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.
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.
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…