Published: November 28th 2010October 31st 2010
Sent to England to take my place at all the parties, she is called Caroline and I see she has hit the bubbly already!
Somewhere around Day 706 to Day 723
I woke up completely aware of my surroundings, after all how could you forget that you were on a 747 with that familiar hum in your ears? I peeled back my blindfold, its still dark in the cabin, there is not a single bright light anywhere, and no one is reading.
Surely the lights will start to go on in a minute? They must be serving breakfast soon? I have no idea of what time it is, I am not wearing a watch as it is in for a service, so as I lay across the luxury of my 4 seats with 3 pillows and 2 blankets I remembered that my Ipod had a clock and it was in GMT, I was not concerned about what time it was on Australia’s East coast, my concern now was how close we were to landing.
Oh no, this was not good news, my Ipod flicked the time up, 11.39pm, you’ve got to be kidding me? We were not due to land at Heathrow until 6.35am, another 7 hours away!
Oh well, so I got up for a wander, grabbed some water stood
Prospect House, Bath
Relaxing outside our weekend retreat
around at the back of the plane for a bit and then resumed my previous position, there was only one thing for it, try and get back to sleep, but I was hungry! Of course I was it would be breakfast time back in Australia, yet the last time I ate, I thought that I was full and probably wouldn’t want to eat anything else. Supper was a nice meal with all of the associated trimmings, coffee, wine etc. but of course it all comes at once and you eat it all!
Eventually after what seemed like an eternity and breakfast, all of the shutters were up and we were being prepared for landing, dawn was breaking, a beautiful orange glow was visible above the blanket of clouds below us. Eventually we descended below the clouds and it was not long before the lights of London stretched out below us, my first sighting of London in a long while.
The plane touches down and thus signals a halt to my time out of England, so after 1 year, 11 months and 7 days later I find myself back on British soil.
Standing at the carousel, was my
luggage going to be there? Would I be lucky? There was no reason not to be, providing everything has worked the way it should then it would be here, but with Andy’s experience earlier this week, he arrived in Far North Queensland after 3 flights minus his luggage, at least I was only on two different planes and as long as my luggage was transferred at Sydney airport at the same time as me then I would be lucky.
No more than 10 minutes later there it was upside down on the carousel looking slightly worse for wear, not only were there clear visible signs of the red Kimberley dust that had long since worn itself in, I could see a tear and once I had wrestled all 23.3 kg’s off the carousel, closer inspection revealed that it was the stitching that had torn, but it could have been worse, but the contents of my case were all intact, I marched through nothing to declare and soon I was out on the other side looking through the crowd for one familiar face.
Thus commenced a whirlwind tour of friends and family, I could not possible get to see
everyone in the time that I had available but I also had some business matters to deal with such as doing the house inspection.
I battled the jet leg for the first day, I went shopping and met a friend of mine for lunch, being very covert in Basingstoke just in case someone who I was trying to surprise was shopping there, it would be unlikely but you never know.
I purchased a pay as you go sim card for my British mobile phone and before long gave the number to a few people who needed the number, more importantly it was going to be my main contact with Andy, apart from using Skype.
I fought to stay awake as long as I could but by 9.00 my eyes were heavy, apparently I was talking drivel anyway, so off to bed I go, I lay in bed trying to send a few text messages, but kept nodding off in between, eventually I switched my phone off and slipped into a deep sleep, only to wake up at 4.30 am as bright as a button!
I did my best to sleep a little more but by 6.00am
Nikki, Doris, Babs, Caroline (the other one!), me, Keeley Sue and Karen
I gave in and went to make a cup of tea. I took it back to bed and sat reading the newspaper that I had picked up at the airport the morning before.
It was to be an exciting day with a lot of reunions ahead of me, especially after months of covert planning it was all going to come to fruition, I just hope that I did not blow it at the last minute. A few text messages were exchanged and the final plans were in place for later today but I still had the morning ahead of me and first on the list, well after breakfast that is, was to see Mum and Dad who were driving up to Basingstoke to collect me.
A tearful reunion with Mum and Dad followed, we headed off for a leisurely lunch in a lovely country pub that we used to go to a lot (Bear and Ragged Staff, Michelmersh) and a visit to my storage unit, it was like opening Aladdin’s Cave! I needed some clothes for the weekend and every box I opened was an excitement as I saw things that I forgot that I had, shoes, dresses,
handbags. I picked a few key items out and then headed over to my friend Nikki’s house for another reunion.
We waited patiently outside for her to return from work, I wonder what the neighbours must have thought as we danced around her front garden hugging, laughing and in tears.
We waited indoors for Lynda to arrive and when she rang the bell, I opened the door and as she stood there chatting away I wondered how long it would be before she realised she was not standing there talking to Nikki. It took a while and suddenly she was very speechless, for a change (sorry Lynda!).
Anyway, the rest of the weekend is not for your eyes but it was a major success, they were all very suitably surprised when I walked in through the door I was greeted with several open mouths, very closely followed by shrieks of excitement, disbelief and plenty of tears, I think they were all impressed that the secret had been kept so well and for so many months! Thanks to Nikki and Keeley’s efforts That is all I am saying about the weekend, it was fabulous and I am so
A few of us go for a wander
Doris, Lynda, Sue and Karen
glad that I made the effort!
