We dragged our bags through the narrow turnstiles and onto the platform at Dagenham Heathway station, a full five minutes later than I had scheduled. The first of three long journeys for 21 January, 2015 loomed ahead of us. Get to Heathrow. On the Tube. In rush hour.
The past week had kept us so busy as to seem like London life would just continue as normal. I worked six days in a row and had my last shifts at the bar. Russell worked a schedule largely opposite to mine. Between that and our leaving pub visits with friends, we didn’t have the time to begin packing our room until the morning we had to leave. The transition out of London, known about ever since I received my visa to move there, seemed utterly abrupt. We woke up in our room in Leyton, and it went from being our room to being a stranger’s in less than two hours.
Of course, the District Line decided to give us the parting gift of ‘Minor Delays,’ which turned out to be a full 25 minutes of standing on the filling platform, contemplating going the exact opposite direction of Heathrow to Upminster and hoping for the faster trains. The train eventually crawled up to us, and the mash was on.
Even as a practiced London commuter with 16 months under my belt, this was torture. The train sauntered down the track at walking speed. Above the crowd, the husband and I exchange worried looks.
“Let’s just get off at West Ham. We’ll take the Jubilee Line.”
A few seconds later, “A notice to customers, there is no step-free access at West Ham due to elevator improvements.”
Of course. We got this.
We EXCUSE ME PLEASE’d our way through the crush, down one set of crowded stairs, up another, and then down one more. The Jubilee Line was crammed, but running as normal. Off to a station we’d never set foot in before on the west side of London. Through seemingly endless halls with changing directions (keep left! No, keep right!). Onto the Piccadilly Line.
I’ve always thought, in part because I took it so much during my unsavoury MA experience, that the Piccadilly Line would be the one Line of the London Underground where the zombie apocalypse would come to the City. It runs directly from the biggest airport into the centre. It’s full of confused tourists with built in obstacles in the form of their huge luggage. Very little ventilation. I’m not a huge fan of the Piccadilly Line.
As we wandered out of the tunnels into the grey day I realised London was fading behind us. In the fray of the ‘Minor Delays’ and the workout of carrying our meagre worldly possessions, I’d forgotten to say goodbye to some of my favourite places. London is odd; the edges of the city seem to wrap around like a parabolic curve and the neighbourhoods in the west look bizarrely similar to those on the fringes of the East that we’d left behind.
We alighted at the nearly-closed Terminal 1, one of five passengers checking in. Our bags were checked easily. We were sniffed by two different bomb finding dogs.
“Strange. They seem to be on some kind of alert.”
My husband pointed out the sniper on the second floor.
“Let’s go through security.”
Just like that, we were through. It was weirdly simple. Weirdly quiet. I got a full pat down and metal-detecting due to a zipper I’d forgotten on my bra. I was officially out of the UK, less than 24 hours before my Tier 4 visa was up. I am not allowed to return without a family/partner visa. I had to say goodbye, not knowing when I might return to the country that had been home for 16 months. We took off and almost immediately disappeared into the low London clouds, and that period of our lives was over.
My time in London is done, for now. That constant inconstancy of transition is back.
On to the next adventure.
Next Time- The Iceland Adventure. A preview: