How did that happen? Well not quite as expected that’s for sure. I was in lockdown in Saudi Arabia which meant no Birthday Brunch in Bahrain or garden party at my house – however, my daughters and partner organised a ‘Messenger’ pub quiz night which turned out brilliantly – I didn’t win but it was a fantastic evening from three different houses across the world. Plans for a surprise family party have also been put on hold due to the pandemic, as well as writing retreats and girls weekends away. I’m not complaining as I know there have been people who have lost their lives and am therefore grateful that I even got out of Saudi Arabia at all. It was all quite cloak and dagger as the only way I could leave was securing a seat on a Saudia Arabian flight organised by the British and Saudi Embassy. This involved papers authorised by the Saudi Government to allow you and a driver to be out in curfew hours. It was quite surreal driving through the streets of Dammam, being stopped at police check points thinking at any moment we would be captured and thrown in jail or worse shot at close range (yes I did think I was in some kind of war thriller) – however, although it was a bit scary my partner got us to the pick up point safely and with no hassle by the police. At the pick up point, I was tested for a temperature reading (thankfully was fine otherwise wasn’t allowed to fly) and then allowed to wait with others in a large school room waiting for coaches to take us to Riyadh airport. This was not the exit I had planned.
The coach took five hours, stopping off at a bleak petrol station for the drivers to pray. Finally arriving at the airport which was quite magnificant but empty. Only two planes were leaving that day. Staying 2 metres apart I put my three suitcases onto the conveyor belt and couldn’t help feeling sad that it contained 10 years worth of sentimental items, notebooks and books – 2 boxes had previously been sent via DHL, but that was it – my life had just disappeared out of sight. A five hour wait was followed by a 7 hour flight to London Heathrow. The first flight I’ve been on where a prayer room took up at least five rows of seating – not once was it used.
Landing in Heathrow was eerie, there were no other planes, the airport was empty apart from our flight. There was no one to greet us, or advise us if we had to quarantine or keep our distance at least not until we reached the luggage pick up points. We were ushered into rows waiting for our bags, 2 metres apart. As the luggage arrived everyone just forgot the two metre rule and grabbed their cases. Was surreal as the only precautions taken were being told as we boarded the flight that we were to keep our masks on and wash our hands at every opportunity.
On leaving the airport I got a pre paid taxi, the driver wasn’t wearing a mask he said no body was wearing masks, we headed to the only hotel that would take me – all other hotels were shut. It was not the best of places. A studio room at the top of the building. The room itself was fine, however three fire alarms later and some dodgy characters knocking on my door or hanging around the central bannisters, had me bailing after two weeks and fleeing to my daughter’s home, luckily I had achieved my goal of almost 14 days self isolating, two weeks of being locked away on my own had not been the healthiest of homecomings.
So basically that has been the start to my return to the UK after 10 years in Saudi. Not the happiest of starts. It has taken six weeks to settle back and now with my positive hat on, temporary accommodation in Margate (Random), 2nd year of my University course underway, I feel I am back on track. Talking of University Course – I passed my first year, not with flying colours, but I passed. This year is purely Creative Writing, am hoping big improvement to my writing are underway to at least gain the confidence to do what I love doing.
After rambling on for the past half hour, I am now going to go for a lovely walk along the coastline of my new found home. Until the next post have a great week and I look forward to posting some positive blogs about wellbeing and life in general along with writing projects and inspiration for those in their 50+ years.