My brief interlude back in England was exceptionally busy, not much time to rest, very emotional going from moments of joy in seeing people to moments of complete sadness at having to leave them again. I feel a tad guilty that I have not been able to see everyone, but time was short.
However my visit would not have been complete without seeing one other famous couple and knowing I would be in and around the Tamworth area, I dropped a Skype message to say where I would be and when, a brief exchange of mobile numbers and eventually a text message to confirm their arrival.
Andy and I first met this couple via our blog, they were following our progress round Australia and were soon on their own journey doing the same thing, we eventually met up for the first time at Lake Tineroo in the Atherton Tablelands, we’ve spent days in the dirt scrubbing around looking for that ultimate find of a piece of Topaz and above all shared lots of laughs and very poetic moments. Ultimately there has always been a goodbye and twice we have said goodbye
as we saw this couple when our journey came to a halt in Canberra and their journey was also nearing its end after 12 months.
Yes folks, two hemispheres collide as I meet up with the Wallaby Wanderers, we never knew each other when we lived in the Northern Hemisphere and met on our incredible journey’s in the Southern Hemisphere and here we are in the Northern Hemisphere swapping stories again.
As a special treat, they brought me some Marmite, yes folks another jar of marmite, if there is one thing that I love and that is Marmite! Thanks WW’s! I promise to eat it and not cherish it forever.
Sadly only a short space of time, we all chatted swapped some more stories and once again time to say goodbye as they drove down the road and disappeared around the corner.
So my journey from Heathrow took me to Basingstoke, Southampton, Bath, Welwyn Garden City, Tamworth, Basingstoke via Middle Wallop and then back to Southampton, I was astonished at the traffic, was it my imagination or was the traffic heavier than it used to be, maybe I just got used to no traffic at all?
Driving up and down the motorway I could see the countryside around me, it was so green, I had missed that and the motorways that had become so familiar and so boring because I used to drive up and down them all the time suddenly became mildly interesting.
It took a while to adapt to the speed on the motorway, the M25 was just crazy, I had forgotten what it was like to be part of that rat race, these things were reminding me why I left in the first place. The time of year was bringing mixed weather, while I was in Bath it was sunny and warm, but the following 2 weeks changed all that, the rain came, the days became dreary and grey and I remembered the feeling that I used to have when I sat in traffic every day crawling to work at a snails pace and longing to be on the other side of the globe.
All in all I guess it reminded me why I left in the first place, but that’s not to say I don’t like England, because I do, it still has its charm but for now Australia is
my home and I am enjoying the lifestyle, ok work is still work wherever you are in the world, but the environment is different and I craved that difference.
My two weeks vanished in a flash, and it was time to say my goodbyes again. It is actually very hard writing this as even thinking about it brings a tear to my eyes.
I do feel guilty for not seeing everyone and not spending more time with people than I did but next time will have to be a longer visit.
For some reason saying goodbye a second time round was the hardest thing in the world, the day I left was an exceptionally hard day and one that I wished I did not have to go through, without any support from my intrepid sidekick Mr KJ I embarked on all my good byes, the slightest thing would bring a tear to my eye. I don’t say that the first time was easy, but we left to embark on and adventure, which we are still having but we had the excitement of starting a new journey, this time leaving, was to continue with my journey.
friend of mine assures me that the goodbyes are hard for the first four years and then it gets easier, oh well only another 2 years to go then!
It would have been too hard for Mum and Dad to come to the airport to see me off and I did have a number of offers to take me back to Heathrow, thinking about it now, perhaps my friends wanted to make sure I actually left the country – Hmmmm?
So a little before 3.00 on that Autumn afternoon, the posse gathered and we hit the road. Once more we chatted constantly all the way, mainly wondering how they were going to get tickets to see Take That in concert, but anything was good to take my mind off the impending goodbye.
Heathrow was its usual busy self, but we found a parking space, my cases were unloaded and we headed for check in, I soon checked in, I was told it was a busy flight, this time it was on a 777 (no not the Qantas A380 with engine trouble!) so there was not going to be any room for me to have the luxury of
stretching across the seats, never mind at least I had a good trip over.
It was just like you see in the films, the tearful goodbyes just before I headed through security. It all felt a bit surreal really, I went one way and the girls went the other! They were soon out of sight and I had to get one with the rest of my evening, go through to departures a bit of shopping (nothing new there then!) I found the lounge and went in to make a few tearful phone calls, drink some coffee and await boarding.
Finally the plane was fully boarded, I was trying to read my book but I was also very tired, it had been an exhausting couple of weeks and as the plane hurtled down the runway and left the tarmac the tears just rolled down my face. I knew it would be hard but I didn’t know it would be this hard. There was some kind of surge of emotion that I could not control, no matter how hard I wanted to fight the tears, they just still rolled.
By the time the cabin crew came round with the
I wonder where the pot of gold is?
drinks trolley I needed a brandy, she gave me two bottles (little ones!) I bet they see this all the time and I know now that I was not the only one on the flight that was overcome with emotion, there were at least 3 of us and we all happened to meet at Singapore airport when we were waiting to re board the flight on to Sydney.
I wanted to go home, but it was hard to leave everyone behind, which brings me back to my last blog and the original point of “When is it appropriate to call another country home?”
I was excited to get back and see Andy and what was happening back in Canberra, after all summer is on its way and we have things to do, little did I know that when I got back I would not have a chance to get over the jet lag and unpack my case before needing to hit the road again.
Until next time
There are more photos below