If you have a bucket list, chuck it.
Perhaps you haven’t made your bucket list yet. But you have dreams of some day, some place, some time. Write those dreams down and throw the list out your window. If you have screens, this could be difficult, in which case your alternative is throw it in the rubbish bin. I don’t use the term ‘trash can’ after being chastised by an elderly English lady seated outside a wee deli in Edinburgh, Scotland. I inquired of the deli’s server the whereabouts of the nearest trash can as the deli had served my soup in a paper cup. The English lady sat regally at one of the deli’s two outdoor tables. Hearing of my inquiry, she said to me, “For your future reference, we call it rubbish bin over here.” She smiled at me with kind eyes, giving me the sense she told me for my own good. Helping me avoid the faux pas of uttering the crass term ‘trash can’ ever again. I said to her, “Ah yes, I’m not in America. Over here you also don’t say ‘restroom’ but ‘toilets.'”
“Yes, we say it like it is,” she said. “And you Americans say ‘parking lot’ and we say ‘car park.’ It doesn’t make sense.” We both chuckled at our respective country’s different terminology. However, I do think ‘car park’ sounds backward. I also think the way the Brits drive is backward. They drive on the left side and riding in their cars is a complete harrowing experience. When you see cars on the opposite side of the road coming toward you, the scary feeling of an impending collision comes over you.
But I’m off the subject. For now, I want to talk to you about your bucket list. Forget that book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die. It implies a need to not die before your eyes have taken in one-thousand splendors of the world. I say, poppycock. I have no idea what poppycock means, but it seems appropriate when I think of that book. In addition, I blame Walt Disney for instilling a belief in dreams when he said, “All our dreams can come true , if we have the courage to pursue them.” Well, Walt, we not only need courage, but we need British pounds and Euros and good walking shoes. We need preparations for the black clouds that rain on our sparkling dreams.
I hope, by now, you have removed the screen from your window, folded your list of dreams into a paper airplane and sailed it outside. You must rid yourself of dreams of journeys and destinations you hope to embark before you die.
Let the cleansing begin.
I can’t recall what age I might have been, maybe six or eight, when my dream of going to Wales brewed in my hopeful imagination. After all, by that time in my life, I had explained to hundreds—if not thousands—of people that my name is Welsh. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I was just about the only Bronwyn in our sunny, southern California town of Garden Grove. We had Debbies and Lindas and Marys and Nancys and Susans (at least at my school). But only one Bronwyn. Please don’t be offended if you have one of the aforementioned names. I’m not implying your name is not beautiful or unique, for it certainly is. I love all my friends named Linda, Nancy, Debbie, Mary, and Susan and their names are as special as they are. I only imply that I had to explain how to pronounce my name to everyone. Then explain its origin. It was exhausting. People always asked, “What nationality is your name?” Upon hearing it’s Welsh, they invariably told me I must go there someday.
So I did. Last week. I felt transported to a fairytale while meandering the Welsh town of LLangollen. But my stay lasted only 40 minutes, because that’s all I had. (Further explanation in a future blog.)
The journey to the British Isles began on a high. “Let’s get this party started,” my sister Jodee said. (She and my niece Becca traveled with me.) The party couldn’t have come at a better time. With temperatures in Phoenix hovering at a toasty 112-degrees, I longed for the cool breezes of the United Kingdom.
At the airport we checked our baggage, passed through security, boarded our plane, and sat. Who would have thought that on a summer day in Phoenix where the word ‘rain’ is rarely spoken, we would experience a horrendous thunder and lightning storm beginning simultaneously as we boarded. Our torturous seats forced us to sit erect and cramped as raindrops drizzled down the airplane window glass.
Claustrophobia threatened to strangle me right there in seat 33 E. Or was it 34 D? The man in the seat across the aisle read a book as if he was prepared for a long, leisurely wait. He didn’t seem to be bothered at all by my heavy breathing of panic. The lady in front of me played solitaire on her laptop. The pilot announced, “Just waiting for the storm to clear. If it were only raining, we’d have clearance for takeoff, but the lightening makes it a different story. Just another 15 minutes or so.”
That 15 minutes dragged on and I continued to suffer Delta’s abusive, suffocating seat on our fully-booked Md-90 jet. We waited on the tarmac for over an hour and a half. We arrived in Minneapolis too late to make our connecting flight to London. For some reason, our connecting flight on the Boeing 767-400 decided to keep a schedule and get to London on time.
It was the only international flight to London for that day. We waited 27 hours before we could catch the next night’s flight out. When you’re at an airport at 2 a.m., it’s not pretty. Strange men want to buy you drinks, the janitor wants you to move so she can clean, and all the shops have closed so you can’t buy coffee or even a banana. Our next day flight didn’t leave on the scheduled time of 10:05 p.m. We were delayed three and a half hours. Delta brought out pizza for its haggard passengers waiting impatiently at Gate 19. Delta hoped to keep the waiting crowd pacified with melted cheese and gooey tomato sauce. Jodee and I and Becca were too tired to riot even if pizza hadn’t been offered.
