Two years after we left the UK to head home for Qatar we are once again, finally, back in Englands green and pleasant lands. Albeit one person down (and we are all missing him dreadfully, the countdown is on to be reunited).
The last time we were able to travel freely, and visit family and friends, was back in the summer of 2019. At the end of that summer, as always, goodbyes were said and plans made for the following summer.
And then COVID struck.
2020 was spent in a whirl of terrifying news, hospitals being overwhelmed and travel all round being restricted. We went into lockdown into Qatar and were faced with the knowledge that if we left Qatar to travel to the UK as we normally did, we may not be able to return. As such we knew my husband, as the breadwinner and the one with the job, couldn’t leave. To leave Qatar meant a risk to his job. And I was not prepared to gamble being separated without knowing when we could all be together again.
So we stayed.
Through the lockdown, the long hot summer and made it through to the other side.
And lockdown was hard. Blended learning with the children attending school only half the week was HARD. Having children with me constantly was hard.
But we made it.
And we even made a crazy lockdown purchase of a house in England during our lockdown fatigue. So when people ask, what’s the craziest thing you did in lockdown, we can answer “bought a house over zoom”.
Fast forward to 2021 and these days you can travel in and out of Qatar, provided you are a resident (or citizen), and an exceptional entry permit is issued on your exit for your return. So we planned to return home for the summer. To actually see the house that we have bought!
Then the red list came into play
And with it, the knowledge that Qatar was on the list. The knowledge that should we return directly to England we must spend ten days in a quarantine hotel. Something I was not prepared to do with three boys.
We deliberated for ages.
What should we do, where could we go, should we leave it for another summer. With Qatar schools closed and the country locked down to those unvaccinated (i.e. the children) there wasn’t much for three energetic little boys to do.
Eventually we came to the conclusion that we should travel over the Eid public holidays to a third country, so we could spend some time together as a family, before my husband headed home to Qatar and I came on to the UK to spend the summer months.
And so in a flurry and a rush, we booked flights on the Friday and headed off the following Thursday to Cyprus. Which had an added bonus of being able to spend time with my father-in-law who we also hadn’t seen since the baby was born.
Then it came time for my husband to return to Doha, tearfully waving him goodbye knowing it was going to be seven weeks before we were together again.
The next day we flew to Stansted, negative PCRs, passenger locator forms, COVID day 2 and 8 tests booked. It may have been a sad flight as I contemplating on what we were doing, actively deciding to be apart for seven long weeks, but on arrival into London I was amazed at how quickly I was through the airport. And anyone with small kids knows how difficult that is – within 30 minutes of landing I was in a taxi speeding up the M1 to my mums to quarantine.
Quarantine and new houses
Which brings us to where we are now, after ten days quarantining at my mums house, the hysteria over COVID tests being administered, and those all important negative results coming through we are now in our new house.
Our summer house.
Where we are patiently, or not so patiently, waiting for my husband to be able to begin his holiday over here with us. While I understand the need to have closed borders, and the worry over transit hubs, it does grate on me that countries that have high vaccination rates and lower COVID percentages are still sat on the red list. With no sign of them being able to be declassified down to amber. The majority of the Middle East sits on this list. Alongside a multitude of expats longing to be able to get home for the summer. To see family and friends. People are not getting younger an although many may say it’s the life you choose being an expat many of us never expected to be limited to travel in this way. Indeed the Middle East is often chosen as an expat destination due to it’s ease of travel back and forth to the UK.
So we sit, and we wait.
And I stay hopeful that maybe, just maybe, the list will be reviewed before he is due to begin his journey – to give us ten extra days together, otherwise it’s countdown still on until he can finally come and enjoy the classic British weather, of sunshine and rain and not knowing whether you’re coming or going.
The countdown is on.