Friday, 19 June 2015

A few days in Manchester and some reflecting. UK trip Part 6

I thought that I would finish off my little mini series of UK trip posts with part 6.

I had hoped to blog during my trip but I was way too busy having too good a time! I did Instagram some photos so I suppose these last few blog posts have been about putting some words to the images. 

So my final destination was a couple of nights with friends in Manchester. 

If you read Part 5 and wondered about the answer to the last question - I did take a slight wrong turn off the M60 and was on the way to Chester via the M56! I do it every single time! I even recognised the little side road to do a u-turn to get back onto the right motorway.
Anyway, I pulled up within five minutes of when I planned to be there and was greeted by three little furry faces and waggy tails. Little Murphy was a welcome sight as he is now quite an old chappie and just keeps hanging on....and on....!

Those teeny tiny little legs now need a bit of help to get up the steps from the garden and it was a comical sight watching him stagger up the ramp. Amber got a little impatient with his doddery approach and would push him out of the way just as he got to the top. Keep going Murphy!

My first evening turned into a late night and I eventually had to drag myself away from the kitchen table. What an absolute pleasure it was to just sit and talk with old friends. Sometimes the simplest things give the greatest joy. There was a lot of sitting and talking and catching up on this trip.

I know that my last blog posts have been a bit repetitive with the story of - "went here, went there, ate, drank and caught up with family and  friends", but that's what I did! I completely indulged in it and it was wonderful!

I felt extremely grateful that I could take the time out to travel, to be there with my mum for her birthday and then have the luxury of some 'me' time to do as I pleased. How often does that happen....?

When I originally thought about this trip I toyed with the idea for quite a while. Mum's birthday didn't tie in with school holidays so I had to make a decision whether to visit for the actual date or just sometime during the year. The longest that I had been away from Sibs in almost thirteen years was 4 nights. How would I ever manage 4 weeks? 

After quite a bit of deliberation I made the decision that I wanted to be there for the actual birthday and consequently this meant a solo trip.  I had to work through my own mother guilt (it took a bit of time...) to eventually feel OK before I could then concentrate on getting a bit excited. 

I was excited to rediscover a little bit of independence and to get another glimpse of the person hiding behind mother, wife and worker.

I did find her, and I even quite enjoyed her company!

The morning after the late night around the kitchen table enjoying the best prawn risotto ever, I left the car and took myself off on the tram from the suburbs into the city of Manchester for a day of being a tourist. It was a bit of a contrast from the rolling Yorkshire Dales of the day before and there were lots of people and they all seemed to know where they were going and wanted to get there fast!

First stop for me was a coffee shop with free wifi where I tried to Facetime Australia. I say 'try' as there was so much noise and bustle that I was quite conscious that I was shouting into my phone. It wasn't a great look....

I pottered around the shops - some pretty fancy ones too. I also took my own advice whenever I'm in a city and kept looking up above the shop fronts.

Walking between Harvey Nichols and Selfridges I spotted this beauty to my left. The Old Wellington Inn is the oldest building of its kind in Manchester having been built in 1552. Apparently the writer John Byrom was born there. The Inn was sadly damaged during the Manchester bombing in 1996 and repaired and re-opened the following year. Now I don't see anything like that in Brisbane!

After a bit of retail therapy I indulged in some culture and mooched around the Art Gallery. Again, I often find that I love the buildings as much as the artwork and Manchester Art Gallery was no exception. 

After a full day it was off to a real pub for a quick drink before a meal at a local restaurant. (Yes, more eating and talking.)

The next day I took a walk around Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens and had a look at the Parsonage. There were some cute cottages with pretty flowers in the front gardens and around the doorways and I felt that I was walking through a Jane Austen novel. I hope they didn't mind me photographing. 

This was quite a tranquil end to a fantastic few weeks. I really did try and savour every moment and make the most of my time.

I have written before about that feeling of disconnection when you first live away from familiar surroundings. (HERE) I don't think those feelings ever entirely go away. It does help that I am able to travel back home and re-visit all those important places and people though.

I guess it makes me realise that I've reached a point of understanding and acceptance and stopped trying to associate with just one place in the world.
I have two anchor points in different hemispheres.

On my first night home in Australia I opened a message from one of my oldest and dearest friends.
"Glad you're home safe. Whichever side of the world you are, there are those on the other side who miss you."

