Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
2015 so far has been all about travel, self discovery and of course a lot of doctors and hospitals. Since the beginning of the year we had been looking forward to our two main holidays for the year, going back home to the UK and then Sri Lanka in August.
Wednesday June 24th
The eagerly awaited date had arrived! We were all packed and ready to go, we had a driver booked to pick us up at 22:00 hrs for the 45 minute drive to the airport. Our flights were not due until 01:00 hrs, but traffic in Doha is very unpredictable, especially during Ramadan. We boarded our first flight and we were soon up in the air, heading to Frankfurt. I must admit I prefer daytime flights as I find it too uncomfortable to sleep. Katja on the other hand slept most of the way! After a relatively short wait we were on our way from Frankfurt to Manchester. We landed in Manchester in typical Manchester weather, say no more. I must admit that having been in numerous airports throughout the world, Manchester airport looked old and tired and in desperate need of modernising to bring it up to the 21st century if not on par with other airports!
As we had booked a small car we asked Cathy’s dad to meet us in Manchester to pick up our luggage as there was no way it would all fit in a small car. He met us arrivals, loaded our suitcases and off he went. In the mean time, we boarded the bus to the car hire village in Manchester airport (amazing that you still have to do this in an international airport, all other places have car hire desks in the terminal or at the very worst case, they meet you there with the car, but as it was cheap, we couldn’t really moan too much). After a 10 minute ride, we arrived at the car hire village. The company we were hiring through (a well known international brand) was packed and out of 8 desks only 4 were open. After around 30 minutes waiting and watching staff wandering about with cups of tea and food, I asked to speak with a manager as this kind of service is unacceptable. We had been traveling overnight and had a tired 4 year old wanting to go back to Qatar! I was told by the manager that it had been a busy day and her staff needed a break…… Eventually, after nearly an hour waiting, it was our turn. I handed in our booking sheet along with my UK driver’s license. After several minutes deliberating (and probably playing games on his computer), the arrogant person behind the desk told me that as they couldn’t find a footprint of me in the UK, unless I proved my address I couldn’t hire a car (even though it was prepaid!). Unfortunately, our bank statements which were in the suitcase had already arrived in Oswestry! Even with this as a proof, the car hire company said it may not be enough. We then found out we could hire the car under our Qatari driver’s licenses. 10 minutes later and after paying 1000 quid deposit we were on our way! This made no sense at all to me. Instead of accepting my UK license with a printed UK address, they accepted my Qatari license and my address in Qatar scribbled on a piece of paper.
CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
― Lao Tzu
In the past 11 years we have spent very little time back home, this time round, we were spending 5 weeks in the UK which meant we could catch up with all our friends.
Having arrived on Thursday morning, this gave us the day to sort ourselves out and unpack. Cathy’s brothers were very kind in letting us stay with them and use their house as our base during our time in the UK. Friday morning I headed off back to Manchester to pick up my mother who was visiting Oswestry for the first time in many years. For the next 10 days it was a mixture of catching up with people and catching up with my mother. We had lovely days out including the Orthopaedic Hospital Summer Fete which Katja enjoyed very much as she got to sit in an ambulance, police car, fire engine and helicopter! We also did Park Hall Farm as well as a quick trip to one of my favourite islands, Anglesey.
During the first week I also took a run down to Poole to attend a meeting and meet up with several people.
When we lived in Cheltenham during the early 90’s we had some very good friends who we had lost touch with. I had always kept their number on my phone but we hadn’t been in touch since around 1997! Anyway, we decided to ring them and fortunately they still had the same number. They invited us to go and stay with them for the weekend.
Traveling the UK
Within our holiday, we also had a holiday booked in Wales. We headed off to Cardigan Bay, an area I hadn’t been to in a very long time. We had a lovely apartment with private garden and awesome views of the bay. We had a lovely week with fabulous weather. We spent many hours playing on the beach building sand castles and just messing about and chilling out. After this lovely relaxing time we headed off to Cheltenham to meet up with our friends. We had an awesome time with them. It’s amazing how some people, even though you haven’t seen them in many years, you can carry on from where you left last time you saw them. They have 4 kids so Katja had a fabulous time too She even had a sleep over in their house as we got to enjoy the annex above their garage!
After a lovely weekend catching up it was time to head back to Oswestry….
CLICK HERE FOR PART THREE
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway
UK, Final 9 days
As we headed back home from a wonderful holiday in Wales and a lovely weekend in Cheltenham Cathy started complaining her eyes weren’t focusing. Something which we put down to a fairly hectic schedule since we arrived and to being tired. By the time we arrived this had got worse and was seeing double. By the next morning this was still the case so we sought medical advice. She was referred to Shrewsbury Hospital straight to the acute ophthalmology department. There they discovered that the 6th nerve in her left eye had stopped working. They did several tests but not found anything. She was told that it wouldn’t be advisable to travel back to Qatar until she had had an MRI scan to determine exactly why this was happening. To speed things up we decided to go private. Within 48 hours Cathy was laying in an MRI scanner in what is probably the most expensive trailer in the UK. Time was running out as we were due to fly back to Qatar in less than a week and without the results we wouldn’t be able to fly. Eventually after considerable pressure on staff, we had her MRI results on the Monday (we were leaving on Wednesday). All results were clear, her Dr was happy for her to fly back to Qatar, the MRI scan discarded one of the strongest and most common reasons for this which is a mini stroke as well as a number of other more serious possibilities. She was given a pair of glasses with a prism on one side which help her eye to aim in the direction it should be pointing, this has helped a bit and means that she has been able to drive. There has been a little bit of improvement since all this started but certainly nowhere near back to normal. We are now back in Qatar and having more tests done to determine what has caused this as well as to how to either fix it, treat it or deal with it! We have cancelled our holiday to Sri Lanka to get things sorted here.
Good bit of news is that due to the fantastic health care here we seem to have moved forward. Cathy saw a Dr yesterday and of course was referred to an ophthalmologist for today. She had more tests including having her eyes anaesthetised and a camera placed against the eye ball. She had lots of internal photos taken showing that the 6th nerve is in fact swollen. Her test results show an improvement on the ones she had last week. Even though they don’t know exactly what has caused all this, they think it’s a virus which will clear up in time. We have been cleared to travel so we will go on a road trip across Saudi Arabia, into Abu Dhabi followed by Dubai and ending up in Muscat, Oman. We will spend a few days there where we will celebrate Katja’s birthday.
We had a lovely time in the UK, it was brilliant seeing people and catching up with long lost friends. It is a shame it ended the way it did but such is life!