Tuesday 28th December didn’t quite go according to plan; Mom was still waiting on her results from yesterday’s PCR test but Dad and I decided to do a lateral flow test. As we waited Ma started cooking us all a breakfast and I started to worry if I was positive I wouldn’t be able to go back to Turkey. I was meant to be leaving in a few hours and, although Turkey had no requirement for me to have a PCR test to enter the country, I couldn’t really risk being put in quarantine on arrival if I still went. To pass some time I scrolled through Facebook and saw that in Vietnam now the authorities were carrying out door to door checks to find people who had yet to be vaccinated and giving out jabs – imagine that in the western world with anti-vaxers!
The 15 minute timers went off; Dad and I were both negative and we were so pleased.
I decided to leave in the next hour, I checked the bus, tram and train times and found that, due to Corona, there were some train cancellations and Dad was insistent I needed to leave ASAP. At the time Mom and I thought he was being a bit pushy at me going but it would turn out that Dad was absolutely right, if I’d not left when I did I wouldn’t have got there! I said my goodbyes to Dad and Mom drove me to the tram stop with a big, heavy case and a smaller hand luggage case. I almost went back home as I started to have a bit of a dodgy tum coming on, but I took an imodium, said goodbye and got on the tram to the train station. As I paid the unmasked conductor who was wearing a lanyard with sunflowers on (which means she has a hidden disability) I wondered if I was doing the right thing by leaving and I had tears in my eyes that rolled down my cheeks as we left Halfway.
When I got off the tram at Sheffield train station I was desperate for the toilet, couldn’t carry both cases at once and the lift to go to the platform level was on a go slow. After a cumbersome pulling and pushing of luggage in a public toilet I had to retrace my steps to go back to the footbridge level and over to the ticket office. A number of trains were delayed or cancelled, the station was busy with post Christmas travellers but about 60% had masks on now – a massive change since my experience 17 days ago. I was reluctant to use the machines in case I booked a train which wasn’t going and when I spoke to the very helpful woman at the ticket desk it was a good job I chose that. I had 10 minutes to get the ticket and get to the platform as the train for Manchester Piccadilly was on it’s way, she mentioned to check when I arrived but the trains from Manchester to the airport were getting cancelled. It cost me just under £30 because I’d not been able to book in advance and off I went. The train (delayed by a welcome 5 minutes) was busy but not packed and, as I got on I heard that the Sheffield to London train which had a lot of people waiting for it, was cancelled – I was lucky I wasn’t going back to Heathrow!
On the train there was free WiFi so I checked the connecting airport train times and found that I had 3 minutes to change trains if this one got in on time.
As everyone got off the train on the furthest platform from where I needed to be, I had to push my way in the opposite direction against all the other passengers in search of the lift. I got up to the footbridge and hurried along to the lift to take me down to Platform 13 where the train was already in and about to go. The lift was out of order and I was going to have to carry both cases down the stairs if I was to be able to get a train in the next 2 hours! I grabbed the handles of one case as a young man came running to get the same train and it all happened rather quickly; he picked up my big suitcase with me and we ran down the stairs together, shouting to the guard to hold the train doors! We made it and I was so thankful as the train was empty, it was the last one to the airport for a while and I would probably have missed it, or hurt myself! I was so grateful that the guy was helpful and could see I was struggling and I almost cried!
I logged on to the free internet and let my Mom know I had made it, unfortunately during my journey Mom’s confirmation that she had tested positive for Corona and that her operation was cancelled had come through, she had completed the track and trace details for the family and let them know. We were all so disappointed for her but I just hoped she wouldn’t be ill with it, Gayle and the family were all fine!
I was about to get off the train so I quickly responded to the friend I would be meeting when I arrived at Manchester airport to let him know that I would be at the Radisson Blu hotel soon and would come straight to his room.
I’d arrived at Manchester airport train station at just after 3.30pm and there were very few people on the train or in the area. I seemed to be more proficient with the luggage as I walked towards Terminal 2 and to the hotel. My friend, Jamie, had booked us in to the Radisson Blu hotel for a night and he was waiting in room 922 so I went straight up, still in my mask and winter coat. We had a lovely room with a king size bed and already he had his trolley with 3 suitcases on, plus hand luggage – his story was that he was not giving up his trolley which he had put a pound in as he would need it tomorrow and he had a Christmas tree and half his husband’s ashes in the luggage so it had to stay in the room! I was about to get my 2 remaining cherry bakewells out when Jamie said to get ready as we were off to the club lounge. For an extra £18 we were able to book in until 9pm for free drinks and nibbles and I didn’t need telling twice! We went masked up but there were no staff, just help yourself so I had a beer, Jamie had a white wine and soda and we sat in a quiet corner. I told him about the family’s Corona situation and that I’d tested negative. He had been vaccinated and had already had the virus in November so he wasn’t unduly worried but I decided I would tell the other 2 friends we were travelling with in case they were worried. The nibbles were not too plentiful and so at 6.30pm we gave up our free bar, which we had easily got our money’s worth from, to go to meet Nanny Kay for dinner. On the way to meet her in the reception of the Clayton hotel Jamie managed to get us lost and we had to do an assault course style journey to get there, he also managed to drop 3 bank cards in the wet mud on the way but we luckily noticed! The restaurant was empty but they wouldn’t let us go in because we hadn’t booked so we booked for in 15 minutes time and found a quiet corner in the bar to sit at. While Jamie went to get a bottle of wine for us to share I was about to let Nanny Kay know I was worried I may be carrying Corona and that my Mom was positive when she started to tell me how she had been ill recently with a virus. So that was a bonus and we went in to dinner with our wine and had some lovely food. I had the soup and a beef dish which was massive and very tasty but I had to take half back to the room. We left at a reasonable time and arranged to meet at the terminal at 6am tomorrow so we could check in, another friend and her 2 kids would also be joining us.
When we got back to our hotel Jamie and I had another drink in the hotel bar and then I realised I still needed to complete the Turkish PLF and check-in online so we decided we had better go back to the room to do that. Jamie had more wine and I had trouble with the checking-in online so went to go to reception for them to print it for me. On the way I got an error message and sat down on a chair to resubmit my passport details before continuing to get my print out. Back in the room I put my printouts on top of my hand luggage and we both set alarms as well as having a wake up call as we didn’t want to overlay or for anything to go wrong!

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