Grandma Diane Vennix is preparing to fly home to her husband in Australia after almost two stranded in Salford due to successive lockdowns and travel bans to Melbourne.
Diane, 64, has been trapped in the North West so long that she ended up buying her own house in Eccles, while she patiently waited for news that she could finally book flights and return home.
She lives with husband Martin, 71, in the state of Victoria in Australia - which has had some of the tightest lockdown restrictions in the world through the coronavirus pandemic.
Victoria only opened its borders at the start of November, which enabled Diane to finally get a flight booked back to Melbourne today after 22 months stranded in the UK.
Diane had flown into Manchester back in February 2020, to prepare for the arrival of her two new grandchildren and help her son Christopher and daughter Joanne with their new babies.
Babies Jacob and Amber were born within hours of each other on February 27 and 28.
When lockdown was enforced in the UK in March 2020 Diane ended up "trapped" under the restrictions and travel bans both here and in Australia - and had a lot longer with her Manchester-based family than she had originally planned for.
Diane told the MEN: "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 3-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."
She has missed two of her husband's birthdays while stranded in Salford - 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.
And what is she most looking forward to when she gets back to Melbourne?
Diane laughs: "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.
"We will hopefully get away in the caravan and do a bit of relaxing after my self-isolation is over."
The couple have stayed in touch via WhatsApp over the past 22 months, and now that Diane has bought the house in Eccles, they hope they can both return next year so that Martin can see the grandchildren for the first time.
They ultimately hope to split their time between Eccles and Australia in the future, if travel restrictions allow of course.
Retired retail worker Diane is mum to Joanne and Christopher, and stepmum to Martin's two daughters Brooke and Jackie and three grandchildren in Australia, as well as her two new grandchildren here in the UK, Amber and Jacob.
One of the things she says she feels "most grateful" for in getting stranded is being able to watch the tots grow, with both now 21 months old.
"I do feel very blessed in that way," she says. "I have a lovely bond with them both."
Salford-born Diane, who grew up in Peel Green, first met Martin on a fateful trip to Australia 14 years ago, when she and her friend booked a round-the-world trip 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.
She laughs: "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 in 2008."
Diane says the lockdown has been more difficult for Martin than her in many ways - particularly as in Victoria they had tough restrictions including a nightly curfew at the peak of the crisis.
And even when repatriation flights to Australia started in September from the UK, Diane still couldn't get home because while she could have flown to Darwin the Victorian borders remained shut, until now.
She says: "Victoria had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world.
"My husband wasn't allowed to leave his home when they first started the lockdown, and they had curfews where you had to be in your home by 8pm."
Diane's son Christopher has said he will look after the house in Eccles for his mum until she and Martin can return again on their next holiday here.
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