Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Books, baths and barnacles

It has been a whole five days since I last felt the impulse to blog, and although not much has happened, I feel like this in itself is an achievement: I've been busy enough to not have either the time or inclination to waffle about the progress (or lack thereof) of our visa application and it feels like a substantial chunk of time has passed pleasantly and unwasted. So, we are now further along (as all we can currently do is wait for the interview) and the bank holiday weekend was a lot of fun.

Other than seeing people, this weekend has been one of firsts. I have persevered with patience, preening and prawns. In terms of patience, I have managed to finish a book that, despite being a beautifully woven and complex story (and thus interesting or, at least, fascinating in a morbid, voyeuristic sort of way) was involving and meaty in a manner that wasn't always pleasant. I would go so far as to describe it as draining, at some points. To have continued with it is highly unlike me as, although I am not one to shy away from a challenge should I see the end goal as worthwhile or one that might benefit others around me, I have a - possibly naive or ignorant - resolve about not reading books that I don't "bond" with immediately. While friends and family members will valiantly persist with a novel that they don't describe as enjoyable or absorbing, partly because there's a commitment and partly because there is always the hope that it might improve I suppose, I have never been able to sit down and push myself to read something that I wasn't entranced by. This was never more evident than when I started my English A Level, only to discover that the texts were arduous to me; painfully taken apart chapter by chapter without any real meaning or significance, even with such extensive analysis - in my opinion, at least. I didn't last more than two months on that course, opting instead for foreign languages, Psychology, and books of my own choosing outside of my studies. So, this morning when I finally finished 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' (the fact that it has taken me around 2.5 weeks to do so, even with my abundance of spare time, is evidence that I was struggling with it to start with, as I will devour any book I truly enjoy within a matter of days or even hours), I felt incredibly satisfied. Perhaps this is what I have been missing: by not persevering, I have denied myself the chance of experiencing the feeling of finding out a book was worth reading, even if at first glance (judging by its cover, ha!) it didn't seem so. I must admit to being pretty cut-throat when it comes to selecting a book: I will read the synopsis and the first 2-3 pages. If by that point I am not drawn in, I will start afresh with a new one and see how that fares. I think I didn't with 'Kevin' partly because I felt its draw just from the personal style of writing, and partly because I know several friends who positively rave about how good it is. And it is. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who might like to read it, but suffice to say that it approaches a petrifying and generally unspoken fear of the type of child one might bring into the world, and the impact that having a family may have on a couple's relationship. This is all told from the mother's point of view, retrospectively, in the form of letters to her estranged husband. So powerful was this story that, by the last few chapters, I even had a bath - the second rarity in my quotidian routine, as per this post's title, as in general I definitely prefer the efficacy of a quick, hot shower - in order that I might be able to get clean and finish it at the same time. I took so much pleasure in doing this that I may well do it again, and soon. These were both rather lovely discoveries!

I ate a prawn, and I liked it.
The final piece of my atypical experience triptych was eating prawns. A simple thing, no doubt, but it was one of those occasions when one suddenly decides that perhaps you actually might like a food to which you have previously been steadfastly averse. And thus it was another lovely discovery: I like them. I like prawns. In fact, I even asked if Mum would do a few prawn recipes while I'm still at home so I can find out if I like them in different styles, and learn how to cook them myself (something I'd be a bit worried about doing after 28 years of staunch prawn-avoidance). Who knows, maybe I'll even like seafood at some point. Stranger things have happened.

Today has been a very happy day, then, and I think it's a combination of having had such a great weekend and knowing that there are now only six weeks to go until I see Ben again, and until we can start our life together for real. It's quite an amazing feeling, having a manageable figure; instead of the seemingly endless stretch of time when waiting for the initial response from the USCIS, we now have a period that can be linguistically condensed to "one-and-a-half months" or "just as long as the UK school summer holidays" to wait until something big actually happens - a major step, a physical leap, not just another piece of paper that leads to more paper. Add to that a day of spending time with family and friends; walking in the slightly autumnal weather; eating curry; Skype-ing with brother and sis'-in-law; putting the world to rights over red wine (and G&Ts!) while out for dinner with an old friend; and you have a rather chuffed soon-to-be expat.

