I awoke on Saturday morning to snow. Not a great amount of snow, but a gentle falling that covered the ground and even clung to the steep alpine roofs. I took Tyson out for a pee and we returned rosy-cheeked with slightly damp feet.
I then had some porridge. Porridge is something I had when I was a child and, for those of you who don't know, is hot, thick and glutinous. My mum said it "sticks to the ribs." Frank and Sally are partial to porridge and so I had some and I felt like I was, once again, in a children's book. Frank and Sally have built a version of England that I thought only existed in my head. It is a common ex-pat trick to think of England as a place that's really just an amalgam of childhood memories and old movies: I thought of England that way, and ex-pats in Greece did too. Now I discover that that England, that Shangri-La does exist. It's in Frank's house in Slovenia. They prepare food, play music, lay the table, watch TV all in a way that makes me feel like I've fallen down a rabbit-hole into my past, but with mountains.
They have made me feel incredibly comfortable. I don't know how I will feel when two weeks have gone by -- that point when you are forced to acknowledge that this isn't a holiday, a vacation, a skiing trip. When two weeks have gone by and there is no packing of bags it hits you that this is it. I don't know how I'll feel then, because at the moment it all resembles that imaginary England, like Shangri-La, like a brief visit to my childhood. I am chatting with Sarah on skype as if she is upstairs and I am in the basement. There's no sadness in our chats. She's just upstairs, and I'm downstairs.
Tyson isn't dreaming and he doesn't think he's having an excursion into a land of make-believe. Tyson is still wondering where he is and shaking when he has no reason to. We all hug him, and still he shakes. I think for Tyson the opposite will happen. I think after two weeks he'll settle down just as I'm realising that Sarah isn't just upstairs, and I'm not packing my bag to make that return trip. That's when I'm going to need him more than ever.
After meeting Frank and Sally at the airport, Frank drove for 6 hours. We got to the house in the dark.
It's a lovely house, originally part of a pub. It's now 3 houses and Frank's is the one on the middle. I have a room that was for guests during its pub persona and it does feel like staying in a tavern, something I used to enjoy when in England.
The room has a balcony and I heard a cow mooing not far off, but that's all I knew that night. I had started a new life and all I knew was the inside of Frank's house and then darkness. My mental map consisted of one house surrounded by blank space and that blank space caused me some upset when I got to bed. I woke at 2am feeling like I was in a lifeboat.
The next day I was taken on a tour of the town. I was and continue to be amazed by the cleanliness of the place. Nothing seems to be broken or awaiting a maintenance man who doesn't show up. I tried the cash machine at the bank and with silent European efficiency it guided me through the performance in a way that I can only describe as luxurious. It was the Mercedes of cash machines.
I went around the Mercator supermarket and in celebration of being there, I bought 3 cakes and 3 large cans of beer. The beer is 63 cents a can. It's good beer. We drank it after dinner with the cakes. One can get fat and inebriated very cheaply here, and yet the inhabitants seem to be neither. They are, however, very friendly. The town is clean and friendly, it isn't very busy this time of year, and it is surrounded by snowy mountains. All this and beer for 63 cents a can.
Remember I said there was a cow mooing? It's a few houses away and if you are still on Eastern Standard Time you might be awake when the milking machine comes on. In fact there are enough cows in the neighbourhood for them to have successfully lobbied for a milk-dispensing machine in town. If you don't have a bottle no problem! You can get one from the clear-doored side, then just fill it with milk from a local cow. This makes the cow down the road feel important and the people of Bohinjska Bistrica have access to her milk 24/7. It's also very clean and not broken.
I have found that communicating with Sarah has helped enormously. I hope it has been a help to her too. We used to IM each other from different parts of the house and this feels no different. I pretend, anyway. Seeing her words appear have made me feel less like I'm in a lifeboat and more like I've washed ashore and have some exploring to do. I'm finding my way around the town and F&S have been taking me to see the sights.
Thursday morning, Thankgiving in America, we went to Bled. We walked for 4 hours around the lake and I think it was a bit far for Tyson, but he did enjoy himself. Later he was walking funny and I worried, of course, but this-morning he is well again. I'm taking it easy today. I want him to rest his 12 year-old legs. Here's a picture I took of the lake in Bled. I want Sarah to see it, naturally.
The Alps starting to poke their heads above the clouds as the plane got closer to Milan. I'm no Sarah Bloom when it comes to photography and I'm using my $50 e-bay Android phone camera.
