And the 2016 Isle of Man TT Race Adventure begins-
As I sit quietly in the kitchen of a quaint English Cottage, (The Hobbit House) on this day the 31st of May 2016, 12:34pm, the sun streaming through the windows, birds chirping in the distance, muffled voices speaking on the telephone organising the resurrection of the Yellow Thunder, I think back over the past 24 hours re-tracing our journey in my mind-
How on earth did we get here?
My part of the journey began Sunday 29th May 2016, with an 8:30am train ride from Geelong to Southern Cross Station. As I disembark from the train, walk towards the Skybus terminal, I find that I can now purchase my ticket from an automated ticket machine outside a new office. Gone is the personal service, with sprightly Customer Service Representatives who greet you with a smile regardless of the time day or night. Being tilted off-kilter, just a tad, I continue towards the bus, new return ticket in hand, people milling around, chattering, hugging and tears flowing as new journeys are being undertaken.
The bus took a tad different route, traffic beginning to congest the roads already.
My heart was starting to quicken with the prospect of my new husband waiting at the end of the line in Brunei to collect me from the airport, flowers in hand, face beaming and shining with love.
When I entered the International Departures area, walking to the back of the checking-in area, my heart starts to sink as I see the queue of expectant travellers waiting to check-in, the line snaking towards the door.
This was going to be a slow process.
After an hour wait, not daring to head to the ‘ladies lounge’ in case I lost my place in line, I finally stood before the Check-in lady for Royal Brunei. Visions of my first encounter at this desk two months earlier, flooded back. I had stood before the lady, excitement of a new bride shining from my face. Nervous tension building within as a new chapter was going to begin, in a new land. The blinding glare of a beautiful new set of bridal/wedding rings dazzling me each time I gaze at my finger. However there was not any documentation to verify this monumental moment where I became a Mrs instead of a Ms, so I was still referred to as a Ms with a different surname to my husband.
Checked-in, under weight (only by 1 kilo-but under-weight nonetheless), I head into the Immigration area.
Again orders are barked out by angry Customs People who have to yet again repeat the statement “No liquid over 100 mils- and Yes that includes bottles of water you have purchased. Either drink it or throw it”, “Do you not understand Sir, water must be thrown away. I do not care that you have just purchased it”.
Made it through, with a ‘pat-down’ as again I have buzzed as I walk through. I get through to the Immigration area where I am confronted with another alteration where I can enter my passport into a machine and be checked through without any personal interaction.
Through I go, heading to the gate so I can chat to my husband before I embark on the final leg and remind him once again to not forget me or be late.
Boarding the plane on time, nervous energy coursing through my veins knowing my husband will be waiting for me in 7 hours, I take my seat, settle in and watch a movie.
After a rather uneventful flight- which is a wonderful thing, I disembark from the plane. Not long now and I will be in my husbands arms, showered with kisses, the scent of freshly picked flowers assaulting my nostrils, words of longing and promises whispered into my ear.
I gathered my suitcase and headed for the exit.
“Madam this way please”.
A stern looking Customs Official motions for me to place my case on the x-ray machine. It was then I noticed yellow dots on my case. Damn, I should have discreetly removed the dots. Yet again another delay set in place to delay my reunion with my husband. Breathe and relax, don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself that may be misconstrued as criminal behaviour.
Finally I walk through the exit gates, into the reception hall, silently screaming out my husbands name- making him see me and come rushing towards me, flowers thrust into my face, taking me in his arms pleading with me not to leave his side again.
Alas, this fantasy was not to be.
The reality is- he was late.
I was standing with fading excitement, being assaulted by 35 degree heat and a mixture of odours emanating from others, whilst I was wearing jeans, a shirt, boots and socks, carrying a backpack with a leather jacket and gear for the Isle of Man, others being engulfed in loved-ones embraces, me standing forlornly to the side. Pitying glances as women and men look at me knowing there is not anyone there to welcome me.
After what felt like an eternity, the reality of 10 minutes, wait, in strolls my husband, empty handed, a quick peck on the cheek and a stern look in his eye “You are early”.
Fast-forward 24 hours to the minute and we are back at the same airport, different level, different bags packed, different belongings and some small gifts for others waiting for us to join them at the end of yet another journey.
Within said 24 hours, I have unpacked a suitcase, done two loads of washing, both his and mine, started to sort out what items I can remember taking on the last adventure to the Isle of Man, placing said items on the bed, getting bags, suitcases, electrical items and nicknacks to place in the cases.
I silently wandered around choosing tops, his and mine, jeans, only two to choose from for me whereas he has …. pairs, toilettries, charging my Ebook, finding wall plugs that adapt to English electrical outputs, answering messages on Facebook by concerned friends who were unaware I had left Australia, familiarizing myself with my little home in Brunei and noticing a distinct lack of ‘house-wifey chores’ which had been neglected by a very overworked husband.
