Loved Ones

Oh, the fam. The thing about going to Ohio was that I saw more of my family in two weeks than I normally do in 6 months-wait, in this case 9 months. That’s kind of how we roll. But that also turned into everyone wanting lots of pictures, and what better place to put those pictures than this place of mine on the internet.

Look at how cute my niece is! And her hair is my color, which I love, and which my sister hates. I bought her a cool Viewfinder-type toy when we were in Paris in June. The pictures inside are all Parisian vignettes-the Eiffel Tower in the sun and at night, the Champs Elysee, Montmartre, stuff like that. I gave it to her while we were visiting and she kept pretending it was a camera and making us look in it. When we left, my sister told me that Ry continued to look into and exclaim “It’s Jon and Ashley!”. How adorable is that? Kids man…they’re funny. Double rainbow in Crestline! It seemed that the whole street ran out to see. I was disappointed to see that most just took a picture with their fancy phones, then ran back inside, undoubtedly to share their newly taken photo. I, on the other hand stood on the porch for a long time, until it went away. It was a nice moment. But then, I took a picture too so I guess I suck just as much as everyone else. 

Probably another contender for the Sheets-Norris holiday 2012 card:

The other funny thing about taking a trip like that is that so many of the pictures are ultra posed, to the point of ridiculousness. Like, a hundred of interchangeable pictures of me with my hand on my hip, cheesin’ like a fool next to someone I think is great. There is a particularly cheesy photo of Jon and I with my dad and stepmom in front of the piano, but I don’t know if they’d approve of it being put on the internet so I’ll refrain from posting it on here. Sorry dudes, it’s a total keeper.

And this, I love…

…Jon being weird while my niece forces my pregnant sister to play with her/pokes her in the eye. (And let it be known that I’m not posting pictures featuring my sister because she hates having her picture taken whilst pregnant so I’m sortakinda respecting that. There is, however, one phone picture of us that I posted over here).

Family, ya’ll.

Screw it, I’m posting the piano picture. Look at Jon!

Hahaha, it’s so great!

Music for packing

Tomorrow night I’ll touch down in Ohio and I could not be more pleased. Jon likened my demeanor to a child on Christmas Eve, and that’s probably a fair comparison. It’s been many moons since I touched midwestern soil, and this corn-fed Ohio girl is going to adhere to all stereotypes of a good American, drink good beer and laugh and dance with my friends, kiss my loved ones, and be blissfully happy for 12 days. Thank you providence. Thank you credit card.

Newstead Abbey

One of my favorite parts of  now living in a country with hundreds and hundreds of years of recorded history is that there are a million and one places to visit and explore and pretend I’m an old timey lady-in-waiting that knows all of the juicy secrets (because even in my daydreams I’m usually not actually a princess). A highlight of last week’s trip to Nottingham was definitely our visit to Newstead Abbey. Gorgeous, gorgeous architecture, sprawling, immaculate grounds, peacocks, and a waterfall. And scones. And the notorious Romantic poet Lord Byron lived there. So you KNOW some ish went down in between those walls, because he was basically a rich poet/classy sex fiend who had a relationship with his half-sister and lots of affairs with married woman, and essentially left England because he’d burned so many (sexy) bridges. Good times. And he had such a beautiful home!

Oh hey duck!

Okay, we maybe made some friends with the wildlife. They were overly friendly.

Alas, we were not actually permitted inside the Abbey on that day-it was closed for one reason or another. Super disappointing. And on to the gardens….

Oh, and our friend the flamboyant peacock made his triumphant return. He followed us to the cafe and yelled at us while we ate scones. I wish I’d taken a picture of him in full bloom! (The scones were delicious, by the way. The North has those on lock…mmmm clotted cream….)

