Week three, part two : On the town

We’ve just had a fantastic three days in London. We were lucky enough to stay on a friends’ houseboat close to Kew Gardens and took advantage of our newly acquired Oyster (Octopus)* cards to travel on buses and the Tube (MTR).  It was odd only hearing announcements on transport in one language and not three!

Being in London actually feels much more like being in Hong Kong. Both are large cities, have a clear  identity and  there’s water running through the middle. I felt much more at home here than I had done so far since being back. I love the cosmopolitan feel to both cities, I love the diversity of their peoples and their history and the food they bring with them, I love the vibrant nature and constant on the go feel, I love the hustle and bustle and easy access to great theatre, museums, events, cinema and restaurants.
 
I loved being in a multi cultural city too. I’d forgotten how white/caucasian much of  the UK is and after being in a minority group in Hong Kong, I’d got used to being part of the eclectic mix.
On the people side, we said a sad farewell to daughter’s friend as she heads off on her own for a few weeks. The up side was we got to spend time with our friends whose houseboat we stayed on. Whenever we used to come over to visit, I used to feel I had to hold part of me in so I wouldn’t be so sad saying goodbye. This time is was so different, knowing it wouldn’t be long between visits and knowing our friendships can grow again and not just rely on part memories of shared times.
 
I won’t bore you with all the details of what we did, instead here are loads of photos of Windsor Castle, Central London, Camden Market and Kew gardens where we saw an all time favourite of mine, Billy Bragg.
Next week, the kids and I go to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh for a seven night break before we move back into our old house! Gosh, I shall be so glad to sleep back in my own bed (albeit in a house I’ve not slept in for 12 years……) So grateful for everyone’s spare beds and wonderful hospitality which I am looking forward to repaying very soon.
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Week three, part one : What have the Romans ever done for us?

The Monty Python fans among you will recognise this quote and it has been in my thoughts this week as our transition/holiday continues.

Just outside Cardiff is the Roman town of Caerleon (Isca to the Romans) , home to Roman Baths, a Roman Amphitheatre and the largest excavated barracks in the UK. I loved re-discovering my European heritage and knowing our land has been occupied and enriched. Reading the bathing rituals was very enlightening and I’m sure many parents of teenagers wished they bathed as thoroughly as the Romans did! Personally I took great pleasure in watching a group of Primary School children visiting the Baths and enjoying the interactive displays and trying on replica clothes. What a fantastic way to connect to the past and make it come alive. I know the students at my previous school love going on trips to museums and the library where they can make their classroom learning take its place n the outside world.

I thoroughly recommend a visit http://www.caerleon.net

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We still have daughter’s friend (and my honorary daughter originally from Australia but who has lived in Hong Kong for the last five years) with us, hence us all having a holiday. This time last year we were all in Hong Kong seeing the incredible Terracotta Warriors exhibition in the Hong Kong Museum of History and we all enjoyed remembering our visit. http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/Museum/History/en_US/web/mh/exhibition/2012_past_04.html

I celebrated my 50th birthday with daughter(s) and son in the Roman city of Bath and discovered how much the Romans have done for us! The Baths there have been excavated over the last three hundred years and I really appreciated how many archeologists since the 1700s have been fascinated by the Romans and have worked hard to share them with the general public. The girls listened so intently to all the audio prompts, son enjoyed picking his favourites and then looking and taking it all in visually. It was a joy to see them interacting in their own way and at their own pace.

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The second photo shows towers of tiles which supported a floor. Hot air was pumped underneath creating central heating!

We also visited the Jane Austen house and my very dear Hong Kong friend and work colleague was in my thoughts all day as we share a passion for all things Austen (including the delectable Mr Darcey)…she had even sent me a Jane Austen card and bookmark for my birthday. Here’s me with the nearest I could get to Mr D! I have discovered there is now a Mr Darcey statue in Hyde Park but sadly the Rolling Stones are playing on the day I could visit it 😦 Instead, do click on the link and take a virtual look 🙂

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Re-connecting with friends is always fun and via my brother in law I now have a friend in Wales who came with us to two theatre shows. We enjoyed open air theatre in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff watching Guys and Dolls and then sang our way through the Rocky Horror Show at the New Theatre Cardiff as they celebrated their 40th anniversary tour.

