Leading up to the visit we both remarked how we felt like tourists this time, probably because it had been 7 yrs for me and 8 for Craig since our last visit. I was worried about driving on the left and thought there would be loads of changes since I left. I had visions of car crashes and being attacked by mobs of drunk teenagers. Silly really, because after a few days I settled right back in, like putting on an old favourite shoe, and by the time we left I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
I loved driving in England because it's a challenge but it's also the most courteous place on earth. The roads are narrow and everyone is zipping around in little Peugeots, Fiats and Minis. Everyone swirls around roundabouts, which are everywhere and sometimes even in clusters of 3 or 4. On the first day I actually went round one 3 times, Griswold style, because I had no idea what exit to take (my kids laughed at me till I turned into satan). In many places the roads are only 1-car wide and you can park facing both directions and even half-way up the pavement (sidewalk) because, well there just isn't a lot of room unless you do. You have to be really careful about speeding as there's cameras everywhere and even mobile police units. Also there's no eating, drinking or phone use while driving, so no cup-holders, which is a lot more annoying than it sounds. All this sounds so stressful doesn't it, but it isn't because other drivers are so damn nice. They let you in, they wave you on, they flash their lights "thank you", and they actually smile and wave at you. I think it's so polite because it's so incredibly bonkers.
To give some explanation of where we went, our main base was at my mum's house in Southport on the north-west coast of England, which is a seaside town with a funfair, arcades, water park and beach. Kid heaven in other words. We didn't stray too far from that area until we went to the east coast to Whitby for a few days in the 2nd week. Leanne lives and works in The Lake District. My family is spread over Southport, Manchester and Chorley. Craig's family are in Warrington. I tried to put all this on the picture below but it's a bit small.......
|World - United Kingdom - Northern England. Red stars show where we were.|
One of the things I love about England is the humour. My favorite story from this time was from a friend, Ronnie. She told me she'd had her gall bladder removed and a couple of years later her younger sister rang to tell her that she needed hers removed too. Ronnie told her "For God's sake, can't I do anything on my own!"When she recanted this to me we both laughed so hard we nearly fell off our bar stools. Other things I miss are more obvious - the red post boxes & phone boxes, hedges and stone walls crammed with flowers, in fact flowers everywhere, quaint pubs, little corner shops, paying for petrol after you've filled up (how trusting!), and the constant smell of sea air.
Things I can do without? Well we had a horrible time getting our credit cards to work anywhere as we don't have chip and pin, there was a lack of wifi, and of course the double taps. What nonsense those damn taps are! One hand's freezing, the other burnt, and you try your best to wave your hands frantically between them as you rinse your hands.
Saying goodbye to my mum, sister, niece & great niece before we left just about killed me and I cried most of the way to the airport. I'm still glum today. I keep thinking about that quote I saw online about people on their deathbeds looking back at their life and their only regrets are that they didn't spend enough time with people, with no thought to material things. Of course our lives in the USA are amazing and not based purely on "things" because we both have friends that we consider family and we love our jobs. But thinking of my family in England makes my heart ache and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't daydreaming about going home one day.