Urquharts Bay, Whangarei, New Zealand
Where did the first quarter of the year go? No moss growing on these rolling stones – though it’s quite surprising we weren’t mouldy by the time we left England!
We spent just over seven weeks in Ol’ Blighty and I think it rained on all but two days of it. West Sussex, where we spent most of our time, was flooded from a week before Christmas until we left at the end of January: it actually got worse after we left, which is hard to believe! Wherever we went we forded flooded roads and the surrounding fields were vast lakes. We did get to spend lots of time with Damian’s family, none of whom I’ve met before other than on Skype – they were all very pleased to see the prodigal son and made me feel very welcome as well.
While the weather cramped our style somewhat, we did manage to get out and about, including very special trips to see friends in Derbyshire, Devon and Bath, various exploratories around the nearby countryside, and to see a few of the sights, including having lunch at the very swank Amberley Castle, twice; climbing the Shard in London; and seeing the latest Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall.
I haven’t been to London for about 25 years, which I can hardly believe. But even though it was the middle of winter and bitterly cold, it was fantastic wandering around – the very eclectic mix of old and new architecture is fascinating and incredibly impressive. We went up the Shard – the highest building in Western Europe – which seems impossibly high, with uninterrupted views right across London – then discovered that it’s only the same height as Sydney Tower!
We did get a few moments of sunshine here and there, and here are a few happy snaps to prove it…
But this is what it was like more often…
Around about mid January, after a month of being restricted to indoors, shifting from couch to couch – not to mention suffering vitamin D deficiencies – we decided to do that most English of things: take a ‘Mini Break’. I guess we haven’t quite embraced the concept so heartily in the antipodes, since you can’t get anywhere really exotic and back and actually have a holiday in three days (not even Lord Howe!), but that is the beauty of living in Europe with cheap Easyjet flights to anywhere!
Damian gave me about 48 hours notice but didn’t tell me where we were going. Turned out to be a three-day trip to Marrakech, and after a three-hour flight we were in warm sunshine, mad markets and clashing colours – a total contrast to rainy rural England! Spent our time getting lost in the souk, marvelling at the architecture, eating tagines and couscous and getting lost in the souk again. It was great – the only bummer is that, living on a boat, I couldn’t buy a house full of cool stuff!
We flew back to Sydney for a whirlwind visit that – sadly – didn’t include much socialising. It was more about all the boring tasks you have to do annually, but squeezed into the smallest possible amount of time: tax, accountants, dentists, doctors… Damian got very ill in England and then worse in Oz, with a severe respiratory bug that saw us running around getting chest x-rays, CT scans, blood tests etc. Eventually they decided they didn’t know what it was, but that it wasn’t life-threatening, and he should just man up and get over it. Which he did by the time we got back to NZ.
PS. Click on the Images page to see our full England and Morocco photo albums.
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