I have to write it in its original form as it sounds so beautiful in Welsh.

"Falch bo ti gatre'n saff. Pa bynnag ochr o'r byd wyt ti, ma rhai ar yr ochr arall yn gweld dy ishe"

I will admit to welling up when I read it. Having these two places I can call home does have its advantages but boy can it also mess with my head!

I'm already saving up for the next trip!

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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Daydreaming in the Dales. UK trip Part 5

After my time on the farm with A and W,  I had a spare afternoon before heading over to Manchester so I decided to go for a bit of a walk. There was no sat nav in my hire car so I set off driving and weaved through the country lanes and ended up in Malham. This is a truly breathtaking part of the Yorkshire Dales and even though it's a tiny village there's always people about. 

The dry stone walls are a feature of the land and criss cross the fields keeping the livestock in their place. Malham Cove is popular with walkers and climbers and I believe that a scene from Harry Potter was filmed there. 

I just seemed to hit lucky with the weather on this trip. It was a bit windy at times during my walk but the sky was blue and a bit of a breeze never harmed anyone. 

When Sibs was born I got to know some girls through mothers group. We went to some pre and post natal classes together and then for a little while before some of us drifted back to work we used to meet up. A few girls lived in Malham and I knew that one was now the local Smithy. She gave up on the corporate world of the city and took over the blacksmith in the heart of the village. I thought her move was pretty amazing and quite inspirational so of course I had to call in to see her and say hi.

Isn't that the quaintest little place to call your workspace? On the afternoon that I stopped by she was busy teaching someone blacksmith skills. Annabelle offers one day courses where you can spend the day learning the basics. An idea for next time maybe......?
Blacksmiths don't just make horseshoes you know, and a pretty little heart leaf keyring came home with me as a memento. 

Malham Smithy website - HERE 

So after a chat at the Smithy I walked a bit further up the road past one pub and past the village shop. 

Just opposite the shop, this sign caught my eye. Imagine landing back in Brisbane with -  
"I've bought a woodland called Dingly Dell! "
(If you're wondering....yes, I did google it and it's open to offers)

The road to the cove is to the left of the shop and there are a few delightful little cottages and B&Bs to fall in love with and daydream about.

As I was in the middle of one of those daydreams, this fellow scampered across my path, ran through some long grass and jumped on a wall. It was almost as if he was waiting for me to follow him with my camera as once I took a photo he was off.

Then it was past Hill Top Farm, where I did think about going to say hello but time was getting on so I carried on walking to the cove.

Malham Cove is a natural limestone formation with interesting erosion patterns. The sunlight (when it's out!) bounces off the white rocks. It really is like going back to the land that time forgot.

My walk then took me back into the village where I had to snap a photo of The Listers Arms, which has had a fancy new sign since I was there last.  

No swifty for me though, as once I changed footwear I was back in the car on the way to my last destination.

The big question......was my memory going to get me from the Dales to South of Manchester? Was I going to get lost on the M65, M66 and M60?

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Road trip up North - UK trip Part 4

So on with the next part of recollections of my trip.

After a few weeks of celebrating my mum's birthday and meeting up with childhood friends I had plans to take a bit of a road trip. Mum was cruising off somewhere warm to carry on her celebrations and I decided to hire a car and see where it took me.

First though I had arranged to meet up with a friend that I hadn't seen for 20 years. Unbelievable really. We met in the city for a coffee and 4 hours later we were still in the same spot! There was a lot of catching up to do... Her laugh was just the same and it transported me back to being about 14 where we would stay up late after the Banwen Friday night discos discussing the details of the night....

As much as I truly loved every. single. second of being with the people that I saw, I also knew that I needed to re-charge, and the best way for me to do that was to enjoy my own company. The dominant introvert part of me was yelling for me to stop, so I listened.
So it was off to M&S foodhall to indulge in some fancy pants ready meal for a night in. The first quiet night for what felt like an age...

I then had time to organise my drive up the motorway to my other "home". 

My childhood and teenage years were spent in Wales but most of my adult life I spent in England. I did some study in the Midlands, worked for a short while in Doncaster, then I lived and worked in the Potteries area of Staffordshire. I commuted to Leeds for a number of years before settling in a little market town in North Yorkshire and working across the county. 