For weeks I've thought...just let me get to Milan with Tyson. Let me get to Frank and Sally's car, then I can relax. This was the moment I was waiting for. Frank, Sally, the car and Tyson wondering what on earth is going on.
It was dark when we crossed into Slovenia and I saw nothing until the morning. My room has a balcony with a view of snow-capped mountains and steep-roofed Alpine houses. I saw the snow blowing from the peaks, and I heard a cow mooing. It's like living in a children's book.
Heading into town and looking back, Frank's house is the far half of the yellow building. The little blue thing with a pyramid roof is a shrine with the Virgin Mary in it. There are lots of them all over town.
So we went to Lake Bohinj 10 mins down the road...
...and Tyson had a lovely time.
I said on the morning of the flight that we would have no tears today. If we were going to cry over what was happening then there was no point in doing it. I got my bag packed and stuck LIVE ANIMAL stickers to Tyson's crate. I tested all the bolts that hold it together, I fitted a food and water bowl to the door, I fluffed up his bed and I carried all our worldly goods to the car.
Sarah drove us to her parent's house for a last farewell and then we hit the road. I've never been to JFK before. I saw the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty for maybe the last time, and I marvelled at the amount of traffic on a Sunday afternoon. I gave Tyson his anti-anxiety meds before we left and he seemed less anxious than I, but that was to be expected. I was losing Sarah and now I hoped that I wouldn't lose Tyson too. I've been dreading the trip with him and now the airport was in sight.
Sarah pulled up, dropped us off then went to find parking. It was a cold day and she did that as fast as she could. We got a trolley, put the boy in his crate then went in to start the whole ball rolling. It was 2pm -- 3 hours before take-off. I wanted to make sure that Tyson got a spot on the plane if Alitalia had a first come first served policy for animals. The girl from whom I bought the ticket said that she had done everything she could to make sure he was on board, but my experience so far had taught me to be only mildly optimistic. On the trip to the airport I said to Sarah that I had to have a contingency plan in case this went wrong. I would return with her, buy a car and go live in Montana. She had nodded.
I went to the Alitalia desk and told her I was here with my dog and just wanted to make sure that everything was ok. "Dog?" she said, typing and looking confused. "I have you, but nothing at all about a dog."
The world began to spin. Sarah was somewhere stage left and didn't know what was happening but my body language clearly told her something was wrong.
"This is actually a flight operated by Delta," she said. "Go see if they can fit your dog on the plane."
Months of worry and planning and fear that I was going to be the unwitting cause of harm to Tyson made it hard to breathe. I went to talk to two girls from Delta who knew nothing about my dog, and then proved that they knew nothing about pets in general. One girl started typing and making phone calls while the other girl told her that she was doing everything wrong and she should cancel the entries she'd made. Some time later they asked me the weight of the dog and said "Oh, so it would have to go in the hold..." and began erasing everything again. I began rapidly back-pedalling, not wanting to put Tyson's fate in the hands of these two people. I called Sarah over and told her what was happening and she sat down on the floor, if sat is the right word. She sank to the floor and began to cry. "I can't say goodbye again," she said, rocking to and fro. It was the most awful moment.
I stood up and returned to the two women who now said that no animals could travel today because there was an embargo. "What?" I asked, not knowing if I was desperate at having to return with Sarah or relieved that I wouldn't be putting Tyson into the hands of these two people.
"It's too cold," they said.
I shook my head and I felt helpless. Sarah was done with the whole situation and her resolve had left her, and my beloved dog was in his crate and relying on me to get this right.
And then the first woman, the Alitalia woman came over. She was older, she was Italian, she had a maternal confidence and there was something about her that I trusted. She spoke to the girls from Delta and then turned to me.
"We will take you on our flight. It leaves at 8:20. It will be ok."
She took my e-ticket to her desk and spoke to a group of Alitalia people around her. They got on phones and spoke rapidly in Italian. I didn't know what they were saying but I knew that these people had swung into action in a way that the Delta girls didn't. I sat with Sarah, and the woman said her colleague was talking to someone. A few minutes later, after talking and typing, she looked at me and said, "It's done."
"Tyson is on the plane?" I asked, and I sounded like a child.
"Yes, you are both on the plane."
