Friday 25 June 2021

25th - 27th June 2021. Celebrating my 50th Birthday - Post Comment Love

Welcome back to #PoCoLo with Stephanie from Lifeat139a and I. I've particularly enjoyed all the fashion blogs that are linked up weekly. I'm having to explore a whole new wardrobe of weather since moving to the UK and with only half my wardrobe here (the rest is on a ship) and most of the clothes I have here are for winter, it's been nice to get ideas on what everyone is wearing I can put together. Both my husband and I are struggling with feeling warm enough when we go out and have forgotten this 4 seasons in one day effect the UK offers.

Happy 50th Birthday to me, on Saturday.

1971 doesn't feel that long ago and when anyone talks about the 80's, in my mind that's only 30 years ago.

We're off to a friends wedding on Saturday, then dinner at another friends house. I've known both these women throughout my 20's, 30's, 40's and now into my 50's. We've a hotel booked and Sunday will be spent with son, DIL and grandchild and I have a baby shower for my niece who is expecting a boy next month.

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Tuesday 22 June 2021

On turning 50

Age has never been an issue to me. I was able to go into pubs and clubs below the legal age and I never had issues buying cigarettes, although alcohol could be harder. I've never dreamt of being older, I've never deluded myself about being younger.

I can't even say that age is the number you feel, it's just the age you are.

Sometimes I feel ancient then I release I'm comparing myself to people half my age, then I feel relatively young and realise I am at least 10+ years younger than a lot of people around me.

I love birthday parties and I love throwing and organising them. The children had a party every year, football in the park, swimming, McDonald's, a disco, etc with their friends, some family and cake. The youngest had his 21st last year in isolation, as soon as I was allowed to, I delivered him a drive thru KFC as we had planned a family gathering and meal.

We never had a wedding party, too much disagreement outside of ourselves as to what we should be doing, so we eloped, a few friends turned up, we went to Pizza Express and had a plain iced cake from Tesco. A small reception was thrown for us afterwards for family.

I organised a huge party for my husbands 50th. A 70's themed party and everyone came in fancy dress. 70's music, disco, foods and games. For his 60th we took over the pub for a meal and drinks with family and friends.

I can remember a couple of birthday parties from when I was a child, mainly from the photos I have, I can't recall if anything happened for my 18th, but for my 21st there was just one or two friends selected by my parents and their friends. My 30th was a none event due to many issues around custody battles but Peter did get a few family and friends round for a BBQ. My 40th passed acknowledged by my parents who flew out to see us and a colleague of Peter's came round with her daughter for Sunday lunch.

So I decided I'd organise my own 50th. A cruise (cancelled due to covid) a BBQ/drinks/friends/garden party (friends wedding rearranged and large groups banned) we have a night in a hotel for the wedding that is going ahead, but the reception is postponed and dinner at a friends. 

I have a bag of banners, balloons and badges I bought for my friends 50th last year in South Africa, that I was unable to travel for due to covid and once I've taken down the 'Happy Retirement and Welcome Home banners that I put up for my husband for his arrival home, I'll be putting my banners up and waiting until we're able to get back to a bit more of a normal and celebrate then.

In the meantime, if you don't celebrate a birthday, does it mean the numbers don't go up?

Friday 18 June 2021

18th-20th June Post Comment Love and being back home

Welcome back to this weeks Post Comment Love with Stephanie and I.

For those of you who link up on a regular basis, I'm hoping you'll notice a lot more calm in my life now we're back in the UK full time. However those of you who are new will possibly think who is this manic person?

We finished our Government Quarantine Hotel Stay at midnight on Sunday. The taxi collected us 15 mins later and took us home to Malvern.

That's it, we're no longer expats. Do we have a name now to describe us? Repats? 

Apparently repatriation is the hardest part of an expat journey, but not for us, not me anyway. We've planned this, we had an end date in mind, the plan went better than expected and Peter was able to retire 2 years earlier than anticipated without the need for me to return to work, although I may choose to work in the future.

For now though, it's time for family and friends and sorting out our family home. Although I spent most of lockdown working on it, all I've done is get it back to a state where Peter can turn it into our home. When we left it was a home for a family of 7, for 10 years it's been rented out and neglected, now we can repurpose it to suit our needs for the future. 

I love reading about other people's lives and what they get up to around the world, so feel free to link up with any blog post you've written this week and we hope to see you back again soon.

