I landed back at Heathrow on Wednesday, where I was met by an old friend and a new friend. What my old friend had neglected to warn me about was his name - John Smith. When I was going through customs I handed in my landing card, minus the address stating where I would be staying. The reason I left it blank was I didn't have it. I knew I was being picked up at the airport, and had a phone number in case I needed to get in touch. It never crossed my mind to have jotted down John's street address.
When the rather somber customs guy asked me where I was staying I said Kent. Apparently he thought this wasn't specific enough and asked me exactly where in Kent I would be. I said I didn't know. Then he asked if I knew the name of the person I was staying with. Relieved that it was a question I could answer, I smiled and said, "John Smith." He didn't smile back.
Instead, he gave me a disbelieving look and asked if that was really the name of the person. I was beginning to feel a bit uneasy. Not quite sure what the guy's problem was, I told him that yes, that really was the name of the person. This led to a lecture about how, in England, if someone got stopped by the police and didn't want them to know his real identity he would say he was "John Smith." It wasn't until I pulled out my iPad and showed him I did indeed have an email with a phone number that he allowed me to go on through.
John's partner Jill was waiting for me at the arrival area, while John kept his car moving out front so as to avoid paying parking fees. (I was glad the customs guy didn't witness this!) Jill and I hit it off immediately. She is a lovely person, and we shared a lot of good laughs together (scumbags!!).
The Queen continued to avoid me. Wednesday afternoon we went to Windsor Castle to see her but she wasn't home. So much for tea.
Thursday found us at Chartwell, which was the home of Winston Churchill. We went through the house, walked through his gardens, and viewed some of his paintings. I was amazed to learn he did over 500 in his lifetime! He even took his painting supplies with him when he traveled. The brick wall in the bottom right picture was built by Churchill, and the lovely lady in the black sweater and red shirt is Pat, John's mom.
There was a Canadian connection that day too. We went to Quebec House, the childhood home of General Wolfe.
We got back to John and Jill's in time to go for a walk through Swanley Village, the picturesque community where they live. Those are bee hives in the middle picture on the bottom. I was interested to see these in the village, as there is a move to have them allowed within the Kamloops city limits.
Then it was home for a cup of tea. They are much more hospitable than the Queen.