I only just managed to get hooked up to a very sloooow internet connection. My apologies to all who have emailed and whom I have not yet answered. I keep losing what connection I am able to pick up. But here goes! I will post again about my journey later, but I'm going to start by getting right to the news I know you are waiting to hear--how Saturday morning unfolded!
The KLM City Hopper, from Amsterdam, where I had landed earlier that morning, began its descent into Birmingham airport right on time, at 8.40 a.m.
Down below a patchwork of green fields, and farms surrounded the airport, and cars and trucks that looked like toys, ran along the country roads in the spring morning sunshine.
The airport still seemed Saturday morning quiet, as we sleepy passengers made our way to passport control.
When it was my turn to approach the friendly looking middle aged female official and show my passport, I couldn't help myself when she asked, "Are you here on business or is this a personal visit?" I answered, "Personal--I'm surprising my brother on his 60th birthday--today--and I'm hoping he has no idea!" A classic case of "too much information," but there was no stopping myself.
The passport official-turned co-conspirator, while stamping my passport, said with a smile, "I hope it all works out for you."
My lime green suitcase plopped onto the baggage carousel just as I walked up to it and in no time I was walking out into the arrivals lounge, looking across the crowds for my nephew.
He had spotted me and was waving. and as we hugged I asked, "Does he know? Do you think he has any idea?"
John shook his head, laughing, "I don't think so!"
He said that Rob was planning to leave for Sainsbury's at 10.00, to do some shopping for a visit from our friends Chris and Eileen that afternoon. We checked the time and thought we might just catch him before he left.
As we drove through the rolling hills and hedge lined fields that meant we were getting closer to Alvechurch, we hatched our plan.
We stopped the car at 9.45, just outside John's mum's house, along the Birmingham Road, and he called his dad on his cell phone. I could hear Rob's deep voice answering.
"Hi Dad, happy birthday, he said. "I'm at my mum's; could I come over and see you for a minute?"
"Oh, yes," I heard Rob say--so far, so good.
John dropped me off in the little parking lot behind the Red Lion, and he went on alone to Rob's flat, where he would leave Rob's front door on the latch so that I could catch up on foot and quietly enter a few minutes after he had gone upstairs.
Exciting? You bet! When I came to his front door, on which there was a banner saying "Happy Birthday!" I could hardly stand it. I wondered if Bruce would bark, picking up the slightest sound as I crept upstairs, but he didn't. I could hear Rob talking to John about his plans for the day as I poked my head around the corner of his living room.
For a split second he thought I was Claire, John's girlfriend, and he began to say "Hello," but then as I shouted out, "Surprise! Happy birthday!" he realized it was me, and his mind could not catch up with what he was seeing. He could not believe that I was there! He had only spoken to me on Wednesday, about the photographs that had arrived, and he says that he thought, "How can she be here?" It was a classic and perfect surprise.
I asked if it would be all right if I stayed for two weeks, and was relieved when he said, "You're here for two weeks Belinda? How lovely!"
Down in my suitcase that was still in the trunk of John's car, all the friends I'd brought along with me were cheering. I could feel it!!
John went down to get the cases and I said to Rob, "I'll come with you to Sainsbury's," and minutes later we were on our way to buy treats for the afternoon.
When we got back, I unpacked, and gave Bruce a Kong pull toy that Susan had sent for him--along with the elk antler. :)
Bruce appreciated both gifts very much although he made the pull toy into a chew toy and spent the next hour biting it into little pieces which I picked up every few minutes.
At 12.30 Chris and Eileen arrived, and we went to the Tudor Rose Fish Bar to buy lunch.
In the evening, after a wonderful afternoon with Chris and Eileen, John came back, this time with Claire, and we celebrated with birthday cake. It was the most perfect day and a perfectly wonderful surprise. It could not have been better. Thank you for being with me in this adventure. Rob knows how much he is loved--mission accomplished!
Yours truly with Eileen.
And below, Claire!
The reason for it all!