Wednesday, 13th December 2017
Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but honestly not much has happened that you’d be interested in. Most days I’ve been very busy looking at horses, horses and more horses. I’ve seen practically every thoroughbred with four working legs in both Ireland, England and France, and even some with only three and a half. I won’t bore you with all the details, so instead I will pick up the story from where I left it last time.
It was Monday 28th November, and I had landed in London Heathrow after a short flight from Dublin, and head straight into the centre of the City to pick up my new nationality credentials.
After gaining my shiny new ID card, I took a couple of trains and arrived in Newmarket a few hours later. It had already been quite a long day, and I was ready for a rest, but unfortunately, I’d had a phone call from my Newmarket host the day before.
The call went like this:
Gill: “Hi, it’s me.”
Me: “Hi Gill, how are you?”
Gill: “I’m in hospital.”
Me: “Oh my God what the f#@k have you done now?”
(If Gill wrote down her life in a similar way to this memoir, I swear we’d all be wearing incontinence pants when reading it, as she is very amusing, a touch clumsy and is one of the few people in his world that manages to get into as many, if not more, misfortunate situations than I do. Like one time when she was driving the horse-box to the races and she got a call from the office to say that she’d left her grooms stranded in the petrol station after filling up with petrol some eight miles back. You couldn’t make up half of the stuff that she gets herself into, so I wasn’t entirely surprised that she was calling me from a medical institution.).
Gill: “I’m not well, but you can still stay at mine tomorrow, just call Nicola and get the key.”
Me: “Well are you alright? What’s wrong with you? Where are you? And what happened?”
Gill: “I’m OK. I’m in intensive care in Gran Canaria. You can still stay at mine though.”
Me: “WHAT THE F@#K? Gill what the f@#k are you doing in intensive care in Gran Canaria? Why do you care where I’m going to sleep tomorrow? And what can I do to help.”
Gill: “No I’m OK. I’m on holiday out here, but then I got ill. They thought it was meningitis, but now they don’t think it is.”
Me: “What the f…”
Gill: “Don’t worry, you can still stay at mine though. Just get the key. Gotta to go I don’t feel well.”
And with that she hung up.
I was stunned. Gill is one of my oldest friends, and by that I mean that I’ve known her for twenty odd years, not that she’s an octogenarian that is residing in God’s waiting room. She’s only a few years older than me and although I hadn’t seen her recently, she’s a non smoking, non drinking, fairly fit vegetarian.
I didn’t quite know what to do, so i googled “flights to Gran Canaria” and then sent her a few texts.
She insisted that she was “fine” and told me not to come out to the Canary Islands to meet her, even when I said that I’d be delighted to come out just for the weather, even if she really was “fine”.
By the time I got to Newmarket, the latest information that I had on her condition was that she was so “fine” that the Doctors had discharged her and she’d still be making her intended flight some time later that day.
I called Nicola (the keeper of the key and Gill’s best friend) to see if this was true or if she’d gone delirious, and found out that indeed Gill had gone straight from intensive care to the airport without passing Go or collecting $200.
Now I knew that Gill was flying into Manchester airport, which is a good (or even bad) four and a half hour drive home to Newmarket. I also knew that the two friends that she’d gone with lived in the opposite direction and that Gill’s car was at the airport waiting for her to drive it home.
I also knew that Gill was equally as stubborn as me and would attempt to drive it home no matter what state that she was in.
Things I did not know were a) What flight she was on. b) What time her flight was due in. c) What terminal it came into. d) Where her car was. e) If her brother has gone to collect her.
Despite being in the dark about all of these things, I suddenly found myself back on the platform of Newmarket train station, buying a ticket to Manchester Airport train station, but not before attempting to fill Gill’s fridge full of food for her pending arrival home.
This was a nice gesture in theory, but seeing as I haven’t been to a supermarket in about 4 years and have no idea what vegetarians eat except vegetables and Quorn, it was a bit of a lame effort.
After agonising in the bread aisle for about forty minutes, I ended up at the check out with a basket containing a half loaf of white bread, a block of medium cheddar cheese, some semi skimmed milk and six large free range eggs. Probably not the kind of convalescing food that the Doctor ordered, but seeing as she was most likely ignoring his instructions, I figured that I could too.
