Apparently turning this tablet on to “airplane mode” also turns off the bluetooth keyboard… argh! First world problems…
We are on a plane returning home via Toronto, from Heathrow. I still like saying Home, from Heathrow. Gone are the days when landing in London signified the end of a trip! The Canadian adventure continues. However, I am still sad to be returning home, because we have had a wonderful two weeks with The Parents and rushing around all over the UK trying to catch up with friends and more distant relatives. Worse, it’s New Year’s Eve and British Midnight will happen for us in mid-air between Toronto and Regina during our internal flight tonight. Canadian New Year will happen at what we’ll think is 6am tomorrow morning. I doubt we’ll be in a fit state to celebrate either!
Seeing Granny and Grandad for Christmas was lovely, and it was nice to see all the new weird constructions and eccentricities in their garden, including the newly finished, 24ft high grain elevator (sans grain). My cousin Ol, good friend Hannah and Honourary Auntie Cathy all visited the weekend before Christmas and it was a lot of fun having a large houseful. Ol has already been commissioned to design them a suspension bridge to join the bank to the top of the grain elevator tower, as you do. Hannah was enchanted with everything in the strange parental abode, from the gargoyle that looks like Ol, to the politically correct snowman on the tree to, for some reason, Mum’s 30 year old dinner plates. The mind boggles. It was very, very noisy! Hannah insisted we go out for a walk to find a stone circle on the top of a hill. Whereas I will admit it wasn’t actually raining and wasn’t nearly as cold as Saskatchewan, it was wet and muddy and blowing a gale and a thoroughly unpleasant experience for everyone involved except perhaps Hannah, and Miranda who complained and wanted to be carried until she found Interesting sheep poo.
We really trekked all over the place too. The first trip was to Redcar, via Sheffield to deposit Ol. Poor Carl had to quickly relearn not only the route through the twisty little lanes out of the hills where The Parents live, but also how to drive on the left, change gear, negotiate roundabouts and do hill-starts, none of which are necessary skills for Prairie driving. He got the hang of it again fairly quickly, but didn’t seem like he enjoyed the experience. Sheffield was quite hellish though, a lot of pre-Christmas traffic and all the roundabouts have changed again, or so it felt. It took us over an hour to get in to the city, and a further 30 mins to escape again. We did get to meet Ol’s new house mate though. (“What’s she like?” “She’s vegan.” “Oh.”)
We collected Grem and new girlfriend in Richmond a good deal later than planned. Next stop was Redcar: featuring the local speciality, the Lemontop icecream, stunning views of the offshore windfarm, nuclear power plant and steelworks, a desolate stretch of beach on the north east coast, a 99p store (now closed down)a usefully located Wetherspoons, and most importantly, home to the wonderfully welcoming Chapmen clan. The girls are now much bigger and more Northern sounding (Miri, with her neo-Canadian accent, amusingly stated that Ione “sounds silly”, in fact, “everything is silly here” according to her!) The kids stayed with poor Rachel who had to endure watching Frozen AGAIN, while we headed to the Wetherspoons to meet as many Northerners as we could find. We got 8 together eventually, and it was great to see everyone again after nearly 3 years. We’re just sorry it was such a short evening!
On the way back, we stopped near Pontefract to meet Carl’s family, none of whom I’d never met, and most Carl hadn’t seen in 30-odd years either. They all thought Miranda was wonderful, and took great interest in Carl’s now pretty extensive family tree he’d been researchjng. It is very very wide. He has a LOT of cousins. Ah, the joys of Facebook and Ancestry.com. Perfect for emigrants!
After a day to recover, we headed to Birmingham to meet Julie and deliver her Canadian ex-pat care package of Goldfish crackers and strawberry Twizzlers. Mercifully, we opted to take the train rather than drive, because the city was packed with people. Miri was rather excited about her first memorable train ride, too. In true Christmas spirit, we went skating! It was an artificial rink obviously and extortionately expensive particularly when we’re used to Regina’s lovely free one with free skate hire back home. It did have large plastic penguins that you pushed around that helped Miri stay upright, and Birmingham being a very multicultural city, we also got to witness a woman on skates pushing a penguin round, while wearing a full burka. Not something you see too often in Regina!!
