I awoke and made sure everything was packed for the flight back home. The coming weekend was going to be a very busy one.
I was going to arrive in Manchester and then get a lift home. I would then, after briefly hugging the folks back home and telling them all about the trip to New York, pick up my friend and fellow artist, Leo Brown and attend the London comics convention. That was Saturday spoken for and then we would return later in the afternoon on Sunday, just before the convention closed down.
On arrival home, after dropping off Leo at his home, I would pack the car ready for an early start on Monday morning for our trip down to North Wales and the little cottage waiting for us there, called “Gwynt Y Mor”.
That was the plan, as I went down for the last time that week for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I was excited to be going back home and looking forward to everything that was in my itinerary. I walked over to the office with my suitcase and was relieved when it and my portfolio and art materials were all together again.
I sat at the drawing board and began to work on Page four of Dark Dominion. I was soon telling everyone that the rumours circulating the Defiant offices were correct, I was going home, but I would be back inside of a week or so.
Page four contained the first of the creatures that reside in the realm of Dark Dominion and I began to lay down the initial washes for the page. I was not to get much further, however as Janet came out of her office and asked me if I would like to take a trip down to Grand Central Station, with her and Joe, where we would have something light to eat. I agreed and packed everything away. I had some pages to take with me, so I could continue on the pages whilst on holiday at night. They went in the portfolio and my art materials went in my hand luggage. I was set, upon my return from our little trip I would be setting off once more for JFK airport.
The walk to Grand Central from the offices was only a very short one and near to Mid-Town Comics, which although Joe had spoken of I had not yet seen, although I would on my return trip. The station is a huge, brilliantly designed building, lovely on the outside with its sculptures and on the inside with its wonderful staircase seen in many a movie (Carlito’s way comes to mind, although at this point it had not been released and would be a film I would take in again on my return trip).
Below: Page 4 of Dark Dominion Issue #1:The three of us chatted and drank tea and coffee and ate a selection of cakes from the café buffet. I had not had Pecan pie before, but from that moment on I was hooked. Joe commented about my T-Shirt I was wearing with the motif “Charlotte”, it was a hornet’s basketball shirt, but he laughed and asked why I was wearing a girl’s shirt – He didn’t know, at this point, that I have a very good and long reaching memory and would have my revenge.
We went back to the office where Pizza had just arrived (this was a common occurrence at Defiant), so we all sat round the front near reception and on the veranda and chatted whilst eating the most humongous pieces of Pizza I had seen in my life, up to this point. Everyone was excited that I was going to coming back once more for another two weeks and was the most common subject discussed with me that lunchtime.
Eventually the limo arrived to take me back to the airport and Joe very kindly accompanied me there. Once I was unloaded we said our goodbyes and I said I would see him in a week or so.
Not having flown on my own before this trip, this was the first time on a return flight to the UK, so I immediately went to the nearest airport attendant and asked where to check in. I was shown and I handed in my suitcase and went through customs with my portfolio and hand luggage.
On the other side of customs I relaxed a little and spotted another airport attendant and showing my ticket to him asked where I was to go and where I would board the plane. He took me to another area of the airport and said I was to await the call to board the aircraft from here.
I sat and waited, now feeling much better, I just had a couple of hours to kill.
I asked another passenger if he was waiting for the flight to Manchester in the UK, but he told me he was going to Chicago.
I sat and read some magazines I had bought whilst in Manhattan and gradually the clock ticked down. Occasionally I looked up over the magazines when I heard another influx of passengers enter the area, to quickly depart on their flights. The weather outside had changed and was starting to rain quite heavily.
I asked another airport attendant if the flight was in for the return flight to the UK and he said it would be a while before we boarded, but that I would hear an announcement to board when it was ready.
I sat and waited, with a little unease creeping in, as I had not seen anyone on my flight and had not seen anything on the screen to say the flight was imminent or indeed heard any call.
Just before the flight had been due to set off I figured something was wrong, so went to find the nearest desk and asked them about the flight. The girl behind the desk looked up at me and then her monitor and then turned her gaze to me again and said those immortal words… “The aircraft has already taken off!”
I could not believe my luck or lack of it, how would I get back in time now, all had been going so well with the trip up to this moment?
I asked her what I was to do and she told me there was another flight to Manchester in the morning at seven o’clock. I explained that was too late, as I needed to be home long before then.
I asked about my suitcase, I was told it would be on the flight. Now bear in mind this was some sixteen years ago and what I said then I would not dream of doing now. I asked her about the security of the situation, why was my luggage still on the plane if I was here, did no one check these things…after all there could be a bomb on it now. I really did find it strange they had not taken the luggage off the flight for that reason, even back then in 1993. I was told I would be able to pick up the suitcase on the following Monday morning at Manchester airport.
So my luggage was on its way home, but I was still in the USA.
She then said I could go on a stand by to Heathrow – London. A plan hatched.
I agreed to do that. I then waited until the flight was ready for boarding and waited in the queue for the flight at the back. The Captain walked past with his co-pilot and said “It’s going to be an heavy one tonight.”
