As always, in a recent, brief trip back to the UK, I packed a lot in. Work, connection with friends and family, food, drink and National Trust properties all featured heavily.
I posted about my trip to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in my last entry, so here are some highlights from the rest of the trip.
A different type of visit
This was my first trip home without my own flat and car to return to – I’ve let out my flat and sold my car. Selling and renting has been challenging in many ways but I completed it with gratitude given it’s part of what I need to do right now to create a different type of life. And nothing’s forever…
But this definitely had an impact on how I spent my time. Without a car, I’m reliant on public transport and the kindness of friends and family to either give me lifts, or come visit me where I am, rather than me travelling to them. I also reduced the places I based myself to the Midlands, where my sister, mum and several other family members are, and London. And without a flat, in order to come down to London, where most of my friends are, I need to stay with friends and family to base myself from there.
As you may or may not know, I hate asking for help, so this was a stretching exercise to say the least. I was extremely grateful to the friends and family members who put me up without strings, and with love.
One of the biggest challenges I found was carving out time within the trips to work on my own projects and consultancy work. On-site work was straightforward, but working on the laptop was much more challenging to fit in. But equally important, as the two big projects I am working on (watch this space 😉 ) I hope to earn money from at some point.
I did a couple of fun pieces of work, one involved a trip to Paris for the day to facilitate a development workshop – unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of Paris, but the food was good (!), and the other was running a training course. I also had some work which ran over my flight home (that is, I was doing it at my friends’ house, at the airport, on the plane, on the ferry and then back in Thailand), which was a bit of a tight squeeze but was writing development tips which I really enjoy, so it wasn’t a problem.
There were highlights every day. Catching up with friends and family in a more leisurely way – it’s harder to rush off when you have no car – included all kinds of activities:
- A fabulous spa afternoon at the beautiful and unusual Ironmonger Row Spa. This was for a close friend’s birthday, where slightly ironically given I live on a tropical island, I tried out my first ever bikini (no, there’ll never be photos!).
- A day mooching around Islington with a dear school friend, where we visited the amazing Ottolenghi, a restaurant that does some truly interesting and unusual veggie dishes – as well as heavenly cakes…
- A trip to the Victorian pleasure ground Crystal Palace park with a treasured friend I first met at work a long time ago, where she showed me some of the unusual creatures that lurk in the grass and trees, left over from the 1851 Great Exhibition. I was thrilled and intrigued with these first-ever statues of dinosaurs, and more so by seeing how our understanding of these magnificent creatures has evolved (geddit?!) over time.
- A trip to the art house cinema in Wimbledon where we were able to take wine and decaf coffee (guess which was mine 😉 ) into the cinema, sat in comfy seats, and generally felt like we were in an upgraded version of our living rooms. We saw Belle, which was interesting, but brought home to me once again how recent changes in cultural and social equality are even in the UK – hard for me to imagine, as I sit here in a cafe in Thailand, that 150 years ago (or later) women were not allowed to go out of the house alone.
- A fair-trade coffee morning with one of my godsons, his twin and mother, where I was taken back to childhood as we sat in a church hall and enjoyed fair-trade coffee and biscuits.
- Meeting at least one of the new additions to friends’ families, but knowing there are still more babies to meet – sorry everyone, I will meet them all eventually!
- Helping my sister with her website for her fabulous homemade cards ‘Bard Cards’ (go and have a look as soon as you finish reading this post!)
- Meals out and meals in – even having enough sun to eat in people’s gardens – lovely!
- Days spent with family members hanging out, going to cafes, for walks, watching films and tv, catching up. Connecting and just being with each other.
National Trust Triumph
One set of activities I was particularly pleased with was fitting in three NT visits – just before my card ran out! Having used it almost not at all over the last two years I decided to give up membership for a time while I’m travelling, but I managed to fit in three properties, including one on the penultimate day and one on the final day of my membership!
Sissinghurst (where I was lucky enough to stay in the holiday cottage in the grounds with friends a couple of years ago) is one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, and it was a great opportunity to walk among summer flowers while catching up with friends. And have a picnic!
I also visited Sudbury Hall and Calke Abbey, Both in the midlands, with family. Sudbury Hall has a museum of childhood which was quite fun, and Calke Abbey is an interesting property that was in decline when it was taken over, and the decline has been halted, but not restored. You walk around and see how these huge country estates just withered and died when the money ran out in the early 20thC. Fascinating and sad.
Scones were involved at all these properties…
A day at the tennis
I had an absolutely lovely day at Wimbledon tennis, having been given ground passes by a good (and kind!) friend who works there. I took another friend with me, and we were very lucky to have wonderful weather. We had a great time catching up, laughing, discussing everything under the sun – oh, and yes, watching some tennis. We didn’t go on any of the major courts, but ended up with a great view watching Federer practise, as well as spending a fair amount of time watching from Henman hill.
Spots before my eyes
One of the other highlights of my trip was visiting the Emma Bridgewater factory. I *love* Emma Bridgewater’s pottery, and have slowly amassed a small collection of her ‘spotty’ series. They’re not cheap, but (as my mum and aunt said, loudly, about 100 times on the tour) now we’ve seen how each piece is handmade from start to finish, it’s easy to see why! It was a lovely tour, and we also hit the cafe and the ’seconds’ shop, and I really had to restrain myself given I don’t actually have a house anymore! I ended up with a beautiful one-person teapot and cup to leave at my mum’s. Another reason to come home and visit 😉
Summer Time Blues
One thing I have noticed coming back and forth between countries and lifestyles is that there’s a certain period of decompression needed each end to re-settle into each life. This time it was harder coming back to Thailand, where, due to a changed visa situation and an outbreak of Dengue fever on the island where I’m living, things seem less welcoming than they had before.
But, as all things do, this passes, and I am once again enjoying yoga, writing, visiting cafes and working in all kinds of unusual places, filled with anticipation about what the rest of the summer will bring.