Just a couple of fiancé(e)s standin' in the hall.
-- our reinterpretation of Muppets In Space
It's been some time since I've actually told you what's been going on, other than proposing to dezzikitty. The longer I spend with her in the US, the more everyday and unexceptional life here gets. Suits me fine.
The journey across was more interesting on land than in the air; I took a train which was due to call at Manchester Piccadilly station on the way to Manchester Airport, but the night before was so cold that a set of points froze and the train was diverted to Manchester Victoria instead. It's the wrong train station, Gromit. The operator organised a minibus to take people from Victoria to the Airport as quickly as possible, but it's very difficult indeed to get a taxi between about 8am and 9am anywhere in the country simply because they're all busy on the school run.
The minibus that (eventually) arrived had one seat fewer than was required, due to all our luggage, so (knowing I wasn't in much of a rush) I volunteered to make my own way; any excuse to take the Manchester Metrolink back to Piccadilly, really, where the trains to the Airport were working fine. I was fortunate enough that the first train of the day allowed me plenty of spare time to check in - there were some who had no choice but to cut things finely, so a train delay might well mean they need to fork out for another flight, then try to sort out a refund with First Group's "Customer Services" - and another fellow traveller on the plane recognised me as having given up my taxi seat. (They had only beaten me to the airport by five or ten minutes.) The flight was dull, the seat uncomfortable and the passenger next to me (apparently asleep for a good seven of the nine hours) knocked his coffee over and it spilled over my trouser leg. Poop.
Opodo have an excellent price on LGW - ATL for next time (out Sat 28th Jan, back Sat 11th Feb) - a shade under £250, including tax. I expect BA to have a slightly higher price for the route, and my route on Northwest involves going through Detroit, but I should finally have made (not-very-)Elite Frequent Flyer status and so will be getting a handsome number of frequent flyer miles for the route. Getting to try another airline is also fun.
If there has been a theme for this trip, other than the proposal, it has been one of (gridiron) football; the college football season is coming to a climax with conference championships this weekend and it's firmly NFL season. The next trip includes Superbowl Sunday, so we're all set for a fine crop of adverts there as well. I owe a great deal to my whole Friends list over the years, but lambertman, dezzikitty and daweaver (or, rather. daweaver_footy) in particular, for me to be able to bluff my way through with passing knowledge of this year's college football developments and not immediately look very, very British indeed.
So the then-still-unengaged dezzikitty and her sister parkingmeters picked me up from ATL airport and took me, mostly asleep, to casa longtimegone where we and allysonsedai proceeded to make angelic choir noises, watch football and eat our collective way through vast quantities of local delicacies. We also went to see the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie again, which earned great appreciation. It felt even more like a highlight reel of the book, bordering on an affectionate fan fiction tribute, than the previous movies; it also simplified the story to make sure that everyone could tell what was going on, yet there was so much going on that either relied on you being familiar with the previous movies or apparently came out of nowhere with little explanation (inevitable, when the book had so much to cram in) that I fear that many people will be left confused and disappointed. Anyway, in short: great fun and only a small number of tweaks and emphasis changes away from being the best film version that we could realistically conceivably get. 8/10.
Thanksgiving, a couple of days later, introduced me to half of the extended dezzikitty family, to the song "Alice's Restaurant" (an American fixture of pop culture of which I had not been previously aware) and to Thanksgiving dinner with an astounding array of new-to-me dishes; sweet potato casserole, in particular, is a real winner. After a plateful of great size, topped off by some excellent parkingmeters desserts, I promptly collapsed onto the nearest couch to rest my eyelids with a football game in the background. Apparently this is even more American than apple pie, so it's good to know that I avoided committing a transcultural faux pas. It still strikes me as a tradition very firmly rooted on traditional gender lines. to an unwelcome extent in my view. Hopefully I will be sufficiently part of the family in future years to play my part.
