As it's gone midnight here in darkest Blightly, I can truthfully say I'm about to leave for my winter home today. I fly out in just over 6 hours and after a short stopover in Heathrow to change from the British Midland Sopwith Camel to a proper adult plane, I should be in Miami at 2:20pm local time (that's 7:20pm UK time).
I'm still not in holiday mood as for one thing, it's hard to get too excited when the holiday in question lasts 6 months. It'll also be my 47th flight across 'the pond' so I now just see it as something to endure to get to where I want to get to. The leg from London to Miami takes nearly nine and a half hours and that's a long time to be squished between 2 total strangers who could be taking liberties that I'd have a problem accepting from a life long friend.
For that reason, I've picked my seat with a lot of consideration. My plane will be an American Airlines Boeing 777 and so I logged onto the wonderful Seat Guru to pick my seat. I've done this over several years and their seat info is very accurate and helpful. This time I was tempted to get a seat in the front of the plane but the one next to the pilot was taken. Rats.
No the front few rows have power points and I was tempted to get one so that I could use this power hungry laptop as it only runs for about 90 mins now on battery power. I have downloaded about 70 movies from "Transformers" to "Die Hard 4" and the time would pass a lot faster if I could watch one or two of them. Yes I know I'll have a choice of several movies and tv shows via the personal inflight entertainment system but those screens are about 8" square and the sound is awful. Why not make use of this laptop's 17" monster screen with superior sound system.
But in the end I opted for comfort and picked seat 41C. From previous experience this row suits me as it's the row when the normal 5 middle seats goes down to 4 as the rear of the plane narrows. This means there is a lot more room on one side as the aisle is wider. I may still have 'obese annoying man' to my right, but at least I can lean to the left and enjoy the space. Being close to the back of the plane, I can easily get up to have a pee, stretch my legs or do my exercises to avoid DVT. Failing this I can always have a word with the rear gunner to pass the time.
Once I've landed at Miami, my stress levels will go up another notch as I have to face the dreaded immigration officers who, since 9/11, come under the wide spread umbrella that is Homeland Security. I never used to have a problem with them until 2003 when my mother died and I had to fly home from America to attend her funeral and, as executor of her will, sort out her estate. It took 2 weeks to find jobs for the servants and sell off the plantations and when I returned to America to continue my holiday, the nice officers at Cleveland airport gave me a hard time for almost 3 hours and.....well, I've posted about it before so won't go into it all again.
So I now stand in line and ease my way slowly to the immigration booths with some trepidation. I'll only relax and start to enjoy everything when I see the officer reach for his stamp and bring it down with a flourish onto my passport with a date that allows me to stay till the end of March.
A stamp of approval in effect !
Of course I'll want to slap on the Factor 75 and change into my shorts and flip flops right there and then. My pounding heart will relax and let the drugs do their work (legal drugs of course) and I can start to think of all the things I'll do in the next 6 months in (mostly) sunny Florida.
Fear not, dear readers, if I do anything or go anywhere remotely interesting, I'll share it with you on here. Don't expect any stunning scenery though, as Florida is the flattest state in the union and a speed bump gathers crowds of camera heaving tourists. But I still love it. I get unquestioned senior discounts wherever I go from movie theatres to restaurants. I don't need to worry about falling ill as every second building is a hospital. I can have a bbq on the beach on Christmas Day. If I feel like regressing to my childhood, Disney, Universal and Sea World are all within an hours drive. There are 3 planned shuttle launches from the nearby Kennedy Space Centre while I'm there and the stunning white beaches of the gulf coast are 2 hrs drive to the West. The Everglades and even Key West are both day trips and the art deco area of South Miami Beach is always worth a visit.
Of course there are downsides. The hurricane season still has a month to run and I could end up semi buried in a cotton field in Mississippi given the right, or wrong, conditions. The fact that 85% of the drivers in Florida are over 75 makes any trip by car challenging to say the least. Walking isn't that much better. The critter approaching you on the path may well have a large set of teeth and a hide straight out of a Gucci catalogue. Then there are the mozzies, noseeums, love bugs and other flying nasties which can make being outside pure misery. Everyone knows about mosquitoes but the others may be new to UK readers.
No-see-ums are aptly named because they are so small that......well basically you can't see them ! You know they are about when you've been bitten....and bitten.....and bitten. Even a standard net or window shutter won't stop them as they pass though them so you have to close the windows and doors and turn up the air conditioning.
Love bugs aren't so bad, don't bite and are seasonal. Sadly their second season is right now (Sept/Oct). The problem with them is that there are zillions of them and apart from making out a lot, they love the lights and exhaust fumes from cars and haven't the sense to know that bug versus car is always going to be a one sided contest. (no Herbie jokes PLEASE). Cars get plastered with them and they are buggers (sorry) to remove. The temptation is to put on your wipers and that makes things a lot worse. You practically need a flamethrower or industrial solvent to remove their earthly remains from your vehicle.
So you see, don't go thinking I'll be having a wonderful time this winter. It'll be hell I tell ya. However in the true Attenborough spirit, I'll do my best, and uphold the standards set by numerous generations of brave and intrepid British explorers. I may even go to a WalMart.
But I'll tell you this. Having a bbq on a beach is no way to spend Christmas Day.