I tried to go home today. Back to the UK, I mean. I’d done everything properly. Last week I squeezed my belongings into two battered suitcases and even ventured to clean the oven. I shouldn’t like to leave an untidy flat for the next occupant.
Today, bag in hand and documents in wallet, I left the flat. I checked the post box, and descended the small flight of stairs to street level. The same as any day, except today I was going home.
Because Latvia is in the Eastern European time zone (GMT +2), and a flight from Riga to London takes two hours, it’s possible to make the journey in almost no time at all. If one is lucky it can take all of five earth minutes.
And so it was today. With little more than quiver on my clock, I arrived at the border, the last leg of my journey taking me across a junction, around the corner and past Queen’s – my local, and a pub as traditionally British as any you care to name.
The gate was locked, but in fairness, I hadn’t told them I was coming. Generally when I speak of going home, my fellow countrymen promise they will welcome me in at any time. I expected today to be no different. With cheeks flushed and a smile spreading at the thought of my green and pleasant land, I stood at the gate and rang the bell.
“Yes?” said a voice.
“Hello!” I said. “I’ve come home. Can I come in?”
“Who are you?” said the voice. “What do you want?”
“I want to come in,” I cried. “I’ve spent a year in Latvia and now it’s time to go home.”
“Do you have an appointment?” he crackled through the speaker.
“No, but I’ve got friends here. They said I should come and visit.”
There was a pause, then the electronic lock on the gate gave a clunk. I pushed the weighty frame aside and stepped over the threshold. I beheld not Anglia, but a security guard. The mystery voice.
“Do you have any ID?”
I handed him my driving license, hoping it would suffice as I’d carelessly left my passport in Latvia. The guard surveyed it briefly and asked me to wait. He then disappeared, leaving me trapped in customs limbo with a second guard keeping a watchful eye on my every move. What if Britain didn’t want me back?
Five minutes later he returned.
“Britain is in a meeting,” he stated. “Perhaps you should come back another day.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I will. Thanks so much for you time. Sorry to bother you.” Even if Britain is too busy to greet me, I will still maintain my customary apologetic politeness ‘wards her.
I turned to leave, all the time regretting that my beleaguered nation no longer runs its embassies like it used to. I walked all the way down the road and everything. A long road. And I was humming Jerusalem at the time.
Mind you – political territory or not – I’m not sure that little compound was truly our Great Isle after all, in soil or in spirit. Among other things, a sign on the gate indicated that no umbrellas were allowed.
(Fret ye not. I will actually return to the UK, properly, on 1st August.)