Sarah and I walked around the airport waiting to check in for a flight that left 3 hours later than planned. After a performance worthy of a West End farce we managed to inform my brother of the change of flight, and then wandered around, knowing that we should say goodbye but not really able to. Eventually we found a quiet place and held each other. We promised that this wasn't the end, that nobody was dying here, it was just a thing that was happening. She's always wanted to see Italy, and I said I'd see her there next year. And then she left, bearing the guilt of being the one who instigated this. It was the hardest thing to watch.
Tyson and I spent a few hours waiting for him to be collected and I watched him go too. Now all my planning was at an end and it was up to someone else.
I went back to the Alitalia woman and I thanked her for her help. Sometimes you need someone who knows what they are doing to step in and help, and I could not have been more grateful to her. I hope she could tell.
The flight was as perfect as any trans-Atlantic could be. I cannot praise Alitalia enough.
When we landed in Milan at 10:30am I had my fingers crossed that Tyson would be ok. He's a nervous dog and it was bumpy at times. He's 12 and you may have noticed, but I worry about him. Malpensa airport isn't very big and it took no time at all to go through passport control and into the baggage claim area. I walked around looking for him but couldn't find him. The bags appeared and I still couldn't find him. I asked and was told he would be at the "Bulky Baggage" area and if not, try lost and found. I didn't like that idea much so I managed to hang around the Bulky Baggage area and the baggage carousel simultaneously by using the simple technique of running really quickly around the airport. People stared at me. I didn't care. Where's my dog?
My bag arrived and I went to the Bulky Baggage area to see various items of Bulky Baggage, but none of them Tyson. Panic began to rise in me again, thinking that he was still in JFK or had been sent to Borneo, when suddenly I saw his crate being wheeled toward me. And then I saw one of his floppy ears, flopping. He was ok. He had survived. God was in his Heaven and all was right with the World.
Clutching my $350 of Tyson-related USDA approved paperwork in 2 languages, I set off for the exit sign. That's all it was. An exit sign and a door. I could have tried all day to find someone to check his paperwork and would have failed. I walked straight out into the waiting arms of my brother.
It is my last day in America. Sarah and I have spent the day together, sorting through stuff, packing up stuff, throwing out stuff. We have been kind and considerate and working together as we should always have worked together. It's a strange day. Funny with crying.
I woke up unable to process the idea that I am leaving tomorrow. Just like the first moments of this crash, I concentrated on what needed to be done and couldn't bring myself to think about what might have been. I set about this blog with the intention of documenting a period in my life which I was treating like an adventure with a finite goal -- to live in Slovenia and learn to paraglide. That goal, while somewhat obscure, helps me to compartmentalize this trip. I can't see it as losing Sarah, I have to see it as fulfilling a lifelong ambition to master a skill.
Now that I'm on the verge of leaving I've ramped that up and gone even further into an imaginary world of self-protection. I decided, some five minutes after opening my eyes, that I would try skiing. One can tell that the brain is trying to protect itself when learning to ski at the age of 54 seems like a good idea. I'm sure a therapist would underline the word 'skiing' as soon as I mentioned it, and would know what it represents. I am shrinking away from harm into the snowy bosom of a winter wonderland, clutching at anything that makes tomorrow's event an adventure rather than the futile sadness that reality presents. After tomorrow I won't see Sarah again, and I want to. I love her. We watch tv together and laugh at things.
We argue too. Lets not forget that. We are at odds much of the time. I don't fit into the world that works for her, and I complained endlessly, wanted to change everything, had unrealistic expectations. Instead of changing the way things were, I simply complained, and finally she needed something else. I needed something else. This is the something else. I hope that in a year we will be happier people and maybe wiser too. I hope those two people meet up in a year's time and think about staying together in the happy winter wonderland, where 54 year old men take up skiing and fly through the mountains as if that were a normal thing to do. I hope she comes to see a man she'd like to be with.
But today has been all about packing things into boxes to ship, or bags to carry. We have laughed, we went out to eat, we spent the day together and when we stopped laughing, one of us would cry, silently, then move on.
We are now going to watch some TV for the last time. We like My Name is Earl. It's about a man who changes his ways, and the world becomes a better place.
It's Thursday night. I have two days left and the list of things to do is getting longer. Remember when I started this thing there was pile consisting of one sock? It's now one sock and small cardboard box with nothing in it. I have, however, found a small Santa Clause and a blood-pressure monitor. This basement looks worse than it did before I began sorting it out and I am starting to hyperventilate.
