Arriving in the UK I touched down at 9.15am and, after a very quick transfer through immigration and customs I headed strait for Budget Car hire. I had just travelled for eight days, six on a ship followed by over 16 hours of flying, and now I had to drive to Bristol, to what would be an empty house. I just wanted this over with so I could sit down and relax. The car hire gave me a small glimpse of what was to come, the problem with living on St Helena for three years is that essentially, on UK computer systems you don’t exist! What is your house number Sir?” “ I don’t have one”!!! As has been the usual response Bev’s parents address, where our bank accounts are registered, provided something to put into the computer and after lots of fiddling eventually the computer said yes and I was on my way.
How strange, not long ago I was crossing the Atlantic, now I was driving up the M4 towards Reading. Reading was my first stop to get some food and catch up on some free WiFi. My first meal back in the UK, a Greg’s Sausage Roll, you cant beat them! It was very odd sitting in the services, the sun was shinning it was a lovely day, but as I sat on my own I realised that not one of the hundreds of people passing by knew, or cared who I was, they didn’t know the journey I had been on and just how significant my Greg’s Sausage roll was, or the story I had to tell.
That night I spent at Bev’s parents house, who were away on holiday. A week ago I was quite pleased the house would be empty but as I opened the front door and no one was there to greet me it just felt a bit sad. Bev’s sister later arrived and it was wonderful to see a smiling face, with a cuddle for me. A Chinese take away that night filled me up and my best intentions of watching the Europa League final were ruined when I fell asleep at 8.30 in front of the TV and promptly took myself to bed an hour later!
The next day was more driving up to North Wales to see my parents. This was a hugely welcome break and despite more driving I was ever so glad I fitted in an all too short trip. Dinner cooked for me, a familiar bed and the love of my parents was just what I needed to settle my nerves and bury some of the woes and sadness that has followed me since I left St Helena.
Two days on and I’m once again on the motorway, this time taking 8 1/2 hours to get to Plymouth. Bank holiday traffic ensured that it took me longer to travel 205 miles to the South Coast, than it did to fly over 3000km from Istanbul to London. Packing the car was weird, 17 years ago I was packing a car with a couple of suitcases to go to University, now, coming full circle I was doing it again. This time however it felt very wrong, I’m married, a Dad, and I was packing to go and move to a new flat on my own. My drive was fairly traumatic, not just because of the horrendous traffic, but because of the sadness that filled me. I had no excitement, just sadness as I drove to my new home, on my own. If nothing else this whole thing has taught me just how much Bev and the kids mean to me, turns out they are my world and without them I feel lost and empty.
Arriving late I met my new landlord and lady, a lovely couple Chris and Deborah, and after signing a contract and going through the particulars I bided them good bye and moved into my flat. Nothing could cheer me that night, not even the Pork Pie and Wild boar Sausage roll that I bought from the new farm shop at Gloucester services, amazing by the way. Even Britain’s Got Talent failed to raise a smile from me.
The next morning I realised that my first shop for myself, done the day before, was something of a failure as I had remembered beer but forgotten Cereal. I had cheese but nothing to wash with! So, with my first full day in Plymouth I set about finding local shops, stocking up my cupboards and getting my barrings. After arriving in the UK I have ticked off Greg’s Sausage Roll, McDonald’s, Chinese take away and bacon butties, I thought therefore that I should probably attempt to shop healthy or Bev may not want me back once she does arrive. My fridge is therefore filled with healthy choice of ready meals, salad………and beer. The day was fine, the evening lonely, something I will have to get used to. The next priority was finding my local Richer Sounds to order my new home cinema system, of vital importance of course, and next, my local pub. The Waterloo Inn is descent enough and only 1 minute away, so a winner for me.
Returning to the UK has certainly come as a bit of a shock for me. Not long ago every minute was surrounded by people. On St Helena no one is alone, no one arrives alone, the community, particularly fellow ex-pats gather to ensure new arrivals are welcome and at home with dinner invites, barbecues and bring and share parties.
Wandering into the Waterloo Inn was the first time Id walked into a pub and didn’t know anyone for nearly three years and as I sit writing my blog tonight the evening is long and the flat is deathly quiet. Leaving St Helena was always going to be hard, I hadn’t contemplated the extra loneliness that leaving my family behind would bring.
It will get better once you immerse yourself in work hard though it is im sure. You arent alone just a phone call away from most Saints here. Great blog as always Paul though. Best wishes in yr new job
It was never going to be easy Paul. It’s important to remind you how miserable when you first arrived on St Helena……….
I have been following your blogs with great interest Paul. Very heartfelt. In these days of insecurity,especially in the cities of Europe, it is comforting to know that places like St. Helena exist, where a sense of community is intrinsicly part of the culture and that lovely comforting feeling that everyone is a close neighbor and you are surrounded by many real friends. Friends you have also nurtured. Like you I understand that its only as a parent and (in my case) a grandparent, that you start to realise the incredible special feeling that being part of a growing family offers you. Your life in St. Helena almost sounds idyllic to people like my wife and I who have lived and worked for many decades in the UK (mostly enjoyable) and if not for many very special holidays in the West Highlands of Scotland would never have experienced anything like what you have had in St. Helena. This is a new chapter in your life and you seem the sort of chap that will make it work for the best for you and your family. Best wishes, Mark
Thanks Mark, its really lovely to know that people have enjoyed my writings and can empathise with the feelings I have. All the best Paul.
Aww Paul as a mother grandmother and great grandmother I just want to give you a hug .your blog remind me of the first time I came to uk.on my own a young nieve 18yrold arriving at Southampton having to board a train on my own (( first time I’d seen a train ))) to Nottingham them a Taxi to Kingston – on – Soar to a massive Statley home . I cried myself to sleep for weeks . Hope it’s not too long befor your beautiful wife and two lovely son join you .great read again as usual. .good luck with new job. X Shirley.
I’m sure it’s really hard for you leaving St. Helena, and although I don’t know you, I’ve certainly enjoyed reading your blog these last few years and learning about what a wonderful place St. Helena sounds like. I probably would have never known a thing about it if I hadn’t happened upon your blog by mistake. In any case, I wish you the best and I will really miss hearing all of your St. Helena news. Hope you keep this blog up and let us know how your family fared coming home. All the best!