There were many very happy years in Yorkshire and I consider myself very much 'at home' when I'm oop North!

So the first stop on the road trip was Leeds. My drive up was perfect. With my Spotify playlist blasting, I sailed through the M5/M6 Birmingham traffic and cruised through Cheshire. (I knew I was in Cheshire as every other car seemed to be a black Range Rover!) It even stayed dry on the M62 - that's a first!

I was meeting two friends for morning tea and one of these friends had moved from Brisbane back to Yorkshire. The last time I saw her she was expecting so I was rather excited to see little A for the first time. 

As is the case with good friends, morning tea turned into lunch (thank you V) and then it was time to get back on the road heading to Lancashire. 

Now that I'm living on the doorstep of a city I find that I do miss the rural landscape of the countryside. I'm lucky enough that my friends back home let me stay with them to indulge in country life and enjoy their wonderful views.

Good food, good wine, great friends - I couldn't have asked for more....

Being back with A and W was so relaxing, comfortable and familiar. They gave me such a lovely welcome and again, within 2 minutes there was a cup of tea in my hand and I felt that I had just popped in to say hi. 
We took the dogs for a walk around the woods behind the castle at the top of the High Street. Yes, I took all of that for granted before I moved away. There really is a castle at the top of the High Street where I used to live.

Stanforths pie shop was closed but looked just the same. I sometimes used to take Sibs in there after school pick up and get some ham off the bone for school pack up sandwiches. She always managed to sneak a bit to eat on the walk back home up the hill.....

I returned to work when Sibs was about a year old and she went to a Nursery in the town. On the way home after picking her up we used to drive down the road alongside the castle wall and there were sheep in the field just to the side of these cottages in the photo below. Every single time they were pointed out by Sibs who just used to call them "Mehs". Yes, the mehs were still there....

The photo on the left below was the view out of my office window when I worked in the town. Lucky I had to stand up to see out of that little window, otherwise I'm sure many an hour would have been lost!

So many memories. 
I think Skipton and the dales will always have a little bit of my heart.

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Saturday, 6 June 2015

Special friendships. UK trip part 3

Here's another snippet of my time back in my homeland.

After topping up the vitamin D, I headed back to Wales to spend some time with close friends. 

I feel so lucky, so incredibly lucky that I still count my school friends as my close friends. We may not see each other for a couple of years yet we fall back into such a familiar chatter of conversation that as cliche as it sounds - it just feels like yesterday that we were together. 

They are my cosy jumper and favourite pair of jeans friends.

The kind of friends that are always there, albeit thousands of miles away....

Those friends that you just feel so comfortable with.

The friends that are in all the photographs over the years. 

A few of these special people I have known since Nursery days - that would be when we were 3 or 4 years old! Not worth thinking about how long ago that was...! Others, I spent those crazy school days with and some of us carried on to crazier days at Uni together. 

So it has become a bit of a regular event that when I find myself back home we organise a get together. Four of us had managed an afternoon catch up the previous week (that was the tea, wine cocktails, back to tea afternoon I mentioned in an earlier post) and we planned a larger gathering for the bank holiday weekend. 

M has hosted these gathering on quite a few visits and this time it was from her new place. M made the move across the border to England to study and then began her working life in London. Some years later Wales called her home and she moved back. At first the family lived just outside the city and then more recently they have moved to a property with land. It's a dream place.

The minute I drove past the pub and up the lane I loved it. Not hard to see why.

spot the happy dog playing in the water bath.

Griff the dog came to greet me and he was in absolute heaven with so much space to run around, fences to jump, chickens to watch and sticks to carry. 

The kettle was immediately filled and placed on the Aga and the inevitable observations were made on how much the 'children' had grown. I use the word 'children' loosely.... they are beautiful young ladies.

It struck me during this particular afternoon that in the couple of weeks that I had been away from Australia I had almost exclusively spoken Welsh. I had reverted back to my mother tongue without a second thought. That was a lovely thought.

As the afternoon moved into early evening more and more people came and sitting around the kitchen table was the place to be. Nothing changes does it? More and more bubbles were poured, stories shared and phones passed around to scroll through photos.