We didn't eat much after that on Thursday, but on Friday we had rather a posh celebration dinner at Maison Bleu; crab cakes and scallops as a starter, lamb for Meg and fillet mignon for me (on artichoke hearts, with roast potatoes and onions) followed by white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for Meg and a beautiful little peach cobbler (fruit under pie-crust, baked in a ramekin) with spectacular vanilla ice cream to finish. Very fresh food, beautifully cooked; quality, not quantity, so we didn't feel overfull even after eating all that with three baskets of bread. The scallops were the highlight, drizzled with a hot and sweet raspberry sauce, accompanied by a salsa of peppers and mango. This inspired Meg to cook scallops in a just-as-special beautiful second-celebration dinner the next day, with asparagus, potatoes and carrots. We toasted with sparkling grape juice. :-) (Alas, scallops cost three times as much in Georgia as in Boston...)
Also along the line, we went to see the movie of Rent; Meg and her sister are huge fans of the stage show, Meg having seen it in New York four times, once with me. Accordingly, it was set to get quite a stiff test from us. For my money, I am of the plebey and low-brow opinion that I would rather see the film again than the stage show, because the film does a clearer job of telling the story than the stage show. (Same thing as Goblet of Fire - and, I dare say, as most movie interpretations of books. Scriptwriters aim low.) I miss some of the songs and jokes (the one about "it's beginning to snow", the excellent wordplay when Collins meets Angel and the phone calls are far funnier on the stage) and the spectacle - Angel's drumming was fantastic on-stage. On the other hand, I am able to make out the words of the songs far more clearly on film than I ever was on stage, which also helps dramatically towards telling the story. There is much more to this than just a wonderful celebration of non-traditional romances; I would recommend this to everyone who would not be put off by the existence of those romances in the story. 8½/10.
Other than that, we visited Moe's so I could get my burrito fix, and we were duly greeted with the restaurant's signature braying greeting as we walked through the door. I had a Homewrecker burrito, which translates to "everything"; I was a good boy in that I had tofu rather than steak or chicken, and I didn't have cheese, but this good work was somewhat undone by the presence of sour cream and guacamole, as well as a vast selection of other veg. The result was what might best be considered a food parcel wrapped in a flour tortilla; if a pizza is the discus of food, then this might reasonably be compared to a shot, of the type you putt. It was approaching the size of a shot, though happily with nowhere near the density of lead. And yet it somehow all slipped down my gullet in minutes. It's as if I don't need to be eating a certain amount of food to stop feeling hungry, I need to be eating for a certain amount of time, which is why sandwiches (including burgers, wraps and many other types of fast food) are so dangerous.
Look, this whole post does seem to take the form of "we ate here" and "we ate there". This is not so much a stylistic device as an accurate representation of the truth, though I fear the scales will have a userinfo-rewriting surprise for me upon my return. We have enjoyed remarkably good health throughout this holiday, barring odd headaches and extremely minor sniffles. We have had one over-it-in-about-an-hour disagreement and a couple of over-it-in-a-few-minutes ones, which is nothing like the ones we had last time. We have talked a great deal about the future and the challenges it poses us; we have a decent idea of how to face it and we're thinking along the same lines. Nothing's ever guaranteed in this life and it can still all go to pot; even if the visa authorities of the world decide not to be ridiculous and let Meg move across in September, six months of living together with me may make Meg decide that she just doesn't like the UK - or that she doesn't like me, for that matter.
(Meg says: "Pish.")
We have also been playing lots of Scrabble - 11 games in the last three days. The games have been really fairly evenly matched towards the end. I also have been receiving spam by the fifty rather than the one (fifty addresses at the same domain, all of which forward to me) peaking at the rate of about five thousand a day, but it never seems to last for long. Off to bed with Meg for the last time now - at least, the last time until the next time, just another eight weeks away. It's always horrible to say goodbye, but fingers crossed that after tomorrow we'll only need to say it to each other three more times.