Well, I'm carrying on with the stories promised in La Centaine, but somewhat out of order....
When I was 18, I was working as a travel agent and got offered - as travel agents did in those days - a free ticket on a new service to Toronto.
My father, possibly keen to get me out of the house for a few days, called up his distant 'cousin' in Toronto (who he hadn't seen for 20 years, might I point out) and arranged for me to stay with them for a week. This wasn't what I had in mind, but it was generous and it pleased my parents to think I was out of harms way. And it was cheap, too.
As the plane started the descent into Pearson airport, I started to panic. Who were these people, what would they think of me, why was I stopping at their house?
I came through customs and spotted them instantly. It was the homemade sign (enormous and covered in tissue paper flowers) with my name on it that caught my attention. My 'relative', Chris, looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and he was there with his Mexican wife and two kids.
We did the sights, we ate shocking food (no-one in the family could cook) and smoked some wicked dope in the basement when the kids had gone to bed. It was fun and funny.
A few days in and Chris drove me down to London, Ontario to meet his parents. His father was my grandmother's cousin. I told you they weren't close relatives.
Anyway, the trip to London was a sad one because his Mother was in the hospital, recovering from a heart attack. We went to visit her and she was very weak, but so welcoming to me and a truly charming old girl. Her husband - Uncle Arthur - took us back to the house and made us welcome with beers and sandwiches. He seemed exhausted and overwhelmed. Apparently his wife had been ill for a long time.
He asked me lots of questions about the 'old country' and I'd taken some photo's with me to show him what had changed since he was last there 20 years ago. He told me how much he wanted to see the old place one last time.
I flew home to the UK a couple of days later, having been charmed by my new found family. I missed them and wrote lots.
A couple of months later, Uncle Arthur called to say his wife had died and that he was planning a visit to England.
He came over and we had a blast. My Dad really took care of him and we drove round the old haunts - he was a Smethwick lad, like most of my family, and wanted one last pint 'on the Cape' as the shopping area was known.
He was a great sport and loved meeting all of the new family, as well as sharing stories with the older generation.
At the end of his trip, I drove him to the airport with my Father and we waved him off.
A day later, we got a call from Chris. He was at home in Toronto and had been trying to reach his father in London. Had he got on the plane? He wasn't able to get hold of him.
We called Ward Air (now, that dates this somewhat) and found out that Arthur had boarded the plane and had flown to Canada. Chris called the shuttle bus company and they had dropped him off at his house, as organised.
There was nothing more to do, Chris got in his car and drove to London, to his Dad's house.
A few hours later, we got a call. It was Chris. He had found his father.
He was sat at the kitchen table, his suitcase at his feet, his house keys in his hand.
He had died within minutes of walking in the door.
But he had achieved his goal.
Uncle Arthur had seen his relatives, old and new.
He had had his pint on 'the Cape'.
He had touched his beloved Smethwick soil.
He had been 'home'.