It’s quite difficult to get your head around just how hard this despicable Brexit government make it for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine (or any war, for that matter).
Not only are we the only country in Europe that is demanding visas from Ukrainian refugees, children, babies (in case said baby is a Russian spy, obvs), we make it diabolically tough to bring your pets from Ukraine into the UK.
To enter the country with your pet pooch you need permission from APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency), a British executive agency of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
To get that permission, your pet must be vaccinated against rabies, they must pass an antibody test after three weeks, the sponsor’s home in the UK must pass an inspection to confirm that the animal can be quarantined there for three months, you have to register the driver and vehicle who is bringing your pet over, you have to set a date to bring them over (take time off work and book your tickets with no confirmation that the permission will actually come through by that date) and then 24 hours prior to your arrival, your dog must take worming tablets.
Now, armed with all this paperwork, if you get knocked back at the border for whatever reason, you’re in trouble. Why? It’s not just that the date, driver and vehicle will have to be re-applied for, but because the window for coming into the country is between 24 and 120 hours after taking the worming tablets. If you can’t get your paperwork sorted within four days of being told you can’t enter the country, then your next window of opportunity to have your dog take the tablets is THREE MONTHS later.
Up until the UK left the EU, all this was unnecessary. If your dog (or cat, or ferret) had an EU pet passport, you could get into the country no problem.
But, y’know, blue passports (that no longer allow you to work in 31 other countries) YAY!
As a direct result of all this bullshit, we had to leave little Oliver with Adam and Ali in Germany when we brought Natasha, Maria and Mark over to Stockport last month.
Now the permission from APHA had finally come through, I could finally go and get the little chap. And since Natasha’s biometric registration had just been confirmed, she could come with me. Up to this point, she couldn’t leave the country. Well, she could, they just wouldn’t have let her back in again.
To be clear: until yesterday I had no solid confirmation of APHA’s approval or that Natasha could even come with me.
It’s only because of your kind donations (and a very understanding girlfriend) that I can drop everything and leave the country mid-week to do this kind of thing, so thank you!
After failing to get all my stuff together the night before, I awoke at 4.30am with lots to do. I still had Ciaran’s Honda Stepwagon from the previous journey to Ukraine, which made things a little easier, but the brake pads needed replacing, front and rear. Ciaran had the replacement pads down in Hemel Hempstead, so I’d have to drive to Manchester, pick up Natasha, then on to Hemel Hempstead, get the pads off Ciaran, go to the local garage and get them fitted, then drive down to Folkestone, go through the Eurotunnel, then drive for another five hours (through Belgium) to Adam and Ali’s place in Germany. Hence the early start.
By 6.30am I was on the road and trundling my way to Stockport (whilst taking it easy on the brakes).
I arrived in Stockport a little after 9.30am. Natasha’s sponsor, Amanda, was at the local school with Natasha’s son, Mark, getting him enrolled. Natasha made me a coffee to go and we hit the road.
For this journey, Natasha had an app on her phone which made communication a lot easier, although I have to say her English was way better than it was three weeks ago.
We arrived at Ciaran’s place in Hemel Hempstead around 1.30pm.
After grabbing the pads off Ciaran and taking the van to a nearby garage, Natasha and I had a bit of a mooch around Hemel. It’s actually really quite lovely. We had tea.
At 3pm we returned to the garage. After filling up with petrol, we made a beeline for Folkestone. We would have arrived by 5pm had it not been for you meddling Brexit 🤬. We stopped at the Junction 8 services on the M20, not knowing that you can’t get back on the damn motorway towards Folkestone if you do. Why not? Well, because since the bastard demon child that is Brexit, the M20 southbound has been changed into the world’s longest lorry park. As a consequence, we missed our scheduled train journey, arriving at Le Shuttle check-in half an hour late. There’s certainly a pattern emerging here…!
After 9 hours behind the wheel, I could have done with a bit more of a break, but I also wanted to get to Adam and Ali’s before ridiculous o’clock, so on we pressed, past Dunkirk, into Belgium, around Brussels, south via Bitburg to our final destination: the town of Speicher just a few miles from the border with Luxembourg.
We arrived at around 1.25am.
I was knackered, but you know what? It was worth it, just for this reunion:
Ali had made us spaghetti bolognese, which I wolfed down along with a bottle of Bitburger beer. Then it was time to get my head down for the night: we had an early start in the morning.
We had to get back.
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