When I was a kid I went to school with Maureen Mullard. I decided to pay her a visit while I was in the US because she had married an American and moved to Chicago.
I checked the buses and booked an overnight Greyhound. I was on my way to Al Capone territory. It was a rather boring journey but that didn’t matter, I couldn’t wait to see this famous city. I didn’t get much sleep because I stretched out on the back seat, so the noise of the engine was loud, but at least my dream of America was happening.
The bus stopped every four hours at a *Howard Johnson to give the driver a rest. Fresh orange juice and crispy bacon were not popular in England, so each time we stopped I ordered eggs sunny side up (or was it over easy?) with a side order of crispy bacon and deep fried onion rings. Lovely!
I arrived at *The Loop in Chicago and was instructed to catch another bus to Maureen’s street. It was beginning to feel like a spy movie. Eventually I arrived and Maureen was excited to see a friend from London. She immediately cooked eggs and crispy bacon for me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was egg bound.
After a restful night’s sleep, Maureen and her husband took me on a tour of Chicago. First stop, Lake Michigan, which is as big as England. Chicago is like London, big, busy and exhausting. At the end of the afternoon we went to the Top of the Rocks cocktail bar, with a fabulous view of the city, and enjoyed a couple of cocktails.
The next morning at breakfast, Maureen was in tears as her 3-year-old son was missing. They searched the house, and the police arrived with a tracker dog. Several more cops started to search the area outside. Maureen was nearly hysterical. After three or four hours, we had a rest and sat at the kitchen table for coffee. Because there were a couple of policeman sitting down, we had to pull the table away from the wall. One of the policemen slid behind the table and looked up with a very strange expression on his face − half smile, half wonderment.
“I think I’ve found him,” he said as Maureen rushed round to see little David fast asleep on the bench under the table. The big butch tracker dog was looking rather sheepish.
As if that wasn’t enough, the next day she couldn’t find her slippers. Some people….
My return flight was in the small hours of the morning so, after another 17 hours on a Greyhound bus, I arrived at Kennedy Airport and took a taxi to find my cargo company at the edge of the airport. It’s difficult to find small companies tucked away at the edge of an airfield. After about an hour driving around, the meter was going mad and I was running out of money. I told the driver. He was very kind and didn’t charge any more. Eventually we found the hangar where they were preparing the plane.
Our first stop was Newfoundland. It hadn’t changed in the two weeks I’d been away. It was still cold and miserable; the people looked like they lived in the Village of the Damned.
I wanted to buy my mother a souvenir, so I found the gift shop, which was empty except for a few shelves, which were stacked with tinned fish.
Ever the romantic, I bought a tin of cod and gave it with love to my mum. I don’t think she ever opened it. Today, she would be reported to the *RSPCA!