All the way to America

Observations from an alternate reality

Andrew Howells
5 min readSep 30, 2022


University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Mrs H and me with True Grit

I’m feeling suitably guilty. I was in the US recently with Mrs H. visiting Iona, my daughter, who is studying in Baltimore for a year.

Initially, I considered getting there by boat, a transatlantic voyage. The thought of a cruise anywhere fills me with dread, but Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2) still maintains a crossing not a cruise throughout the year.

I’m not sure what the difference is, but my interest was piqued at the thought of experiencing a significant historical journey. Even better if it sailed from Liverpool (unfortunately not, it’s Southampton).

The QM2 is a proper ocean liner built with extra strength and power to withstand the rigours of the North Atlantic in all weathers. Two sharing their cheapest stateroom costs a little more than a business class flight (each), which includes 7 nights accommodation, food and entertainment. It sounds better value than a plane, provided you’re happy with a week at sea, two if you want to return home again.

Alas, I was swayed by the dark side and modern convenience. We flew on a very new and full, Virgin Atlantic Airbus. Small solace that I could divide my selfish carbon quota, slightly more efficiently.

The lady in the suit

Trying to concentrate at 7 o’clock in the morning is rarely easy. Even more so, when you’ve only had an hour or twos sleep on a night flight back from the US.

The smartly dressed lady in front of us was trying to use one of the many biometric turnstiles to escape Terminal 3 at London Heathrow.

She’d been rejected, with a message recommending to seek assistance. That’s almost impossible when several flights collide at the same time and a vast stream of humanity crowds the exits like a plague of locusts.

She wanted to step aside, regroup and let Mrs H. have a go, but she was persuaded to try again. After all, we weren’t in a hurry, there was luggage to attend to after this test.

Success. The barrier opened and the US citizen in business attire, escaped to a wet and windy Monday morning in London.