Friday, November 26, 2021

Today's rant, plus a plea

I've been musing on all the documentation required these days to go abroad and come home again, much of which is digital. I told you of my struggles with the Verifly app which you must use of you want to check in online to BA. I realise now that it recognises faces and QR codes and nothing else. 

Everything is automated and high tech and sometimes it gets a bit much. If you’re travelling these days you need a barcode or a QR code on everything and when you get to any particular portal, either online or real, you need to know which bloody code they’re asking for. The instructions are either absent or opaque. Yes, it's slick if you're in the know: but if you're muddled-headed after a sleepless overnight flight, it would be lovely to have a smiling official being friendly and checking you out or in.

Do you remember the film Pretty Woman? There’s a scene where Richard Gere is trying to open his hotel door and is fumbling with the card, and he says sadly ‘I miss keys.’ That’s how I feel.

I don't use supermarket self-checkouts because I object to them. For one thing they steal jobs, and for another, the supermarkets make enough profit to provide staff to do the the checkout. At W.H.Smiths in Heathrow there is now no option: you have to use self service. And Dave even had trouble with the car park at Manchester airport when he came to pick me up. He had to ask another customer why the entrance barrier hadn’t given him a ticket. The answer: because it reads your number plate on the way out or in. But why was there no notification of that?

But you know what? 

I am lucky. I got out of the country and I got in again.

The refugees who died in the channel got in that boat because this government has closed down safe routes into this country for people fleeing war and terror. 

Under international law they had a right to seek asylum in the UK because we are signatories of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. It was not incumbent on them to seek asylum in the first country they came to. They had the right to claim asylum here. 

This week Beth Gardiner, CEO of Safe Passage said this:

"The tragic truth is that these deaths could – and should - have been prevented. No one should have to risk their life to reach safety. Every day, men, women and children are having to make extraordinary efforts to reach safety, sanctuary and loved ones here in the UK because there is no other way. To prevent a repeat of this tragedy, refugees urgently need safe routes to reach their loved ones, find refuge and have the chance to rebuild their lives. 

More and more people are risking the freezing, frightening journey across the Channel in small, unstable boats since the Government closed safe routes to the UK last year. Choosing to play politics with people’s lives, the Government has failed to prevent people risking the crossing and this is the result. The Government must act now to save lives by opening safe routes to the UK, and scrap their unworkable plans in the Nationality and Borders Bill which will only make the situation worse."


If you would like to sign a petition in support of safe routes, click here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Hello and goodbye

I had the best holiday I’ve ever had in Boulder with Isaac, Wendy and the girls. How special it was after the awfulness of not seeing them for 20 months. I hope I never have to go through that again.

You might be amused to know that when Isaac and the girls were waiting at the barrier for me to arrive, two other families were also waiting for English grannies  who were visiting, like me, as soon as the USA opened its doors to Brits. Isaac imagined the three of us coming out together through the arrivals door in a conga line.

Not so. After whizzing through immigration in 5 minutes when previously I've had to queue for more than an hour, my suitcase was one of the last to appear on the carousel, by which time the other two grannies had gone and one of them had left their balloon for me.  After all the other waiting I'd done, the wait for the suitcase felt like another 20 months.

But now I'm back in Blighty.

Being home feels different this time. Dave always asks 'Are you pleased to be home?' and I always say 'Yes,' and mean it. This time there is a small hard niggle in the back of my head, and it's saying '...pleased to be home as long as I only have to wait till March to go back.' The pandemic might take a turn for the worse. There might be a new pandemic. America might shut itself off again. I might be dead. 

I am going to go over to see them as much as the budget allows. The girls are fast growing up, and I'm 72 and in three years time I'm expecting the medical insurance to cost as much as the plane fare.

You saw our hello here.

Here's the goodbye.

Photo by Isaac

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Making memories

 We have watched both versions of The Parent Trap in the last week - the original one, starring Hayley Mills, and the remake with Lindsay Lohan. I loved them both. I shall be sad when the girls grow up and there is no one to watch kids’ films with any more.

As for the versions, the girls and Wendy preferred the original, Isaac the remake, and I am havering. If you took Dennis Quaid (the dad in the remake) and the luminous Natasha Richardson out of the equation I’d choose the original. 

There’s a line that stands out in both films as far as my current predicament is concerned….the bit where Hallie (or Susan) sniffs her grandfather’s jacket and explains to him she is making memories. 

“Years from now, when I’m all grown up, I’ll remember my grandfather and how he always smelled of peppermints and pipe tobacco.”

It’s been so wonderful to be here after these difficult and dreary pandemic months, and who knows what the future holds? Covid has, I hope, taught me not rely on anything and to make the most of every experience, and I am soaking up every detail of life here to take home with me. I hope to be back in March, but nothing is certain, is it?

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


I am having the best holiday I have had in years and it’s hard to make myself blog.

It’s not just the bliss of being with my faraway family after so many months apart, it’s also being in a different world from Hepworth Towers. And incidentally a world that feels safer than at home: there is a mask mandate for public indoor spaces in Boulder.

