So that’s it. I’ve finally left Australia behind.
After months of deliberating and weeks of organising, the time finally came for me to lock up the house (or, to be more accurate, the soulless furnished apartment that had been my home for the previous 6 weeks), take a cab to the airport one last time and produce my one way ticket at the counter with a flourish.
Unfortunately, this momentous occasion was not accompanied by the fanfare of trumpets it perhaps merited, accompanied by smiling air staff shaking my hand firmly and wishing me bon voyage.
No, instead as I stumbled half asleep to the Emirates counter at 3.30am (“The early flight is great”, some joker told me a few weeks before), I was greeted by a stern-faced check-in person, Arabian in costume, Ocker in accent.
She kindly informed me my suitcase was 4kg overweight and I would have to shift some items into my hand luggage, or leave them behind and collect them when I return (!).
Sadly, my hand luggage was already bursting at the seams as I had attempted to stuff in every last remaining Australian possession that I had not already sold, given away or chucked out.
I therefore had to suffer the walk of shame, dragging my bulbous bags past queues of other passengers waiting to check in (wearing, I thought, unnecessarily smug expressions), until I found a ‘quiet corner’ where I could decide which 4kg would have to go.
Would it be the presents for my boys or my well-worn football boots? All my admin paperwork or my new jeans? My toiletries bag or my rainjacket?
In the end, I decided that a pair of shoes and a couple of tops would be sacrificed along with an unread novel, the combination of which just about satisfied Ms Smiley at the counter.
The journey itself was relatively uneventful, as long as you don’t mind being woken from any potential demi-nap by gangs of over-indulged Emirati kids, using the gangways as their own private playground. A place where shrieking was not only allowed, it was positively encouraged, judging by the proud expressions of their beaming parents.
Then there was of course the stop-over at Dubai which has to be one of the world’s most soul-destroying airports.
After a 14 hour flight with no sleep (see earlier paragraph), I could have done without the 30 minute jog it took me to transfer between planes, especially with that particular journey being blighted at every step by the ugliest side of commercialism.
Lunchtime on a Wednesday? Hmm, I fancy a trip to the airport for some over-priced Bling! Who are all these people hanging out there? Maybe they are killing time until the main Dubai malls open later in the day, in time for their night-time shopping trip.
Mercifully, the stop-over was brief and a mere 7 hours later, the wheels touched down at Gatwick and shortly afterwards I was re-united with my wife, my kids and of course, my now svelte-looking suitcase.