I awoke with a head full of mountains. After spending three days looking for a way to get to Slovenia, I'm no closer to buying a ticket but I am closer to making it real. Something else made it real too. The good and fine people of Mark Allen Publishing in London said of course I could have my old illustration gigs back. To prove it, Becca sent me two drawings to do and others in the company have said welcome back.
I can now go to the Alps with a job -- a job I've had for 20 years (and which I gave up 18 months ago) and the reason why I've been able to live on a Greek island, in rural France and here in America. They can give me enough work to live on and all I need is the internet.
Every day the enormous weight that sits on my chest gets a little lighter. That feeling of a weight on the chest is commonly depicted as a goblin and this image is a very accurate depiction of my current situation; a tall muscular me, an evil goblin compressing my chest, and Tyson dressed as a horse.
I don't like turning off the light at night because my head fills with sadness or worry or a kind of spiralling panic, the goblin getting more and more content as it crushes the air out of me. As a means of warding off the worry, I have taken to watching videos on my Android phone until I fall asleep. Last night I watched something about the Alps so as to concentrate on the good things about moving. My brother lives only 10 miles or so from the highest peak in Slovenia -- Triglav. It is over 9,000 feet of snow-covered wonderfulness and gives its name to Triglav National Park. My brother, and soon me and Tyson, live right on the edge of it.
I woke up with a head full of mountains, the chance of an income, survival, and hope. I woke up to find that I'd sold two print copies of The Midlife of Dudley Chalk, making it a grand total of 5 print copies and 7 e-books, plus one borrowed from Amazon's lending library. I'm into double figures, and this morning that feels good.
Once upon a time, as a learning experience, people were tied to the front end of a canon and (after the loud bang) the results were not pretty. Similarly, I've been wading through the choices of getting from here to Slovenia without losing my dog. I have spent 3 days buried inside Dante's Online Hell.
My own personal Divine Comedy was leading me more and more toward Italy. Not Dante's birthplace (Florence), but Milan, which has numerous direct flights from JFK and numerous carriers just itching to transport Tyson in airborne comfort. Emirates has the cheapest tickets and I was cheered up sometime mid-Wednesday by checking the Emirates pet policy:
"Animals are not permitted in the cabin of Emirates flights, with the exception of falcons..."
I really really want to be on a plane with falcons. If I had a falcon on a plane I'd send it to first class when they were serving dinner to see what it came back with. Quail perhaps. Also, I don't think falcons add to the weight of the plane when they are flying, so there's probably no limit to the number of free-flying birds of prey on Emirates flights. Fantastic.
Unfortunately, once again, Tyson and his box exceed the weight limit and he would have to go as a horse. The wonderful people of Icelandair wrote back with a quote for sending Tyson as a horse and it's over 700 dollars (as opposed to $120 if he was eight pounds lighter). The price of Icelandair now comes out the same as other airlines, and there's a layover, so I've had to think again.
(Thank you nanny for the continuing encouragement. I feel bad about abandoning the helpful Icelandic staff, and to Murdo Morrison, author of Roses of Winter, who simply allowed me to talk things through).
It's such a shame that Tyson isn't eight pounds lighter or a falcon, because Emirates allows twice as much free baggage as anyone else (fitting your whole life into 23kg isn't easy), their tickets are cheap and it's a direct flight to Milan. If I went to check-in with Tyson on my arm and said "He's a falcon," I might get away with it, but I just don't want to take the risk. He has no primary feathers and, to be honest, even people who don't know much about animals can spot that he's mostly Labrador.
But still, I have settled on Milan as my first choice and Vienna as my second, with Air France all the way to Slovenia and the ghastly layover as my third choice. I have asked the vet to tell me what paperwork I need for Italy or Austria and now I'm sitting back, waiting. A good time to fly is the weekend of November 23rd, so I would a need an appointment with the vet and the USDA in Harrisburg any time between November 13th and November 22nd (they have to be within 10 days of flying).
