The drive to Exeter went a bit faster than I had anticipated. Fortunately there were no sheep or cows blocking the road. I pulled into the parking lot at Exeter Corporate Aviation and checked in at the desk. “My name is Dr. Martin Ellingham. There is a private jet scheduled to land here to pick me up.”
The attendant replied crisply, “Your jet is already here, refueled and waiting for you, sir! I will inform the flight crew that you have arrived. The jet is parked on the tarmac – it is the copper-colored Bombardier Global 7000. What a beauty!”
I nodded to him and walked toward the window and I understood what he was talking about. It was a very large private jet giving off a soft coppery red glow in the fading sunlight. There were no markings on it that indicated it was owned by the hospital or a corporation. This was someone’s personal jet. If Don’s goal was to ‘shock and awe’, he was doing a very good job at it.
A slender, brown haired woman in a navy blue business suit followed by a tall young man in a uniform walked up to me and said, “Good evening, Dr. Ellingham! My name is Ashley Johnson and this is Nicholas Olsen. We are the stewards for your flight tonight. The flight crew has already run the preflight check and we are ready to leave on your command. We have prepared the aft stateroom for your use and hope you will be comfortable in it. If you will kindly follow me I will escort you to the customs agent.”
I turned towards Nicholas and said, “Please inform the flight crew that I am ready to depart when they are.” Ashley directed me towards the customs official who performed his duties with a minimum of fuss and then we went out of the terminal and boarded the plane.
The cabin of the aircraft was all deep red and creamy yellow Cocobolo wood with copper hardware and accents. The seats were a rich, buff-colored leather. Ashley took my coat and walked back to the stateroom to hang it up followed by Nicholas with my luggage. I sat down in one of the seats and fastened the safety belt. Once the stewards and the chef (a chef!) were settled into their seats, the familiar whine of the engines starting up could be heard. The pilot announced that we were cleared for immediate takeoff and the estimated duration of our flight was eight and a half hours. We started to taxi down the ramp to the runway, the jet stopped, the engines revved up and we started rolling down the runway. I looked out at the hills softly glowing in green and gold in the distance as we gained speed and felt us gently lift off. In my mind I was hearing “Jerusalem” as I heard it sung at the last night of the proms at Royal Albert Hall.
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land
Was I doing the right thing? Leaving my home. Leaving the country that had been the home of my ancestors for more than a thousand years. Ancestors that had sailed uncharted waters, who fought and died at Trafalgar, Blenheim and Jutland. The Ellingham family tree was never very hardy to begin with and it had been severely pruned by centuries of service to King/Queen and Country. I was the first in over 200 hundred years to not serve in the Royal Navy. If I moved away there would be only two of us left in Britain – my elderly estranged aunt and my son.
I was pondering these thoughts while watching the darkening land slip away until only the broad expanse of the Atlantic and the first stars of night could be seen. A hand gently tapped my shoulder – it was Nicholas. “May I get you something to drink, sir? We have a well-stocked bar including a bottle of Talisker 25 Year Old for your enjoyment.”
I generally do not drink but on this occasion and with the thoughts that were racing through my head I decided that the Talisker would be an excellent idea. “I’ll take a taste of the Talisker, Nicholas. Thank you.” He turned and walked to the bar to prepare my drink.
When he returned with it, he said, “We were informed that you prefer low fat fish and vegetables for dinner and do not eat desserts unless it is a special occasion. Our chef has chosen a dish to prepare for you that he hopes you will enjoy: Salmon with Snap Peas, Yellow Peppers, and Dill-Pistachio Pistou. It will take about 25 minutes to prepare; please let me know when you would like him to start on it.”
I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and that did sound wonderful. “Please tell the chef that his selection sounds delicious and he can start working on it at his earliest convenience.” Nicholas nodded and walked towards the front of the plane.
While I waited for dinner I sipped my scotch and slipped back into thought. I asked myself again if I was doing the right thing. Yes, I am. I would not be the first person on the planet who had left their ancestral lands and left their family behind to find greener pastures elsewhere. I cannot do what I need to do living in Britain. One of the shackles that had been holding me down all my life was tradition and if tradition is serving to hold you down and hold you back then that tradition needs to be left behind. I will make new traditions in a new land. Perhaps, if I am lucky, even start a new branch of the family. I would like that. I miss having someone to come home to and someone to cuddle up to. Someone who I can share my thoughts and feelings with without fear. Someone to love who loves me back. Someone to share my life with. I have begun a journey of the infinite, where all things are possible. The chrysalis has been shattered.
I have crossed my Rubicon.
My musings were interrupted by Nicholas and Ashley setting the table for dinner. Crisp white linens,
fine china, silverware, delicate crystal drinkware and a small bowl of orchids were impeccably laid out. “Dinner will be served shortly,” Ashley announced.
I got up and went aft to freshen up before dinner and was surprised by what I saw. A comfortable looking bed with plump pillows, eiderdown and soft cotton sheets already turned down and a bathroom with a full sized shower. Thick Turkish towels on the towel rack and a robe hanging on the door.
I completed my ablutions and went forward just as Nicholas was bringing out my dinner. I sat down and was served my dinner along with a small salad of wild field greens dressed with vinaigrette and some excellent bread to accompany it.
“What would you like to drink with your dinner, Sir? We have a fine selection of wines or, if you prefer, a good selection of bottled water.”
I asked if he has some Ty Nant Blue still water.
He replied, “Yes, sir. I will bring some right away. Would you like it chilled or room temperature?”
I replied, “Room temperature, please.”
He returned with the bottle, poured me a glass and set the bottle on the table. I began to eat – my god, it was delicious! I finished off everything, including the bread. I got up from the table and went back to my chair.
The food and the alcohol were making me sleepy. It was already past my normal bedtime. I bid Ashley and Nicholas a good night and walked back to the stateroom. I undressed, hung up my suit, put on my pajamas, washed up and brushed my teeth and crawled into bed. The bed was indeed as comfortable as it looked and I was asleep in no time at all.