It’s impossible to pack in everything that four girls want to do in England into 16 days. We tried our best, from curries to catch ups, countryside to beaches, villages to cities, stately homes to shopping centres.
Back in 2012 I took the kids to England by myself – and said I’d never do it again. This year, faced with the choice of not going back to visit or going solo again I caved and decided the latter. It felt like we’d left it too long already.
The best times were with the people we love and miss. Seeing my girls laughing and having fun with their cousins was precious treasure. Chatting with my sisters over a couple of glasses of ale in a proper English pub one evening that I wanted to last far longer than it did. Having my family all together (bar two) for a weekend for the first time in around eight years. Being able to go places with family and friends rather than talking on screen. Asking questions about what friends are doing rather than observing their lives on Facebook. Just being with them. It was worth it.
The sad thing was not being able to see everyone we would have liked to. It wasn’t possible to do that in the our brief visit. Southwick to Sheffield to Aylsham to Worthing. Four towns, five lots of packing and moving on and there is only so much talking everyone can do before space is needed to recharge. I know by the end, my daughters needed space from the very tired version of me.
We each experienced some of the stuff that we love about England whether it was being able to jump on a train to London, or the availability of stuff in the supermarkets, or blackcurrant squash, or Jaffa cakes, or Walkers crisps, or the Saturday papers, or quaint little villages, or colourful beach huts on the sea front, or the shops we like, or coffee shops and tea rooms, or just being able to be somewhere different in a very short time.
I realized how I’m used to big wide roads. I drove down narrow winding roads in Derbyshire and Norfolk flinching as other cars passed by. As for the south, it’s busy everywhere. I don’t miss that volume of traffic.
The thing about a visit is that it’s never enough – not for the people we visited (well, maybe it was enough for some!) or for ourselves. Mixed with the happiness of seeing people is the sadness that we know we’ll be leaving. Even when I know we’re in the right place for now here in Canada it’s tough to leave English soil again. There were tears as we never know how long it will be until we see some family and friends.
We found that we didn’t bring a whole lot back with us this time in terms of stuff – apart from Yorkshire Tea decaf teabags and marmite, and the essential marzipan and suet for Christmas. Partly because the Canadian dollar has dropped in value so much that everything was expensive, but partly because it’s impossible to bring enough to last.
Not so the memories, they are sweet and lingering, as I sit outside in the almost-twenty-degrees-higher-than-England sunshine. That British weather…