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Monday 14 June 2021

How I stopped smoking

I stopped smoking in December 2020 after 34 years of around 10-20 cigarettes a day.

I smoked throughout my 1st pregnancy, I reduced it dramatically during my 2nd pregnancy and was down to one every few days with my 3rd pregnancy. I've smoked in the house and in the car with my kids.

I grew up in a smoking household, where my father would smoke during breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the car. He'd ask me to pass him a cigarette, light it up for him and taught me how to make cigarettes with tea leaves, the dog end and newspaper like he did when he started smoking at aged 10. 

If we couldn't get a seat in the smoking section, my father would take us elsewhere.

I smoked on the school/college bus. I smoked on trains and I'm old enough to have smoked on aeroplanes.

My dad stopped smoking around 10 years before he died of a stroke, after surviving a heart attack. He was 77, he always said if he made it to 80 he'd start smoking again. He missed it everyday. He loved the smell of other people's tobacco.

I married a smoker also, although he has stopped for a couple of years at a time, he has returned to it, he now smokes Heets and is on a program to giving up over the coming months.

I've had little, if no praise for stopping smoking. People who drink get congratulated and people who lose weight get celebrated. I'm not here to judge but I personally don't think being obese or an alcoholic is healthy either and I do understand the argument about passive cigarette smoking. But it's actually been surprising as to how many people have said that they didn't know I smoked anyway, people from the now and people from the old days.

So how did I give up?

I made several false starts then decided to cut down on the number of cigarettes I smoked a day over a period of a few weeks, then as I got closer to not relying on the cigarettes any more, I picked a date to stop. Then I just stopped. 

I didn't use alternatives, I just stopped.

The first 5 days were the hardest, my husband had been shut behind Saudi borders, it was Christmas, I was on my own in Dubai, so my whole routine and plans had changed and it got easier and easier.

The hardest part was the 'I would normally be smoking now, so what do I do instead?'

When you're used to going outside for a cigarette, or you smoke after a meal, getting out the car, before bed, with your morning coffee, it's hard to break the routine. The desire to smoke for comfort was greater than the need for the nicotine and the by the end of the first month I absolutely detested the smell of cigarette smoke. I could smell it in cars as they drove past, near railway stations, outside shops, on some occasions it made me physically gag.

Friday 11 June 2021

11th -13th June Post Comment Love - Weekly round up

Welcome back to #PoCoLo with Stephanie from @lifeat139a and I.

I've been making a few changes to my blog, not the design but the content.

We are no longer expats, as my husband has retired after 35 years with the same company. Normal life for us hasn't started up yet as we're currently in a Government Quarantine Hotel being detained by the Home Office at our own personal expense.

Yes I know it sounds dramatic but we've not been on holiday, we've returned from living abroad after just over 10 years, we had to cancel our visas and we've been less than politely informed that if we leave the hotel (security outside our room) we will be arrested.

We're on Day 8, the taxi is booked for midnight on Sunday. You can read more with the post I've linked up with this week.

For the next few weeks we've a wedding and my 50th which involve more hotel stays, our shipping container arrives and a trip to Northern Ireland to collect our dog from child 4 and his pregnant wife, due in November our 2nd grandchild.

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UK Hotel Quarantine and Home Office Detention.

We've been living abroad for 10 years, my husband retired on Monday after 35 years with the company. Over the past few weeks we sold cars, shipped furniture, closed accounts, vacated our home and moved into an apartment and had a flight booked for June 15th.

On Tuesday last week we discovered we could fly home via Amsterdam so flight booked at the earliest date which was June 3rd.

Once we had our flights booked we checked on the KLM website, the UK government and followed the instructions that would enable us to fly.

We had considered staying in Dubai until it came off the red list, but flights had already been cancelled and pushed back and we could risk ending up staying in Dubai for longer, our visa had been cancelled and we had to leave within 30 days and still end up hotel quarantining regardless.

So we took the hit and paid the £2400 for an 11 day stay, arranged covid tests within 72 hours of travel at the cost of £60 and completed the passenger locator forms online.

And that was it, no further information, other than hotel quarantine confirmed with the name of hotel.

On arrival in Birmingham after a 4 hour stop over in Amsterdam, we left the plane and made our way to passport control where there was a divide of passengers for Red Country arrivals, which we followed and with all our paperwork which we presented to Border control.

This is where is went wrong. We were handed a piece of paper to sign stating we'd been identified as a risk and were to follow instructions or we'd be arrested. We identified ourselves, it was not a good start with the Home Office, all the issues we had were with them.