I suppose the only thing is that - and there had to be something, though of course I am not looking for there to be a negative - the closer I get to doing the actual leaving, the more I realise what I'm leaving. I know that there will be friends, and walks, and wine, and all sorts of wonderful, warm and loving experiences to be had in the US. I know that it is the right thing - not to mention best decision ever - to go. But I think I saw today what it might be like without me here (without sounding too dramatic, it feels a little like I am disappearing - some friends off doing other stuff, forgetting to invite me to things I might have expected to be included in, not having time to chat), and that it won't really be all that different. I don't think I have much of an ego to speak of, but I am still human, and knowing that I can be left behind even though I'm the one departing is an unexpected wound.

But that's hardly the way to leave a generally happy blog, is it? So I will conclude that I am probably just over-sensitive because I know I'm leaving (which is bound to be a bigger deal to me than pretty much anyone else! Having sophomoric paranoia at this point might be a little foolish.) and make a resolution to therefore make the best of the time I do have, in any way I have control over. And right now, that really should be getting a good night's sleep so I can hit the gym in the morning and feel good about beating an inanimate object that has the sole purpose of making me healthier the more I try to "beat" it. Win-win.

Friday, 26 August 2011

You must follow your heart

Something to consider - I read this today and it made me happy. A love-bias thing, if you will, for all optimists; romantics; and particularly for those who have taken, or who are considering taking, a leap of faith.

Photo from My Other Limb

It just has to get to the point where you can't not leap.  

Less than 100 days

This many days until I leave!
And so another week passes... And some (more?) boredom has, of course, set in! It is now less than 100 days until I become Mrs. Lloyd, and only 45 until I leave the UK. I'm sat writing this in bed (yes, it is almost 11AM) after having watched my daily fix of surprise TV interest '90210' (the remake), contemplating reading and working out. Most days consist of this; reading, working out, wandering about, doing a little towards the wedding, meeting a friend here and there to tell them about how I'm reading and working out. Last night I chided myself: I really should appreciate this time more. I am going to miss being around my home and my family so much that to find each day repetitive is a bit insulting, in a way. We had a great day yesterday: chatted out on the balcony, went to the Balti to have some dinner and had a couple of drinks at Egypt Mill to round the night off. I then watched some of 'The Duchess' - reminding myself why it is such a desperately sad film - and then the latest episode of 'True Blood' (Season 4). And then fell asleep for 10 hours straight, which was quite an achievement, what with weird dreams and next-door's ongoing saw-every-brick-ever-made house extension project.

Much as I whinge about being bored, I have actually done things (other than read and work out) this week. I had the loveliest day with my good friend Tim on Monday. We spent time at his flat in Cheltenham where he cooked risotto and we had a bit of a YouTube share session; walked up Leckhampton Hill - which is more "peak" than "hill", with its near-vertical gradient - which was so worth it for the physical challenge (added to by sensibly wearing ballet pumps with no grip to speak of) and the incredible views.

Leckhampton Hill: Almost at the top!
View over Devil's Chimney
We then went for a shandy (me) and ale (Tim) at what he called "the best pub garden in all of Cheltenham", which was really lovely - though of course more research would be needed on my part to substantiate the previous superlative claim. Perhaps that's what I should do for my last 45 days in England: assess the pub gardens of Gloucestershire. We rounded the day off with a curry and a beer on the balcony. Splendid.

Wednesday saw me at the cinema for the first showing of David Nicholls' book 'One Day' adapted for the big screen. Starring Anne Hathaway (Emma) and Jim Sturgess (Dexter), it was a very effectively executed project, and one I think I enjoyed more than the book. While the book is well-written and engaging, it lacks a certain conviction (for me, anyway) with regards to the inevitability of the couple coming together, and their feelings for one another. I definitely applaud Nicholls' willingness to show the ugly and more mundane sides of the two protagonists' characters and their lives, and his realism when it comes to what life can throw at you. It is not a "pretty" book in that sense. But for me, even with that being the case, I still felt that Emma and Dexter did not have an all-encompassing, enduring love for one another, and that it was only running out of options that seemed to bring them together towards the end of the novel. I have concluded that this might be because of the distance between them that is inevitable in written form (especially with the USP of this particular book: each chapter covers their lives, separately or together, on St. Swithin's Day (15th July) every year, for twenty years), simply because it affords so much opportunity for detail and thus pushes them further "apart" due to the time spent reading. This level of elaboration cannot be achieved in the movie, however, as the directors are, of course, on a restricted time plan, so Dexter and Emma's time together (on screen) is more concentrated. This makes it seem all the more like they kept "missing" their opportunity to be together, while still staying true to the realism and grittier parts of the book. So, all in all, I really enjoyed the film. Even with Hathaway's attempts at a Yorkshire accent...!

