Saturday 11th December was a day of travelling and a little bit of a shock to my system. I’d been in Dalyan for 79 days when my alarm went off at 7am, I had my last probiotic drink to try to prevent any stomach issues on my journey and the taxi arrived early, while it was still slightly dark, but I was ready! I’d decided only to take hand luggage because I didn’t want the added risk of taking luggage and changing in Istanbul so my rucksack was jammed full and exactly 8kg, probably from the weight of the Turkish delight. When I arrived at Dalaman airport I was early but the Turkish Airlines check-in was open, helpful and they managed to book me through from Dalaman to London, so I could have brought luggage, after all. I requested aisle seats on both flights and got given both boarding cards, my flight from Dalaman to Istanbul would be on time despite the storms and heavy rain, which was good to know. Near the gate I bought water and a simit at an empty cafe, which gave free WiFi (no WiFi is available in the main departure area, only at the cafe’s near the gate).

On the first flight, which was quite busy but not full, we were given a picnic lunch and we were all told not to open them all at the same time due to Corona (everyone did though) and masks being mandatory. I put mine in my bag as I didn’t want to remove my mask on the plane and was trying not to catch Corona for Christmas. I had 3 hours until the next flight in Istanbul airport and it appeared to be quite empty when I landed. Where the gates are, there were hardly any seats so I managed to get my G-Shock watch amended at the place where I bought it, as it hadn’t been accurate since I’d had the battery replaced in Fethiye. There was also a machine to get free WiFi but it only lasted for 1 hour. I found a quiet spot, away from any scheduled flights, to sit and eat my picnic. I noticed that at some gates they were doing random PCR tests and extra security checks which included double checking the vaccine proof documents. At the gate for my Istanbul to London Heathrow flight, the staff asked to check my vaccine certificate and the people behind and in front of me had to have their bags searched. On the half empty plane I sat next to a man from Torquay who had been to Istanbul for hair transplants but after take off we were allowed to move in to the spare seats. This meant I could drink the red wine and beef köfte and rice which they brought for our lunch without someone nearby. I watched a film called The Prestige which seemed ok but we were landing before the end of it and so I may never know what happens.

The flight from Istanbul to London Heathrow was due to land at 4.05pm. I had to get myself on the tube to London St Pancras train station to my pre-booked PCR test near to the Champagne bar. Luckily the flight landed a little bit early and I was on the very busy tube by 4.15pm, still masked up and trying my best not to touch anything. The queues at Collinson test centre were long despite everyone in the queue having an appointment and it being a bit chaotic. The staff were nice, most of the customers queued patiently with masks on but there were a few cantankerous old so-and-sos who weren’t behaving themselves and putting pressure on the staff to try to jump the queue. I had to wait longer than expected but, as the staff explained, the sudden changes in rules had lead to lots of demand and they were doing their best to cope. They were doing a fantastic job and I managed to get done before I had to get my train to Sheffield at 6.30pm, which I got sat on by 6.25pm so I was very lucky to have made it. The train was busy, hadn’t been cleaned and only a handful of people were wearing masks despite the constant announcement that it was mandatory. I’d unfortunately picked a busy time to be travelling, the Champagne bar at St Pancras had been heaving as I passed, the Leeds V Chelsea football match was on and there were numerous piss heads on a pre-Christmas celebration or work do. A nice Spanish family sat opposite me on the train and got a bit of a shock when Santa (aka shit-faced Alan) boarded the train at Derby with his inebriated elf mates. The profanities let me know he wasn’t the real Santa straight away and at first it was amusing that the children near me hadn’t sussed it. When Santa and his helpers burped, farted, sang and swore their way to a joke about Jimmy Saville I signalled to the mom that she might want to move her kids away – they got off at Chesterfield!
There was WiFi on the train so I managed to let my parents and sister know I had made it and would be in Sheffield by 9.45pm and would get a taxi to Mosborough, where I would have to continue to isolate until my PCR test result came back negative.

When I alighted the train at Sheffield I wasn’t quite ready for it, I felt like I had gone back a few years and landed in to the middle of a debauched Christmas do, not unlike the ones I used to frequent. I didn’t see many sober people, nor anyone with masks (but I found out later you don’t have to wear them in a taxi queue) and a great deal of people were absolutely hammered!
I decided to use the cash machine to draw out some extra Christmas cash but my card wouldn’t work, I was desperate for a wee, drink and a snack but decided Sheffield station would not be the best place for any of those and it would be better just to get to my parents house.
The taxi cost just £12.50, I kept my mask on but the driver didn’t wear one and was on the phone the whole journey. When I arrived at my parents I was so desperate for the loo that I bypassed both of them and went to the bathroom, where I also took all of my hat, scarf, gloves, coat and mask off beforehand. After a good wash and putting my outer garments in a plastic bag for washing I gave Ma & Pa a big hug. I’d been feeling so tired on the train but now at 10.30pm (1.30am Turkish time) I had a glass of water and some crisps, while Dad opened a bottle of fizz! It wouldn’t be a proper family celebration if we didn’t give the ball a right old kick and so we managed to stay up until 2.30am (5.30am Turkish time) meaning I had done 22.5 hours from leaving my Dalyan bed to getting in my Mosborough one! We were so glad to see each other again and none of us cared that we were up drinking so late, it’s not like we had anything much to do tomorrow, with me isolating!

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