So, here I am, ‘technically unemployed’, happy about it and clueless about what comes next.
I say ‘technically unemployed’ as I am in the very enviable position of having 3 months ‘Gardening Leave’ where I am paid, but not required to attend work. Thankfully, neither am I obliged to do actual Gardening. It is late October, the grass needs cutting and there are leaves all over the place. I feel able to ignore the garden as none of my plants were uprooted in the ‘Great Storm of St Jude’, which in South West London was more of a huge gust of wind at about 7am on Monday morning, rather than a storm.
I was very grateful to stay in bed and just lie there listening to it all. Just a few weeks ago I would have been battling to leave the house by 6.30am and drive through the storm, just to sit at my desk at 7am and pretty much do nothing all day. The environment was one where it was seen as a weakness if you cannot get to work for any reason, illness, trees on the line, tube strikes, hurricanes, you name it, no excuse was acceptable because ultimately we were all trying to prove that we were more focussed and dedicated than the next man or woman (but usually man).
‘Have you got Esther?’ the lady at the Virgin check-in desk asked.
‘Who’s Esther?’ I asked
‘No…sorry… do you have an E-S-T-A?’ she tried again.
I guess the blank, confused look on my face answered the question.
It was 7.00am at Heathrow on a Good Friday morning. The airport was relatively quiet and my family was excited to be starting our trip to Costa Rica, meticulously planned more than six months before. We had a detailed itinerary, and I had made sure that every detail had been covered. Except I didn’t know about ESTAs. Our family travel usually takes us East and we hadn’t been to or through the US for a few years. The check-in desk is not the place to find out that a special licence is needed to travel to the US these days. The Virgin staff pointed me to the Internet Cafe upstairs and explained that it was possible to buy the ESTAs online and they were often quick to get approved, but that they can take up to 72 hours. My heart sank. Continue Reading →