Upon arrival in Milan I would slip into a luxury hire car and glide effortlessly toward the Alps, a mere 600km away. I'm sure that's what would happen. No, really. Either that or they won't give me the car on the grounds that I am travelling with a horse, or possibly a falcon, and we will be stranded in Italy. Sarah thinks the layover might be the way to go, but I'm still too scared to do it.
But still, I have options and I'm getting closer.
A woman from Iceland just suggested that I chop one of my dog's legs off.
I hasten to add that I appreciated the Icelandic lady's sense of humour. She has a dog of her own and understands completely the terror of moving them by plane with layovers. I have now spoken to two people from Icelandair and I liked them both. I have a good feeling.
I realised that my meltdown -- my complete loss of the plot after the Air France woman told me I couldn't see Tyson in Paris -- came from the fact that I have been to Charles de Gaulle airport many times. It is the size of a city. Somewhere in the city would be my dog amid a thousand planes going to a thousand different destinations. Also, it didn't help that she seemed to be reading from a script.
Neither lady from Icelandair was reading from a script, unless the script contained jokes about dismembering client's pets. When I told the first one how concerned I was about layovers she said in a calm, slow voice, that they were being paid to worry about it, so I could worry about other things. She said that the change was in Reykjavik, a very small airport and the wait was only one hour. She said they would take good care of him. Somehow I believe people from cold places, especially when it comes to dogs. But, she warned , they could only take animals with a total weight, crate included, of 70 pounds.
I weighed Tyson and the box. It comes to 73 pounds without bedding and bowls.
Why am I considering something as unusual as changing in Reykjavik, I hear you ask? Well, the aftermath of the casual destruction of my plans had me wondering if I should stay here, buy a car, find somewhere to live and find a job. My fear of doing the wrong thing and harming Tyson through my negligence is more than I can bare. I spent a bad a night and a bad day lost again between two choices, here or there. Two things helped me to get grounded again. Car hire and a nanny.
The car hire idea came to me and Sarah and some internet people almost simultaneously. Why not just get a direct flight to somewhere and drive to my brother's house in a hire car? I could collect it from the airport and drop off in Ljubljana. I checked. It was very doable. There are direct flights to Munich and Vienna and they are only four hours' drive away.
That had me feeling better and the decision was cemented by the nanny at Dixie and Muppet's house. The nanny is chatty but we have never spoken with any great determination. As this was the last time I'd see her I told her of my travel frustrations and she transformed into a very helpful person indeed. She's majoring in travel. She has friends who work in the industry and many are stationed abroad. She has travelled extensively in Europe and she said that she would move to Europe in a heartbeat if she could.
All I needed was a nudge from a level-headed and neutral party. Combined with the car hire idea, the nanny solution put me back on track and gave me the strength to try again.
The cost of this venture, however, seemed to spiralling out of control. Flights with Tyson were something around $1400 return and, oddly, more than twice as much for one-way tickets.
I was about to give up again when I discovered Icelandair. I'm waiting for an email from the man at Icelandair who looks after animals. Yes, they have a man. I liked that they have a man. Tyson and his box weigh more than the maximum for taking him as a pet, believe it or not, hence the jocular remark about chopping off one of his legs. However, they can take him dressed as a horse, in which case I have to talk to the man in freight who deals with animals. Icelandair is one of the few airlines that sell one-way tickets for less than the price of a return. I could get there for a sensible price if Tyson is ok with being a horse. There is a change at Reykjavik but the layover is 1 hour, and the airport is small enough for me to feel confident he'll be ok. A four-hour layover at Charles de Gaulle is too much, but Reykjavik seems almost homely. We can fly to Munich and hire a car. Cheap, not too terrifying, potentially ok.
It's Sunday night. Hold onto your hats. I'll do all I can to get a ticket that matches up with an appointment with the vet and the USDA by the end of play Tuesday.
Oh, and if you were wondering what the cause of all my concern looks like, here he is:
Slovenia, writing, other things