When the plane lands in London the next morning I wonder if I’m in the wrong country. I’ve made this flight countless times and it’s always raining when we hit the runway.
But this time, the sun is so bright it’s almost blinding. My God, I wonder, did I get on the wrong plane in my stupor? Could I be in Bombay?
Then I reach the immigration desk, where almost all the customs agents are Indians.
What a relief! I’m in London, after all!
That’s something London has in common with New York City - many of the people doing actual work are from another country.
I breeze through Immigration (well, except for a warning to get extra pages added to my passport, which has been stamped a thousand times), grab my suitcases (which didn’t fall apart!) and find the taxi driver holding up a card with my name on it.
The driver is from Afghanistan. At this rate, the first true-blue Brit I’m going to encounter will be my wife.
Wrong again. It’s our chocolate labrador retriever, Bailey, bounding out of the house to greet me. This dog is a Brit, through and through. We got him for Kim’s birthday six years ago and the puppy arrived with paperwork that traces the purity of his ancestry back to Queen Victoria’s time.
I don’t know anything about my own ancestry before those bumpy boat rides from Italy and Ireland to Ellis Island, circa 1900, but Kim doesn’t care about that. When it comes to a husband, she’s happy with a mutt.
However it’s absolutely essential that her dog has the right bloodlines and a regal air, an air that’s somewhat diminished whenever I catch Bailey grooming his genitals.
Normally the pooch gives me the cold shoulder upon my arrival, my penance for all the time I spend away, but this time he slobbers all over me, as if he knows I’m here to stay.
I lug the suitcases inside and hug Kim for the first time since she’d left New York six weeks earlier. We have coffee and she urges me to take a nap.
I don’t want a nap. I want to take Bailey for a walk and get those airplane bubbles out of my blood, so that’s what I do.
The fresh air tastes wonderful. I’ve walked these streets countless times, and still I cannot get over the rich history of this little suburban village called Hampton.
“Ancient” has a whole other meaning over here. A building in New York from the 1800s is considered old. Here, it’s just a puppy.
The bells that ring on the hour come from a church right down the street, St. Mary’s - which was built more than 500 years ago.
And Hampton Court Palace, where Henry the Eighth romped with his wives when he wasn’t having them decapitated to avoid the annoyance of divorce, is just a short walk away through the wilderness of Bushy Park, where deer roam freely.
Bailey and I are heading for Bushy when we come to a little yellow house with a pair of white pillars and a blue ceramic plaque on its front wall.
“ALAN TURING, CODE BREAKER, LIVED HERE,” the plaque proclaims in bold white letters.
I stop to look at that plaque. Turing is the tragic genius immortalized in the movie “The Imitation Game,” the man who saved the free world by breaking the Nazi code in World War II. To top it off, his remarkable innovations provided the groundwork for the Internet.
How cool is that? The Internet!!! A creation that ranks right up there with fire and the wheel, and the guy responsible for it lived right here! I’m looking through his front window, into the very room where he may have done his world-turning brainstorming!
“Isn’t that something, Bailey?” I ask the dog. Unimpressed, he hikes up his hind leg to take a shot on the low brick wall outside the Turing house.
There’s no interrupting the flow once Bailey starts. I have to wait for the baptism to end before tugging on the leash and hurrying away. Sorry about that, Alan.
No permanent harm done, though. Like I said, it rains a lot over here.
(Next time: Someone Left The Cake Out In The Rain)