“I’m afraid your visa request has been rejected”. Three days before my 7 Feb flight. Bags packed. Psychologically already on the runway. “This embassy can be inconsistent. The wrong stamp is on your contract”.
So I thought of the positives: opportunity for belated family enjoyment of the stray Christmas pudding neglected during the indulgent season (on the night when I expected to be sitting in front of my in-flight meal tray and movie); the catharsis of clearing a crammed cupboard (or two); cleaning the room I’m about to abandon (more catharsis); moth genocide campaign (again) as I wield my Rentokil can around the darker corners of my dwelling in Islington where wool eating moths are a scourge.
Another day passes by. I revise some on-line Portuguese exercises. Read more stats and reports about Mozambique. Go the the supermarket. Slip a few more things into my packed bags. Go to an all day theatre event. Two more days float away.
I don old shoes and go to see if anything survived the hard winter in the back garden. I even clear wet leaves and dig a little and feel I’m helping nature back on course. I keep the mobile in my back pocket. Maybe I should get the window cleaner over – I can hardly see through the London grime.
This is limbo. I’m detached from London, but still here, ghost-like. I’m lucky to be at home – is this like house arrest? I’m not waiting in an airport for snow to melt, for volcanic ash to clear, or for immigration authorities to smile kindly. “We’re chasing the visa hard, it takes time in government departments, we expect to have news soon”. The sun sets on yet another day with me still in London.
By day ten of this limbo, Plan B starts developing rapidly in my mind. Go and wait somewhere else. That somewhere could be Bamako, where my younger son Imran has been living with his fiancee Mikaela since December, the destination of their epic bike ride from the UK 3-4 months before, and where I lived and worked in the 1980s. No consulate in London, so on impulse I book the last Easyjet to Rome for the following day, pack a small cabin bag and exit London.
Now I’m looking for flights from there: cheapest via Tripoli (but beware the scheduled “day of rage” against the government) otherwise via Casablanca and arrive in Bamako at 01h00…..
So Mozambique is on hold for the next weeks, while bureaucracy takes its course.