I am somewhat at a loss for how to explain this year. I’m not talking about 2020 with all its pandemic, murder hornets, *gestures vaguely at America* energy; it has been a rollercoaster personally as well.
We all have our own story about this year, the highs the lows and the endless “you are on mute” moments. For me 2020 had its sweet moments but it did come with a big mental load and more admin than I would wish on my worst enemy. Turns out, getting married, becoming British and trying to immigrate during a pandemic is tricky.
What does Cardiff have to do with all this?
I had originally decided to move back to New Zealand in 2018. I can’t say I was done with London, it still to this day has ownership over such a large section of my heart. Its just that I was done with being exhausted all the time, with life being harder than it needed to be. London is exhausting, in terms of crowds, transport and not having family support – life in London needs recovery time; for me at least. I no longer want to have to ‘recover’ from my own life.
If living in London and New Zealand are on a scale, the balance had just tipped as I got older. Even though my passion for theatre, art, food and being splashed on the back of the leg by that one wonky bit of pavement was not reduced at all – things that I once ignored or rejected from life in New Zealand started to gain weight. Stability, family, nature, isolation, world events feeling like a distant theoretical universe – and of course access to Whittaker’s chocolate.
I don’t think I am explaining this right, because to this day I still feel like leaving London is at the same time both the totally right and totally wrong thing to do. Hollywood didn’t prepare me for this. When you move on you are supposed to be happy to close one chapter right?
The only real ‘change’ in London that did impact my decision making was actually Brexit. Or more specifically the rhetoric that became mainstream and acceptable (seemingly) during that time. For a country to be so blatant about wanting to kick out foreigners, but also literally being told I was “the right kind of foreigner” was just…
And the government doubling down on austerity measures, defunding the NHS and just generally showing a resounding lack of empathy or direction – the problems had clearly always been there, but global political and social media leanings over the last few years seem to validate what I saw as tragic decisions.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world New Zealand was showing itself to be an empathetic and modern country that was at least trying to make the world a better place.
(FYI I’m writing this on the day that the New Zealand election has just been called, with a resounding vote in favour of Labour. If you don’t know, New Zealand governments normally only gain a majority to govern through coalition with other parties – so for Jacinda to win enough hearts to govern independently is significant.)
So 2018 was going to be my year of moving home, and then I fell in love. A highly inconvenient and completely amazing turn of events. Which meant staying in London a little longer while we got to know each other (and then get engaged and married, as you do).
We had planned a post-‘family staying with us for Christmas’ escape over New Years, a week in a hotel in Cardiff city centre. My aim was to use it as a creative retreat to do some work on my novel, and he was going to visit the castle; but there was the secondary agenda item for Cardiff which was us trying to figure out a plan for the rest of our lives.
The question was do we either jump for NZ this year, or do we wait for another 1-2ish years before going. At the end our decision was made because we couldn’t think of anything specifically ‘keeping’ us in London. We had reached a good point in our careers, had both lived the most out of London for 8+years and crucially (if you flat in London, you will feel this one) we had a break clause in our three year lease in September 2020.
Friends were the big, huge, significant, all encompassing exception to this. I have some ride or die friends in London, and it feels like I am losing a little part of me . And yes I am currently campaigning for them all to move to NZ.
Moving to New Zealand with your non-Kiwi partner is difficult in normal times (visa processes are always exhausting and emotional), but of course after busting our asses to get all the information together in January and February we managed to submit just as Corona shut most of the visa processing offices (fun fact that I did not know until all this, NZ does a lot of its visa processing in China..). Then New Zealand closed its borders, and announced that no visa applications would be processed unless you were actually in New Zealand. Yes, to get a New Zealand visa you had to already be in the country.
To get that husband of mine to New Zealand we had to apply first for a border exemption (based on the fact we are in a relationship & we would be flying in together) which once granted gives you a one time permission to cross the border to be used within 4 months. Then once that was granted we were invited to apply for a Critical Purpose Visa, which is essentially a 90 day tourist visa in a fancy hat. That gets him into the country, and then hopefully the actual visa we submitted at the start of the year will be processed.
There is huge anti-kiwis coming home sentiment in New Zealand at the moment. Very much a ‘you didn’t work for this great Corona situation, so you shouldn’t get to take advantage of it’ type thing, coupled with resentment that the kiwi tax payer has been paying for the ‘managed isolation’ that is controlling corona coming in over the border. A childish part of me wants to be all hipster about it and scream “I planned to move home before it was corona-cool”, but I get that everyone is just unhappy in general, and Facebook is a bad place to see any sort of balanced thought.
This is shockingly long blog post already so I might save the rest for another day. There are just so many thing to talk about from this year, it will take a while to tell it all.
We are currently in Vilnius waiting for the Critical Purpose Visa to come through (and have no idea how long it might take). We left London on the 4th of October and came to Lithuania so the Russian can spend time with family, and to buy us a little time for the visa. Given we could be stuck here for an unknown amount of time (flights are very very tricky as well even when we get the visa granted), we thought that Lithuania was more cost effective than London as a waiting base.
Ok I really need to go now. I will write more ramble another day – let me know if there are any bits you are particularly interested in and I will direct my ramble towards it.
Thanks for making me feel less alone in the madness.