To give him credit, he had been working 14-16 hour long days, chatting with me for up to an hour each night, eating tea most nights around 9pm and then logging back on to work to chase material which had not been completed during daylight hours. The apartment was in a considerably neat state, but not a ‘Sally neat’ state. But all was forgiven as the growing excitement of the upcoming adventure was starting to take form.
Finally falling into bed at 3am, knowing the alarm would sound at 6am, I snuggled next to my husband, sweat forming an imprint on the sheet of my body as I acclimatized to the sweltering mugginess and heat of Brunei.
Off to work my husband trotted, cases still unpacked, whatever I had chosen for him to wear has been changed, added to and with big blue eyes and a child-like innocence he has informed me that if I have time could I do …… and do ……. and maybe ………
I locked the front door after his retreating form.
Breathed out a huge sigh of relief and looked forward to a day of peace and quiet whilst I quietly pottered around the apartment, cleaning three weeks of mould, washing towels, changing bedsheets, folding washing and if I have time do three weeks worth of male ironing.
The hours flew by, my husband promising to be home no later than 3pm as the taxi will be arriving at 3:30pm to take us back to the airport.
After numerous text messages from him making sure:
1. I have packed everything,
2. Our bags are under-weight,
3. I have put the rubbish out
4. I have cleaned out three weeks worth of rotting vegetables
5. I have rested
I was finally able to sit on the couch with a pod-coffee and log into Facebook, proudly knowing I had completed said tasks, ok maybe not all of the tasks. The ironing was not done.
My nerves were starting to ping as I realised it was 20 minutes past 3 and I was still minus one husband.
I did not ring him, I did not harass him as I knew he had a mammoth-load of work to complete before he could leave his office with a clear conscious. I nervously sat on the couch, luggage lined up at the door, all of us waiting to hear the ping of the elevator announcing someone’s arrival to our floor.
At 3:28pm my husband flew through the door, grabbed the hand-held scales and proceeded to inform me we were .5kilos over weight with one of the cases. I grabbed his thick jacket from the case and scrunched it up into my backpack.
Little did I know I should have grabbed a complete change of clothes for both of us. Looking back in hindsight, a more in tuned woman would have been prepared. I did do Brownies for a year in my youth, but being prepared as Scouts are, was not part of the curriculum- however I can sing and dance and sway like a tree as learnt from said sessions in that year.
So we descended in the lift, loaded up our gear, snuck a quick kiss on the lips as the doors opened and we began our new adventure.
The taxi driver informed us that we had to be past a certain part on the highway by a certain time as ‘tomorrow is a public holiday and the roads will be congested with people heading back to their villages, family and friends’.
Oh no, oh my, oh hell- this is not going to be good.
We were actually running with 30 minutes spare up our sleeve, but there can be more often than not a hiccup in our plans. Little did we know there would be a coughing-fit headed our way.
Checked-in, our luggage has been checked through to Manchester (leaving Brunei, landing in Kuala Lumpur and being transferred to another airline, landing in Amsterdam and being transferred to yet another plane and finally landing in Manchester, England). I was comfortable with this concept, however Husband was not. He mentioned it a couple of times whilst sitting in the departure lounge in Brunei. This was going to be a long flight if he fixated on this detail. So I started talking about the trip and likely poses he/we could do to post on Facebook to let people know we were on an adventure. This then created a monster with various scenarios and poses created to amuse the masses.
Boarding the plane to Kuala Lumpur on Royal Brunei Airline and an afternoon snack was given.
This filled a little hole which was fine.
Landed in Kuala Lumpur, walked to the gate, photographs and videos done and posted.
Boarded the KLM plane bound for Amsterdam. Hostesses in Delft Blue, pictures of windmills and everything Dutch strategically positioned to catch your eye.
Bottoms on seats, ear phones in and movies chosen to entertain me for the next 14 hours.
As the Captain made his announcement, he informed us that there are actually 3 Pilots for this flight as it is a long flight. If we see a pilot wandering through the plane, not to become distressed as there is bound to be someone still flying the plane. A nervous giggle escaped through some lips, nervous eyes darted around seeking assurance from other passengers panicking, where as I settled in for an entertaining flight- bringing us closer to our wonderful friends and the magic of the TT.
We took off- in the back of my mind I was hoping our luggage was nestled safely underneath, following us silently on the adventure.
My husband wiggled his bottom on the seat, settled back and started to watch a movie. I followed suit, ready for a light-hearted giggle and soon lullaby land.