Unfortunately by the end of scone time the grounds were closed for the day. This coincided with it starting to rain…hard. And the gardens and abbey were a mile or two away from the main road (we didn’t know that when we took the bus out there, what a surprise!), and therefore the bus stop that we needed to get back to was also a few miles away. It was a wet, sad little walk-three women and a baby!-and we tried to hitch hike from the few cars that passed by, feeling secure in the fact that we’d paid entry to the grounds and therefore would only be coming across employees or other visitors. Several cars drove right by, (booo!), but finally the lovely giftshop lady that Ally and Penny had been chatting with earlier picked us up. Said she recognized the baby! Oh man…don’t recognize the three grown women that you were talking to, just recognize the tiny bundle of four month old cuteness that is strapped to someone’s chest? Whatever works. She was nice. And we made it to the bus stop only half as wet as we would have been!

I’ll leave you with some Lord Byron.

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes:

Thus mellow’d to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impair’d the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

Safe and Sound

photographic proof of my English existence thus far

Made it! I swear, I was a quivering mess of American lady as I stepped up to the immigration counter last night at Heathrow. After an uneventful flight, I was slightly smelly and ready to crash after getting up at 3 am US time to get to the airport in more than enough time for my 6 am flight. A few problems I have with American Airlines, if you’ll allow me to complain:

-stop perpetuating the fatty American thing-cheese stuffed pastries with ham, eggs AND  a croissant is not an appropriate breakfast offering for most every person ever, especially those who don’t even have the option to “walk it off” after they stuff their faces (me).  Just because you serve it with a slice of melon does not mean you’re making anything healthy. That plus the deep dish cheese pizza served for dinner overall made me feel huge and gross. I’m lucky I could waddle off the plane.

-Why are your transatlantic planes still 10 years behind in regards to entertainment? No in-seat movies/tv…really? We were on an 8 hour flight. Showing some old Ben Affleck movie followed a few hours later by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the 3 small tv’s that go down the center aisle is a piss poor way of entertaining your trapped customers. Bummer city guys. Get on that.

Sorry for the white whine folks. I digress! So I was very scared when I finally made my way to the counter, but a mere 30 seconds later I’d been stamped and welcomed on in! You can’t imagine my relief after last summer’s epic lock-up extravaganza of terror. However, no worries this time-all that anxiety was for naught and I’m so, so thankful. Now though, I’m at a bit of a loss. In all honesty, I hadn’t thought through what I’d do when I was actually in the UK, because I just assumed that I would have trouble and not be allowed in. So I just…didn’t think about, or make any in-depth plans.  But I’m here. And I have 6 weeks to hang out and spend time with my man, plus write my thesis/portfolio. And do anything else I want. It’s so exciting! It officially feels like the summer has begun-even though in true British fashion, it’s currently 60 degrees outside, and it was sprinkling down a bit earlier. Oh well. I don’t know if anything can bother me right now. In a few minutes I’m going for a walk down to the train station to meet Jon from work. Then we’ll make dinner together. How wonderful does that sound?

 

Apparently I’m not really welcome in the UK

Looking back now, it makes sense that I had a bad feeling as I waited in line to be allowed entry into the UK after getting off my flight from Iceland. At the time though, I thought I was just being nervous for no reason-it’s always weird showing your passport and answering questions about your life. When my turn came, I handed the border agent my passport, and stood there, trying my best not to fidget. The agent asked me a million and one questions as every other agent let passenger after passenger pass me and head on into the baggage claim and on out of Heathrow, and as a giant knot grew larger and larger in my stomach. That  freedom would not be the case for me. After I had answered all of her questions, apparently unsatisfactorily , the officer in charge of me asked me to go sit to the side and wait because she’d decided that I needed to be seen by another officer. At this point I was already about to burst into tears. I’m very sensitive and do a terrible job of hiding my emotions when I’m scared. Eventually I was left alone-all of the hundreds of passengers from my plane and one other had gone through, and I was desperately trying to get a hold of Jon on my laptop to no avail. Then two girls who worked for the airline-who couldn’t have been older than me-came to get me. They informed me that they’d be in charge of checking my luggage because I’d been cast as unsure of entry into the UK.

At this point we went to the baggage claim, and I was flanked by the two girls. We grabbed one of my bags, but then-to add insult to injury-my other bag had been lost by the airline. I filled out some paperwork, still on the verge of tears, and finally one of my “keepers” made a call to Jon, albeit only to tell him that my luggage had been lost. At this point, I practically stole the phone from her, started crying, and tearfully told Jon that I’d been taken by immigration and I didn’t know what was going to happen and I was incredibly scared. He didn’t know what to do either, and with that, I had to give the phone back to the luggage guy.

