My last trip back home was Christmas 2015, a rather distant 18 months previously. Colin hadn’t been back to the UK since he left for New Zealand eight years ago and so was keen to also come along for the ride. I wrote that and then reflected back on whether I ever presented him with an option of not coming along for the ride… either way I thought it was about time he briefly returned to his roots (Cardiff) and so set about planning a whistlestop tour of the UK which included a number of mini “holidays within a holiday”. My aim was to get a good balance between meeting up with family and friends while exploring some of the more scenic areas of the UK I hadn’t been to before.
My proposed themes of the trip were: “Quaint villages”, “Food you don’t get in NZ” and “Clothes shopping”.
Day one was spent at my sister Lou’s in Coulsdon (outer London), eating a huge Chinese takeaway and trying to stay awake until 9pm, which I’d firmly decided was the earliest we could retreat to bed. We made it to 8.30pm… just. I had specifically requested a Chinese as they just don’t make them the same way in New Zealand (i.e. coated in sugar and MSG). Nom nom.
The next morning we set off for Oxted in “Frank”, Lou’s little blue car (I still haven’t developed an eye for car models and so shamefully continue to differentiate by colour and size), which she had kindly lent us for the majority of the trip. Sepha & Brad had agreed I could host a BBQ at theirs, which I figured would be an excellent way to see the majority of my friends in one fell swoop.
On my last visit to the UK I spent a large proportion of my time living in Sepha & Brad’s half-finished loft in London, on a half-inflated air mattress. However, since then they had relocated themselves to a spanky new and rather amazing house in the quaint little town of Oxted, Surrey. They had also acquired a nutty cat called Alto, bought a huge black beast of a car and signed up to a wine club. Colin and I had been upgraded to a cosy spare bedroom with a delightfully comfortable bed and views of the surrounding paddocks.
And the sun was out! Like, properly out! I couldn’t believe it. So we relaxed in the sunny garden with prosecco cocktails while we waited for everyone to start arriving.
I’m aware from the photo above that it doesn’t look quite as sunny as I just made out; a momentary cloud must have breezed by…
Anyway, I had a fantastic time catching up with all my old friends and felt very content afterwards. Well, contentment mixed with sadness that I wouldn’t see most of them again for a good wee while. That evening Sepha and Brad took us down to the local skatepark as Brad had excitedly bought a skateboard some time ago but had felt too awkward to head down to the park by himself to use it. So we wandered down to the empty skatepark and watched Brad wobbly attempt a few gentle halfpipes. Pretty random but funny evening, as to be expected with those guys..!
The next day we were off Godalming, Surrey to spend a few days with ma n’ pa. We spent our time taking walks along the pretty river to Godalming and Guildford, soaking up the English charm of the area: horse-drawn longboats; canals and locks; village Greens and band stands; tudor-style shops; rustic traditional pubs on the water front; cobbled high streets; police with huge machine guns… wait, what?! Well that’s certainly new since I left! We also enjoyed a home-cooked roast beef with all the trimmings and near-constant offers of cups of tea (Dad’s tea addiction appears to have now fully spiralled out of control). And then off we headed to Wales for part one of our UK road trip!
Our first few days were spent in Cardiff (Colin’s neck of the woods) where we spent our time shopping, meeting up with Colin’s friends and family, and relaxing in the private hot tub at our farm cottage Air bnb (our main treat of the holiday). Cardiff didn’t really blow me away (although the cost of parking did – outrageous!!) but I enjoyed the many quaint historical pubs we visited.
Lovely Air bnb!
We then drove further west to a little town called Narberth where we had hired a cottage with my best friends for the bank holiday weekend. It was SUCH a good little holiday, and not just because the sun shone brightly every day (Wales.. sun… mind-blowing!). I knew it was going to be a good weekend and that nothing/noone has changed too greatly when I noticed how many board games we had brought between us:
Our time was spent going for beautiful walks which ended in pub gardens; playing board-games (mainly Codenames); and trying to control Chesca and David’s huge hyper English Sheepdog puppy (who managed to wee on my duvet within about five minutes of entering the house!).
I’ve just remembered a quote from the holiday:
Chesca: If you see Tulsie do a poo in the garden can you let us know and I’ll pick it up
Brad: Same applies to Sepha!
Although we are all doing very different things with our lives and living so far apart from each other, it was good to know we all still fitted together very well and that my friends were just as awesome as I remember. Dammit, why can’t they all just move to New Zealand so we don’t need to do emotional goodbyes after every trip!!
I should note that mine and Colin’s final day in Wales was spent sitting in our car in the pouring rain eating our sandwiches instead of doing a planned hike in the Brecon Beacons. Which was roughly how I had imagined our whole time in Wales would be spent, so… can’t complain really.
Frank enjoying the view
We had a fairly breezy journey to London – time flies when you’re listening to “There’s No Such Thing As A Fish” podcasts – so we could spend a few days hanging out with Colin’s brother Alun. Now Colin had one planning job allocated to him: arranging to stay at his brother’s in Peckham for two nights. To put that in perspective, I arranged the other 19 nights accommodation. So imagine his brother’s surprise when we turned up a day early, and for two nights instead of the proposed one..!
We had a fun few days exploring Dulwich Park, Hampton Court Palace, and the London South Bank, as well as catching up with my friends for brunch/beers (not at the same time, I should add!). Alun also took us to an amazing gay cabaret/circus/comedy night at the Underbelly Festival which did make me really miss London and it’s never-ending stream of quirky and random things to do.
And then we headed onwards to the final part of the trip: a weekend away with my family in the quaint little seaside town of Broadstairs, Kent. Honestly, this place was quaint as! (ugh I said that without too much irony, what am I becoming??).
It was everything I could have hoped for in an English seaside: fish n’ chip shops everywhere you looked; shops crammed with sticks of rock, buckets & spades, snorkels, and thousands of other plastic toys bundled up and dangling from the ceiling; a little castle high up on the hilltops; colourful beach huts lining the boardwalk; fancy ice cream shops; and beaches filled with excited and rapidly burning British holiday-makers.
We spent our weekend taking walks along the pretty coastline, exploring nearby seaside towns, drinking local craft beer, gathering pebbles that looked like faces, and playing board games. One night we headed down to the town hall for a very local quiz night where we just about managed to not come last. This coincided with us discovering our craft porters were a mouth-burning 12% 😮
Just before the holiday I had, on a whim, bought my dad a card game supposedly set in the French Revolution. I thought this to be very apt as he had just finished writing his third crime fiction book set in the very same era. However, major fail on my part: I hadn’t realised the game was in Dutch. In most families this would have been the end of a vaguely thoughtful present.. but this was the Honeysett family, and so my mum had painstakingly translated every single playing card and scrawled the English version over the top.
Good game! (We would have to have pretended it was regardless…).
It was also highly evident to me that my parents had developed a wacky baseball cap fetish (with a big plastic container full of psychedelic hats situated right by the back door at home). Here is my dad proudly sporting his World Map hat:
It was a lovely, sunny, and action-packed few days with the fam 🙂
And sadly, that was more-or-less the end of a whistle-stop tour of Southern Wales and England. Before I knew it I was back on the plane, and unbeknownst to me, about to experience a delightful 12 hour migraine (don’t recommend).
Until next time, UK!! 🙂