Hey a BIG thank you for your loyalty and support throughout an unexpectedly challenging, tumultuous and life-changing year for all of us. I’d also like to share our sincere condolences to the friends and families in the memory of all those lost to Covid19, may the trees grow and blossom in their memory.
Every year I try and end the year on a recap of the adventures Michelle, and I have had in the previous twelve months. This generally includes a couple of funny and or amusing stories where we have endured some highs or lows during these adventures, so without further delay let’s get started.
2020 New Year’s eve started with fantastic food, wine, dancing and fireworks with friends in Antibes in the French Riviera. A small group gathering hosted by Campbell and Maurice, who are delightful friends and as you have guessed with a name like Campbell, he’s Scottish, and as such the Robert Burns bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight with Auld Lang Syne would happen. As I recall it was somewhere around 3.00AM and shortly afterwards we had a staggered walk through cobbled streets of the old town of Antibes back to our apartment.
1st of January 2020, I believe it was pizza for lunch mid to late afternoon, but my head is a little hazy on this still to this day.
2020 started out with the news of Corona Virus spreading but our recruitment work continued on as usual but steadily it started to decline as well. At the same time as recruiting we were also working on other business interests, a luxury brand business which we were hoping to launch in 2020, but that got put onto the backburner for the time being. Hopefully we can launch online in 2021 commencing with a new range of men’s dress shoes.
Sunday 15th March, we had lunch with Campbell and Maurice at our place, we chatted about all that was happening in the World and the unusual predicament we were all in with the dreaded Coronavirus now Covid19.
Over the course of the afternoon, with glasses of a variety of different French wines, red and white we forgot all the troubles in the World and enjoyed the day to the fullest. The bolognaise had simmered from 10.30AM, marinating, soaking up the juices containing the flavorful ingredients of many herbs, spices and a good couple of glasses of old port wine added for sweetness. Delicious if I do say myself!
That Sunday afternoon we discussed many topics from Politics to travel to great food, and of course COVID19 and what and where it was going? What if this, what if that? There were talks that France would shut the borders at any time and the question was “should Michelle and I leave France?” We just didn’t know what to do but then the cheeses, and deserts came out and all was forgotten.
THE NEXT DAY TEXT MESSAGE
Mon 16th March morning our friend’s send us a text: “France is closing borders at midnight tonight, Oh Noooo!, sore heads, blurry eyes reading the text, we needed to make a decision what to do and fast!, what are you going to do?. Here we go!
10.30AM decision is made to flee France! we frantically pack bags and book flights to London as there were no openings to fly from Nice to Australia on the same day. There was no talk at that stage that the UK would be shutting borders, so our thoughts were that it will be pretty easy to fly out of London back to Australia. Flights booked and we are off to Nice airport and then to Gatwick.
After nearly 4 years of living and working remotely across Europe it was time to head back home. A little earlier than we would have liked but it is what it is! We arrived at London Gatwick, safe and sound and checked into the airport hotel. Boy-o-boy we’re we wrong that it would be simple and easy to get flights to Australia. For 3 days we tried to get flights with no luck so in the end we called one of our great Aussie travel agent friends Stephen who came to the rescue and got us flights on Swiss Air from London Heathrow to Zurich to Singapore to Sydney, leaving same day 19th March… Here we go again, the mad scramble to get from Gatwick to Heathrow quick – let’s go!
We made it to Heathrow in time, boarded the plane and were off. Arrived in Zurich where we are to change planes to depart for Singapore, but when we get to the gate, we are questioned on which countries we have visited in the last 30 days. Keep your mouth shut Brett, just keep your mouth shut, I kept telling myself but being questioned, I gave it up that we had been in France.
Bad mistake! The gentleman holds our passports and tells us because we have been in France we will not be allowed to board the plane to Singapore because the Singaporean Government had just implemented a ruling, blocking anyone from coming in or through Singapore who had visited France or Italy. “Stand over to the side and a supervisor will come and speak with you” 🙁
20 minutes later: We pleaded but were getting nowhere but luckily when the supervisor asked to see the stamps in our passports proving we were in France 🙂 Happy faces, all round, as we didn’t have French stamps in our passports and were allowed to board (Thank you to the French immigration system)
23 hours later we arrived in Sydney. It was Friday morning, just after 6.30AM, so we sat at the airport drinking coffee until we could book a serviced apartment for our 14-day mandatory Self-Quarantine.