I was planning on visiting university friends in Oxford this weekend, but sadly had to cancel as funds are running a little low. I am trying to save as much money as possible for when I leave for NC, and the money I have saved so far is all to go towards shipping and wedding costs/visa fees once I get over to the States. So, as I have 6.5 weeks left (all being well in the interview), I am going to have to get creative about seeing people, to make sure I've said my goodbyes properly. This weekend will instead be spent with the folks and some old friends of ours who are staying over on Sunday. So I guess that might be one goodbye taken care of! Mum is cooking a Sunday lunch - definitely to be savoured - and I will mooch along to the pub quiz to see work friends, as everyone is now back from their holidays. It's weird to think that they will be going back to school next week, and that I won't be joining them. Next week for me will be made of up - you guessed it - working out and reading, playing with the D3, catching up with a few friends and then having the utter delight of my brother and his wife staying with us at the weekend. Yay! I can't wait to tell them all about how I've been reading and working out... 

Monday, 22 August 2011

There's no such thing as "out of the blue"

Image © Courtenay Photographic

So, you see above the possible design for our USA wedding invites. HOW EXCITING! We've just been messing around with a few designs (and by that I mean I have been occupying my time by making invites on Photobox and then emailing them to Ben to see what he thinks) and working out some final details for the wedding day "proper" so that we can actually invite people. We figure they will need to know what time to arrive and other such minor details, so we need to finalise a few things before we send any invites out. But we're getting there!

The other exciting thing is a kind of "silver lining", but in a far more shiny and fantastic sense than the idea of scrabbling for some sliver of good out of a larger, bad thing. We worked out that, as I need to apply for an SSN (Social Security Number) before we apply for a marriage license, we were going to have to wait at least five weeks before we can marry legally. Our original plan was, so that we can start the procedure for AOS (Adjustment of Status) so that I can work and get going with a driving license etc., that we would marry legally ASAP after my arrival in the States. We would then have the ceremony booked on December 3rd as a full wedding event, but being more of a public confirmation, rather than a legal process. However, due to the SSN processing times - and our rather cautious approach to any kind of temporal "estimates" now! - we think that we will be able to apply for a marriage license around the 10th-15th November at the earliest. So, considering that that means we won't be able to legally marry until then (or the week after, depending on whether the license is issued on the day), we'd only be getting married just over two weeks before the day booked for the public ceremony. Therefore, we've decided that there's no point in having an earlier legal ceremony, so we're going ahead and doing the whole thing officially on December 3rd: ceremony, legal process, the lot. We're still well within the 90 days allowed by the K1 visa, so there's not anything to worry about there. And then there is that silver lining, which is two- (and maybe three-) fold.

Firstly, it means that my family can be there for the "real" part of the wedding, where we are made into Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd. (Pause for some girly squealing.) That means a lot to them, especially after seeing my younger brother go through what was deemed "just a simple legal ceremony" when he married Wren earlier this year. Much as it was not "the day" (an important day, for sure, but not what they considered their wedding day) it was still incredibly special and I think it highlighted for them how much they wanted to see me and Ben do that bit, too. Plus it means Dad will really be "giving me away" now! Hee.

Leah and Steven
Secondly, it also means that we need someone who can marry us. In the UK, it is necessary to have both a person and a place that is legally licensed to take a wedding. So, not only do you need a registrar or religious officiant, but you also need to ensure that the venue is licensed for marriages, or it's not legal. This is not the case in the States - or at least not in NC - as you only need to make sure you are married by someone who is licensed to do so. This means, of course, that you can get married anywhere! More importantly for us, however, it meant that we had the very great pleasure of asking our best "man" Leah's fiancé Steven, who is an ordained minister and a dear, respected friend of ours, if he would do us the honour of taking the ceremony on our wedding day (we had Skype on of course, which meant I could be "there" when Ben asked). And Steven said yes! We are so lucky and happy - honestly, I think I might burst sometime soon.

Engagement party joy
So that's all fantastic! But what about that third fold, eh? Well, it's only a psychological thing but, much as I am happy to marry Ben any which way, I am now so full of anticipation for a big celebration on the actual day we get really, legally, properly married. Even though it's just paperwork, I am so excited and happy about it! We get to celebrate being bound together, showing our love for each other, with people we love and in a beautiful setting. It's just going to be amazing. The way my stomach leaps every time I think of it (and it did anyway, but knowing that it's the "official" day has made a significant difference) makes me know it's the right thing to have it all on the same day.  

