Sunday, July 5, 2009

Journey Home


2nd July:
Taking a day out before heading off on our travels was useful as we were able to do final sortings out, tidy up the apartment and generally relax. We ended up becoming the Mazda collection agency for computers, mobile phones and keys ready for return to the Steve who has begun the job of checking out the apartments and ensuring that the other consultants have managed to complete all the necessary clearances before heading off to different parts of the planet.
By 9.00 am we and Neville were the only Cognition people left in the block.
Joy and I spent the day dozing, checking our bags and watching TV until 6.00 when we, with Neville, tried out the buffet at Caravan across Salwa from our apartment.
We played scrabble while waiting for Sabeir, the Cognition driver, to take us to the airport at 1.00am. and the beginning of our roundabout trip home.

Following check in, a process made somewhat chaotic by a frustrated Indian traveller who decided to remonstrate loudly with the desk clerk and porters about the slow process. Once we had fare-welled our bags and headed through passport control the waiting for the 3.45 flight began - at least in some comfort in the coffee shop.

The Doha - Dubai leg over we set off to find the Virgin Atlantic check in counter for our flight to the UK.

We arrived at Heathrow, found the Underground and headed into Tower Hill to meet Roddy, Carl’s best friend from Whangarei days. The initial plan had been to stay over night with him before heading on down to Swansea to see Jacqui and her family for a few days but as Roddy had finally fully tenanted his flat we found ourselves booked into The Grange Hotel just across the road, as it were,from The Tower of London and The Gherkin building that dominates the Financial district of central London.

St. Olav's Church
I took the opportunity to use the Hotel swimming pool to freshen up before heading off, with Roddy, to check out an Indian Restaurant he’d been recommended. After a pleasant, if over sweet curry meal we headed back, past groups of loud talking drinkers standing outside of their locals slopping pints and yarns in the balmy summer evening.

3rd July.
Aided by generous and helpful fellow travellers who helped Joy up and down the stairs into the Tube stations we headed for Paddington and the train to Swansea.

The trip down through Southern England and through Wales gave us pleasure as the train clattered its way through green fields and villages we had driven through ourselves eleven years before as well as providing a stark contrast to the unrelieved gray of desert we’ve become used to in Qatar.

We arrived in Swansea just after 3.00pm to find the local bus station had disappeared and the global roaming facility Qtel had welcomed us to the UK with didn’t appear to work, with the exception of being able to exchange texts with Roddy. We taxi’ed to Jacqui’s in Killay much to their surprise.

4th July.
My body alarm went off at 4.30 am so headed off for a stroll around the student village for The University of Wales that backs onto Coleridge Close. The heat wave that had been keeping the English on heat exhaustion alert and the water touts in profit making mode selling 500ml bottles of water for $NZ3.00 each, decided to break while I was out doing an early morning stroll.

What began as a light drizzle continued in varying intensity throughout the day as we headed off to revisit the valleys Joy and I had driven through regularly while I was working at Tredegar Comprehensive.

We piled into the van with Jacqui, Andrew and the four girls and headed up the road towards Abergevanny and Tredegar.

Tredegar Main Street
With some difficulty we found the entrance to Park View and the unit we’d rented eleven years ago for our brief sojourn there. Joy attempted to find Mary Williams, a neighbour that she has remained in contact with, but, unfortunately, missed her. The other neighbours who remembered us were still there so we had a couple of pleasant chats to them before heading into the township itself to find lunch.

The Tribe
We then drove down the twisting, narrow highway to Caerphilly and its castle. Once there we clambered over the ruins prying into the different rooms, over the walls at the surrounding township to watch huddles of earnest men fishing for whatever coarse fish live in the lake and moat surrounding the castle.

Tommy Cooper sympathises with the fishermen
The fishermen were obviously not optimistic about catching big fish as their rods were left lying in the grass or resting on wire supports dangerously close to the water’s edge.
From Caerphilly we wound our way back along increasingly familiar roadways to Killay and a late dinner and still no news from the Doha front.

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