During Self-Quarantine, we secured a rental apartment unseen and moved in, our furniture from storage arrived in the apartment prior to us moving in after nearly 4 years of being locked up with a huge amount which mysteriously disappeared. Now fighting with Insurance to get it replaced, let’s see where that goes. December 2020 still at war with the Insurance company.
When we moved in, I got a heavy chest cold, and started wheezing quite a bit then on Friday 25th April I was so out of breath that Michelle called the ambulance and I was off to hospital. Thank goodness no Covid19 but I had pneumonia and spent the weekend in the infectious diseases ward, discharged on 27th home in time for our 15th wedding anniversary which was fairly non-eventful as I was still feeling like crapola… A good dose of steroids and antibiotics and I’m good again at last, but it was a long recovery and took till end of May to be back to 100%.
During the month of June, we decided that if we did not leave Australia, we could be potentially trapped there for years with the Australian borders closed. So, we booked tickets to Amsterdam and on the 1st of August headed off to the International departures for approval to travel that day.
I pushed, pulled and dragged six freshly packed suitcases up the hill into the driver’s van, fricken suitcases are heavy and Ouch, these shoes are tight, my feet are already starting to hurt, but I persevere on with the cases until they are all in the van and set off. Is this adventure going to happen? riding in the van on that Saturday morning, Michelle and I are quiet, not a lot of talking but Peter our driver was enthusiastic and told us some stories along the way. As we sat there, we knew in reality, that there may be a wonderful adventure coming ahead, or there may not be one at all. Thirty minutes later we arrived at Sydney International airport. Now for the big question would the Australian Border Force let us go?
The Border Force Officer was nice and friendly with us, he talked to us about our movements and travels overseas. He proceeded with our background checks and our movements with HQ in Canberra and the evidence showed we were traveling outside of Australia for more than the required 50% of time, so we were now cleared to travel…
3rd of August – Two days ago, I put on a pair of shoes that I had worn only once or twice since buying them on sale at El Ingles in Barcelona a few years ago. Hey, blue suede shoes, they were on special, if I recall correctly 50% off, lookout Elvis, Brett Wagner is in town! Breaking in a pair of good quality new shoes, can be a very painful experience and many gentlemen will agree with me on this for sure. Boarding the plane, I knew it was going to be a grueling 27 hours of travel and transit and my feet would swell. What I didn’t anticipate was the additional 7 hours of waiting for the serviced apartment we had booked to be vacated and cleaned at the other end of our journey (that’s a total of 34 hours folks). Yes, I did take my shoes of during the flight.
Jet lagged, swollen feet with giant blisters, we sat in West Amsterdam drinking mint teas and talking about my feet and how painful they were. Michelle had brought some heal protectors which I had already applied back at Sydney airport, but the shoes were so tight now on my swollen feet that they weren’t really much help at all. Ouch!
On Sunday at 2PM, I hauled the six suitcases up the stairs with my blistering swollen feet, lucky enough we were only on the first floor. Blue suede shoes off, Aghhhh relief at last. I don’t know what the poor estate agent thought about that, but hey by that time I couldn’t give a jail house rock…
The apartment is in a great location on Keizersgracht and after a shower, a short rest and a change of shoes we visited a local eatery a hundred meters away, we sat on the edge of the canal watching the boats go by with a couple of glasses of wine, some croquettes and trying to forgot about my painful feet and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine. A couple of hours later, a painful walk back to the apartment, I pulled off my socks and those so called heal protectors, ouch!,
The next day, our experience with Uber Eats Amsterdam, wow, this app is incredible NOT! every time I went to pay for an order for dinner, the platform sat there spinning for minutes, for an hour I tried and tried to place orders at different restaurants. That evening we received 4 different orders from restaurants thinking none were ordered at all, actually 2 orders from the same restaurant. (at least the fridge is full of leftovers for days) That evening we spent well over 100 euros on takeaways.
I recall being barefoot for a week in August, but hey, made a great story and will make someone smile and that’s what life’s all about…
We stayed in the serviced apartment on Keizersgracht for 2 weeks until we secured an apartment in the Oud West of Amsterdam and have been living there and working remotely on our recruitment and Luxury brand businesses since. It’s been lockdown here for many weeks now and we’ve learnt many new recipes online and become quite creative in the kitchen.
Business is much slower than usual and down considerably compared to other years, but we must push on and hope for a better 2021. With the New Year on our doorstep, Michelle and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Very Happy and Prosperous 2021!