What a busy week!! Everything went smoothly, we didn’t miss trains or planes and departed from Halifax on AirTransat at 11pm (after completing paperwork with Colleen from Canadian Border Services who also made sure we were on the plane when it took off- by the way she and Kathy who dealt with our case were darlings…. Just doing their job) and touched down in the UK at 9am… the air-flight itself was just 5 hours but it felt surreal boarding in darkness then watching the sunrise as we crossed the ocean…. The flight was booked solid and the seats were small (or my bottom very large) and I needed an extender belt for my fat tummy (makes note to start losing more weight again soon)…
St Pancras train station in London
We had mixed thoughts as we flew closer to the UK…. Sadness and regret but excitement that we were going on an adventure and of course being back in England for the first time in 9 years…it was beautiful seeing the British landscape again as the plane banked and then straightened to come in to land.
However the idyllic scenery, comforting us as we flew into blighty, was soon tarnished by our arrival at Gatwick Airport. “Would Carolyn Ekins, Joshua Ekins…. (Etc etc) please stay behind” was the announcement on the aircraft. We were puzzled… The aircraft attendant ushered us to the front of the aircraft, once everyone had left, and we were met by 4 members of the Border Services Agency AND a member of Her Majesty’s Custom and Excise who asked for our passports (without explanation) and asked us to follow them… two of them hung back with me and we had a great old chat but still we had no idea WHY we were going with them..
Eventually, we reached passport control and were corralled, with another gentleman from our flight, into a compound in the middle of the floor (basically a fenced off area with a gate) while people from our flight and another flight, stood in queue’s to go through the landing procedure.
I got speaking to the gentleman next to me who was on our flight. He had flown to Canada to stay with his girlfriend for an extended stay.. probably a few months but he wasn’t sure. Canadian Border Services refused him entry after an alleged 4 hour interview partially because he had no proof of funds with him and no return ticket already bought so he had to return home..
As it transpired, the corralling was just normal procedure for those people who have had dealings with Canadian Border Services… still, being made to sit in a holding area in plain sight of hundreds of people wasn’t very humane or dignified.. it’s a good job I laugh at such folly. If anything, it worked in our benefit as we only had to wait 10 minutes and then I was handed back my passport and that was that….if we had been in the normal queue we would have still been waiting 30 minutes later!
After that everything ran smoothly. We collected our luggage and spend 40 minutes standing on a very crowded train from Gatwick Airport to St Pancras Station in London. We were early so enjoyed an hour outside a coffee shop just chatting and relaxing and enjoying the tremendous architecture at the station. Then we went to the first class lounge (I had spent 12 pounds more per ticket and upgraded to first class and reserved seats so we could enjoy sitting together and relaxing on the final leg of our journey) where we had comfy chairs and free refreshments before boarding the train. The journey was so relaxing… the rocking of the train plus the 5 hours of sleep over the last couple of days, ensured that everytime I sat and relaxed, I immediately turned into a narcoleptic..hell I didn’t even have to sit! The service was wonderful! Every 30 minutes we had complimentary refreshments, juice, water, tea, coffee, peanuts or little cakes….
Less than 2 hours from London, we were in Nottingham and we found a cab right outside the station which took us to our new home.. a place I had never stepped foot inside.
Our new house!
Greeting us were Bertie and Ben. They had done so much for us. They had been there for deliveries, had purchased some basics for us like pillows, plates, cutlery, kettle, keys, groceries and Ben had even made two vegan dishes, left for us on the cooking range to heat up and enjoy…one was lentil and one was chickpea and both had wonderful herbs and spices in them… as I speak one huge pot has been pretty much gobbled down (oh yes what a wonderful breakfast!). In addition they had checked the house out, done a video tour and helped with all my enquiries…. I thank them for their kindness. It really helped us out..
The house is amazing…
We’ve always pretty much lived rurally the last 20 years, no near neighbours, surrounded by plenty of land.. privacy. My biggest worry about moving near Nottingham was the possibility of feeling hemmed in by fences and houses sitting very close, all around. For this very reason, when I saw this rental home online, it looked roomy and spacious and felt that it would suit our transition into urban living again. The rental amount was about 100 pounds a month above my budget BUT I just knew it had to be…sometimes you just have to go with the heart.
The house is huge…It dates back to 1780 and has enormous Georgian style windows and ceilings over 10 ft tall. You need step ladders to reach the curtain poles! There is a mud room and shower, a lovely kitchen, a dining room, a substantial family/sitting room, a study and a downstairs loo on the ground floor. The next floor contains the biggest bathroom I’ve been in ever, complete with a free standing claw foot bath and a nice shower, my bedroom which is so big I keep thinking of it as a ballroom (Ok slight exaggeration but you are sensing my excitement right?) is lovely and that then leads on to another bedroom (or dressing room) which I have already decided I will move into in the winter as it will be easier to heat and keep warm. Finally, after 4 flights of stairs, on the upper floor, are the kids rooms, once again all very nice. With all the flights of stairs, I do believe we will all have wonderfully sculpted thighs by Christmas..
The garden is a delight with lots of mature shrubs and some flowers and herbs. I’ve yet to identify many species, as soon as I get my internet up and running (just have right now after a week of line problems!!). It’s compact but there is lots of space around the patio area for large tubs for veggies and herbs. I desperately want to try and get a few growing tubs up ASAP once I can locate a garden centre to buy supplies from…it’s not too late yet! (Ben and Bertie drove me to one yesterday and I have a few veggies and a push lawnmower) Yesterday evening I pulled up a few large piles of couch grass from between the shrubs and flowers and I started to pull up weeds growing up through the pea shingle.
To be continued…