15 years ago today I left South Africa…..never to look back as it turns out.
the current South African flag; no longer a colony but still part of the Commonwealth
My departure came about in quite a convoluted way and as they say; ‘the planets were aligned’. A number of major life events occurred within a short space of a few months and I then found myself on a plane heading to the northern hemisphere.
Travel to make something happen
June (sometime) 2001: the company I was working for went into liquidation because the two owners had a falling out. The liquidators kept me on to help collect outstanding monies (after all that was my job), besides which I turned up at the offices every day even though the company was in liquidation; so seeing my determination….I had another 3 months of work.
July 2001: sometime round about now my sister who was living in Ireland at the time said she’d love for someone to fly over and join her and hubby to celebrate a milestone birthday ; 30 years of age!! Of course I volunteered….for sure!🙂
August 15th 2001: my daughter attained her ‘coming of age’ – 21 years and you get the ‘Key of Life’ in SA and officially; your freedom! Technically you’re an adult from 18 when you qualify for a drivers license. We had a wonderful party for her on a boat in Cape Town harbour with bells, balloons, a band (her Dad who is a musician sang to her) and a smashing meal.
September 30th 2001: the liquidators signed off on the rest of the debt and I was free to go.
October 2nd 2001: Ailing carrier Swissair has run out of cash and suspended all its flights “indefinitely”. wtf???? I’m due to fly on the 8th!!! So began the fight to get on a plane to Europe regardless.
October 8th 2001: passport to freedom in my hand, I bounced my way through customs, thrilled, excited and terrified in equal measure to be flying to Europe….with SA Airways!
October 9th 2001: I landed first in Zurich in-transit to London, then after flying and crying across Europe I landed at London City Airport at which stage the terror set in – how would I get to Heathrow? But I did….first a bus and then tube on the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow and thus to Dublin Airport – happy birthday to Caroline….it was awesome that I could arrive in Ireland on her special day🙂
Caroline and Ewart
The timeline of events and what happened first and which decisions were made when are lost in the mists of time….but from a date perspective….the above is more or less what happened when. In the meanwhile, between being retrenched from my job, making the decision to fly to Ireland and wondering what to do with my house, I scurried about collecting the necessary paperwork for my visitors visa, sold my car to my daughter, started sorting out my belongings and getting rid of much stuff, making the heartbreaking decision to have my kitties adopted (a friend took 4 of them, one had to be put to sleep due to a nasty virus that was eating her up😦 ), making my flight bookings with SwissAir, only for them to go run out of cash at the time, subsequently visiting the airport and refusing to leave till they booked me onto another flight (finally after much persistence they got me onto SA Airways), then deciding what to take and what not…..I was heading into the NH winter (and it was as cold and wet as they said it would be),
having fun in the snow in London
going into work everyday for three months knowing that once I finished for the liquidators that was it…no job to come back to. Finally it was all systems go and my daughter took over the house and car, moved all my belongings lock stock and barrel into storage (and it was still there till May this year hahaha)
a household reduced to a few boxes
all my possessions…
kitties settled into new home, job finished, suitcase packed, visa entered, passport stamped…I was on my way.
may the sun shine warm on your face, may the wind be always at your back
I cannot tell you how excited I was.
The flight was as full as it could be. I’m sure they had some folks stacked in the hold!!! LOL
After a long flight we landed safe and sound in Zurich. I bought a pastry and hot chocolate, sent a postcard and made my way to the boarding gate for the next leg of my journey.
I’m very interested in and keen on WW2 history. As we flew from Zurich to London I looked out at the blue skies and remembered all the air-battles that had taken place in that airspace, of all the people who died in the skies and countries below…of the people who fought for their freedom from all parties involved…and cried and cried, just about all the way to London….I was overwhelmed!
Finally we landed at City of London airport and after making my way to the tube as we came out of the underground at Hounslow I looked out the window of the train and very clearly in my head I said “Oh! I could live here!”. The chimney pots reminded me of Mary Poppins…only my most favourite film of all time…..I fell in love with a city.
Keep Calm and Rule Britannia
Next leg of the journey was finding my way to Aer Lingus for the flight to Ireland. By now I was exhausted and so excited I could barely contain myself.
St Patricks’s Day cupcakes – Guinness flavour!!!
Finally we lifted off and I had my first real glimpse of London and the River Thames. Little did I realise that just on 9 years later I would be totally besotted with the city and the river that runs through it.
London from the air
A passion that has taken me into nooks and crannies, along streets so full of history you can barely walk 3 steps without being amazed and participating in historical events the like of which I had never even imagined; I’ve spent more than 3 Days in London😉
And then finally we flew over the Irish sea and so to Dublin. Seeing my sister and her hubby at the airport was thrilling, and so emotional…we cried enough tears of joy to refill the River Liffey should it ever run dry.
the Penny Farthing Bridge and River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland
And thereafter history was made. I adored Ireland. I stayed with my sister and her husband and we had the most amazing time, travelling everywhere.
having fun with Caroline & Ewart – in those days I could still climb walls!!
I swear we visited just about every county in the south of Ireland bar a few which I visited on the next 8 trips to Ireland over the next few years….till they eventually went back to South Africa.
a trip up Table Mountain South Africa – me and the kid sister
a trip up Table Mountain South Africa – me and the outlaw
Winter was as cold and wet as they had said it would be, and as miserable as I had not imagined. I was due to fly back to South Africa on the 4th December. We went for dinner at BLT in Dublin. I cried and cried and said “I don’t want to go back! I don’t want to leave!”
So I didn’t🙂 I just didn’t go back. Instead I spent another two months loving Ireland and making the decision that I wanted to live forever and ever in the Northern Hemisphere. I wasn’t able to work in Ireland so instead just before my visa ran out I flew back across the pond to London, acquired the necessary paperwork to apply for my ancestral visa and after two weeks flew back to South Africa, finalised the sale of my house, and flew back to Ireland on the 22nd April 2002.
And I’m still here!!! I’m now a British Citizen, settled more than happily into my new persona and celebrating still my freedom.
at my citizenship ceremony in Maidstone 25.02.2016
I love this country, I could never live anywhere else. I’ve achieved three of my dreams; visiting Venice, a birthday in Paris and seeing the White Cliffs of Dover (once I got my UK Passport). I’ve celebrated my 50th (Paris) and my 60th since I’ve been here (helicopter flight over London – gift from my daughter), travelled to the USA 3 times and Europe a great number of times, attended the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, seen the Queen in Windsor on her 90th birthday and for the last 6 years at Trooping the Colour in London, attended Kate & William’s wedding (as a spectator), been to the London 2012 Olympics, flown over London in a helicopter, travelled the length and breadth of the UK, been to more villages, towns and cities and castles than I can remember, attended numerous traditional and annual events in the city, and thanks to my friend Joe been a passenger on the Trinity Tide
me on the Trinity Tide for the Green man event in January
and amongst all of that…..my daughter joined me here in 2003! Best gift ever.
me and Cémanthe
Happy 15th anniversary to me!