Myra's 70th Birthday in England

Myra opening her gift from Nick & Loren




Alex with Charlie.

Abbey in Crowland.

I liked the spikey detail on this arch.

One of Wayne's artsy photos.


Graham and myself. It was VERY windy cold that day.

Old graves in the abbey yard.

The Hotel setting for Myra's special birthday lunch.

Lake & Hotel Gardens

Hotel Gardens

Chris, Tom, Maddie & Otto

Maddie & Otto shamelesly in Leo's bed

Oh Leo! He got the ribbon off of Myra's flowers.

Since Wayne was going to be near London for "terrorism school," I decided to take my last opportunity to fly during my pregnancy to visit Graham and Myra and their family in England, also not far from London. What I didn't realize what that I'd picked a very special weekend. Myra's 70th birthday was that Friday, the day I arrived, and the weekend was packed with special celebrations for her. They graciously welcomed both myself and Wayne as added guest to all of these festivities.

On Friday, Graham picked me up from the airport as Myra got ready for a surprise tea with her sons, Nick and Chris, at Claridges, THE posh place to have tea in London. Graham and I had lunch at a nice cafe and tea room in Crowland, where they live. That evening, Nick and Loren hosted a dinner at their house to celebrate Myra's birthday. I'd met Nick and Loren when I visited Graham and Myra in 1996, during the semester I studied in Vienna. Now I finally got to meet their sons Alex (9) and Ben (5). I cannot believe that I didn't get a picture of Ben! It must not have come out on the camera. Alex played Happy Birthday to Myra on his guitar and we all sang. Loren made a wonderful chicken and fennel dish. I had a sip of champagne to toast the occasion. Wayne was to finish Centurion that day at 4 pm and Graham suggested he get a train from Hampshire to London, then to Peterborough. Wayne thought that sounded like going out of his way, so he found what he thought was going to be a great deal on a rental car and decided to drive instead. He didn't factor in the horrid Friday night traffic around London, so at dinner we were beginning to wonder why we hadn't heard from him, as he didn't have Nick & Loren's address. Our cell phones didn't work at all in England, so I knew Wayne would have to stop somewhere to call us. As the evening wore on and we hadn't heard from him, Graham became convinced that the leaders of Centurion had formulated a brilliant plan to kidnap the class members when they thought the class was over so that the experience would be realistic in the sense that the family members would be worried about them and not know where they were. Fortunately, Centurion has not adopted this technique and Wayne was just waiting until he got to Petersborough to call us. He missed a wonderful evening at Nick and Lorens, and arrived at Graham and Myra's at about 11 pm.

The next day, Graham followed us to return the rental car and on the way back we stopped to see the Abbey in Crowland. On Saturday, I also finally got to meet Myra & Graham's other son, Chris, and his partner Tom. They brought their dachshunds Maddie & Otto also. Graham & Myra also have a dachshund, Leo, and Wayne and I were so happy to be around dachshunds again, as we miss our dogs who are still in the states. Chris and Tom treated the family to a wonderful dinner at a tiny restaurant run by the wife of the chef, who is the only one in the kitchen. I was amazed by this fact because the food was amazing, and everything is made solely by him. I had the most wonderful chocolate and mint ricotta cheesecake for dessert.

Then on Sunday, Graham hosted a lunch for 14 in honor of Myra's birthday at a special hotel. We got to meet Graham's brother, Malcolm, and his wife Kay, and their good friends Frankie (who taught the boys music when they were children) and her husband, Viv, a well known cello player. The hotel was lovely, with the decor being the epitome of an old English country estate. Again, the food was very fancy and very good and we enjoyed talking with everyone.

Monday Graham and Myra took us to a shopping mall to pick out something for our little girl. We chose a few books, one of them a British classic, "The Tiger Who Came to Tea." Myra thought it would be nice for her to also have some music for falling asleep to, so we picked out some Baby Einsteins CDs. We relaxed a bit that afternoon as we prepared to leave early the next morning to head back to Germany. There was a bit of angst trying to figure out the luggage situation as our flight was on Ryanair--a cheap airline that makes their money off of added charges. Each person is allowed only a 10 kilogram carry on for free. Each person can check luggage only totaling 15 kilos, at an added charge. On the way over, I packed what I thought was a carry on. It ended up being 11 kilos, so they charged me 20 Euros at the airport. Wayne had all his heavy gear for Centurion, so I was not sure how we were going to accomplish the baggage limits (for each kilo over the limit, it would have been 12 British Pounds--about $180 for one bag). Luckily, Graham found an old bag that he said we could take with us so each Wayne and I would have one bag to check that was under 15 kilos. Using their bathroom scale, it seemed like we'd be over, but luckily when we got to the airport we found that we weren't. We were so happy to find that the return flight was quite empty, a rarity these days, probably because it was a Tuesday. Wayne took advantage of the small extra fee to get priority boarding (otherwise it's everyone dashing into line and picking their own seat, an amusing spectacle I participated in on the way to London on a packed flight), and we sat in an exit row, which was good b/c the seats are tiny and Wayne's knees would have been jammed up against the seat in front.
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