Last night was the final meeting of my writers group. Cassandra hosted as always. Mitchell and Bill brought food and beer. Cassandra produced more beer. And wine. And something fruity, potent and Israeli. It was a good night. We have never got much writing done but strangely, those three people have allowed me to write. They encourage and they compliment and they make me think that writing is something I can do. I shall miss them very much (and you Terry, if you're out there).
One by one I am saying goodbye. I have some cards now, thanks to Vistaprint. I have enough to give 25 cards to every person I know, so that's what I'm doing. People seem genuinely pleased to get so many.
Everything is a rush and so these reports are not going to win any prizes for great literature. Yesterday I drove Tyson down the South Philly for his USDA-approved veterinary exam and I came away with paperwork in Italian and Slovenian. Today I drove 100 miles to Harrisburg so that a man who looked almost exactly like Terrence Howard could stamp the paperwork. He wasn't Terrence Howard. There were two flags, a picture of Obama, some blue carpet and a window so small I suspected all the employees of the USDA in Harrisburg suffer from crushing shyness. I then drove 100 miles back again. Tyson is legal in two languages.
Tomorrow I visit a Polish shipping company who's quotes are so cheap I suspect they have never shipped anything before, or maybe they just open the boxes after I've gone and sell the stuff on ebay. I'm doing it anyway. If my stuff ends up in Warsaw it will be fun going to get it.
These are the days of saying goodbye. I am only taking it all in my stride because I am so busy. I am worried that I'll get on the plane and at cruising altitude a stewardess will say "Bing Bong...You can unfasten your seatbelt now, and finally realise what you just left behind."
Tyson was given a biscuit in the pharmacy today. I often have trouble getting him past the pharmacy because he is given biscuits by the people who man the lottery machine, and he is given biscuits by the pharmacists at the back of the store. The pharmacy is Tyson's scratch-n-sniff adventure playground. Everyone wished us well.
My last Tuesday in America was a day of kindness. After the pharmacy, the FEDEX truck driver held up traffic by simply stopping his giant FEDEX truck to get out and give Tyson biscuits. He shook me by the hand and wished us well. I don't know him and he doesn't know me, we've simply waved at each other for about 5 years as he drives around the neighbourhood.
Genti the Albanian postman and Sabrina the post lady all give him biscuits. Sabrina, an African American girl yells TYSON! from her truck and he loves her. Genti speaks softly, calls Tyson his friend and says we'll be ok. He says it in a voice so softly confident it is almost menacing. You will be okay. Look after my friend Tyson, okay? Okay, I say. I know these people from my daily rambles with the boy (oh yes, I call him the boy rather than the dog. Tonight I went for a glass of wine with Gregg, a man I know from walking Tyson here and there. The list of people who want me to call on them before I leave is longer than I could have ever predicted.
Today I met so many people who wished us well, and Tyson ate so many biscuits. It felt like It's a Wonderful Life with dog treats. It caused me to wonder if I was going to be lonely in those Alps. This would be so much easier if Sarah and I were fighting, and I want her to come too.
My brother has decided he doesn't want me driving after flying all night so they are going to spend the weekend in Milan and will pick me up from the airport. Suddenly he has reduced this journey to one flight. He is the very best of people.
It has been a long and busy day, and the days will only get busier. Tomorrow I take Tyson to the USDA-approved vet in Philadelphia to get his pre-travel treatment and the all-important paperwork. I wonder if they'll give him a biscuit? I'll report back.
Today was my last Monday in America. I am upset that this is the last time the trash is taken out, and I keep finding other Monday things to take note of. I have developed a wistfully sad smile which I use when I see ordinary Monday things. Soon people will back away from me, nervously.
Last night Sarah and I were watching a movie when a call came through at 10:30pm. It was Sarah's 17-year old daughter and I could hear the fear and panic from the other end of the couch. Sarah stood up and paced frantically as her daughter's words, indistinguishable to me in all but tone, explained what had happened. I put on my boots as Sarah found her jacket. I said I'd drive and Sarah said ok.
