SOLIHULL!

Today was the most nerve-wracking calm I’ve ever been.

I woke up.  I tried really hard to eat.  The cereal, which usually fortifies me for runs up to 20 miles, tasted like sand. I read the visa application twice.

I got in a car, with my husband, and for the first time ever we negotiated an English roundabout and left for Solihull.

Fun thing about English Motorway Driving.  First, it is a Motorway.  It is not a Freeway, Highway, or Interstate (which I would say if they existed would be an Intershire).  Second, on our particular set of motorways there were three lanes.  This was for slow/lorry, regular car, and THEREISNOCAMERASWOOHOOTHISISGOINGTOBEJUSTLIKEMYTRIPONTHEAUTOBON!  Third, there are speed cameras, which the GPS unit would let you know about with ear-splitting screeches.  Same with speed changes.  It was helpful that way.

It also can give directions in French, Italian, and Spanish.  Which is unhelpful when you are stressed out about driving and your husband is playing with said GPS.

Solihull is nice.  It has a shopping mall where you can wander around and do so without squeezing through aisles and stores that carry a selection beyond two items.  We had a minor scare when approaching the office as it had a big sign stating it was closed due “industrial action” (aka STRIKE) but we looked in the windows and saw people waiting so we went in to sit on…

THE MOST AWESOME CHAIRS OF WAITING!

First, the Solihull people were nice.  WAY nice.  If you ever want to have a bit of fun, go on a field trip to have your “biometric data” (aka FINGERPRINTS) taken at your nearby friendly US Immigration office.  For even more pleasure, choose an office close to the US/Mexico border.  They aren’t very friendly there.  I was so steeled for stern, walk-the-line, southern American pride that having a gentlemen walk up to us and go, “Oh, I just need a bit of data and I’ll pop on back with your number.”  made me both happy and suspicious.

It was a quiet day in the office as most of their team was striking, so there weren’t many appointments.  We sat reading, staring into space, or trying to figure out how to make hard plastic chairs that were tastefully chained together, comfortable.  Our number was called and in we went.

We ended up with Louise, who apologized profusely for the wait (she was the ONLY one they had working).  She went through our things, apologized even more for a downed computer system, and then took patience and care to note every means to contact us should the computer system not come back up in a reasonable time period (end of tomorrow).  Just for reference the chairs in those rooms are also chained together.

After a bit more fun of waiting we were ushered into fingerprinting, and sent on our way.  Should all things be well and good I will be the proud owner of a little plastic card saying I can stay in the country, or be forced to live amongst the wild tourist tribes of London.

We celebrated surviving the visa ordeal in the only place anyone with common sense would: TGI Fridays. (Have you had their dirt cake?  It’s fab!)

I drove home.  I think I only cut off or angered 2 to 3 English drivers.  I also had the joy of a malfunctioning GPS which meant we got to drive around Solihull a bit more before finally being sure enough to enter the motorway.

So, in short:

  1. I drove a car.  No one died.  This is good.  Roundabouts are a bit weird but I’ll sort it out.
  2. Visa application is in.  Everything should be fine and I should get a plastic card thing.
  3. TGI Fridays is nummy, at least in Solihull, England.

T-minus 10 days to Rome.

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