My journey home took thirty two hours and during that time I experienced a huge range of emotions - weariness, exhaustion, fear, humiliation, mild embarrassment, humility, love, thrill, intense boredom and eventually complete joy.
The journey started by humiliating me – I was going through the x-ray machine at Seoul airport and I got through the human scanner before my bags had been x-rayed. I could see for myself why my suitcase-on-wheels was causing so much interest…..a dense, black, cylindrical item of about six inches long and three inches wide with lots of wires apparently coming from it. Hmmm – they’re going to think my 100ml macro lens is a bomb, I thought. Indeed they did. So, my blushes not spared in any way, my bag was completely unpacked and all my dirty laundry was piled all over the counter, much to the amusement of onlookers. The lens, along with a number of other items such as my hairbrush, washbag and some batteries were taken out and placed in a separate tray, then the rest was placed back into the suitcase and both were scanned again. Phew – they realised it was indeed the lens causing the strange bomb-like shape in the x-ray.
After a miserable night trying to sleep on the way into Seoul in an under-wired bra that kept jabbing its wire into my ribs, I decided ‘I don’t care if it is socially unacceptable to go without but I’m not going through that again’ so I removed said item in the ladies loo and shoved it into my handbag. When I got to the transfer desk at Hong Kong, I pulled out my passport out of my handbag and guess what came with it? Yep, you’ve got it – a rather sexy (although I say it myself) black lace under-wired bra for all the world to see so I ended up embarrassed for a second time in one day.
In between these two bouts of humiliation and embarrassment, I experienced deep fear. The plane was coming into Hong Kong, the pilot had said ‘it’s stormy so expect a delay’. I peered forward to see out of the window and saw rain, then a huge flash. The plane shuddered and lurched, there was a terrible smell of singeing and many of the passengers screamed. My heart was pounding – had we been fired at? Had we been hit by lightening? Was the plane alright? In fact, we’d been hit by lightening and fortunately everything was OK. Phew. I doubt I’ve ever been so relieved to see an airport so far from home. I also know that I will never be comfortable again travelling alone and a long way from home.
Then, when queuing again to go through the next set of x-ray machines and scanners, I met a charming, funny and in all ways rather wonderful man by the name of Elbert Ellis, the Poverty Programme Advisor to the United Nations in the Caribbean. We were comparing ‘I thought we were going to die’ stories about the Seoul flight while waiting and discovered we were both travelling on to London on the same flight. Elbert described a conference he’d been speaking at in Seoul about poverty reduction. We spoke of third-world debt, the fact that so much aid has been diverted to help rebuild Asia following the Tsunami last Christmas so his life has been made more difficult, education, drugs and the impossible challenge of being away from home working and the impact on family life. He described how his work is a calling for him yet he has to face seeing his little nine year old daughter crying each time he packs a case. When he got up to join the mammoth queue for ‘cattle class’ and I was able to jump the queue with my business class ticket, I had a pang of humility to think of the good he does for the world compared to my work making the fat, fatter.
The fourteen hour flight from Hong Kong to London was delayed by bad weather in Hong Kong and so it turned into sixteen hours on that plane. Boring as hell. Lonely as hell. I seemed to spend most of my journey home with tears leaking from my eyes in a slow trickle down my face.
As I knew I would be, I doubt I’ve ever been so thrilled to see Barry, my trusty taxi driver, waiting in the queue to buy coffee at Heathrow. He dropped me in Sandhurst, where DM, Rosie and Archie were waiting. Rosie and Archie didn’t stop jumping all over me for about fifteen minutes, while DM was warned to stay away until I’d been able to bath. I bathed, dressed and we packed our things, loaded our car and set of on the last leg of this epic journey to Cornwall. I’d flown eight thousand miles, now a car journey of two hundred followed. This epic journey ended thirty two hours after it started.
When we got here, I was again moved to tears. The house is looking wonderful, thanks to Erica and Pete who have worked like Trojans to get the last of the plastering done. Our bedroom is nearly ready for painting now and they have uncovered another gorgeous granite fireplace with lintel under the old plaster. It looks wonderful. Erica had even cleaned all the dirt and dust up and was fretting about the use of household cleaners on DMs asthma – another humbling moment for me and more tears.
There was a carrier bag on the doorstep, complete with organic milk, butter, cheese and bread. It had a note from our other neighbours, Iain and Becky, saying ‘we thought you might be desperate for a cuppa and have not yet had time to shop’. This is proof (if we needed it) that life is different here – our neighbours care about us and have rapidly joined the ranks of our friends. What a fantastic kind gesture. My tears flowed again.
DM helped me to lug our bed into our bedroom and I slipped into the cool, crisp, clean sheets sobbing like a baby. He leaned over and kissed me, with the words ‘you’re home now, it’s all OK.’ Then went out of the room, leaving me to sleep.
When I woke, a couple of hours later, I found I had Rosie tucked up beside me and I was hemmed in by all her toys. She’d been around the house gathering her precious stuff and piled it all up around me. Archie was quietly watching me from the end of the bed, where he’d been stationed while I slept. They followed me along the landing and sat patiently while I went into the bathroom. Then trotted back along the hall and watched me get dressed. In their very different ways, they were telling me how happy they are for me to be home.
All I wanted to do was get some fresh air so we walked on the moors where this photo was taken of DM skipping around Caradon Hill with his 20D held aloft.
Back home to a simple supper of baked potatoes and omelettes and bed. Bliss.
Last year Sherri was having a day off and letting Terri and Milly be my garden companions. Two years ago, DM, Jan (my little sis) and I were enjoying an evening with Clive Gregson.