In retrospect, it was a silly idea moving overseas ten days after our wedding. One minute Nato and I were saying our vows, the next we were boarding a flight to our new life in London. We didn’t have jobs to go to, we didn’t have friends to stay with and this would be the first time we’d set foot in London. Oh, and did I mention I don’t like the cold?
The moving overseas idea had actually come long before there was any talk of a wedding. A few years earlier we had saved all our money and all our annual leave for a year and endured thirty hour flights from Australia in order to spend three weeks in Malta and Italy. We had a fantastic trip and couldn’t’ wait to get back to see more of Europe.
The trip had left no annual leave or cash for Nato to introduce me to one of his passions, skiing, so our trip the next year was to Queenstown New Zealand. After a rocky start, I found my ski legs and fell for skiing like a beginner off the magic carpet. Now Europe had an additional attraction, easy access to ski fields. Trips to Europe were not going to be enough, so we made the decision to move.
Nato’s job research pointed us towards London, like many Australians before and since. We started the long process of applying for visas and passports and decided to squeeze in another ski trip to Queenstown before we left. It was there on a snowy mountaintop that Nato proposed. The wedding would delay our departure by six months, but would be a great chance for a big party with our friends and family before we left. Wedding preparations swung into action and somehow in the chaos we booked our flights to London for a mere ten days after the wedding. So there we were, exhausted from frantic packing and farewells, tromping down the aerobridge to board our flight to London.
We spent the night in a Narita airport hotel. After laughing at the shaving cream which guaranteed to leave your skin ‘super fresh and healthy’ and mucking around with the kimonos, we ordered room service and watched Japanese TV. I’ve always loved watching ‘Iron Chef’, but didn’t realize that Japanese advertisements were so entertaining – they have a soft drink called ‘Sweat’!
“I wish we had some more time here.” I said to Nato over breakfast miso soup. “I guess it’s only ten hours away.”
“From Australia,” added Nato. “It’s at least thirteen hours from London, and ten hours time difference.”
It suddenly hit me that we lived in London now. We had been planning and preparing for this big move for over a year, but sitting in a hotel in Narita it felt like we were on our honeymoon, not enroute to our new home.
We flew with a Japanese airline to London, they had the cutest animated safety demonstration, which included tips like ‘please don’t turn your headset up too loud/spread your newspaper too wide as it may irritate the adjacent passengers’. The food was delicious and the green tea kept flowing all flight. Finally a green patchwork England appeared below us, dotted with the occasional town. The towns became larger and more frequent, until we were flying low over an urban landscape not dissimilar to the credits of Eastenders. I grinned manically at Nato, my heart beating wildly in my chest, we were overhead London at last.
We made it through Heathrow customs, a breeze compared to Australian customs. Even if you wanted to declare something, you’d be hard pressed to find someone to declare to. Our bags all made it too, so we dragged them onto the express train. I did not know it at the time, but by not taking the underground we missed out on one of the great experiences of arriving in London; giggling at the station called ‘Cockfosters’. Instead we were bound for Paddington Station, where Paddington Bear also started his London adventure. We stepped off the train into a vast station echoing with the noise of a bustling crowd of passengers arriving and departing. We had planned to travel on to our hotel via the underground. Laden with luggage we looked around for directions, then at each other. “Taxi” we said with one voice, and dragged our cases through the melee to the cab rank.
We assumed we could use a credit card to pay for a cab, but a ticked-off cabbie told us otherwise. We waited for a cab that could take a card while Londoners with cash sailed past us and into the black cabs, calling destinations to the drivers that were familiar to me from endless games of rainy Sunday afternoon Monopoly.
Finally a cab was able to take us. The bored driver looked on as we hauled our luggage into the cab and flopped exhausted and grimy onto the seats. It was a far cry from my last trip in a black London cab; being chauffeured with my Dad and bridesmaids to the wedding.
We wove through leafy streets, dodging red double-decker buses. It was still light and Londoners were sitting at outdoor tables at cafes and restaurants, laughing and nursing pints of beer and cider.
We finally arrived at our hotel and lugged our cases up flight after flight of narrow stairs. I upended a suitcase to find toiletries and clean clothes and took a long hot shower to wash away the long haul flight. We grabbed dinner at the nearest restaurant and were surprised to find it was still light when we returned, well after nine pm. Despite the light, with tummies full of soup it was all we could do to keep our eyes open long enough to crawl into bed.