A grandmother who was stranded for so long due to Covid lockdowns she had to buy a house to live in is finally preparing to return home to Australia.
Diana Vennix flew to the North West in February 2020, to prepare for the arrival of her two new grandchildren and help her son Christopher and daughter Joanne with their new arrivals.
But, when the pandemic hit and lockdown was enforced in March 2020 the 64-year-old ended up "trapped" under the restrictions and travel bans, meaning she could not return home to husband Martin, 71, as planned.
Weeks slowly turned to months and the grandmother, who felt she was outstaying her welcome with friends, was forced to buy a home of her own in Salford to live in.
Diane, who has been stranded in the UK for 22 months, said: "I flew in to Manchester in February 2020 and it was always the plan to stay a few months to welcome my two new grandchildren, but when lockdown happened I basically got stuck here."At first I wasn't too worried I thought: 'Oh I'll be able to get a flight soon' but the months rolled on and on and it didn't happen."I'd always planned to stay with friends and family, but it got to the point where I felt I was outstaying my welcome a bit."That's when I started to look at buying a house although that was a bit of a shock as well because it was when house prices were going crazy. But I eventually managed to get a three-bed semi in Eccles in November 2020."I came to England with nothing but my clothes, so it really was like starting from scratch - because of lockdown I had to order furnishings online which weren't available until the March."So I moved into the house with literally just a mattress my daughter lent me and a chair I managed to buy from Dunelm."Friends and family helped out with lending me things until I could get myself organised."
Diane has waited patiently for news that she could finally book flights and return Down Under.The state of Victoria in Australia has had some of the tightest lockdown restrictions in the world through the coronavirus pandemic.It only reopened its borders at the start of November, which enabled Diane to finally get a flight booked back to Melbourne on 30 November - after almost two years.
She has missed two of her husband's birthdays while stranded in Eccles - including his big 70th - and he's just missed her 64th birthday this week.But they are planning joint celebrations when she finally makes it back home to him this week, after a 72-hour self-isolation at her home under the current travel rules in the South East of Australia.Diane said: "I'm looking forward to some sunshine!"Speaking to my husband yesterday he said it was 30 degrees at the moment, so I'm looking forward to warmer weather and also obviously just seeing Martin after all this time.
Salford-born Diane, who grew up in Peel Green, first met Martin on a trip to Australia 14 years ago, when she and her friend booked a round-the-world holiday of a lifetime when both were celebrating their 50th birthdays.While Diane's friend decided to return to the UK, she stayed on in Australia and went backpacking on her own, where she bumped into Martin when he was riding his Harley Davidson motorbike with his sister.Diane said: "I thought I was too old for a holiday romance, and Melbourne was never on my agenda, but Martin said please come back and meet my family, you can't spend Christmas on your own."I thought well, ok, this bloke has got under my skin... and the rest is history. We got married two years later."
Diane's son Christopher says he will look after the Eccles house for his mum until she and Martin can return again on their next holiday here.