We were escorted to collect our bags and wait for the bus, there was a big drama made in the arrival hall of escorting us through an almost empty area announcing our arrival and stating they were Home Office. Our escort could sense the tension and he stood back, when he did speak to us he was very kind and explained what would be happening, he stated he was contracted with HMRC. The bus driver was very officious, making us sit in certain seats, which is fine and understandable but he spoke to us as if we were stupid and deserving of no civility at all. There were 5 of us in total on the flight, all British but from different ethnic backgrounds.

On arrival in the hotel a new security team greeted us, the bus driver again was short and rude and made a huge show of spraying down everything we'd been near, there was a crisp packet on the seat tray and food crumbs so he wasn't doing a good job anyway. Check in at the hotel felt rushed, we'd waited for someone in front of us to move to the 2nd window. There was no 'welcome to the hotel' it was difficult to take everything in. We were then passed to the 2nd window to a woman who read off a sheet, talked at us and made it quite clear she was struggling with having to deal with us. We later found out she was home office also. The staff who escorted us to our room helped with the cases and were friendly and polite.

We were given a pile of paperwork with do's and don'ts and most insultingly instructions on how to safely put on a mask and wash our hands.

The days have pretty much been a blur marked by food delivery to mark the passing of time. I've been walking 10,000 steps a day like a caged tiger in the room and Peter has been outside for 20 mins daily. I'm opting not to go out as it's farcical with clip boards, hi-vis jackets and walkie talkies 'room 241 approaching the lift' and 'room 241 come in, your time is up'

Day 1 The following morning the kitchen rang to ask about my wheat free diet as we'd had to fill in the menu sheet for the 10 days the previous night and despite me stating this at the time of booking it hadn't been passed onto the hotel. The kitchen have been fantastic and the food has been great. The staff who have delivered the food have been great also.

Day 2 went badly from the start, I didn't get much sleep, the sun was shining and we'd not heard a word from anyone, I felt caged, trapped, badly treated and wanted some answers. We tried calling the numbers on the information sheets we'd been given for support, but nothing, numbers rang out, directed to websites that just advised on how to isolate and keep yourself well physically and mentally, info on exercise, keep in touch with family and friends and ask for help are already known. I eventually got through to the local police station to ask for information on what would happen if I left the hotel and chose to return home to isolate and was informed rather rudely by Linda that I would be arrested and I would be forcibly taken back to the hotel to restart the 10 day isolation. At that point I released I had more questions to answer as I am currently being detained by the Home Office, I might as well be in a prison or jail. There are security stationed outside our rooms. 

The people doing the PCR tests were shouting about the time scale and to hurry up, just folding the bloody box was complicated then it was 2 hours before they collected the boxes anyway.

Day 3 I woke with a migraine after crying myself to sleep, day passed in a blur.

Day 4 Still got a migraine and now mouth ulcers. We requested housekeeping for fresh sheets and towels and every evening a trolley comes round with supplies of toiletries, loo roll, cleaning wipes, tea, sugar etc, bin bags. We can also have room service but we packed some wine and snacks in our suit cases. 

Home office came round to get our PCR results, just knocked on door and asked to see email. No 'Hi I'm from the Home Office' just a clip board and a demand.

Day 5 No idea what happened, probably in a bad mood. On Peter's daily exercise with his handler, he spoke to other guests/prisoners whose day 2 and day 8 tests had been lost, meaning they had to stay longer in the hotel at their own expense.

Day 6 We received a message from track and trace to state we'd been in contact with someone who had tested positive for covid. I rang down to the front desk and said that whilst I appreciate they can't give details and I didn't want names anyway, that if it was a guest or a staff member what were we to do and what measures were in place to ensure no further spread of the virus would occur. The response I got was 'we can't discuss this with you and tell you who it was' I said that's not what I'd asked for and was met with 'calm down madam, don't shout at me' someone has been on a training course about keeping safe in the work place. I dialled back to reception, spoke to a woman explained what had happened and she said 'sorry that was home office staff' I asked if she realised that it reflected on the hotel and she said she'd speak to the management team. I felt a lot better.

Day 7 We received our first track and trace call, it was ridiculous, read off a crib sheet and we're not self isolating it's completely different, which I explained to the man who phoned and he was more than happy to discuss this with me and feed back to his line managers. He also arranged a call from Here to help in Worcestershire for a friendly ear and some help with sourcing contacts. We discovered the person who tested positive was on the flight from Amsterdam to Birmingham and not someone who is quarantining with us, which begs the question as to why Amber flights are being allowed or why none residents are being allowed into the country at the moment and why we can't isolate at home instead of being locked up. We spent the rest of the day resetting Peter's apple account, just don't......

