This transit day

The Officer announced gravely, “looks like we have a problem here”. Those are not the words you want to hear as you try to move through UK Immigration.

Having just spent 2 weeks enjoying a break in Brussels and Antwerp (with a side to Rotterdam) it was time to head back to London and our next house sit in Peckham with Poppy the cat.

It had to do with the length of time we would be in the UK, the limit is 6 months at a time. We arrived in London early October. With our 2 weeks out of the UK it would now be less than 6 months before we head home to Oz. Yet they still needed to put us through this ordeal, “just in case you are trying to work the 6 month rule”. Seriously?

They took our passports, our Eurostar tickets and landing cards. We were being detained. They told us to sit in that little unfriendly waiting area where other passengers pass, look and wonder.

Anyway, we remained calm (breathing in breathing out) and sat on those hard plastic seats for a long time, watching everyone else go through the gates seemingly easily. Conscious of the CCTV cameras above our heads, speaking in hushed tones.

Another Officer came and told us we would have to be interviewed. He left and came back around 15 minutes later. He was a friendly one, respectful at least.

A long and arduous process followed, being questioned about our travel intentions, our income, our itinerary, our family, our work history, who else we knew in the country. Even wanted to know how come Adam could stay in the UK for so long and what his job is.

With just 4% battery on my laptop I was able to pull up the documents for our London-Brisbane return in early May 2016. Not good enough. Our bank statements are all online and they don’t allow internet at that point, so we couldn’t show them proof of our finances other than our word. In a stroke of genius Dave remembered he had an electronic copy of our latest tax returns on his phone. I think that’s what clinched it. Lucky, because we never do our tax on time.

I felt it would all work out somehow but I was quite anxious about not making it to London that day to meet our house sitting commitment. But once the officer told us that we could get a later train I relaxed into the situation and let it run its course.

Naturally, we missed our train but caught a later one, which meant arriving in a dark, cold and squally London. A hike and a couple of train changes got us to our Peckham station. Then to carry our bags down a long flight of stairs (a kind young man took mine for me), then stop in at Tesco for some important supplies (recovery wine & Pringles), then drag those darn suitcases a mile along wet cobble footpaths to our house.

Struggled with the deadlocks, and then finally opened the door to find a very annoyed and hungry Poppy glaring at us from the stairs.

One of my more interesting birthdays, with lessons learned and no real harm done.

Just grateful we weren’t trying to enter the country seeking refuge.

 

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