Christmas itself involved the usual festive gluttony and cheeriness and manymanymany presents were received!
(thank you, all!). The problem is, we received a greater volume than we gave out, and so we had to borrow a suitcase off the parents and pay an extra baggage fee to get them all home! Unpacking them will be good, because I’m sure Miranda got so many she didn’t even see some of them.
As soon as we’d recovered from the festive food comas, Mum drove us all down to see my nan and family in Sussex, via a short stop at my aunts on route. There were very long traffic jams… Nan couldn’t put all of us up at her house, so Carl, Miri and I stayed at a Premier Inn down town. Comfy enough, but with an oddly smelly hallway. Also, if one of us left the room with the key, the others were left sitting in the dark, as you needed the key card to keep the lights on! Bizarre. On Sunday we visited my step gran, my uncle and then another aunt fed us in the evening. Miranda charmed her honourary great uncle and big cousin Paul into playing Hungry Hippos all evening which was fun (from a safe distance!). After that, we took a double decker bus into Brighton (another touristy thing that got Miri very excited!) and went round the Sealife centre there which she thoroughly enjoyed. She even got to meet Kwazii the Octonaut! (If you don’t know what that means, I shall spare you the explanation!). Brighton was also very busy and we struggled to find somewhere to sit and eat cos everywhere was full up! Best of all though, I got to meet up with Mice, a friend from school, who I haven’t seen for over 7 years. She’s doing well, still recognisibly Mice, and we’re hoping it won’t be another seven years before the next get together.
Finally, on our last day we went up to London on an eyewateringly expensive, horribly early train, to take Miranda to the Natural History Museum and the Science museum in South Kensington. The museums are both free, but it being school holidays, the queue was round the block even though we’d arrived before the place had even opened! There were more queues inside to get into the dinosaur exhibition, so we may well be the only tourists in history to tour the museum with a child and not see a single dinosaur. Instead, Miri LOVED the volcano section and had two goes on the earthquake simulator. I guess this is what happens with a geologist for a father.
Speaking of geologists, we’d arranged to meet Carl’s friend Paul (also an earth scientist) that afternoon, along with two more of Carl’s cousins. Unfortunately, meeting them involved navigating the tube system to Covent Garden with an extremely overtired Miranda in tow. The tubes were PACKED. We were wedged in so tight, Miri sat on my foot clinging on to my leg to avoid being trampled. I’m only glad we didn’t have to attempt that with all our luggage, or worse, a pushchair still! Miranda, unsurprisingly, slept through the entire afternoon in a pub with the others, woke up once, glared at Tanya, ate a slice of sausage then went back to sleep, drooling quitely on to my knee. Two of the tube lines were closed on the way home, so we missed the train back to Newhaven. Instead, we got on one to Lewes intending to change, but then missed the connecting train as well. Argh. By this time, I was wiped out, so we had to mournfully phone Dad and get them to come rescue us. They picked us up quicker than the train could have done anyway, and we went back to my aunt’s house juuuust in time for sticky sweet Pavlova. Yum. Miri had woken up again by this point and “entertained” my cousin and the rest of the family, very loudly for another few hours until we forced her back to the hotel to bed…
So, right now we need a holiday to get over the holiday again, but sadly I have to work on Friday. Uuurgh. Of course, we sought out as many friends and family as we could over these two weeks, (most would never have forgiven us if we hadn’t!) But the whole trip felt Uncomfortably Peopley. I love my People, but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to the relatively sparse population density in Canada. Getting stuck in 3-lane traffic jams heading south, driving in hopeless circles round sheffield, waiting for tables in greasy fish n chip shops in Brighton, queuing and playing sardines on the London underground all came as rather unwelcome culture shock having got so used to small-town-big-space Saskatchewan. We had a total of two sunny days the whole trip, the rext of the time it was wet and miserable or extremely windy and grey, and there was no snow for Christmas either…. I miss the parents and my friends and family, i miss being able to take Miri into cheap pubs, and I miss Cornish pasties and pork pies, but I really do not miss England it seems. We are still far better off where we are!