Where is Joanne?

So, I’ve begun the transition into what will be, I hope, a completely new life. To be honest, I’m quite a way into it already, but there’s so much learning and adjusting to do that I can’t truly measure where I am in the process. A bit like life, really: just when you think you have everything and everyone neatly labelled/categorised, a wave hits you from behind and tips it all over.

Exodus

I left SA two weeks ago brandishing nothing but a miracle visa (another story) and two cases of woefully inappropriate clothing (more about this later). Flying with UAE, I had a two-hour stopover in Dubai which, it turns out, is almost exactly how much time a new visitor needs to get from landing gate to departure gate A-24! And I am not being dramatic: two elevator rides, 3 escalators, one double-back because I couldn’t find the information board and then a TRAIN RIDE got me to departure gate A-24 with about 10 minutes to spare before boarding! This is not a criticism: for anyone who knows how the airport works it’s easy and a great place for all things duty-free, but for a nervous first-time visitor it’s like a work-out and a torture. The flights themselves were great – plenty of room, lots to eat and to watch.

Into the maze

Landing at Heathrow was easier as it’s my 4th time through Terminal 3 – the only new experience was the visa queue and their efficiency is amazing. By now I was several different kinds of exhausted and grubby, but there’s something about being met by fabulous and loving people as you trudge through the exit dragging your luggage that brings a second wind. Grace decreed that my first afternoon and evening in England would be mild with a sunset to match anything in Cape Town – it didn’t matter that my brother murmured: “That’s pretty much as high as the sun gets in winter, AJ”. He stopped to pick up something for work and I had my first cigarette in 20 hours while skein upon skein of wild geese flew overhead in formation into the orange clouds, and it was lovely.

Slip-sliding away

And so began my five days in London, a city I am slightly familiar with, and it was just right. A morning to sleep late, organise my bags and catch up on emails – then lunch and off with brother and sister-in-law to a local protest regarding proposed development on green-belts. This is where we discover that my clothing is deeply inadequate and it all comes down to shoes. Mud. It’s called Muddy Island for a reason, but the texture of English mud is something to believe. Clingy, sticky and slippery all at once, you suddenly realise that wellies are not a class statement, they’re an actual necessity. And I didn’t have any. We made it into the newspapers on this day – us, the dogs and a visiting horse – and I even have the article and pic to prove it. What only you and I will know is that I’m holding my bag to cover a massive mud-splat from sliding up, yes, up the hill and a muddy paw print from a friendly Labrador who insisted on sitting on my foot.

Yes, I’ll have another one

The rest of my five days was divided between attending a local meeting with my brother, spending a day and night with my daughter (shopping for a decent coat and a delicious dinner) and my sister, then a fabulous evening with all of us feasting, drinking far too much wine and playing that wicked game: Cards Against Humanity. Not for the squeamish, but laughed until it hurt.

Next: Into the North…

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