We laughed, we cried, we hugged

However long you are away from family and friends, by the time you have had the first sip of your coffee (French press, not instant.  Mum is a fast learner), or a couple of swigs of that first real pint of Timothy Taylor’s (do any other ex-pats miss real British ale?), it is as though you only saw them yesterday.  Is that the same with everybody?

In fairness, I had only been gone just shy of 2 years, but it is the longest I had been gone from the UK since landing in Australia back in August 2012.  I had somehow found myself going back each year, a pattern that stopped last year when it was decided a “proper” holiday was needed.  

Let me explain that.  Not that going to the UK isn’t a holiday.  But it is not the most relaxing holiday.  To fit everybody in, and give yourself chance to see everybody, the time spent needs managing with military precision.  Which is achieved to great effect by my now fabled spreadsheets.  I may be a project manager by trade, and this comes in handy when scheduling my days overseas.  Needless to say, each trip has been more successful as result.  In my opinion.

So after a hiatus last year, spent on the west coast of USA and Canada, it was time to visit England again.  Time to dust off the spreadsheet, and get planning. I have some catching up to do. Little nephews and nieces grow up fast, I’m finding.

Landing at Manchester, under blue skies, on a mild June lunchtime, we were only a short 40 minute drive over the Pennines, into Yorkshire.  No matter how many times I do it I always feel a glow of pride when passing the border with Lancashire, and see the white rose of Yorkshire marking entry to one of the most beautiful places on earth.  I have a passport now that proclaims I am Australian.  But first and foremost, I am, and always will be, a Yorkshireman.

According to the spreadsheet, we had 13 nights in England, to see and do everything we had missed out on the preceding 2 years.  The clock was ticking.  No time for jet lag on the first day, as the top priority was to get a good Indian curry, something that is inordinately difficult in Sydney.  Yes, we have curry houses, but can they do a good curry?  The jury is still out.  And on the same night, there was a football World Cup qualifier on.  England versus the auld enemy, Scotland.  Football at a normal time.  Imagine that!  Until you have spent 4 seasons bleary eyed from watching football at all hours from midnight, through to 4am, you won’t really appreciate how this feels.

And that folks was day 1.  Done.  Just like that.  Only 12 nights left.  And now do you see the need for a spreadsheet?  You see my predicament?  Not only do we have lots to do, every day, and every evening, but we have to navigate it after traversing multiple time zones.  My eyes tell me it is 10pm.  My head tells me it is sometime after 6am.  On the FOLLOWING day.  Good luck getting any sleep.

And this is how it is, going overseas (do some people say “abroad”?) from Australia to Europe.  But those 12 nights, they will soon be 11.  Then 10.  And so on.  Time to crack on and see what is next in the spreadsheet.

Last time I was in the UK, back in 2015, I was treat to the BBQ of all BBQs.  I mentioned it in a blog at the time.  The belly busting portions of food, and a quiche that would win first prize in any quiche contest.  If such a thing existed.  So, when promised a BBQ this time around, albeit with a different chef, I jumped at the chance.  I drooled at the thought of everything that would be going on the BBQ.  Cooking off the snags, and replacing them on the large, sizzling, hot grill with steaks.  Throwing on some corn, and making room for some chicken.  And then…

I had heard it was a small BBQ.  I didn’t realise it was a BBQ for a hobbit.  One hobbit.  One very small hobbit, even by hobbit standards.  Good lord, “this could be a very long night”, I thought.  I definitely had not had my expectations set.  I think plying me with extremely large Aperol Spritzes was a deflection tactic.  I have never seen a magnum of prosecco disappear so fast.  

And yet, we had a bloody fantastic evening.  In no small part to the food that miraculously appeared from the kitchen, and wasn’t reliant on the behemoth that was our BBQ.  We had a veritable Spanish feast, eating drinking, laughing into the small hours.  This is why we travel 24 hours across the world.  Priceless moments.

Did someone say tapas?
Talking of priceless moments, I also found myself doing something, twice, that I wasn’t sure would ever be on one of my spreadsheets. The school run.  Yes, you read that right.  Uncle Fran did the school run.  It was insisted upon.  No mummy, you can stay at home.  Just me and uncle Fran today.  So there I was, slightly dusty after another fantastic family catch up, slightly cold having to go out in the morning drizzle without a coat (I was on holiday!  Who packs a coat for their holidays?), and saying hello to Mr Varley, the lollipop man.  Wonders never cease.

There have been a number of traditions created through my visits home, and my waistline fought valiantly to get through them all whilst back. The obligatory breakfast at Wetherspoons, which I somehow managed to do on three occasions, fish and chips (if I had to have a last supper, this would be it), the aforementioned curry, mouth watering sausage butties to start the day (pork please, if I see another chicken sausage!), and at least one “all hands” family meal. We ticked that one off on day 2, with seventeen of us having a raucous lunch, and a not insignificant amount of drinks. Thank you sis for all your hard work in organising, and managing to keep it from mum so I could surprise her on the day. Cue tears. I think maybe even mum cried too.

La familia
Blink, and the time was nearly up. We had visited Yorkshire, explored all the nightlife that West Vale has to offer, walked in the Dales, played golf at Lytham-St-Annes (and forgot my “safety first” mantra by neglecting to apply sunscreen), BBQd in Poulton Le Flyde, had fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s in Blackpool, lunched in gorgeous West Sussex, swam at the historic Spread Eagle hotel (and then had one of their famous “full english” breakfasts), strolled the pier, and The Lanes, before having dinner in Brighton, and lots in between. The weather had been kind to us, which it always seems to be. Maybe we bring a slice of Sydney back with us each time.

Thankfully I now had a couple of days relaxing in the beautiful city of Palma, on the (almost) annual boy’s trip. These occasions are renowned for slowing down, enjoying the culture of a place, taking in a few museums, a little tipple in the evening, then early nights. This trip would be no different. After that, I would fly to Milan, meet my better half, and 3 weeks exploring Italy would commence.

It is times like this I tell myself how lucky and blessed we are.

Ciao, until next time.