It was 11pm when we saw the flashing blue and red of police cars on the dark tree-lined road. We pulled in and Sarah ran over to her daughter, unhurt but perfectly still. The police were walking up and down in the dark, looking for skid marks and making notes. With so many trees, the road surface was a carpet of wet leaves. The car had slid across the road, mounted the six-inch high curb, ploughed through the grass and bushes on the right side and smashed headlong into a large and unyielding tree. To the right of the car was a bushy ditch and the car would have rolled into it had another tree not held it fast at the near-side rear corner. Both air bags had deployed, the front of the car smashed into the kind of shape one sees in vehicles where lives were lost. Her wrist was painful and there were bruises from the seat belt but, apart from a pale stillness perhaps, these were her only injuries The Gods were on her side.
Last night the three of us stood on a strange dark road amid the wreckage of a crash that could have defined all our lives for ever. Instead we held each other. I hugged the kid, which never happens. Sarah wanted me to drive her, which never happens. The kid only had a couple of bruises.
Today was my last Monday in America. I am upset that this is the last time the trash is taken out, and I keep finding other Monday things to take note of. It takes a crash to make us see things.
I told Sarah today that I'd rather have her as a good friend than a bad wife. She laughed. We're going to finish watching the movie now. See you all on my last Tuesday.
When I wrote The Midlife of Dudley Chalk I wanted to examine the nature of reality and why some people believe in the paranormal and some people don't. I think that's the main driving force behind the novel -- not what happens but how those events could be interpreted differently by different people. Strange things happen to Dudley and they might be evidence of paranormal activity or they might be mundane. Sometimes coincidence and Angels are one and the same, depending on what you are looking for. Quantum mechanics works on similar principles; a duality.
Two things come to mind that could very easily have been woven into the tale of Dudley's life, except they recently happened to me.
After formatting the novel for both e-book and print I needed a cover. I have two things going for me there -- I have been an illustrator for 20 years and my brother Tony was top banana in the graphics world. Years ago he designed book covers for New English Libraries.
(In fact, in those far flung days of my boyhood, Tone had a friend called Mick Chalk. Mick had a cat called Dudley. At the vet they called out "Dudley Chalk?" and everyone smiled. I liked the name, and almost forty years later the cat was reincarnated as the eponimous hero of my novel).
Tony gave me advice about the novel's cover and together we imagined a deer standing in front of a line of trees. A deer features large in 'Midlife' and so does a forest. I could imagine that deer standing broadside, its head turned toward the viewer, daring them to wonder about its intentions as it then disappeared into the forest.
I wrestled with that image for a while and every attempt looked like a bad paste-up of what I could see in my head. I abandoned the deer and went for a simple image of a forest path instead. The next day I was walking a dog in a tree-filled development in a rather expensive area called Gladwynne. As I walked along the quiet road a full-grown male deer, antlers large and impressive, walked slowly across the road ahead of me, stopped in front of a line of trees and stood broadside to me, its head turned. If I had been a photographer and the deer had been paid to pose, that would have been the book jacket I was looking for. I wondered if it meant something, as Dudley might have wondered too. Standing perfectly still for some time I said out loud "Please make my book a success." The deer moved off into the trees as if carrying my words with him.
Yesterday I woke up knowing that I had made the appointments with the vet and the USDA but I had no ticket. I had to buy one that day. Discovering that the pitfalls of connecting flights were not restricted to fears of losing Tyson, I decided to buy a direct flight and worry about getting from wherever I land to Slovenia. I would rather have two solvable problems than one huge mess. I'm not excited about flying all night then driving across Europe but its not as if I'm swimming the Atlantic. I can sleep on the plane. I just needed to pick the right place.
But where? There are flights to Vienna, Milan, Munich, all within driving distance. As I walked Tyson around the streets of Narberth that morning, I was wondering just that. If this was a movie script it would have me standing in the street, looking up into a rain-soaked sky shouting "GIVE ME A SIGN!" I didn't do that because just before my big cinematic moment, Tyson had a poo. I unrolled a bag, tore it off, bent down to collect it, stood up and saw a powder-blue car in the driveway of the poo-house. In large metal letters on the back of the car it said 'MILAN'. I didn't know there was a car called a Milan, but there it was. The difference between fiction and fact is that fiction has to be believable. If this happened to Dudley Chalk I would have edited it out as being too obvious a literary cheat.
When I got back I spent all morning on the phone trying to get the best deals, times and availability. In the end I spoke to a lovely Italian girl from Alitalia. I had found a cheap flight on one of those myriad of ticketing sites and was asking her if I could get Tyson on the flight to Milan if I bought through a dodgy little web site.
