Friday 25th March
When I awoke, the first thing I did was to phone Noelene and we agreed that I would first be reunited with her and the girls privately on my arrival at Manchester Airport, meet the press there and then go home and relax. And that was how it was done.
As the previous night, I slept only fitfully, maybe for no more than four or five hours but awoke fairly refreshed, got dressed, packed, checked out and headed for the Airport in a chauffer driver Merc.; and very nice it was too. The staff in the hotel all seemed to know who I was and kept asking me if I was okay. The chauffer wanted to hear my story and told me of his friendship with several famous Brits who rank way above me (including Dennis Law and Frank Williams). I checked in at the VIP counter and spent the next 13 hours fighting fatigue and boredom as I flew back to the UK. The flight left on time at quarter to eleven in the morning in Malaysia and arrived in Manchester at about quarter past four in the afternoon. A couple of the cabin crew asked if I was the guy who had got lost in the jungle and we chatted a bit about my experiences. They were lovely people.
As soon as I stepped off the airbridge at Manchester Airport I turned on my phone and prepared to call Noelene but, all of a sudden, she and the girls were there in front of me. We hugged, kissed, cried and did it all over and over again. It was wonderful to be able to touch and hold them again and I wasnt going to let go. Eventually we had to move and a very kind lady from the Airport Media Centre ushered us through Immigration, helped collect my case and escorted us through Customs to the public area where a host of photographers and camera crew were waiting for us. We followed the Airport lady to a quiet area and I faced the press. It wasnt too bad and I did my best to correct some of the mistaken ideas they had got about me, my supposed finding of god, my profession, what I ate in the forest. But hey, why spoil a good story!
They were very good, though and we were soon on the M60 heading home. When we got there I could see that the house had been covered with Welcome Home banners, balloons and all sorts of bunting. Luc, our next door neighbour's three year old son, had fixed letters on the wall saying WELCOME HOME JUNGLE JOHN! Graham and Anne turned up and the house filled with the people that I love most. Copious bottles of Champagne were opened. Janine, one of Graham and Anne's French friends made a speech in English and proposed a toast, unbeknown to me she had filled my glass with vinegar as a punishment for all the trouble I'd caused. Mind you, even that tasted better than the "recycled water" I had tasted some days before! The evening took on a party-like atmosphere with Kati, Tony and the children from next door joining us and I just sat there in love with everyone, enjoying being back. They showed me some of the press cuttings, Chris had downloaded the Kevin Boucquet interviews from the BBC website and the phone was ringing non-stop from media people still wanting to speak to me. So I did an interview with BBC Five Live and made an arrangement with Granada Reports for the next day. We watched the BBC Look North West news bulletin with me being second item on, recorded at the Airport and, as some of our friends went home Jon and Alex arrived.
We had an excellent Indian takeaway, a couple of beers and a good old chat about my exploits and how they had all coped (alternately pretty well and with difficulty). Noelene, once she had got over the initial shock had swung into action and had busied herself with making sure that her man was returned to her in one piece. That was her way of coping. Claire and Dawn had been at the house every day, had taken a lot of the routine homely pressure off Noelene and had dealt with the press and media. Graham and Anne had slept at the house throughout and they and the girls had given Noelene both emotional and practical support throughout.
©John Gillatt, 2005