Unbeknown to us, there have been wild storms raging across Europe with reported deaths and untold damage. And we were flying straight into it.
The turbulence was incredible, with massive jolts and dips causing your stomach contents to enter your mouth. Hands clutched onto arm rests, permeant imprints marking where panicked passengers sat. Fingernails forever embedded into the leather head rests as once again we dipped or rose to incredible lows and highs.
This was not a flight for the faint hearted.
Fourteen hours of being tossed through the air like a cork on a raging sea saw us land in Amsterdam. A little worse for wear- though secretly grateful to my parents who were known to rock, dip, squeeze and often shake to sleep a rather unsettled demanding infant, I had found the turbulence rather soothing.
As we wandered through the ‘fast track’ area of Schipol- which I do believe was twice around the perimeter of the entire airport, we found Gate 25. My husband again thought of another pose and video, so after and numerous pictures taken, one posted, video uploaded- I went and lined up, found my seat and settled in for the flight to Manchester. All the while waiting to hear my husbands name over the loud speaker asking him to join the rest of the passengers for the flight.
We are welcomed on board, again secretly hoping our luggage has followed us like obedient children follow parents through the supermarket. The Chief Airhostess informed us that although the plane was not full to capacity, could we all sit in our assigned seats to ensure the plane is balanced.
The Pilot introduced himself and informed us we were running a tad behind schedule as 3 passengers had not joined the flight yet their luggage had been loaded on. So the baggage-handlers were sorting through the luggage, unloading and re-loading and we should be under way very soon. Now this factor did not alarm me nor worry me. But it did stick in my mind for future release.
This flight was smooth and I actually fell asleep through take-off, woke as a snack was being served then dozed off again.
Again I was secretly hoping the baggage-handlers had remembered to load our luggage back into the plane and had not left it on the tarmac like a discarded toy which has been outgrown by a child.
We landed and wandered through the newly refurbished Manchester Airport, more poses done, to the Immigration area.
Here I was faced by a very gruff and grumpy man who asked my purpose in England.
I told him I was going to he Isle of Man.
“Oh yes and what for?” Not asked in an interested fashion.
“Umm to go to the TT Races” I nervously replied.
All the while I could hear my Husband chatting animatedly with his Custom Official who smiled sweetly at him and blushed as he answered all of her questions.
Anyway, we wandered down to the carousel to gather our beloved baggage.
Not one hint of movement from the carousel. There was nothing to say it was going to start to circulate, nothing to ease our minds to deliver our luggage to us.
After 30 minutes of waiting, the board informing us that we had landed- duh, a couple of apologetic messages sent to The Organiser who was waiting on the other side of the gates for us, we were informed by a rather disgruntled matured lady that due to the storms (the first we had actually heard about them) there were no flights out of Amsterdam as of yesterday at 3pm.
She and her 84 year old Diabetic husband had had to sleep at the airport without any compensation by the airline. They were given a blanket ech by a staff member at the airport.
Not even a cup of tea was offered- and we ALL know how much the Brits need a cuppa to settle their nerves.
She was beside herself as a taxi had been ordered to take them home which is over an hour from the airport. Their first-class cruise and holiday becoming a dim memory as she became more worried and distressed about the final flight she had endured.
She then informed us that the baggage-holders were having trouble opening the hull of the plane to retrieve the luggage.
Now this started to send warning bells off in my head, here was the huge coughing-fit I mentioned earlier in this saga, however, ever the optomist, with a little ray of ‘maybe’ our luggage had jumped planes and ended up on another flight and was to be delivered to us on another carosul regardless, I quietly waited diligently by carosul, longingly anticipating the appearence of our luggage.
But alas, fantasy could not override reality and no one was getting their luggage.
This meant that with an outside hope our luggage had actually been put on the plane and not left in the Brunei departure area millions of years earlier.
After paperwork was filled out, frantic calls were made to The Organiser to make sure we had his correct address- as The Hobbit House is not really an identifiable address. We wandered into the waiting arms of The Organiser- reeking of nearly 24 hours of non-stop same clothing wear, worry that all of our toilettries and camera gear and bike gear would never be returned to us again we were loaded into his waiting chariot and whisked to the nearest Tesco to buy limited supplies.
And YES- Husband has been out to the shed, caressed lovingly The Yellow Thunder, started her up and grinned like an in-love fool (not that I would ever see that look aimed at me) whispering soothing words to her and making promises of two weeks of undivided attention as we get ready to head to the Isle of Man once again.
Oh by the way- husband has already logged on for work and is fixing a crisis that has reared its ugly head.
Oh by the way way- an SMS was received at 4:15pm informing us that our luggage will be delivered between 5:15-7:15pm tonight.