Conversation was easy. We moved from family and friends updates and working life into the benefits of supermarket home delivery! At this point someone pointed out that this was rather a "middle aged type of topic" so we quickly changed the subject! That was possibly the time that there was a moment of madness when four of us girls decided that it would be a good idea to have a go at a dancing thingy with the Wii. Actually, in hindsight, I'm pretty sure that I had nothing to do with the decision and I just found myself in front of a screen, holding a white control in my hand and singing (rather than dancing) to 'Fame'! 
I think the under 18's in the house were in awe of the fact that we still had the moves....or maybe those looks were them being a little horrified at the sight of so much jigging and giggling!

The most worrying thing is the fact that it was all captured on video! It took a few attempts trying to re-watch the footage as the tears of laughter were blurring my vision! Please let me never see the sight of my behind like that again!!

Then it was back to the kitchen table....

Towards the end of the night we made it to the sofas. It was cheese and biscuits and singing time. My lovely talented friends had recently been on TV and I was treated to a showing of the programme. Biases aside - they were flippin' marvellous!

Next morning it was wellies on and I had a walk around the farm. I had already mentally moved into the barn next door to the main farmhouse when I was told about the potential for conversion...!
As we continued with the walk there was a funny moment when it was pointed out to me that I did not need to keep my eyes down as I trudged through the long grass - there were no snakes to look out for! 

So with another great weekend under my belt I left with some fresh hen eggs and a head full of wonderful memories to tie me over until next time. 

Diolch am noswaith arall o'r cyfeillgarwch gore. x

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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A little getaway to Isla de la Eterna Primavera - UK trip Part 2

One week after flying into Cardiff I was off again. This time leaving the flat green landscape of Bristol for rugged volcanic terrain 300 km off the coast of WestAfrica. 

Tenerife is known as Isla de la Eterna Primavera - the Island of Eternal Spring, and being on a latitude with the Sahara Desert it is warm all year around. It's also quite convenient being only a 4 hour flight from the UK. (When you consider the 30 hours it took me to get to the UK, 4 hours is a blink!)

This holiday was a girlie birthday celebration for 2 mums who became friends when they were eleven. Our families had grown up together so there are a lot of memories in that bank!

We started the holiday with duty free shopping. There were introductions to weird and wonderful Vodka flavours with the Zubrowka Bison Grass one winning the battle for a place in the shopping basket. Aunty R thought it actually tasted of silage...! but she does live on a farm so maybe she knows more than me?!

Then the lady at the Chanel counter told the mothers that the shades of lipsticks that they had chosen (and had been wearing forever) were completely wrong for their colouring and had way too much blue in them. I could only see pink - but again, who am I to know! Imagine - they had been wearing blue lipsticks for 50 + years!

Quick lunch and we were then on our way. Oh, there was a little incident of a chunk of glass in my sandwich....rectified by a complimentary large glass of wine as there was no time for a replacement meal, but apart from that all was good.

So we joined the golfers and the sun seekers  - all 20 of them on the plane. The air steward kindly asked us not to move seats as the weight distribution was important....

This was a last minute booking and with that comes the inevitable concern of the unknown. Not to worry, our apartment was great. 


If I was trying to impress then I would say it was a penthouse - well it was on the top floor with a large balcony! There were mountain views to one side and a sea view to the other. 

It was quiet and restful and warm. Just perfect.

This was never going to be a rush around, seeing everything holiday. It was all about the company. We lazed around the pool, ate lunch with our sangria, lazed a bit more, walked to dinner and ended the days sitting on the balcony watching the sun set. 

We made friends with this little bird who would come and join us for evening drinks. He was made quite welcome until he got a little too friendly and decided to take a fancy to one of us by marking his territory! Four out of the five of us found it funny...... (Sorry for laughing so much L).

There were many more memorable moments - one of the best being the evening that we ventured more than 100m out for dinner. We walked along the shore line and found ourselves in a spot that was quite a bit more lively than where we were staying. There was a man singing and we believed that he was an Elvis tribute act. That was until we realised that he was attempting to sing Tom Jones! Now being Welsh we thought we should stop and listen. We may have put him off as he soon began to forget his words and carried on with gyrating his hips at the old ladies in the front row -they enjoyed themselves immensely.  Again, sorry for laughing so much Mr pretend Tom Jones!

