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Woman stranded in UK for two years due to Covid decides to buy house here


Diane Vennix, 64, has been unable to fly home to Melbourne, Australia, due to travel bans and successive lockdowns. Diane has missed two of her husband Martin’s birthdays, including his milestone 70th, during her lengthy wait to return to Australia.

But the grandmother of two became trapped here for so long she has ended up buying her own three-bed home in Eccles, Greater Manchester.

Speaking to Manchester Evening News, Diane said: “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.”

Victoria, Australia, 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 and Martin are planning joint birthday celebrations when she finally makes it back to him this week, after a 72-hour self-isolation at her home under the current travel rules in the South East of Australia.

She had flown to Manchester in February last year, to prepare for the arrival of her two new grandchildren and help her son Christopher and daughter Joanne with their new babies.

By total coincidence, babies Jacob and Amber were born within hours of each other on February 27 and 28.

But 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.

Diane, a retired retail worker, 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 3-bed semi in Eccles in November 2020.”

Diane turned 64 this week and missed her partner’s 70th birthday last year.

“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,” the gran, who was raised in Salford, Greater Manchester, continued.

“We will hopefully get away in the caravan and do a bit of relaxing after my self-isolation is over.”

Martin intends to see his grandchildren for the first time on a much-anticipated trip to the UK next year.

They ultimately hope to split their time between Eccles and Australia in the future, if travel restrictions allow.

Diane first met Martin on a visit 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.”

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