Immigrating to the UK

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10-12 March 2009

Well, where to begin. I’d been dreading and living for this moment for so long. I’ve not had the time to really think since landing. But now, I find myself alone in a big cold house and I wonder what I can do to fill in the time. So, here I am, listening to the Peatbog Faeries and typing up my adventures.

It began with the flight which lasted just short of twelve hours and bored me almost to distraction. We were initially delayed due so some nobs insisting on standing until the captain had to ask them, over the sound system, to please sit so that we could begin the taxing.

I was lucky to be sitting next to two very nice people. There was an interesting camaraderie on the plane. Maybe because everyone was awake together? But the service was excellent! The food was surprising good and I found myself actually liking British Airways (Yes, this is your queue to gasp). I think I have decided… I rather like day flights. I don’t sleep on planes anyhow, so why not be on a plane where NO one is getting their Zzs?

Finally, we landed at Terminal 5, Heathrow. We walked here, there and everywhere – up escalators, down escalators and into tubes. I then had to face the customs officers. With heart beating with trepidation and a mind swirling over all the other times I felt so victimised and bullied by the same esteemed personages, I came forward. And, to my increasing astonishment, then were so NICE! ‘Have a nice day,’ one woman even said to me. I could not believe it. I smiled and thanked her, before dashing off. Hell-bent on getting out of there.

Finally, came the baggage carousel. There was nothing astonishing about this. It took ages, as it always does. Finally, my bag arrived on the carousel and I was gone. My Kiwi friend, Zoë, met me and everyone watched with amusement as we screamed and hugged each other.

That night, I slept over at Zoë’s place in Twickenham. It was a comfortable night and I was really tired. But I don’t think Zoë had a good time of it. I kept kicking her and moving about. We were awakened due to my mother, who had forgotten that we are two hours behind Cape Town. She phoned Zoë’s phone at 06h45 and apologised profusely, but it was quite funny. Zoë and I had a good chuckle over that.

Later that morning, we went to my meeting with Timeplan. These are my agents that set up teaching jobs for me in London. I had to read reams of paperwork and sign countless numbers of papers. But it’s all sorted and I’m all officially registered with them. Now, I have to just keep bugging them to get me work.

After that, Zoë and I went for a quick bite at a sandwich bar before heading to the bank. With the introductory letter from Timeplan in hand, I asked if I could open an account, the Manager was busy, but I made an appointment for the following day.

So, Zoë and I then walk all around London. We had some Costa coffee and walked to Trafalgar square where Zoë had to disappear for a minute. Meanwhile, I sat on the fountain and enjoyed the sun’s first and final rays. I enjoyed them so much, I took my jacket off and found that I had dipped the one sleeve into the water. Not a few onlookers sniggered into the hands and looked discretely away. (Yes, I did another ‘Janine’).

Now, for any that are not familiar with the transportation system in London, it is very convenient. You can go anywhere just by using the trains, tubes and buses. But to get anywhere, be prepared to spend a lifetime commuting. It took us about an hour and a half to get from Richmond to Islington where I was to meet my landlady and collect my keys! I arrived extremely late and out of breath and presented such a bad first impression of myself that I can only cringe every time I think on it. Anyone who knows me will tell you this: I HATE being late. I’m always the one to arrive before or on time. I’m the one who’ll be sitting in the restaurant waiting for everyone else with a book and a glass of wine – wooded Chardonnay, probably. So this was a terrible, stomach-churning experience.

The house was amazing! From the ground door, you walk up a flight of stairs to the laundry room, then another flight to the living room and kitchen, then another flight to the landing and balcony, then the last flight to my room and bathroom. There is a further flight of stairs that then go up to the landlady’s room. The best thing is…she is never here. She lives with her boyfriend.

That evening, Sarah-Jane and her husband, Andrew, came over and joined me and Zoë. We found this fabulous pizza place and had the biggest pizzas ever and for such a great price! I had enough left over for breakfast and lunch the next day. It was so great to see Sarah again and to finally meet her husband. We were all feeling like zombies and the party broke up quite soon. Sarah and Andrew still had a way to go to get home. Zoë slept over and I proceeded to kick her all night afterwhich she swore to never share a bed with me again.

The next morning, Zoë and I went for a walk along main road in search out a place to buy some food. We seemed to walk for an age until we came across a Sainsbury local and I managed to stock up of bread, milk, other food groups and essentials. Walking back was no fun, both of us being laden down with parcels. But the the cup of coffee we finally had made it all worth while. My mind slipped from its fog and I could begin to function again and face the cold, grey day.

Zoë left later that morning and I proceeded on to my bank meeting. I arrived early as I’m still trying to come to terms with how long it takes to get anywhere in this bulging city. I could not believe how friendly they were. The manager met me, shook my hand and welcomed me into his office where we proceeded to spend two hours opening my accounts. He went through everything, even offering me tea of coffee. Finally, I walked out with a bank account that should make the South African banks blush with shame. I get charged a nominal fee per month and I get everything included. I’ve got mobile insurance and travel insurance if I go to the continent. Everything is free: internet banking, depositing, drawing money, debit card payments. He was shocked when I told him that our banks even charge for checking your balance at the ATMs. Talk about being taken advantage of. Banking will never be the same again now that I’ve experienced this kind of service.

Finally, I returned to my new home and spend my first night typing up my account of the past few days. It is quite lonely. I’ve always enjoyed independence and solitude, but I’ve never been so alone. Before moving out of my parents’ house, there was always company available. Now, there is no one. I’ve not even met any of the neighbours. I know they’re there, but I’ve not actually seen them.

I’m not sure what to expect or what I shall have to go through whilst I am here, but I know that I shall make the most of it. I have amazing friends in London and in South Africa and a family that calls every night. Every one of them has been such a welcome help. I could never have got this far without them and I thank them deeply.

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