I’m back! I know it’s been quiet on here….. I have just returned from a month in Europe, and it always takes me time to process all that I’ve experienced during my time away. It’s been so bittersweet this time, being reunited with friends and family who I hadn’t seen in two years, trying to make the most of my time with them, and then having to say goodbye again. It’s no mean feat. I can’t even write about this without severe pain and longing in my heart. They all mean the world to me, and being able to sit and talk and laugh and cry and eat and drink and laugh some more is the best feeling in the world. And then: returning home, dealing with re-entry shock and that post-summer blues.

Returning to Austin was even more of a shocker this time. We left a city euphorically celebrating being “back to normal”. With hindsight, what on earth were we thinking, leaving our houses without masks, feeling invincible with our double vaccinations, and the sense that life was going back to normal?! We already knew of the Delta variant attacking even the vaccinated, at least over in England, so I still wore my mask everywhere indoors, even before leaving the US. We came back to a city in Stage 4 that within our week of being back graduated onto Stage 5. And no regulations in place. None. Only feeble recommendations.

my niece
downtime in Germany

We felt pretty free and safe in Germany, from landing at an almost empty airport, seeing friends who were regularly testing themselves and general adherence to mask mandates and social distancing, then flew to England, where we had to quarantine for the duration of our stay (not a hardship, as my in-laws’ house and garden are beautiful), had to get tested a couple more times and were checked on by the track and trace people by phone each day. When we left, Heathrow airport felt clean, safe and calming, and our flight back to the US was only half full. Had it not been for the guy in the row behind us coughing persistently the whole time, I would have said the flight was easy-peasy.

But then: arrival at Houston. US immigration. A hall packed with people, people pushing, people abandoning masks to make phone calls (or even to cough, in one instance, in the queue next to us). Our bags took absolute ages to arrive, another pleasant hour and a half spent in the baggage reclaim hall, where we stood side by side with two lots of passengers arriving from holiday in Cancun. It seems that when you party in Cancun, you don’t need masks, and, you know when you arrive home and you don’t want to give up that holiday feeling? Bingo, so you don’t need masks at home either, having them dangling from your ears is plenty protective.

Anyway, we made it home, somehow. And took another COVID test again a few days later, just to make sure. Which wasn’t mandated. And now we’re bracing ourselves for the school year. Our girl is heading back to school in person, for the first time in 18 months, and while she will be wearing her mask and try her best to stay safe, she won’t be.

For the time being, I’ll be throwing myself into work – our store has had major staff changes, and a lot of new developments, so I’ll be pretty busy for a while. It’s a nice distraction from missing my friends and family, and it makes me feel connected to the place I call home these days. And now, to indulge my nostalgia, I’m off to sort through all the beautiful photos I took this summer. Onwards and upwards!

my niece and nephew in England

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