Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chapter 1 DISCOVERY: Part 8

The weeks that followed were filled with nervous energy.  As soon as I heard the mail drop into the lobby three floors below, I’d run down the stairs, hoping against hope for an envelope with “New Zealand Immigration Service” stamped on the front.  The days were spent chasing up bits of missing paperwork required for sale of the flat; though we had a buyer the process was proving to be protracted and painful.  I made lists of what we would and wouldn’t take with us and took my little silver Vespa on trips to bits of London I thought I ought to see before I left.

A month later James and I were worried. We’d been promised a letter from New Zealand House within two weeks letting us know what was happening and who our case officer was:  Nothing had arrived.  Ever since we’d moved into my Lambeth flat our post had been being stolen at various points in the delivery system, something that we’d been unable to resolve with the post office in spite of James’s tireless efforts.  Now we were convinced that our promised letter had been pilfered.  Telephoning was an option, but a friend had cautioned us that the immigration service did not appreciate phone calls, and that to call would be to risk having our application put to the bottom of the pile.  So we bit our nails and waited.

Then one Saturday morning in October as we lazed in bed after our customary Friday night out clubbing we heard the post drop in the lobby.  Neither James nor I are morning people, especially after a party, but hope had our adrenaline pumping and he leapt out of bed, threw on a dressing gown and galloped down the stairs.  Something had to arrive sooner or later, why not today?  The way he was singing as he raced back up told me there was news.  He threw an envelope down baring the NZIS logo and I took a sharp intake of breath before tearing it open, heart in mouth.

“We are writing with regard to your application for residence which was accepted for consideration on 21 August, 2002.” I read, “We are pleased to inform you that your application for a residence visa for New Zealand has been approved in principle.”  

There was a tangible silence while we took it in.  I read it again, skimming quickly through the rest of the letter that outlined the fees we needed to pay and the money we should deposit into a New Zealand bank account – things we were already prepared for.

“Oh my god.”  I hardly dared smile.

“What does it mean though?  Is that it?  Are we in?” asked James, not wanting to be let down when he discovered he’d been fooled.  We read it through again, slowly and carefully, just to be sure.  There were no loopholes, nothing unexpected.  We stared at each other for a moment, smiles daring to creep up our cheeks,

“We’ve got it!” we exclaimed breathlessly; hugging hard and bouncing up and down on the bed.

“As long as we can get this bloody flat sale through.”  I added as a gloom-filled caveat.

But we couldn’t believe it.  It had only been two months since I’d taken the paperwork in; they were efficient, these Kiwis.  I immediately liked them even more.

From that point on I became solely focussed on our move and the new life I was going to have in New Zealand.  I made more lists, got quotes from shipping agents and hounded my solicitor and the council about the desperately slow flat sale.  New Zealand House provided us with all the information we needed and I set up an account with a New Zealand bank, ready to receive the money from the flat when it was finally sold.  Nothing was going to stop me getting to New Zealand now and I wanted to be there for Christmas.

When my solicitor called two weeks later to say that finally everything was in place to exchange and complete the sale, I couldn’t feel relieved.  Not yet.  The British system is such that until you ‘exchange’, usually just a few weeks from your moving date at most, nothing has been signed by either party, no money has changed hands and either side can pull out at any time.  We didn’t dare book flights to New Zealand, just in case.  Then, on a blustery November day, the shipping agents arrived to help us pack and wrap the furniture in heavy brown paper.  We were moving out - exactly six months to the day since we’d agreed on the sale.  Countless trips up and down the wide stairs of our old Victorian building later and the removal van pulled away into the night.  I slung my leg over the seat of James’s scooter and pressed myself into his back.

“Okay.”  I said simply, and as we moved off down damp, dark London streets.  I didn’t give the house so much as a backwards glance.

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