Friday, 19 August 2011

Find the horizon

My stored UK life
I spent this morning recovering from my apparent over-indulgence of two (yes, just TWO) glasses of red wine. This diet I'm on, due to being low on carbs and fats, clearly has resulted in an inability to tolerate much more than a unit of alcohol. Add to that the fact that I hadn't had a drink in two weeks or so and you have a surprise hangover. Wahey!

So, I woke up at around 8, wondering why the room was spinning a bit and why I felt rubbish. Cue ibuprofen, another hour in bed and then some terrible morning TV and I started to feel a little better. In a sad way, it did break up my morning a little - I am getting to a point, just over two weeks after Ben leaving the UK, that I am, quite simply, bored. I have packed my shipping tea chests, completed forms, got everything ready to emigrate. I have prepared everything for the visa interview at the US Embassy. I have packed and repacked storage boxes (see above). I have read books, and I have walked, worked out, caught up with friends, been on bike rides and watched movies. And I feel horrible for whining about it all - really, it's such a first world problem! And to become a bit despondent now is really rather early in the game. There are still five whole weeks to go before my interview, meaning that there are just over 7 before I can see Ben again and start life in the States properly. Usually at this time of year I would be starting to get silly-busy with preparing for returning to work after the summer break and cramming in seeing people but it seems that there aren't enough things for me to fill my day with in any really productive way. I am used to being overrun with things to do, so having just a few each day (even with the very helpful to do list method that helps me feel like I'm accomplishing things) is leaving me feeling a little... empty. And a bit useless. It basically comes down to me not being good at not being busy and, which is a bit of a surprise as I do enjoy - nay, require - alone time quite regularly, I am not good at being alone for long periods. I guess it's the difference between being alone and being lonely.

My beautiful engagement party dress
Back to this morning, then. After a work out - once I was feeling less nauseous - which went really, really well (the cross-trainer didn't kill me this time, so that's progress!), I got showered and dressed and decided that I wanted to check in on my engagement party dress. I hadn't looked at it at all since that day (June 4th), a combination of both worrying that it might need a right old clean and because I thought it would be a bit emotionally tough to do it without Ben here. As it turns out, it was in pristine condition (the layers need steam cleaning just to straighten them out to let the skirt hang smoothly, but that's to be expected) and it was actually a really happy thing to do. It's such a beautiful dress, and we had such a magical day when I wore it, that I just felt warm and reminded of all the wonderful things still to come.

But this is what I am reduced to, dear readers (if indeed there are any of you out there!): I am writing a blog about packing crates and looking at a dress. I NEED TO DO SOMETHING! I essentially need something more than just teeny jobs here and there, and perhaps things that I have to do, rather than just can do. Photography projects, coffee, getting healthier... they all only take up so much time. Not having a car any more also restricts me. And, of course, I inevitably then feel bad that I am complaining about having "too much" time and as though I am wasting the time I do have, so worry that I look/am lazy or uncreative. Bah!

So... tomorrow. Another list of small jobs. I am going to keep going with the lists. They do help. I am having my hair done and, having lost about 7lbs now, I am feeling happier in my own skin, so it will feel like I've "earned" the pampering. I am meeting a friend for chats and some Ally McBeal in the afternoon/evening. I have breakfast planned with a friend on Sunday and then a busy week with friends (mainly more coffee, admittedly, but there may also be the cinema and some walks) up until about Thursday. Ben's birthday is on Wednesday and there is the potential of a much hoped for visit from my brother and his wife at the end of the week, as they might be coming over from Geneva for the weekend. And if all this fails, I suppose I can just be glad that it hasn't got this bad yet:

Thursday, 18 August 2011

He loves me

It's our official anniversary today (when we decided we were definitely a couple, after years of dilly-dallying around it!). We're 3000 miles apart. But Ben sent me these this morning, and I am stupidly happy.

54 days until I leave (all being well) - so excited!

Monday, 15 August 2011

They shag sheep...

I have been reading through some fantastic ex-pat blogs today, I guess to get an idea of others' experiences of both the visa application process and the actual move, including adapting to a culturally new way of life. I have added some of these links to the 'Other Travel Blogs' link list in the right hand panel of this blog. One of them - From Sheep to Alligators - cited the YouTube clip below, where Reginald D. Hunter talks about the differences between British and English uses of language, amongst other things. A very funny spiel, but has some NSFW language throughout and does touch on some sensitive subjects after about 5:35, just so you're warned!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Flights booked!