Our cruise ship, the Royal Princess, didn’t wait for us either. It left Southampton while we wiled away the time in Minneapolis. As it sailed happily to Guernsey, the ship’s first port of call, we wandered the Mall of America, a shopping mall the size of a small country like Peru. All I remember about the Mall of America is screaming, shouting, pushing, shoving shoppers with whimpering children in tow. Some of those shoppers screamed as they rode a roller coaster or zip lined above the crowds. The mall’s noise level made an AC/DC concert seem like a hushed whisper. Becca visited Peeps & Company, a store full of everything Peeps. She emerged from the store with a stuffed green Peep keychain. We killed more time by dining at Benihana and watched the chef transform onion slices into a smoking volcano. He flipped his knife in the air. Or was it an egg? He flipped something in the air and caught it in his chef’s hat.
Finally we embarked on our flight to Heathrow. But first I had my meltdown and called Jerry from the airport. I told him I wanted to come home. I knew we had already missed our ship and we would have to catch up at a future port. I felt demoralized at this point. I had no clue that I would not only miss part of the cruise but my luggage also. Jerry encouraged me to go on, even though I told him I had purchased insurance and would be reimbursed if I dropped out. Jodee, also, encouraged me to go on. So, with reservation, I carried on.
Delta booked us a flight from London to Cork on Aer Lingus, the most amazing airline I’ve ever patronized. The flight attendants wore high heels and hair swept into French rolls. They spoke in a charming Irish lilt. Most amazing of all, they seemed to care about the passengers and stop to listen to your question. We landed in Cork and learned our luggage did not fly along with us. I filed a “delayed” baggage report. I called it missing or lost luggage, but the airlines prefers to call it delayed, giving you the hope it will be located from its temporary diversion. Jodee acquired us rooms at the International Cork Hotel. Once we arrived at our hotel, life seemed to calm down as the Irish have a way of soothing you with their cheerful outlook on life. Maybe it’s all that luminous green and happy fiddle music that keeps them feeling hopeful and kind.
We missed three days of our 12-day cruise. We didn’t see Guernsey or Dublin at all. We saw Cork mostly from the taxi that hustled us to our ship docked in Cobh. We boarded the ship with the clothes on our back. I had a carry-on which contained one change of clothes and 60,000 pairs of underwear–I vowed to never go abroad again and be without underwear as happened on my Mediterranean cruise. I had plenty of underwear this time, but not the basic necessities. While other tourists visited museums and danced in the charming Irish pubs, I searched for a drug store selling deodorant and moisturizer.
Our luggage arrived at the ship six days after we had boarded. By this time I had purchased new clothing, cosmetics, and funny, pink rollers since I couldn’t find a curling iron in Cobh. I actually wore the rollers to Jodee’s cabin one morning and frightened her.
I asked Jodee to give me her comment on our cruise and she said, “Well, nothing’s been easy.” That sums it up. Life isn’t easy. We had many beautiful moments amid the trying times, and they were numerous. I fell in love with Ireland and Wales and plan to go back.
The first morning in Cork, I woke up in my hotel room and padded to the window in my complimentary terry cloth hotel slippers. I threw the shutter open. No screen, just wide, open fresh air. My room, three or four flights up, offered an easy-out if I wanted to end it all by hopping out the window. Of course, I wasn’t in that state of mind yet. The Irish trust you have common sense and care for your own safety, so screens aren’t necessary. Plus, Ireland probably doesn’t have bugs. I didn’t see one. It’s a snakeless country too. No wonder it’s such a wonderful place. My early morning window view featured freshly vacuumed green hills and storybook farms with patches of yellow flowers. I hollered, “Hello Ireland!” For breakfast, Jodee, Becca and I dined on black pudding and porridge and a whole buffet of sausage and eggs and other Irish delights. We chatted with our server Catharine, who told us reluctantly the ingredient of black pudding after I asked. She made the kind of facial expression one makes when kissing a lemon and said, “You won’t like it when I tell you.” She hesitated, then said, “Blood.” Oh, Catharine! You are so right. I don’t like black pudding now!
This is the bottom line. If you have a bucket list and you have hopes and dreams, don’t expect things to be euphoria, smooth sailing, and a blissful trek without any missteps. Take Paris, for example. Audrey Hepburn once said that Paris is always a good idea. She doesn’t mention that Paris can also be sweaty hot in summer. Paris is mind-boggling gorgeous, for sure, and I’m glad I visited. But it was also too crowded and the muggy heat made a stroll down the Champs Elyseés less than dreamlike. I accept the fact we can’t control the world or the weather or what Audrey Hepburn said.
I just read an article by humorist Garrison Keillor who wrote, “Misery is the secret of happiness in marriage. Go make yourself miserable and then come home.” His point was that when he encounters misery while traveling without his wife, he appreciates his home and wife so much more.
Our journey to the British Isles enriched our lives even if it happened in a way we never expected. But going home is so much sweeter and that’s why I need to tell you one last thing.
Your bucket list is right where you are.
♥♥♥more reports to come in future blogs.