And being that by cooking skills are limited to toast, French toast, cheese on toast, cheese sandwiches, boiled eggs and toast, or omelettes, then I think that the ingredients were more than satisfactory to fulfill my scarcely rehearsed culinary repertoire.
Plus after the bread dilemma, I’d manned up and decided that I’d be safe and pick the middle product in each category, hence the mediumness of the cheese and semi skimmed milk. I know nothing about milk, skimmed or otherwise, but I’d heard of semi skimmed milk and it seemed a popular choice with the other shoppers in that aisle.
Anyway, I digress. By now I was on a train inching its way towards Cambridge (the Newmarket to Cambridge line is more of an upmarket tram and goes about as fast as a pushchair with the brakes on).
Once I got to Cambridge, it was express all the way, but unfortunately it did involve going the wrong way, as I had to go South back into London, to where I’d been only a few hours earlier to pick up the high-speed train North to where I wanted to be.
For sustenance I’d managed to pick up a couple of tubs of Marks & Spencers mini rolls in London and ended obliterating them into chocolatey crumbs by running at top speed through the underground tunnels, to catch the tube to my connecting station.
I should mention at this point that I’d left in rather a hurry and only had the two round tubs of chocolate mini rolls to keep me alive and my small handbag for company.
I never ever carry a handbag anywhere, so I surprised myself that I had found it and taken it with me. I had no book, not enough clothes on, and my handbag contained 14 hair grips, an empty tube of lip balm, two pieces of very stale chewing gum, 1 out of date condom and my bank card. Awesome. There’s nothing like being prepared for a five-hour train journey that included 5 changes.
Thankfully though my odd collection of belongings were reasonably light, so my being unencumbered during my sprint through the subway corridors, meant I managed to shave a bit of time of the arduous trip and got a slightly earlier train to Manchester.
This was great, as on the way down to London, I’d checked the incoming flight arrivals and found that there were two planes arriving from Las Palmas that day, and I was now due to arrive in only 40 minutes behind the second one. Which after baggage reclaim give me a good shot of being able to catch Gill.
With the Manchester train being my longest of the day, I contemplated what might happen when I actually got to the airport.
Scenario a) Gill was on the earlier flight and would now be half way back to Newmarket. I’d be forking out for a hotel in Manchester, before buying another extortionate rail ticket to get home some time the next day.
b) Gill’s brother had turned up to collect her, and like a wally I’d wasted half a day and a hundred quid chasing all over the country needlessly.
c) My sick friend finds me waiting in arrivals with two tubs of smashed chocolate mini rolls and think’s I’m a good friend albeit one that brings inappropriate gifts for invalids to airports.
d) Gill ends up in Portugal or similar after being so ill that they have to divert the aeroplane.
After this my thoughts started to wander to some rather dark places, so I gave up wondering what might happen next and spent the rest of the journey willing the train to go quicker, whilst texting her again NOT LEAVE THE AIRPORT, hoping that at least one of the 27 messages that I’d sent her would get through when she landed and turned her phone on.
I checked the flight arrivals once more, and saw that the first flight from Las Palmas had landed 45 minutes earlier. I was still 12 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly and had to catch another train from there to reach the airport.
The second flight was now showing a 52 minute delay. Either way this was not good news. If she was on the early flight, she’d be gone well before I could run breathlessly across the airport like some kind of demented movie buff recreating their favourite love scene. And if she was on the second flight, why was it now delayed? Had they had to divert to drop her off? Despite the freezing temperatures I was starting to sweat.
In Piccadilly I caught another break and got on the a late departing airport train meaning that I would arrive there exactly at the time that the delayed flight number 2 was now due to land at. I still couldn’t obtain a working number for her brother, and I didn’t have either of the phone numbers for the two friends that she was travelling with.
This had all the hallmarks of something that was bound to end badly. But I decided whatever the outcome, I was glad that I was there. I would like somebody to do the same for me if the situation was reversed and despite silently cursing her for not booking her holiday from the local airport of Stansted, the worst that could happen to me was having to spend a night in a low-budget hotel in Manchester and another day of inter-railing it around the country to get back to my origin. In the grand scheme of things, looking like a wally, a bit of spent cash and time meant nothing compared to the health, well-being and comfort of my little friend…
To be continued…