It's booked! The flight is booked! Had to take a bit of a financial hit due to the season changing and the flights being a bit more expensive, plus the rebooking fee. But it's done! Fingers crossed for the interview and then it's NC ahoy!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Interview scheduled!

So, after one positive post, here comes another one...  I just called the Embassy to check whether or not they had marked my documents as received (it could be up to another week until they get processed) and the lovely phone operator, Sheila, told me she had some good news for me: not only have all my documents been received and approved but my interview has been scheduled! 


I am so excited I could burst. I had to to wake Ben up just now (at 5:30 AM EST, poor baby) to tell him. Eeeeee! It's booked for September 23rd, and they advise waiting 2 weeks after the interview to book flights (as they have to take your passport and then courier it back to you once it's had the K1 added to it), so to be on the safe side - both to allow my baggage to be shipped with the correct visa details and to ensure any "just in case" scenarios are avoided - I am going to book a flight to NC on or around 13th October. 2 months. 2 months. We can do that.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Tryin' hard not to smile though I feel bad

In typical "having an early bed time" tradition, I have been unable to fall asleep for two and a half hours. So I am now back upright, the lights are on, a Harry Potter audiobook is still playing on the iPod (my usual way to encourage the company of Morpheus), and I thought that some written introspection that I can inflict on the general public might help me to fall asleep. So, here we go.

It has been one week (get the title now?  ) since my husband-to-be left the country after what were two blissful months together. I have, as per the blog post on that day, fallen apart a bit and been experiencing a type of loneliness I'd not known before then. As I have already waxed lyrical about how much I miss Ben, I shan't focus on that now as this is really supposed to be a blog about emigrating, even if the reason for emigrating is the one great love that is my wonderful fiancé.

As much as it pains me to be apart from him, I am trying to use the weeks on this side of the pond to tie up loose ends and to enjoy the lovely people I have here on home soil before I leave for a significant, and as yet undefined, period of time.  Not working at the moment, although this would have always been the case being in the education sector as I was, is no doubt adding to the sense of restlessness I feel and, again, my organised, pre-planning nature has worked against me in that there is actually very little final preparation to do before the interview and actual move. 

So, what has been happening? Well, I am happy. Oddly so, considering the circumstances. Dad commented yesterday that it was good to see me like this - happy in a long term way - and it made me see that I really am, deeply happy (is that possible?!). I am so very excited about the move, about the main reason for it (movie-worthy, vomit-inducing, wonderful love); the opportunities that NC and my career leap to photography will hopefully afford (with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, which I am looking forward to immensely) and the sense of adventure, security, exhilaration and contentedness the entire journey seems to be inspiring me with. And in actual fact, a lot has happened this week. I have started to learn to use a Nikon D3 (a project I want to complete to a point of feeling confident in picking one up in future and to achieve that before leaving for the States, to widen my photography repertoire - if only with hardware). I have read one book, 'Up A Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog', and have started a second, 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'. I have started a proper diet/exercise routine and lost 3lbs so far this week. I have sold my car. I've updated my Google+ and LinkedIn profiles to include my new employment status as a "real" photographer, and a link to this blog too, as I think it's going to make up a significant part of my emigration experience, which will in turn no doubt influence my photography. I have been out on a photo mission with my old friend Steve to help him learn how to use his first D-SLR. I've almost finished collating and editing the My Other Limb posts for July's batch of photos, which means I can move on and continue with those from August's very soon. I have met a new friend, Martha, and together we set a new record at my local café for longest continuous chat over morning coffee/lunch/the whole afternoon. I have been on walks and bike rides. I have ordered a few clip-seal plastic boxes to pack the life I leave behind into, which will be filled by the end of the week. I have had time to talk to Ben daily via Skype and WhatsApp (a Godsend to anyone with a partner or close friend in another country; I cannot recommend it highly enough) and to spend time with my parents yesterday and today. I have plans for the rest of the week that involve learning, packing or hanging out with friends (and sometimes a combination of those three). I am very happy. And very, very lucky. 

