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Wouldn’t you know it? Our last day here and I woke up with a really bad back.  I can barely breathe as it’s gone into spasm.  We had so much to do today and had decided on a really early morning jaunt to Covent Gardens then heading to Heathrow by train (with our luggage).  The girls rubbed some anti inflammatory cream into my back and I took some pain killers.  I plugged in the lap top in the kitchen which was the only power we had left after blowing the bedroom circuits the other day.  I was going to check us in  on our flight to save us some time.  Wendy came out and went to plug her phone in too.  I was looking at her and trying to tell her to stop but nothing came out of my mouth.  I couldn’t actually say the word.. WAIT.  BANG!!! There it went again.  Now we have NO power in the place.

In Australia, we are very spoiled (and lazy) in that if we plug something in, even though we know we should have the switch turned off when we do it, it isn’t going to do damage if it’s still turned on.  That’s not the case in some of these older buildings here.  I knew that was the problem when I’d blown the  bedroom circuits and I could see Wendy doing exactly the same thing and couldn’t stop her.   It all seemed to happen in slow motion lol.  Ah well, we’re obviously not meant to have power.  I wasnt too bothered until I realised that I was the last to have a shower and it was instant hot water.  So I had a lovely cold (freezing) shower and got dressed.  By this time, my back was feeling a bit better (or was frozen numb) so we headed off into Covent Gardens.  This was another beautiful place, I really liked it.

We went into a very swish  restaurant for breakfast and Wendy sent me downstairs to look at the toilets which were very very upmarket.  Photos of celebrities lined the walls.  Breakfast was delicious  and it was a lovely way to spend our last few hours in London.  After a wander around the market and stopping to have a look at a classical quartet playing, we dragged our sad feet back to the railway station to head back and pick up our bags.  The girls dragged all our luggage downstairs because my back was still tender and we didn’t want it going into spasm again just before a long haul flight back home.

Next was to find a taxi.   The cafe next door didn’t know the number but said there was a taxi rank down the road so the girls went in search of what turned out to be an elusive taxi rank.  With no luck they came back but had managed to find a number for a cab so we called it and asked for 2 taxis, one to take us to Heathrow and the other to take Deb to the hotel she was staying in from now on for work.  They even gave us a firm quote as to how much it would cost.  Impressive.  Deb’s cab came and  whisked her away, with lots of hugs all around.  Then ours came to take us to Heathrow.  The driver says, “so which terminal”.. Ummm.  we have no idea and can’t access the laptop to see as it is completely flat by now.  We couldn’t find our original itinerary either, as, not thinking, we’d shoved it in one of the cases and we didn’t know where it was.  He thought we were joking when we said we had no idea but we weren’t.  That little snippet of information had completely slipped our mind.

We got him to drop us off at Terminal 3 and we went inside, luggage dragging along with us.  We knew our cases needed rearranging as they were too heavy so we needed to distribute the weight a bit better.  We were actually over by a few kilos each so we played the luggage shuffle.  Yes I know it’s pointless as you’re still over regardless of which bags they are in, but we figured if the bags were more evenly weighted, they might be kinder to us.  We found the itinerary and realised we should be at Terminal 4 not 3, so, thanking our lucky stars that we had so much time, we headed out and over to Terminal 4. Finally we were there and went to check in, holding our breath that we wouldn’t be slugged with an extra luggage charge.  Our tactics worked and we weren’t charged extra.  Finally rid of our main bags, we were free to wander the airport.

We sat down to a cuppa before we headed through the customs gates and then once through there, we did what every girl does, went shopping.  I found a few more things as did Wendy, then realised we couldn’t carry another thing, so went and sat down to a bite of lunch before boarding the plane.  We just got our meal when they called the first people to board.  We didn’t rush too much as there was another 3 calls before it was our turn, so we had our meal and headed down to the gates.  It’s really all over.  I can’t believe it.  We’re leaving the U.K.

Getting on board there was a lady sitting next to us as it was a reasonably full plane.  She was in our age group and was a really lovely lady named Elaine who was heading to Australia to meet her newest grandbaby.  We chatted, read, watched TV and it wasn’t long before we landed in Dubai.  Elaine was a bit concerned that she would not find her way around, so she stuck with us.  It was a really brief stopover again, so just enough time to get off the plane, go for a walk through security and get back on again.  Getting back on the plane, we were surrounded by a group of people who I think were from Malaysia, who had been to Mecca.   There were about 50 – 60 of them and I think at least 40 of them had a dreadful cough.  They coughed and coughed without putting a hand over their mouth for the next 7 hours to our next stop which was Brunei where we had about a 3 hour stopover again.  Noone was impressed as we all knew we had no chance of avoiding the germs.  We did complain as we thought the staff should have at least handed masks out, if not to those affected, then at least to those who were healthy to stop infection spreading.  Nothing was forthcoming and we sat for those 7 hours listening to the hacking coughs all around us.   I’m not going to mention the food on this journey because seriously, the meals weren’t at all nice this time around, unlike on the way over.  Do I sound like I was grumpy?  A little bit maybe but they were genuine complaints.

At Brunei, Wendy, Elaine and I went for a cuppa at the coffee shop there and before we knew it, it was time to board again.  Thankfully our coughing friends were on a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpar and they weren’t on our flight.  This time it was very quiet.  Elaine was sitting away from us on this leg of the trip and she was able to lay down as she had seats to herself.  Wendy and I spread out a bit and watched more movies, read some more and dozed on and off.  Time went fairly quickly and before we knew it, we were landing in Melbourne, at least half an hour earlier than our ETA.  We figured it would take about an hour to get through customs but we were the only plane in, so we got through in about 5 minutes.  Wendy’s husband Chris was already there waiting for her, so after lots of hugs, they headed off, leaving my new friend Elaine and I to wait for our families to pick us up, so we went for a cuppa and waited.  It wasn’t long before Stuart and Sarah turned up for me and her son turned up for her.  We said our goodbyes and both headed off, me on my way back to reality, her with her holiday just beginning.

I went back to Stuart and Sarah’s place for the weekend before heading back on the XPT train to Sydney on Sunday night.  I decided since it was only $33 extra to do first class, I’d do it thinking it would be more comfortable. Wrong.. It was every bit as uncomfortable as economy, just had more luggage room and less people so it was still a bonus.  I got in bright and early with Lachlan waiting at the station to pick me up and take me    home again.

It has been a magical trip.  I loved it all.  Getting lost, heavy luggage, hacking coughers, no signs.. it’s all been part of the journey. I’m so glad so many of you followed along as it went.  I’m sorry these last few days have taken so long to put up but of course, I ended up with that hacking cough, kindly shared by the other passengers and with that and jetlag plus heading straight back to school as soon as I got home, I just didn’t have the energy or the brainpower to turn my notes into a blog.  I will return to the UK and especially Ireland where I would love to write my grandmother’s story. Her life was so interesting and I’m sure others would find it as fascinating as we, her family always have.  But for now I have 2 months of study left before I graduate with my Diploma of Commercial Photography, so it’s heads down and study time.

Céad slán ag Éire. A shealbhú tú píosa de mo chroí. Till an chéad uair eile.