I just spent the best nine days on overseas travel adventures. My younger son, Ben, the avowed bachelor, got married. He’s a pop star who performs around the world. But after meeting Tuba, a Turkish-German woman who is utterly gorgeous inside and out, he “traded in his leather pants for a polo shirt.” This article tells the tale.

The wedding was in Bad Hamburg, a quaint little town with 500-year-old buildings, and could not have been more perfect. My ex-husband and I even got along for four whole days. That was a 40-year record.

The UK leg

Life imitating art, like my character Claudia Rose in Outside the Lines, I was invited to present a lecture at the prestigious British Institute of Graphologists. So, the day after the wedding I flew to the UK, my home country. My first solo international flight. Woo hoo!

That first night, when I opened the door to my hotel room at the meeting venue I had to laugh. It literally was the size of a walk-in closet. In this photo, which I took from the doorway, you can see that the headboard and footboard of the twin bed touched each wall. The bathroom fixtures didn’t quite work the way they should, but it was all part of the adventure. There was lovely English tea, and a chocolate bar on the desk. I woke up in that tiny bed on Sunday morning, thinking to myself, “I’m in London!!! I’m home!”

Happily, the lecture went as well as the wedding. It was lovely to see old friends and colleagues, too. Adam Brand, the Director of BIG, was kind enough to see me to the train station. I was off to Sidcup, Kent.

If you’ve ever traveled the London Underground (the Tube) you will have heard the “Mind the Gap” announcements as you board the train.

On to Kent

I stayed there a couple of days with my friend Janet, whose bangers and mash are the best. She went back to London with me, where I was meant to do research for my work in print whilst in the UK (look how my English accent came back straight away). I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of going to a location to give a story verisimilitude. But it was not until I was right at Charing Cross Station that I ‘got’ why the bomb scene I’d written was not going to work. Being there really does make all the difference. Luckily, I saw how to fix it.

Later, we were in Eltham High Street, gorging on sausage rolls and scones when I got a text from Lufthansa. My flight the next day had been cancelled. The pilots had gone on strike. Arrrgggghhhhhhhhh.

Screaming Baby Airlines

Long story short, I got the last seat on a flight to the US. Had I known I was booking on Screaming Baby Airlines (otherwise known as Norwegian Air), I would have stayed in the UK another day. Who knew that a one-year-old baby girl could shriek at the top of her lungs for most of 12.5 hours straight? I’m not kidding.

First, though, we sat on the runway for an hour at Heathrow. The captain announced that a passenger was “not fit to fly” and needed to be escorted off the plane. It turned out that meant he was “stinking drunk.”

The minute we took off, the baby started. Why was she screaming? It wasn’t that the cabin pressure was hurting her ears–that would be understandable and draw sympathy. But no. She’d just learned to walk and thought it would be fun to run up and down the aisle. That’s not allowed while airborne, so everyone within earshot got to know how irate she was. For the entire flight and beyond. Here’s a bit of irony: at the ticket counter, the very nice agent had said, “Let’s see if we can find you a better seat.” Little did we know that the “better” seat would be right next to said screaming baby.

So, I plugged in my earphones and watched Gone Girl for the second time. After that, The Interns. Then a show about animals. By then, my ears were bleeding (okay, it felt like it). The young man next to me had his fingers stuck in his ears.

Back in L.A.

Arriving at LAX after the 10 hour flight (plus the hour waiting on the drunk passenger) we were stuck at the gate for 90 minutes more, waiting for an Air France flight to move. By 8:45 PM when we deplaned (oh, that’s when the baby stopped screaming and went to sleep), I’d been awake 24 hours and was close to freaking out. The very last shuttle home to Ventura (60 miles west of LAX) was at 9:30. After a lengthy walk to Customs and Immigration, I found that because I’m not a US citizen, there was not one, not two, but three loooong lines to go through. Can someone tell me the point of having to show the same documents three times in the same facility? Then the fingerprint reader wouldn’t accept mine. Thank goodness I only had carry-on luggage.

I threw myself on the mercy of the Customs agents, who were nice, and made it to the shuttle with 10 minutes to spare. And since I got home safely, I was happy. Hey, at least I wasn’t on the BEA flight that burst into flames in Las Vegas just before take off the day before! Any safe landing is a good landing.

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