After much traveling through many a myriad of tunnels we finally arrive at the Underground. There were so many choices in front of us as to buying tickets I thought it just best to ask someone where the Oyster could be bought. Josh talked with a friend who used to live in London about his upcoming trip and she suggested that we get an Oyster card, a rechargeable card that can be “topped up” with money to allow for the easiest and cheapest way to travel about London on the Tube. I asked someone, a cheerful fellow with a smock on that indicated he was an employee of the public transportation department, where the Oyster could be bought. He pointed to the line directly next to me. I’m sure he was thinking, “Stupid bloody Americans…”
While in line, I grabbed a brochure about the fare schedule and how things were run and decided it looked a little too much like tax law to really concern myself with it. I handed it off to Josh and figured I would, again, just ask someone. The chap behind the glass seemed amiable enough until we opened our mouths and our accents preceded us. I asked a fairly straight forward question: “How does all of this work?” to which he just rolled his eyes and bunkered down for a long, lengthy explanation in short English words no greater than two syllables how exactly the Tube worked. We began with information about us being there until the 13th and that we’d be on public transport the whole time. He sold us a £44 Oyster ticket that he said would provide us with enough money to get around for 9 days. We believed him. After a day or two, I looked up my bank statement and realized that the Oyster cost me $91.91 for a week’s worth of travel on the Underground. It was purchased— best to use it.
I will say that the Underground in London, although extensive, was not at all hard to navigate. The junction stations like Euston and Bank can be a bit disorienting when there are many levels of trains transferring and going many different directions. This is confounded even more when their ninety pounds of luggage is being dragged along and a man with a hernia trying to navigate through throngs of people too much in a hurry to abide a set of travelers. Needless to say, we got on the right train and made the decision to take the Northern line to Hendon Central. Since we weren’t sure which station was closest to our lodging, Josh decided to get off there and walk the rest of the way. The friendly ladies at the Hendon Central station said that it was “just a short walk of ten minutes up the hill” to the bed and breakfast. Maybe ten minutes at a light jog with no luggage since it took us the better part of an hour to get there but get there we did.
Our host, Bob, answered the door with a slightly confused look on his face, I think we woke him up. We told him who we were and the joking instantly began. From the moment we got there to the moment we left, Bob was playfully aggressive with his humor. He pulled no punches. He showed us up to our room, which was clean, and without luxury. A double bed and a single, a small wardrobe, a TV we never made work and a small bedside table. The bathroom was communal and tidy. We settled our stuff and we went downstairs to do the paperwork. We met Katherine, Bob’s longtime friend and cohort. She made us some tea and we sat down to talk. The conversation was delightful but I was much more interested in a shower and finding a network connection to the internet because I still had to work. I left Josh to the conversation and went upstairs.
The shower was blissfully hot. The water, however, was incredibly hard. I towel dried my hair and it felt like it had sand in it. I could barely run a comb through it and was appalled when it dried that it was almost sticky to the touch. It was unmanageable. I could not run my fingers through it at all. Josh came upstairs and I showed him. I took of piece of my hair and held it out to the side. It stayed. We had a good laugh over it but I was distressed that I was going to look like a bush woman for the length of the trip—and I pretty much did. We went to bed early that night.
Friday morning, we woke up ready to go to the British Hernia Centre for Josh’s surgery. Josh was not allowed to eat or drink anything so I kept my meal simple: tea and toast. We then walked the mile to the centre.
In the waiting room, we met three other groups of people there for the same reason. One couple was from up the road, they were there with their son. Another woman’s husband was already in having the procedure and she was surprised to hear that we came all the way from America to have the work done in England. The third couple we met was from Ireland. They had the same problem we did: it was too much money and would take too long in their homeland. Most everyone was surprised to learn that the health care system in America isn’t really all that good unless you have insurance. Even then, it’s still not the best it possibly could be. We couldn’t afford the cost here in California, approximately $15,000, and we couldn’t afford the time, about four to six weeks for treatment. Soon, Josh was called in for surgery. He wasn’t gone but an hour when I was called to meet him in recovery. He sat upright in a recliner alert and cheery. The attendant came in and checked on him, asking him to fill out some post-op forms.
Soon, the before-mentioned tea and sandwich showed up. The attendant instructed us on some of the take-home protocols, what to expect and painkillers should Josh want them. He said that he’d be a little sore in the area and that fainting is fairly common amongst the patients the next morning and that it should do him no harm unless he hits something on the way down. The attendant thought Josh might have that problem since he’s fit and his heart rate is slower. Josh, of course, didn’t think it would happen to him. Within and hour and a half of the completion of Josh’s surgery we were up and out the door. We spent the rest of the day lounging around watching movies and doing very little.
Next up: The Fainting Story and the recovery …