On my way home

Well my 2011 European tour is about to draw to a close; I’m currently sitting at Manchester Airport waiting to begin my long journey home. :-h

After working in Belgium and Germany, I spent just over a week in England but feel like I squeezed even more into it than in our previous visits. Sara and Charlotte were already over here, of course, so I joined them at Granny’s house last Saturday and they’ll stay on for another couple of weeks.

The first thing I noticed was how much Charlotte’s speech and behaviour had changed in the two weeks while they’ve been away: she’s turned into a real little chatterbox and plays differently than she did before, but she has somehow managed to pick up some very naughty words which, to be fair, she uses in correct context, but we definitely need to nip that habit in the bud! [-x

It was great to catch up again with family and friends, including the traditional all-dayer in Manchester with Adrian, Duncan and Paul; the evening pub crawl around Lees with Max & Diane, Rob & Lynda, Stuart and Phil; and the football in the Black Horse and a curry out with Tom. We even managed a day on Blackpool beach — 10 degrees C with gale-force winds! As usual the time flew by all too quickly and it wasn’t possible to see everyone this time.

My edible highlights included:

  • Four curries (Vamasaki at Grains Bar [x2], Blue Tiffin in Higginshaw, Swadesh in Manchester
  • Two “Village Special” kebabs from Lees
  • A fabulous 7-course Tasting Dinner with matched wines at Hipping Hall, in the Lake District — worth a separate blog entry
  • Countless pints of real beer, often accompanied by proper Pork Scratchings
  • Pork pies galore, black pudding and even ‘duck a muffin’

My final challenge will be getting back into Australia tomorrow. Sara and I both stupidly allowed our Australian Permanent Resident visas to expire and therefore, as we left Melbourne, discovered that we wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. It’s really just a formality (and $260) to get a new one, but it does take time to process: Sara applied for one via the High Commission in London when she arrived and has now received it.

But, as I knew I wouldn’t be staying in England for more than a week, I tried the “quicker” method and made my online application four days before I left Melbourne (as advised by Immigration officials at the airport). Unfortunately due to the long Easter weekend (plus Anzac Day public holiday in Australia), my “on shore” application wasn’t even looked at until I was already out of the country (and therefore no longer eligible for an “on shore” visa), so they suspended it. :-< After exchanging several emails with Australian Immigration, they've advised me to request a temporary "Border Visa" which will be issued on my arrival in Melbourne. However convincing British Airways to fly me to Australia without holding a valid visa has been a real pain, including having to check in at Manchester some 12 hours before my scheduled flight (to ensure they could speak directly to Canberra for approval). :-ss Anyway, they've just checked my bag through to Melbourne and I've got two boarding cards in my hand, so I think I'll be OK. That said, I'm expecting to be held up at Melbourne airport for quite a while when I arrive tomorrow -- I'm on the A380 via Hong Kong, so it's a good bet that some of the 525 passengers will be trying to smuggle tiger penises and suchlike through customs; I don't think dealing with some idiot who forgot to renew his visa will be very high on their list of priorities. :-w If you don't hear from me, I'll probably be stuck somewhere in transit like Tom Hanks in "The Terminal“.

[Edit: Picture to follow]