It’s so refreshing…

Different conversational topics

Different food - which I am not cooking! 😊 

Different sights and different bike rides 

Photo by Isaac

Different telly (finally I get the chance to watch Ted Lasso and the Amazing Mrs Maizel) 

Different bookshop

Different grasses  

Different views

Different climate. Today it is 17 degrees - whoopee! (This is strange, though…in another November there could be heavy snow)

Different cafes 

Photo by Isaac

It’s going to be a wrench to come home next week.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

What would Van Gogh have thought of it?

On Friday I went with the family to see the immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Denver. I had never heard of it but it has been shown all over the world and has been very popular. We were all looking forward to it and the girls were excited. They know some of Van Gogh’s paintings and they sing the Don McClean song that begins “Starry, Starry Night” along with Isaac. They know all the words. ‘Will we see Starry, starry night?’ asked Cece.

Like me, they thought we would be viewing some of Van Gogh’s paintings, along with projections of them onto the walls of rooms. 

There were no paintings. 

And extracts from some of them were not just projected onto all four walls of the otherwise blacked out ‘gallery,’ they were animated and there was a disturbing soundtrack added. It was spectacular and it was overwhelming, but there was no texture to the images, and that is a vital ingredient of Van Gogh’s work. 

One of the girls had to leave because the sensory overwhelm made her nauseous and upset. The other (who plays the ukelele and piano and writes her own songs) hated the music. She thought it inappropriate.

I was pleased to go and see what it was all about, but actually I am perfectly happy with the paintings (which I have seen in Amsterdam and was in awe of) and ultimately this show felt like a commercial exploitation of Van Gogh’s work. As such, it was upsetting. Surely the paintings speak for themselves. Why is there a need to do this to them? 

Isaac took some excellent photos and he’s happy for me share them with you. 

Have any of you seen this show? Note that I use the word ‘show’ and not ‘exhibition,’ or ‘exhibit’ as they say over here.

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Thursday, November 11, 2021


Monday, November 08, 2021

Are you excited yet?

'Are you excited?' everyone has been asking me about my trip to see my family in Colorado, after 20 months away from them.

And I've been replying - 'Not until I get my Fit to Fly test result on Sunday.'

So when it arrived in my inbox yesterday at 3.30 I did allow my myself to get excited, in a sotto voce way. I say this because until I am sitting on that plane bound for Denver tomorrow morning, I shan't believe it's going to happen.

This morning I got up at 6.15 - fairly excited - because I could check in online and choose my seat.

Not so. First BA suggested it would be easier if I downloaded an app called Verifly.

Nah - don't want to do that, I thought and swerved around it to the bit where you give them your passport details again and choose your seat.

They wouldn't let me choose my seat. Apparently I had not uploaded all my Covid documentation. And in order to do that I had to download the Verifly app, which has a one and a half star rating in the App store, with hundreds of comments that make you want to pull out what remains of your hair. 

So in a state of high stress, I downloaded the app, which wanted to know  everything about me except my bra size, PLUS I had to give them a live selfie. (I was still in pyjamas and had not combed my hair or washed my face and the light was harsh but what the hell? I wanted to check in!)

That done I had a twenty minute wrestle uploading my vaccination certificate until they eventually gave me a green tick. Next up - test result. They wouldn't accept a photo because there wasn't a QR code, so I had to upload a pdf for them to check manually. Apparently I will get an email once they have done that. Do I believe them? No.

I rang Liz, who had flown to Canada in September and had had similar problems, except she reminded me that she had seen the Verifly star rating and comments and steered well clear of it. She turned up at the airport with her paper documents and everything was fine, even though the black ink had run out on her printer and the test result was in terra cotta and orange. I was reassured.

So here I am, blogging. 

Next up, pack, bike ride, make Dave an apple crumble, and then try to untangle some wool I have found in my knitting drawer.

It is VERY soothing untangling wool, and you don't need a QR code to do it.

If that doesn't work I shall sit in the sunshine with a mug of Yorkshire tea and admire our new tree: a Parrotia Persica 'Vanessa.'

When we planted it last week it filled me with hope, and it was a strange and wonderful feeling.

Update at 9.50 a.m. They HAVE checked my document manually and say I can now check in.

I have tried and still cannot check in. Breathe.....

Update at 4pm. Success after I emailed BA and tweeted them and Verifly and I think the tweet to BA is what sorted it. It only took 9 abc a half hours 🙄🤔🧐😬

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Tired of waiting

I have nothing to say except how slowly time passes when something you have longed for is on the horizon, creeping slowly towards you, but is NOT HERE YET.  

It's Thursday today.

Next Tuesday, if all goes well, I shall be flying to see my girls. 

Every damn thing is checked off my list except my Covid test on Saturday.

What is there to do between now and then that means anything at all?

Here they are dressed up for Halloween as, respectively, a Pokemon character, and one of the fates.

I can't wait.