The final evening we booked a table for a birthday meal and were very well looked after by the staff at the restaurant just below our apartment. There was a bottle of bubbles on ice when we arrived and then everyone there including staff sang Happy Birthday when the desserts arrived. 

Coincidentally, the slightly inebriated lady on the next table then informed the waiter that it was her birthday too.... so we all sang Happy Birthday again!

Getting away for a few days is such a tonic for the soul. Add good friends and laughter into the mix and it's the best cocktail ever!

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Monday, 1 June 2015

I've been home and now I'm home... UK trip part 1

Seven months ago I planned a trip - a secret trip.
Brisbane to Singapore, Singapore to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Cardiff.

I told a few key people and by some miracle it actually remained a secret. As a friend of mine said - "the jungle drums in the valleys can be quite loud".

My mum was celebrating a significant birthday and I thought it would be a good idea to surprise her. So on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago I turned up on the doorstep with a "Hi it's me, please can I borrow £25 to pay Dai the taxi man as he doesn't accept cards or Australian dollars!"

The initial shock quickly morphed to utter disbelief that I was there and not on the other side of the world. We had teary hugs and I lost count of the number of times she said "I don't believe it"!

No time was wasted though, as a couple of hours after landing I was in the middle of a small family reunion. Mum was being taken out to lunch and so of course I now tagged along - bonus! It was a walk around the corner to a great place that was new to me since my last visit home. Such lovely company and thank you Aunty Glenys for a superb lunch.

Holm House

One of the things that I love about going back home is the fact that I can walk most places. Down through the park to the sea front, round the corner to the shops, across the road to the railway station to take me to the city. I have lovely memories of wrapping Sibs up in blankets, putting her in her pushchair and bumping her down the dolly steps in Windsor Park, past the little aviary, maybe a stroll along the pier and then up the hill the other side. It was all still there - so wonderfully familiar.

Windsor Park

Winsdor Park Aviary

The pier has however had a bit of a face lift recently and I have to say looks rather grand now. In fact the whole of the prom looked better than I remembered it. Maybe the blue skies and warm breezes made a difference as the last time I visited it was dark, grey and cold during December. The Bristol channel is always a mucky brown though, whatever the weather!

My first week home was spent doing everyday things. I will admit to getting rather wide eyed at the mundane, and if anyone saw me in Waitrose oohing and aaahing at things on the shelves - I apologise. (I was also a bit the same in Tesco and Marks and Spencer food hall!)

I stocked up on the essential under garments in M&S, bought some new shoes, paid a visit to Thorntons and had 'proper' fish and chips....twice!
I drank coffee and champagne in equal measures and ate half my body weight in real Jaffa Cakes...and that was just in the first few days!

Three wonderful friends came to see me a few days after I arrived and we spent the afternoon chatting and reminiscing. One of my favourite memories of this day was the speed in which we seemed to move from cups of tea to wine to cocktails....but then back to cups of tea! Maybe we are getting older and more sensible?

This little fellow came to visit most mornings during breakfast and would scamper around in the back garden. I managed to take this shot through the window just before he flew back up the tree.

I enjoyed walks up to the coffee shop in town and strolls along the promenade. It was all quite full on but also quite relaxing. We met up with some extended family one afternoon with some aunts that I hadn't seen for some time. Again, there was champagne....

The Saturday before the big birthday my sister and family travelled to Cardiff and we met up with Mum's closest friend and her two girls. Her friend had just passed the same birthday so it was a double celebration. It was an afternoon of pure joy and my sides were aching from all the giggling. You know that group of people that laugh a bit too loudly at everything? Well that was us!

During the lunch we told my mum that she was being taken away for a few nights to a little island in the sun for a girlie holiday. More champagne please!

Before she could think of packing we ended the Saturday with a family meal. Good job it was a two minute walk from the house as I was fit to burst by the end of that day.

So that was my first week away. A wonderful catch up with very important people. I was busy on top of busy but it was a good feeling flopping into bed at night knowing that I had filled my day.

I think that flute was stuck to my hand...!

I have always slightly regretted never recording and blogging about the last trip that I made home a couple of years ago. It's nice to have some words behind the photos to trigger the memories. So I'm rectifying that regret by capturing some of this one.

I'll be off to The Canaries next, then a few days back in Wales before heading up the M5 and M6 up North on a road trip. Care to join me?
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