I'll let you know next week how the check out went and if there is any follow up from the complaints we have made.

Day 8 PCR tests taken today, we've been warned the test may be void and in which case we will have to stay until they get us another one. Even if the results come through in 24 hours, we still have to stay to Day 11. 

Day 9 Both PCR tests negative, yet we have to wait here till midnight tomorrow with no further testing, it feels like a pointless exercise now. Was told by the Home Office Staff on the front desk, they'll talk to us tomorrow between 2-4pm about our discharge time and protocol. According to the 'info' they gave us, we just have to show 2nd negative test to a hotel member of staff.

Day 10 Taxi booked for midnight. Yesterday when we asked what the process was to leave the hotel we were told the `Home Office people would call to arrange, when I asked why they copuldn't check the PCR paperwork so if anything was wrong we'd have time to sort they said they were too busy with checking out everyone else. Today when we asked around 2pm, we were told they're on their lunch and they'll call the room at 4pm. Too busy? Procedures changed overnight?

We were just hanging around all day, there is no reason for it, no one to ask questions from, no one to provide any guidance and support. The whole experience has been shocking, one I will never repeat and to all of you saying 'just get on with it' or 'I'd love a 10 night stay in a hotel' or 'be grateful you don't have kids with you' just know this:

Apparently No one else has complained, at all. A man could be heard shouting in the corridor last week, a woman was seen crying under the window and people are writing messages and claiming PCR tests have been lost.

This was an unlawful 10 night detention by the Home Office for people from certain countries, not holiday makers, not business people, but people who are British, have been living abroad and have made a very difficult decision and a huge financial input to return to their home country for a reason.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Week 22 - One Daily Positive - Back in the UK

It's been so humid here that the washing on the balcony in direct sunlight is still wringing wet at the end of the day.

I'm not sure I'll be doing project365 much longer and I might be giving up blogging and social media altogether. no particular reason other than I'm just not feeling it anymore. I find myself on twitter most days now, but it's not easy like the old days to gain new followers and find new people with similar interests, all the algorithms on SM seem to do is just keep showing the same things and the same types of people. It's like shopping on Amazon with the 'you bought a book, would you like to buy a book?' 

Peter says I should continue until at least the end of the year to keep the diary of our expat lives going till the end and including our repatriation.

149 Saturday Dropped the car hire back, no charges and full refund which makes a change, we did some shopping in Tesco, watched TV, had a sleep and went down for a swim in the pool. 

150 Sunday Off to the beach via the tram, had a coffee, went for a swim, walked back to the hotel, had to stop for another drink as it was too hot, some time by the pool then back to apartment for the rest of the day. In the evening we went round to a colleagues of Peter's for a drink.

151 Monday Off to the bank first thing and that's it, Peter's last day in work, although there is talk of some consultancy work in the future. Everything seemed to happen today, flights, quarantine hotel and PCR tests were all booked.

152 Tuesday PCR tests first thing then Peter returned his company laptop and phone to IT and I took myself off to the Ritz Carlton for the day, with Peter joining me in the afternoon. We packed and chilled out in the evening.

153 Wednesday Left the apartment in the Marina and checked into an airport hotel with pool and bar, had a relaxed chilled out day. Checked in for our flight at 9pm

154 Thursday Flight to UK with a 4 hour stop over in Amsterdam and then to our Quarantine hotel the Crowne Plaza in Birmingham for 11 days. 

155 Friday This is the last post in 365, we're back now in the UK. I'm going to carry on posting a daily photo, blogging and running PoCoLo weekly blog linky and joining in with My Sunday Photo.

Friday 4 June 2021

4th - 6th June Back in the UK. Post Comment Love

Welcome back to #PoCoLo with Stephanie and I 

Yep, we're here, back in the UK.

Peter worked his last day after 35 years on Monday. 6 years in Dubai and 4 years in South Africa as well as the UK. Final payments and refunds were made on time and once we closed the bank account down, we booked flights, quarantine hotel, PCR tests and extra baggage.

We spent our last day in Dubai at the Ritz Carlton for a beach/pool day and the evening with friends for our last ever Dubai pub quiz and Starbucks finally spelt my name right.

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