Day One ~ 99.08.23
After a 10-hour flight, during which
we lost six hours and an entire night's sleep, our Air Canada 767 flew
into Manchester Airport airspace. After almost an hour of circling over
the lush English countryside in a "stacked up - holding pattern" and after
at least one aborted approach, I wheeled my mother, Louise, through Customs,
retrieved our luggage, and rushed to the reception area where Don Mitchell
had promised to meet us. Our fears that perhaps we wouldn't recognize Don,
or worse still, perhaps he had given up on us and had returned home, were
all allayed when we spied a tall, distinguished man holding a large "Hillmans"
sign. After loading our luggage into Don's BMW , we were soon enjoying
our trip along the Motorway -- a trip which evoked memories of similar
sojurns Sue-On and I had made in the past -- and drove home once again
just how much I missed my travel companion and soul mate of 35 years.
We checked in to the Crown ,
a fine traditional English Inn in Stone , just a few miles north of
Burston, Sandon, and the monument site on A51. Mom stayed to rest in the
room while Don drove me over to Stafford to pick up a Citroen sedan so
generously provided by the Sandon & District Legion.
Later with the Legemobile safely
tucked away in the Crown parking lot  I struck out on foot to explore
the village of Sandon -- very scenic  and much larger than what was
indicated by the small dot on my trusty 1979 road map -- a relic left over
from one of the three music tours we made in England many years ago. The
window of our hotel overlooked the market square and Stone Library .
I didn't know it then, but the Library would soon provide one of my main
links to home. High Street was festooned with floral displays and many
fine shops: W.H.Smith, Woolworth's, bakeries, clothiers, antique, betting,
supermarket, chemists, gift, pubs, etc. .
Our first meal in England was
at one of the oldest and best pubs in the area - The Holly Bush Inn at
Salt . Our fine hosts -- the Mitchells, Don and his charming wife Kathy,
could not have made a better choice. Following supper which included a
few pints of the best brew in the world, and a meeting with son James,
the Mitchells invited us to their country home -- Sandon House . This
magnificent dwelling yielded a plethora of treasures but the ones which
most impressed my jet-lag-addled mind at that time was a large tin which
contained actual charred metal parts from Uncle Bill's downed Lancaster
... and rare photos of the crash site. Following a test drive on Don's
Internet computer -- the magic carpet which was actually responsible for
bringing us here -- we returned to the Crown... and the first bit of sleep
we had seen for 48 hours.