SUMMER, WINTER SOLSTICE - 2010

Written by: Suzette Richards

It was a visit long overdue by most people’s standards. I had last seen my daughter two years prior to that during a whirlwind trip which she and her fiancé had made to Cape Town. I had an unexpected financial windfall and the money was burning a hole in my pocket. On the spur of the moment, I called my daughter and asked her to source accommodation for me in London over the Christmas season. A few days later, she called me back with the news that all the hotels had been booked up, save for the Ritz. I chuckled at the idea of having to spend my entire holiday budget on just one night at the Ritz. Then reason asserted itself and we put our heads together to come up with an alternative solution. I could hear her flatmate in the background, chipping in with her penny’s worth of advice. My daughter hung up and I was feeling down in the mouth about the plans for the trip being derailed in such a fashion. Later that evening, my daughter called back with the offer that if I did not object to sleeping on the settee in the lounge, I would be most welcome to stay with them at their London flat. I gladly accepted. She is a chef at a top restaurant and I was looking forward to gourmet meals prepared by her - including the Christmas turkey.

screeching seagulls dive at sushi scraps on a plate - the urchin watches
The evening of the booked flight to London, arrived. It was an uncomfortable hot day and I showered and dressed with only minutes to spare before my friend took me to the airport to book in the statuary two hours before international flight departures. At the airport everything was in chaos. We were given the unwelcome news that our flight had been cancelled. This was the third direct flight to London which had been cancelled that week due to London experiencing the worst weather and snow since records began in 1890! We were offered alternative flights and had to stand in queues for hours in order to procure a new airline ticket. Some people became very verbose and insisted on being granted passage on other airline carriers (at the cost of our local airline carrier). I do not know whether it was due to the weather or the disappointment I was feeling, but when my turn came at last to book a new flight, I readily agreed to fly on Christmas Eve ( three days hence) to London. If I had been given time to reflect on this date, I would not have accepted it. Arriving in London on Christmas Day would have been disastrous: The tubes and other public transport would have been curtailed on Christmas Day and shops and other amenities would have been closed for the day. This I knew from previous trips to the UK over the festive season. To add insult to injury, taxis would have charged triple for cab fare and no amount of quibbling would have swayed them. I phoned my friend to collect me and when we got home, I poured a large glass of Merlot and retired on the sun lounger in the garden. It was *full moon that evening and it was almost worth missing the trip to witness its beauty. I left my bags in the hallway and retired early – after phoning my daughter and giving her an update on the status quo.
moths dart between moon flowers - lunar eclipse
Six am the following morning, I was woken up by the phone ringing. Sleepily I took the call. It was the airline inquiring whether I could get to the airport by seven am. My friend was dancing up and down in agitation and already had the car out by the time I had brushed my teeth. I offered to pay any speeding fines which she might incur during our mad dash to get to the airport on time. The flight was an additional service which was laid on to get the backlog of passengers to their desired destinations. Heathrow had given our pilots permission to proceed, hence the call to me that morning. We were a total of thirty six passengers on the Boeing 747 – it translated to two passengers per crew member. We were treated to five in flight movies which were current and could eat and drink as much as we wished to. By the time we landed in London at seven pm that evening, there was a festive spirit among us. A radio taxi (which my daughter had organised) was waiting to collect me at Heathrow airport. It was a chilly four degrees Celsius below zero and I was grateful for my leather coat and wool accessories.
steep steps to flat shut out the bitter world - a heart pounds
**************************************************************** *The December 2010 lunar eclipse occurred from 5:27 to 11:06 UTC on December 21, coinciding with the date of the December solstice. It was visible in its entirety as a total lunar eclipse in North and South America, Iceland, Ireland, Britain and northern Scandinavia. "bitter" means piercingly cold..... A term commonly used by Britishers... "flat" means apartment. The Londoners I know, refer to it as just "flat" with no adj or possessive noun or article. Please see the About section for explanations regarding the 1ST AND LAST haiku. Haibun(literally, haikai writings) is a prosi-metric literary form originating in Japan, combining prose and haiku. The range of haibun is broad and includes the autobiography, diary, essay, prose poem, short story and travel journal. ~ Wikipedia