Next up, I was taken to a small room where I watched them take away my luggage to be locked up (including my purse, which they took away from me at this point, minus the wallet that I was allowed to keep) and fingerprinted me, followed by several pictures. Beautiful mugshots, I bet those are. After all that I was left in a locked room with 3 other women from different countries, all who’d been denied entry to the UK until further examination. All were eventually denied entry completely and sent back to where they came from. One was Brazilian and spoke no English whatsoever-she rambled on in Portuguese on the payphone for periods at a time, while alternately asking the office workers questions that no one could understand. We could see through two large glass windows to their little office, while they chatted happily and we sat, unsure of our immediate future. Another older woman was Israeli and had been separated from her fiancé at the gate. She cried a lot, and also enjoyed touching my hair. The last was a Cuban girl my age who’d recently been granted an American passport and had waited for that so she could more easily take an 8 month trip around the world with her friends. She was the only one who didn’t make it through the gate in her group.

After maybe another hour or so of waiting, crying on the very uncomfortable plastic chairs, and attempting to use my credit card in the pay phone to leave a sobbing, weepy message on my dad’s voice mail (which I now know left him terrified and pacing the living room, sorry dad) and also repeatedly calling Jon’s cell so he could attempt to figure something out, another surly immigration officer came in to interview me. He wasn’t very friendly, and didn’t seem to think that I had a good enough reason to be allowed into the country-visiting your boyfriend and laying around his parents’ house for 3 months wasn’t a viable option, I guess. Before he left, after I signed off on the documents he told me ” just to be honest, it doesn’t look great for you staying, but I’ll be talking to my supervisor and we’ll see what he thinks”. He’d taken a page from my journal (they’d taken it out of my purse to read, which was incredibly embarrassing) and used it against me. The entry in question? Talking about when and how Jon would eventually buy an engagement ring and how we should both really just save money and get jobs rather than buy the jewelry. That’s a pretty terrible thing to have used against you-I felt like an idiot.

When the interview was over and the officer had left me once again in the room, I broke down again. I called Jon, who was equally upset, and told him what the agent had said-we had no idea what to do. Jon decided to keep calling the agent’s number, and see if he could get anything done.

Around one agonizing hour later, the immigration officer returned. He called me out of the room and very matter-of-factly informed me that I’d been allowed entry into the UK. I responded with a teary-eyed “Are you SERIOUS?” to which he laughed. He was pretty friendly at this point, strangely enough. The workers released my suitcase and purse to me, and the officer led me out. I told him there was no way in hell I’d come back to the airport for my other bag-I’d send the boyfriend if the airline couldn’t deliver it. Again, he laughed. He pointed me in the right direction, wished me a good trip, and as he went down the hall and out of sight, I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I found my way out to the main lobby, searching for Jon, but before I spotted him there was a flash of blue to my side and then I was in his arms, weeping and he was holding me. I’d never been so happy to see him. As he wiped the tears from my eyes, he asked ” Do you want to get a drink?” to which I replied “No way-get me the fuck out of here.” We left, nearly 5 hours after my plane had landed.

The entire drive home, I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened. I’ve been to so many countries and on so many planes, and I’ve never been through anything like this. I feel terrible for people who have, and I find myself two days later still thinking about those poor women that I met in the holding room who will never get to where they were going-who may not even be allowed to enter the UK again without a special visa. The iron knot in the pit of my stomach has slowly unraveled. The airport still hasn’t delivered my lost luggage, and to be honest I’m scared that someone will change their mind and find me here at Jon’s and send me back-silly, I know, but they have all of our information, addresses, bank accounts…everything. Jon and I just keep having these moments, so thankful that we can be together now, when we were so close to being pulled apart yet again.

It was a strange way to start the summer, no doubt. Can’t imagine I’ll ever be looking to fly to the UK for a visit ever again!

ignore my face-Iceland air has most of my belongings, including everything that makes me pretty.