUNTARIAN MUSEUM GALLERY

RiVERSIDE MUSEUM AND TALL SHIP

THE BAR AND MY HOSTEL, TARTAN LODGE