Well now, I guess the time has finally come to put the record straight about our return to the UK - and the incredible speed with which we ping ponged. I think enough time has passed to let us put it into some kind of perspective and I'll try to keep it upbeat but if truth be told, this has been the most awful bloody year in a very long time.
OK. So after finally selling our house we spent a final weekend in the city at the end of July to say goodbye to all our wonderful friends. There was a very, very drunken night out at the Belgian Beer Cafe and then we flew back to the UK via Sydney and Kuala Lumpur. (Loved Sydney by the way, gorgeous place...) We landed at Heathrow at about 4.30pm on a wet, cold Wednesday evening. Heathrow was disgustingly dirty and we found it incredible that it took us longer to go through immigration on our British passports than all the other people going through on non-British passports. We were met by Richie's sister who was delighted to see us again but I have to admit I think she was taken aback by our lack of enthusiasm on returning. I should explain I think, that although we were returning to the UK voluntarily, it had dawned on us before we even left that we were probably doing the wrong thing, especially as far as the children were concerned. Yes, we found it a struggle financially and yes, we desperately missed our families, but saying goodbye to our friends and our life here in Adelaide had been unbelievably hard. The children were brilliant about it all, but then kids are just so flexible at their age (6 and 4) Anyway, the next few days passed in a bit of a blur. We were re-united with our families and the grandma's were ecstatic at seeing the children again.
For Richie and I though it was a nightmare. We'd originally had such high hopes about our return to the UK. We had guaranteed jobs, our old house back and everything had seemed "right" to go back. However, almost immediately it began to unravel. We couldn't get both children into the school we had chosen and eventually had to put them into the only one that could take both of them. I won't go into too much detail here, I find it very painful as our daughter had such a terrible couple of weeks there. Try to imagine standing outside the school gates and watching your 6 year old daughter wandering from one group of children to another, trying to find someone to play with and being rejected by every single group. I had to watch that and believe me I sobbed all the way home. I'm actually crying now just remembering it. We'd taken her from a school which she loved and all her friends and put her into a school where all friendships and groups were already formed and she couldn't break her way in.
It all went wrong on the house front as well as we were unable to move into our house for nearly three weeks as the tenant simply refused to leave. When he finally left we found the house in such bad repair that we were unable to use the main bedroom so the children had to share one room whilst we slept in the other. It took three weeks of hard graft on Richie's part to get the house back into a liveable condition but by then we already knew that we wanted to come back to Adeleaide.
During our short stay in the UK we witnessed teenage gang fights in the street and teenage shoplifters resisting security guards in Tesco. Our children saw more violence in 8 weeks than they've seen in their whole lives.
We must have changed our minds about what to do a thousand times over our first 5 weeks in the UK. We knew that if we followed our hearts and returned to Adelaide we would absolutely devastate our families. But in the end, it was the only decision that we could make. Telling my mum we were going again was so, so horrible. But bless her, she said she could see how unhappy we all were and she didn't blame us in the slightest for changing our minds. I feel quite ashamed that we put our children and parents through so much grief, we'd gone back to make everyone happy and we'd ended up making things a million times worse.
Anyway, long story short (ish). We turned the furniture around at the docks, booked the poor bloody dog into quarantine in Sydney and booked our own flights back. Once we'd made the decision we started to relax and became "tourists". We went to Stratford upon Avon, Drayton Manor Park, Tamworth Snowdome and had a fabulous time. The children loved it all as well, probably because we were more relaxed. Eventually, we said all our goodbyes again and flew back to Adelaide in early October, to be greeted at the airport by some of our lovely friends waving a big banner and pelting us with ping pong balls as we walked up the ramp! The first few weeks back were crazy, house hunting every weekend as well as getting ready for school and work. Hattie went straight back to her old class at school, I returned to my old job with Westpac and Richie started a new job within a couple of days of returning. We bought another house which we moved into at the end of November and we're gradually starting to settle down again.
It's been a painful and expensive exercise but I think it's something we simply had to do. We could have gone back on holiday but I don't think it would have been the same. We had to go back to exorcise a few ghosts I guess, it's made us appreciate what we have here all the more.
I re-read my original post and all the wonderful replies before typing this and I wanted to say how grateful we are for all the kind words that came from PIA members. I hope some of you find this post informative and maybe if some of you are "wobbling", it will give you some food for thought.
Let me please just say this again though, I'm not bashing the UK here. I'm simply saying we didn't feel that we could live there anymore. We will definitely go back again for a holiday - but not for at least another three years and we're definitely not taking Trev!
Thanks for listening again.