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The Joy of International Travel in a Pandemic – Episode 2

Jul 24, 2021 | The Grand Adventure | 33 comments

I thought yesterday’s roller-coaster ride had run its course when we finally relaxed over a glass of wine and a middle eastern feast at Za Za Ta. Instead, it reached a crescendo of panic when I received a frantic call from the UK around 8pm

My friend, Victoria, was picking Molly up from the airport in a few hours and – as instructed – she’d rung ahead to make sure everything was on track at Heathrow’s Animal Reception Centre.

“They’ve told me I can’t pick her up because there’s been no arrangement made with a UK clearing agent,” she said, tensely.

I had no idea what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. It sounded disastrous.

It took several more calls back and forth between Brisbane, Cairns and the UK to establish that everything was perfectly fine and the Animal Reception Centre was talking out of its arse, but the damage was done. My stress level reached its peak and remained there.

Sleep was out of the question. I still needed to hear that Victoria had been given the all-clear to pick up Molly. And there was the small matter of the missing COVID test results, due at 11pm, which we needed for our international flights the next morning.

11.30pm

No test results. Anxiety rating: 88%.

12.15am: Friday  23rd July

Still no test results. Anxiety: 98%.

12.25am

The test results arrived! Anxiety: 65%.

But still no word back from Victoria about Molly.  Anxiety: 99%.

1.30am

A message from Victoria. She’s on her way to Heathrow. Anxiety: 45%.

I dozed, fitfully, with one eye on the WhatsApp chats for more news.

4.25am

Victoria called. Molly was safe, at home, munching her way through a bowl of her favourite dry food and tuna. She has bed sores and a slight list, but who wouldn’t after 3 days in a crate. The important thing is she made it. Now, we would too.

Anxiety: 5%.

7.00am

Checked in at Brisbane Airport for the first of our 4 flights to the UK. This one just takes us to Sydney, but our luggage is being checked through to London, which is a big relief. Manhandling 4 large suitcases and 4 pieces of hand luggage is an art form I don’t wish to experience again.

The Qantas check-in chick (probably shouldn’t call her that), consulted her screen and started working through the long list of paperwork we had to present: UK Government Passenger Locator Form, Australian Government exemption-to-fly approval, proof of negative COVID test result, proof of purchase of a Day 2 COVID test in London, proof of right to enter the UK, NSW Government border health declaration.

She checked and double-checked every detail on every form. The spelling of our names, our dates of birth, passport numbers, the time and date of our COVID test and so on.

Anxiety: 75%.

Then she congratulated me on getting everything right and told us the day before she had to tell 9 international passengers they couldn’t fly because something had been misspelled on a form, or they took their COVID test too early. Can you imagine how devastating that would have been?

I think the check-in chick (I really shouldn’t call her that) was more relieved than us there were no mistakes in our paperwork.

Anxiety: 10%.

1.00pm

We made it to Sydney and got a taxi to the international terminal.

I knew it would be quiet. But this was something else. There were 40 passengers checking in for our flight, and another 5 international flights leaving Sydney today.

That’s only 6 flights in one day from Australia’s busiest international airport.

We got through check-in and immigration (after more form checking) and out to . . . .nothing. Not one shop open. Not a cafe or restaurant.

We had arrived on the set of a movie about the end of the world, where a handful of confused survivors wander around a deserted airport in a dazed state of shock.

Deserted Sydney Airport
2.15pm

We’re on the plane to Hong Kong, with a welcome glass of champagne in hand.

Anxiety: 2%.

9.15pm

Touch down in Hong Kong. Another deserted airport, but not quite as bad as Sydney. Here, there are a couple of cafes open, but the usual small-city-bustle of Hong Kong Airport has been reduced to the pace of a sleepy fishing village.

Our temperature is taken 3 times.

Suddenly our name is called over the tannoy. “Would Mr and Mrs Wicks on Flight CFX251 to London Heathrow please come to the passenger information desk.”

Anxiety:  96%.

There seems to be a problem with our UK Passenger Locator form which was checked in Brisbane and double-checked by Cathay Pacific in Sydney.

She disappears with our forms and passports. 10 long minutes go by, then she reappears with a big smile. No problem. All good to go.

Anxiety: 10%. Heart rate: 130.

5.00am, Saturday 24th July – Greenwich Mean Time

We’re on approach to Heathrow.

What else could possibly go wrong?

I think it’s safe to say ‘Hello England. I finally made it home.’

Anxiety: 0%.

33 Comments

  1. Hope you’re staying safe in NSW, Trina

  2. Hi Mel really love reading your blogs.

    Just the perfect adventure to read about in lockdown.

    Good luck

  3. Thanks, Jen

  4. Well done, well written (as always!) and keep well. Love from us. Jen et al xxx

  5. Didn’t mean to stress you out too! Off to be reunited with Molly tomorrow. Can’t wait

  6. Mel, was such a stressful read, at midnight, had to reach for my blood pressure monitor.
    Where there’s a WILL there’s a WAY, is an understatement when it comes to you pair.
    Bloody well done!
    Can’t wait for the next instalment!
    Looking forward to the pics, especially Molly in residence!
    Lots of love Jill

  7. Yes. We had a Bex and a good lie down, and feeling much better now!

  8. Thanks, Debbie

  9. Will do, Trina

  10. Ha ha! Love it!

  11. Yes, I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere near an airport again for a while!

  12. Thanks, Loretta and Stuart. Missing you already!

  13. Thanks, Wayne

  14. What? You two? Old? Never!

  15. We’re off to be reunited with Molly on Monday. First we have to do another wretched COVID test in London.

  16. Watch this space!

  17. I’ll believe it when I see Russ on the golf course with the dog

  18. Omg Mel’s I’m just
    So relieved darling
    But if anyone was ever going to succeed it’s you….
    Now to collect Molly……
    Love To you all
    Suzieq xxx

  19. OMG, what an exciting couple of days!!!!!! Glad you’re not our age or we would have been going to a funeral ( if we were allowed) love to you both, Jack and Bev xx

  20. This is the raw material that plays books and movies are made from. So glad that you “made it”. Looking forward to the next chapter.

  21. Well done to the pair of you . Shows that a strength in Character can get you there . Enjoy your home coming . Love Loretta and Stuart .

  22. I could feel the anxiety! Glad you pair and Molly are where you want to be…but you have out me off international travel for the foreseeable…. stay well…sleep off the jet lag…and enjoy your family.

  23. Great to see you made it okay. See you on the next season of Escape to the Old Country?

  24. That was hectic my anxiety reading went up and down. Can’t imagine how harrowing all that performance at check in, not to mention the sleep deprivation.

    Congratulations on arriving in the UK.

    Your description brought to life more deeply the scourge COVID has on our world.

    Stay safe live long have the best time ever ❤️

  25. Way too much stress , but glad you finally made it xx

  26. Edge of the seat stuff – brilliant writing Mel! How life has changed……

  27. Oh god – the trauma of it all .Hope your heart has recovered 😂 thanks for more brilliant writing xo

  28. Thanks, Liz

  29. OMG Mel, my stress levels were up after reading episode 1 and I often said to Jack, I wonder if they have got away.
    So glad to read ep 2 and know you’re there safely.
    Keep up with the writing, I’m loving every word.

  30. Character building, Sue!

  31. Nuts! How you survived is amazing.

  32. Yep, but we got through it!

  33. OMG that’s just nuts!

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