"You can buy the ticket through me, Sir," she said in an accent that made me miss Europe.
Here's the strange thing about airline tickets. Go to the airline web site and look for a return ticket and it will be $800. Change that to a one-way and it will be $2900. Go figure. Dodgy little web sites will sell you a one-way for $600. I explained to the girl that I couldn't afford three thousand dollars buying it through Alitalia.
"Usually it is that much Sir, but for some reason this ticket to Milan is saying $550 and there is room for your dog for $260."
Are there Angels?, or did Tyson poo by a car called a MILAN by accident? I don't know and I don't suppose Dudley Chalk would know either.
I like to think that Dudley Chalk the long gone cat knows. I like to think that all creatures end up as part of the cosmic puppet-master, and it's only us who are alive who don't know what's going on.
Like Dudley Chalk, I'm flying. I leave on November 24th. I have 9 days.
It's a mad mad mad mad world.
After three days of building myself up to the challenge of getting an appointment with the vet, the USDA and an airline ticket all within a 10-day window, I tried for the Air France flight to Slovenia again. Yes, the one with the layover in Paris. My brother spoke to a pilot for Virgin Atlantic who gave me the confidence to go all the way to Slovenia despite the layover.
If you recall, the last time I did this I was told I could see Tyson in Paris (oh good). When it came to buying the ticket I was told I couldn't (oh no). Turns out that Air France insist that I see him, but the tickets are sold by Delta who insist that I can't (?). Then they said that I wouldn't know if Tyson would be able to fly until 24-48 hours after I'd bought the ticket (?, ? and thrice ?).
I put the phone down on them again.
I found a flight via Munich with Lufthansa and the woman on the phone (American, not German) typed something when I told her the flight numbers of the trip I was looking at. I don't know what she typed (it's hard to tell isn't it, with just click-clacky noises over a phone), but she reported back with enormous confidence that there was room for him on both flights! Hooray! She wasn't sure about the requirements for Adria Airlines though, the people who operate the trip from Munich to Ljubljana. I looked on their web site and all they give is the cost of dog crates over a certain size. I phoned them in Europe but they were closed as it was getting late over in Europe-land.
It didn't say a maximum size and Tyson's crate isn't that big. He's a normal dog, just a bit bigger than normal luggage. I went ahead and phoned the USDA as my first step in this 3-cornered boxing ring.
"If I buy a ticket for November 27th and get a vet appointment 10 days before, what's the chances of getting an appointment with you?"
(I have spoken to this man before and he is not creative).
"What day do you want to come in and I'll tell you if I can fit you in."
"I don't know what day I want to come in, I don't have a ticket yet, but I'm looking to fly on the 27th. If I bought that ticket, would it be likely I'd get an appointment with you or are you all booked up for months ahead?"
"Get a vet appointment and I'll tell you."
"You can't tell me if you have any space available between the 18th November and the 26th?"
"No, I need a date."
(Silent screams, biting the table, punching an imaginary government worker. Finally a deep breath.)
"Ok....Hello there, I'd like an appointment on November 21st please!"
"Yes, morning or afternoon?"
"Is one thirty ok?"
I was then going to say No, Wait, I got that wrong, I meant the 22nd. And then I'd say the 23rd and the 24th etc until I had built up a map of when this man had free appointments, but I was worried that he would work out what I was doing and stop talking to me. I accepted the appointment and moved on.
I called the vet and asked if they had room for me between the 18th (the earliest I could do it for travelling on the 27th) and the 21st (when I had to take the vet's report to the USDA). Yes, no problem, come in on the 20th.
Two down, one to go!
I bought the ticket, one way, JFK to Ljubljana, $808 plus $400 for Tyson. I had done it. I owned a flight from here to there after many weeks of research. Huzzah!
I phoned Lufthansa back and told a different woman that I was the proud owner of the ticket, and she booked Tyson onto the plane to Munich, then said he couldn't go on the plane from Munich to Ljubljana.
"It just comes back 'no'," she said.
(Silent screams, biting the table, punching an imaginary airline, its staff and all its planes. Finally a deep breath.)
It took a few hours and $50 to cancel the ticket. If I want to end my trip in Germany I can do it for a lot less than $1200.
Today is another day. I'm not going to try another connecting flight. I'm going straight to somewhere and then hiring a team of elephants to get me over the Alps.
Moving with my dog to Slovenia.