Well I made it. From beginning to end the journey took forty hours including a ferry, a bus, a train, a taxi and that six-hour wait at Hong Kong. I can have no complaints about the Air New Zealand flight out of Auckland. I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me, so I managed to doze a bit and see two very good films (Precious and A Single Man); the 11½ hours went by quickly. Coming into Hong Kong I didn't realise how mountainous it was, even though I'd landed there before. The airport is vast but it seemed the various shops selling designer goods were repeated throughout. You can only stare at banks of Cartier, Gucci and Omega watches for so long, although this time I was able to say, wow, with my poker winnings I can almost afford half this watch! Unlike the Air New Zealand 777, the Lufthansa Jumbo hadn't been brought into the 21st century with seat-back screens, and the flight to Frankfurt did seem to drag. The final flight to Heathrow took barely an hour, then I hopped on the underground. Having been out of the country a while, I always find the tube a bit of an eye-opener. I was greeted by a mob of vocal, alcohol-fuelled Chelsea fans whose team had obviously won the Premier League a few hours earlier. Campione, campione, olé, olé, olé! At the time I had no idea that they'd just thrashed Wigan 8-0. More striking were the women, the likes of which don't exist in New Zealand. How long did it take you to get your hair like that? And how much do those earrings weigh? It was hard not to stare. I wonder what they thought of me, looking washed-out and dishevilled. They must have thought I'd come from the other side of the world or something.
I arrived on my gran's doorstep, in Houghton, at 11:30 on Sunday night. It was great to see her. So far she's managed better than I might have expected. Things aren't easy - she gets confused a lot - but as long as my aunt stays out of the picture I think she'll be OK. On Monday morning I took the bike into St Ives. It was great to see the town again, especially on a Monday which is market day.
I'd planned to leave the country this morning, but realising I might upset my gran if I left so soon, I changed my flight (at a cost of course) and will now be flying to Pisa on Saturday. This lunchtime I got a surprise phone call from my brother. It was a pleasure to talk to him. We even talked politics for the first time I can remember.
We now have a government. Having voted in two MMP elections in New Zealand, I found it mildly amusing that the process of forming a coalition government caused such consternation here. I think a cobbled-together alliance of Labour, the Lib Dems and a bunch of nationalist parties would have been a disaster and I'm glad the Lib Dems went with the Tories in the end. There are clearly some major differences in policy between the two parties, but who knows, it just might work. I hope so.