I know people are staring at me, I would stare at me too. I'm the girl with the 45kg suitcase, lumbering through central Manchester clothed in yesterday's tracksuit and yesterday's pessimism. I'm hot, moody and almost certainly smelly and I'm still a few hours and several random fits of tears from home. My blistered hands look like I've spent the summer doing hard labour, not au pairing for three 'petits anges' and from the way my right foot is squelching, I'm pretty sure I just stepped in gum.
There isn't even a more cheery start to my journey that I can tell you to warm your hearts, after my possibly (no, make that definitely) bipolar Parisian host mum confused me out of their home and I had spent all of my savings on Disneyland entry and cheap wine, I had no choice but to lug my suitcase down the 13 flights of stairs from my beautiful Kiwi best friend Sophie's apartment and onto the first bus, the second bus, the coach, the ferry, the second coach, the train and then the tram. That all started 29 hours ago and I had long since lost the will to live.
The only reason I hadn't yet given up and called home was because I could already hear my mother's condescending tone as she reminded me of her oh-so-wise words;
"Pay extra for the flight home" she'd said, "you'll regret it if you don't."
"No." I told her, "I am a frugal, gap-year taking student... I would never choose comfort over cost."
... I hate it when my mother's right.
I finally make it to Manchester Victoria and collapse onto the Liverpool train, relieving my poor hands of their burden and praying for the first time ever that some unforeseen circumstance will cause horrendous delays and allow me to rest my eyes just a while longer. But alas, the train runs mockingly smoothly and I'm at Liverpool Lime Street in record time, avoiding the unforgiving glares as I run over assorted feet with my beyond ridiculous suitcase.
I longingly imagine curling up on the sofa at home as I step out into the cold Liverpool afternoon to find a bus to take me home. After what feels like hours, I am at Ormskirk bus station and only minutes from salvation.
"Really? You can walk there faster than I can get you a car..." comes the gruff, 20-a-day voice of the inconsiderate taxi-man. I can't bring myself to even attempt to justify the journey so I merely murmur my assent and hang up the phone.
I hand over my £1.80 to the creepily quiet taxi driver and climb out apologetically, silently questioning his choice to wear bright yellow board shorts on a 4 degree Autumn day. He grumbles something unintelligible and frowns with all his might as I feebly wave goodbye. Surely the combination of my tear-stained cheeks, impossibly heavy luggage and stale, slightly croissantish smell (I ate at least 7 on my journey) must somehow justify the pathetic three minute journey in his spluttering red Ford Focus?
Either way, I don't care that he's silently judging me as I traipse up the garden path. I am home, and I have never been so glad to be here.