The above may seem like a self-congratulatory, smug list of very basic accomplishments, I suppose, and for that, I guess, once upon a time I might have apologised. But I really am enjoying these little things. And yes, they may not have taken a huge amount of change or energy on my part but they are helping me to enjoy the time I have to spend away from Ben, and reminding me to appreciate and treasure it too. On top of not apologising for being a bit simple and apparently easily pleased (!), I'd also go so far as to say a list like this might help anyone else going through a similar situation (even if you are able to be distracted by a job); if you are waiting for documents to process at the Embassy or similar, this could have a positive effect on your perception of progress. Note down even small achievements and take enjoyment from things that might, without deliberately paying attention to them, go unnoticed despite being reasons to smile.

Writing this doesn't appear to have tired me out any but hopefully it's either engaged any readers, or perhaps helped them with their own insomnia. I'm all about value.

Simple things. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

SOLD! or Walking through town is quite scary

You guessed it! Sold my car today. Fantastic.

However, this is rather less.. newsworthy (?) after the rioting and looting across the UK, which developed into full scale, countrywide mobs last night, threatened people I love and caused so much damage to communities that will struggle to recover.

London riots: Photographer Amy Weston heard screaming by shops in Croydon that were in flames.
Photograph: Amy Weston/WENN.com

Please take the time, if you think you might know anyone who could have been involved, to look at the Met. Police's flickr account, where they are publishing photos of the criminal activity. 

Saturday, 6 August 2011

For Sale

One car. Please buy it. Thanks!

Click on the photo to go to the actual advert.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

This heart, it beats, beats for only you

So, Ben went home today. This was not easy. I was quite pathetic. We stayed at the Novotel at Birmingham Airport - which incidentally is a lovely hotel with a great restaurant, even without being an airport hotel - which was our original plan when we thought I'd be able to return with him. So, we had dinner, mucked about with my phone camera app (see below) and watched True Blood and Scrubs, basically trying to pretend all was normal and also not fall asleep because time would then go too fast.

Gorgeous man of mine. 
My giant head.

So, we managed to pretty much stay awake until 4AM, get ready (again) and then mooch on over to the terminal (in between my apparently random but quiet sobbing) where, for some reason I managed to get it together a bit and not bawl until Ben walked through departures where I couldn't follow. 

Stupid airport.
I managed to get out of the airport armed with ibuprofen and a Red Bull so that I could drive home without too much fuss. It's been a weird few days, as I've been more affected by our separation this time around than back in January. I say weird because, at that point, we didn't have a definite idea of when we would see each other again, knew it would have to be at least five months of time apart and hadn't even started the visa process. You would think, then, that this separation - where it will be 3 months maximum time apart, maybe less if we're lucky, and we're so near the end of the visa process now with just the interview to go - would be a bit easier. Perhaps the fact that we (optimistically) hoped that I could go back with Ben today made it harder. Or, more likely - having had time to reflect on this when wailing on the M42 at 6AM - it's that having Ben at home with me, my family, my friends, in my everyday life, just makes it all the more obvious that he isn't here now. And it wasn't exactly a "normal" everyday life situation in that we weren't having to go to work, were doing lots of fun things and celebrating our upcoming wedding, so it was an incredibly special and exciting time. We even worked out that we spent around 97% (actually 96.6%, because we are that much fun we work stuff out like that - I love our relationship. *grins* ) of the past two months in each other's presence. Only the dentist (me), hairdresser (me) and bathroom (both of us, separately) had us in different locations. 

Just add fiancé.
I wouldn't have it any different, though. Much as the pain is horrible at this point - and I don't care if I sound like I'm exaggerating or apparently ignoring all of the good things about us and life in general; right now it hurts and experience tells me it's better for me to let my feelings be what they are and work through them than try to pretend I am okay, thus postponing any genuine recovery - I am so very grateful and lucky to have such a love as this. So now I wait until around 2030 GMT to hear that my heart has safely arrived back in NC and then hopefully get to chat with him tonight via Skype once he has had some catching up time with family and friends. And then the countdown begins again... 

Visa update: It's not much of one, but I did call the US Embassy on Monday. They told me that the documents I sent to them that arrived on 20th July had not yet been processed and could take another two weeks to be on the system as complete, and that the medical results had not been added to the system either but would be likely to be on by today. In terms of time, this means we have to wait until a maximum of August 17th for the documents to have been processed and ticked off and, provided that all is in order, a further two weeks after that to get a letter with an interview date. They couldn't advise me of how long after receiving the letter the interview might be scheduled. So, it's basically watch this space until August 31st, when we should have an interview date.