Anyone who fears that the world is getting too small has either not flown from Australia to England or is doing it in a business class seat. Even in the modern age of jet travel it's still a hell of a long way, and even though I love flying, in an economy class seat you feel every minute of it. Not that I was doing it as tough as the big dude sitting next to me from Hong Kong to London, who battled away for hours sleeping with his head slumped so far forward his chin was almost touching his stomach. I took it upon myself to monitor him for signs of life as I had serious concerns that in this awkward position he would suffocate slowly, ruining his holiday and injecting a negative vibe into mine. Fortunately for both of us he survived, although he no doubt spent his first night in the UK tracking down a chiropractor to reassemble his vertebrate.
With my arrival scheduled to coincide with the middle of summer, I reasonably expected to touchdown at Heathrow and be greeted by sunny skies and heat. What a dreamer. Grey clouds, showers and drizzle did little to dismiss the stereotype that England has really crap weather. Not only that, they have really long queues to enter the country. An hour and a half of shuffling up and down a maze of lanes left me in a bothersome mood when I finally got to passport control, and when the customs officer asked why I had come to the UK I was in half a mind to answer that I'd come here only for the weather, the queues and to play quidditch with Harry Potter.
Clearly the tiredness was affecting my sense of humour so escaping the airport was a priority and with my new friend TomTom calling the shots I was soon on the road to Dorset. This was an extremely pleasant drive down motorways and highways that gradually decreased in size and importance as we went south. Even in my semi-conscious state it was exciting to spot Stonehenge as I sped by, and if I hadn't thought it would upset TomTom so much I might have stopped in for a poke around.
This was no time for dilly-dallying however, and by 8 o'clock I had made it to Gillingham, the smallish town next to the tiny village where I am staying for the next few weeks. Dorset is true English countryside, with beautiful green rolling farmland interspersed with neat little rustic villages that the word 'quaint' was invented to describe. The roads around here are extremely narrow and were seemingly designed at a time when people traveled on bicycles - while the lines on the road indicate that they are intended for two way traffic you've got to be brave to believe it. A feature of this area is the large hedgerows that line the roads, and with these hedgerows on one side and cars driven by people who think they're on the Top Gear test-track on the other, I quickly began to wonder how sensible I had been to pass on the full insurance option offered at the car rental outlet back at Heathrow.
My arrival into Gillingham in the daylight was a bit of a false dawn. While TomTom had successfully guided me to the village, the lack of street names or numbers in this part of the world meant that I was quickly lost. Now would be a good time to mention that the screen on my iPhone had self-destructed back in Hong Kong and at a time when I needed it most it just stared back at me blankly. After 37 hours of travel, Steve Jobs' name was repeatedly used in vain. With Apple in the doghouse I reverted to old technology and climbed into one of Dr Who's red telephone boxes, although with the phone number of my accommodation stored in my phone I couldn't tell the Tardis where to go, so it just stared back at me blankly too.
Thankfully, as it rounded 9:30pm and darkness set in technology finally came to my rescue. It seems that not all of the people in Gillingham lock their wi-fi, so by parking out the front of their house and borrowing their resources I was able to track down the directions to my new home on my computer. If I was more computer literate I might have hacked their computer and stolen their bank details while I was at it.
With proper directions the narrow country lanes and imposing hedgerows weren't so daunting, and rolling down the driveway to find that I'd rented a cool little flat off some very friendly young owners was one of life's great moments. I barely had time to say goodnight to myself before I was unconscious.
Welcome to England.