All I could think of was I was not going to get on the plane; it was going to be too full. The lady at the boarding gate was aware I was hoping to get on the flight and gave me the nod to approach with my ticket. It was then that I asked if there was a telephone I could use to warn the folks back home of my new flight arrangements? She pointed me in the right direction and I rang Leo.
I quickly explained the situation and asked him to explain everything to Margaret for me and to pick up my car from home and travel down to London where I would meet him outside the Cockburn Hotel near Russell Square where we were staying across from the convention venue. He agreed to do so, or at least I hoped he had as I put the receiver back as they were calling the final departure call for the flight. I smiled with relief as I went through to the 747 aircraft.
The weather was raining quite heavily now as the plane took off and I smiled to myself as I now realised what the Captain had meant by heavy…the weather. I was on my way home.
The flight was uneventful and I soon found myself walking out of the airport with my portfolio and hand luggage into a sunny London Saturday morning. I wondered if my suitcase was having a good time.
Outside I asked a Taxi how much it was to Euston Station, it was £30.00. Luckily a passer-by going to catch the bus called out to me and said it was only £1.50 on the shuttle bus and only took about half to three quarters of an hour to get there. It was still only seven o’clock UK time so I decided to save some money and get the bus.
By the time I walked along the street to the hotel Leo had already arrived, having driven at close to the speed of sound in my car and was waiting outside the hotel in it with a huge tray of cream cakes. His brother was a baker and he had called at the bakery and picked up some supplies figuring I would be hungry. I was in the UK again but the food was still coming thick and fast.
I arrived at the convention and waited for the obligatory UKCAC presentation on the stage where organiser Frank Plowright would discuss our latest projects with us to the fans. He asked what I had been doing recently and I explained about Defiant. The convention was spent speaking to folks both fan and fellow professional about the last week and my missed flight, between signing things and sketching.
The weekend seemed to move at an exceptional speed and no sooner had I stepped foot on UK soil then it was time to go home to my family. Leo and I spoke at great length on the journey back and I asked if he had got some stuff together to show them. He had and I said I would pick them up when I dropped him off at his house and hand them to Janet and Jim personally.
Below: Joe and I sitting in the cafe area in Grand Central Station:
In no time at home I had done so and arrived back home, laughing now with Margaret about missing my flight. The kids were in bed by this time so greeting them would have to wait until the morning. I packed the car ready for the holiday and put the car away in the garage for the night.
The following morning we were up bright and breezy. The kids were excited to see me and also because they were going on holiday. I gave everyone their presents and we set off and headed to North Wales via a stop at Manchester airport to pick up my suitcase. On arrival there I was told that it could not be found and to try again in a few days, so off we set once more to our holiday cottage.
It was sunny when we set off, but by the time we arrived at the cottage it had been raining a little. It eased off and we all went to a local shop to check it out and buy some milk and stuff. It was in the middle of nowhere, really and once the clouds had lifted that afternoon we saw that we were surrounded by mountains. It was situated near the coast on the borders of the Snowdonia National Park and was a lovely rural setting, ideal for peace and quiet, but maybe a little too quiet at the time, thinking about it with two young children to entertain.
Below: Joanne and Simon at "Gwynt Y Mor":
The week was spent travelling to different places, Rhyl, Prestatyn, Llandudno, Pwllheli, Caernarfon Castle and Conway Castle, which were both magnificent to visit. The highlight for the kids was a day out to the Anglesey Sea Zoo, where they saw lots of sea creatures and a few farm animals too.
All was going fine until one day just outside a repair garage (I swear it could not have been more fortuitous) the car decide to break down. I managed to get the reluctant garage owner to take a look at the car. He said it was the carburettor and he couldn’t do anything, but that there was a garage I could call at tomorrow just down the way towards where we heading back to the cottage. He sprayed some quick start fluid on the leads and we set off again, having managed to get it going again.
The trip back was a dicey one, as the car engine was now struggling and anyone having visited this part of Wales before will agree that it is a hilly place at best. The car went in the following day and the rest of the week saw us having fun at the seaside, playing in the field that was part of the cottage grounds, visiting castles and the sea zoo and me working on the pages whilst the kids and Margaret slept at night. I managed to complete pages four and five whilst there at the cottage, which seems like quite a feat to me now as we went out somewhere different everyday and enjoyed every minute of it too.
We returned home and on the way back again called at Manchester airport. This time the by-now badly battered suitcase was there. It had obviously not had such a great time and was now going to see early retirement, after just one trip.
Below: Joanne and Simon at "Gwynt Y Mor":
We arrived home exhausted and Margaret and I laughed that we were in need of a holiday. We sat down and Margaret had a cup of coffee and I had a Tea, the last I would have for quite some time, although back then I had no idea, just how long that was to turn out to be. Margaret washed my clothes from my earlier trip and, once dry, I packed them again, along with an extra weeks things and took along something smart to wear as well, just in case this time.
The tickets for New York had arrived whilst we were away and I was due to fly out the next day, for a fortnight…or so I thought. Packed once more and with my Portfolio containing the pages I had completed in Wales and art materials at the ready too in my hand luggage, I retired for bed, excited once more to be returning to America, but wishing my family were coming along with me this time.
But I’ll share that in my next Blog.
Until next time have fun!
May 23rd 2009