Arrival in the UK
We had planned our arrival in the UK three months in advance and had bought flights accordingly. I had asked friends and family to look out for accommodation for us and spent a lot of the intervening time researching procedures and looking for possible immigration problems and their solutions.
Two days before our actual arrival in the UK, my brother, our fall-back in case we were homeless, informed me that we would not be able to stay with him. I rushed to reserve a hotel room, but they could not do that without payment. However, I didn’t want to pay in advance because there was a reasonable chance that my wife, being Thai, might be refused entry.
When the day came, we flew from Malaga into Barry. At Immigration / Passport Control, the official said that he had never come across a case where an Asian married to a Brit was carrying a Spanish Residency Card. After a few worrying minutes, during which he talked to his superior, he called us over. He wanted to see her passport and residency card, and then gave her leave to stay for six months.
So far, our arrival in the UK was going better than we had hoped for, except for accommodation. A taxi took us to the hotel and, unbeknownst to us, we took the last room in Barry. Apparently, a festival in Cardiff and a Rolling Stones concert had caused every available room to be taken for the following week. They could accommodate us for two nights but no longer.
So, at eleven am, ninety minutes after our Arrival in the UK, we set off looking for the next place we could move to. Despite many helpful suggestions, we were out of luck, and so went to bed a very worried couple.
The following morning, we trawled the remainder of my old haunts and asked several taxi drivers, but everything came up blank. As we were walking forlornly past a pub in town, a man standing outside smoking said, ‘Hello, O, long time no see!’
It was someone I used to know twenty years before, but I had forgotten his name. I asked whether he knew of any lodgings, and he took us inside for a think. Anyway, he offered us his spare room which would become vacant after five days. We leapt at it.
Now we only had five days to cover.
Homeless in Barry
However, his assistance didn’t stop there. He and his wife insisted on taking us around all the guest houses they could think of. Needless to say, they were all booked solid, so we retired to a pub to think again.
‘You can have our bed and we’ll sleep on the couch’, was their solution. We were flabbergasted, but had to accept after offering to sleep on the couch ourselves.
‘I’ll tell you something,’ he said. ‘I only stopped at that pub to smoke a cigarette with an old friend and that was only the second time I’ve been in there in eight years!’
So, there we are now, and I am sitting on the couch writing this. I can’t wait for our own room, so that they can reclaim their bedroom.
Such acts of kindness are truly humbling, especially when I still haven’t had even a simple email from any of my family asking whether we are still homeless or even just all right!
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All the best,
Podcast: Arrival in the UK