Finally we said a sad farewell to father-in-law and incredibly flexible host to us and are now in London staying on a houseboat belonging to two of my closest and oldest (in the nicest way as they are both younger than me) friends and their children. One of the best reasons for coming back to the UK is to be closer to family and friends. I am incredibly privileged to have four friends who very conveniently married each other so we are three couples who love each other and our offspring, being godparents to many of our children. I am so happy this weekend to be seeing one family and catching up with their news. I’m so happy that we don’t have to fit everything into a weekend before we leave for HK and don’t see them for another year. This time I can come again very soon and get to know them in deeper ways again and also less intense ways, like knowing what their favourite wine is or how they take their tea. In some ways that does make me miss the deep friendships I have left behind but rather than be sad about it, I am viewing it as an about face; re-establishing UK friends on a more permanent basis and visiting HK friends yearly. I am determined to work hard at keeping both sets of friendships whilst understanding life changes and moves on. I am also thinking how moving back to a Home country affects different people in different ways. Another wonderful and relatively new HK friend  I made has relocated back here just a week later than us. I know it is a totally different experience for her and her family but what we have in common is shared experiences and memories of places and events unique to us and that is very precious. I look forward to meeting up with her and taking our friendship into the UK life we now both have.

Week two : Wales

Having my daughter’s lovely Aussie friend from Hong Kong with us for two weeks is encouraging us to go out and explore Wales more than we usually do. To say all of us love books would be an understatement so you can imagine our excitement at spending a day in the world famous town of Hay on Wye on the Wales/England border.

http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/bookshops/default.asp

We looked at everything from a full display of 1930s Penguin books to Garfield to the thinnest book on China I’ve ever seen.

Continue reading “Week two : Wales”

Week one : departing in style

Twelve years ago hubby and I were driving to a friend’s wedding when he said he’d been offered two opportunities with his then employer, one in Sheffield and one in Hong Kong, what did I think? As I’d spent my childhood moving around the UK, moving held no fears for me and wow, this was Hong Kong! Sheffield somehow never really got discussed…..December 2001 saw hubby and I and daughter (just 6) and son (almost 5) board our flight ready for Happy Valley Hong Kong.

Fast forward to June 2013. With eldest child (17) already in the UK at school and hubby about to embark on a new job travelling around the whole of Africa, we decided it was time for me and child number two (16) to head back to the UK.BUT he decided the only way for me to go back was in style. Two FIRST CLASS tickets were procured (love it when Asia Miles actually works) and after enjoying the FIRST CLASS lounge, son and me stretched out on our 6ft beds and slept for seven straight hours.

Departures at Hong Kong AirportReady to go through immigration and hand baggage checks

Our house is rented out until August so my lovely and long-suffering parents are putting my son and me up for our first four days, we’ve enjoyed sunny Brighton. We also got the opportunity to see my brother, sister-in-law and nephew too. It’s the main joy about being back here, re-connecting with my family and I know I’m going to relish time spent with them in a way I didn’t appreciate before going away.

Since then I’ve bought a car (thanks Dad for doing all the research beforehand), got a UK SIM card, arranged for my damaged suitcase to be repaired and …..

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dealt with Dad being unexpectedly being admitted to hospital with pneumonia (now recovering thank goodness) and sorted out lots of little things that needed doing as part of repatriation.

All too soon we were back at Heathrow to collect daughter’s friend from Hong Kong, then off to Cardiff (home of father-in-law) for the next two weeks. Then best bit so far was being able to share, for only the second time, Parents’ Day at daughter’s school and then bring her back for the summer. The pleasure we are all getting knowing that we don’t have to force everything into just a few weeks is wonderful. The pressure cooker feeling I get most summers just isn’t here, phew!