London. It’s home. Everything just fits.
We all had different expectations of what our long summer in London would bring.
For me I just wanted to pick up my old life and just live it. Not do typical holiday things but just do what I always did, with everyone I did it with – in an intense, time-restricted kind of way! Having never taken a gap year, gone travelling or anything like that, this past year has been the longest I have ever been away from the UK. It was a real homecoming for me.
For Joshua it was all about his old friends. He needed to see as many as possible, as frequently as possible and I think we managed this for him. Any cracks in friendships have been re-cemented until next time and Joshua was happy, really happy. 100% secure. No undercurrent of insecurities that I often pick up on in Hong Kong. All was good.
For Eden it was about starting from scratch again. Half her life has now been spent in Hong Kong. Two out of three birthdays. A year away from London is a long time in the life of a 3 year old. She totally picked up on the excitement of ‘going to London’ oozed by the rest of us. “I’ll bring my swimming costume, you bring the sun cream and my towel Mummy because I’m going to the beach with Pop,” she instructed me. A sure sign that she had no accurate recollection of what our London life actually entailed! Entering her grandparents homes she didn’t remember her way around, every toy she had always played with was sprung upon as if it was brand new. And on day one when I asked her if she wanted to go and play in the garden, her confused “What’s a garden?” response, for me, meant that this visit was well and truly overdue.
And for Dan, like me, the aim was to reacquaint with old friends, press play on our paused life, get in the car and just drive – when we wanted, where we wanted and on whichever route we damn well chose, unlike our mostly taxi dependent life in Hong Kong.
It was ridiculously fabulous to be driving again. I didn’t care about traffic jams, traffic lights, road works, learners etc. I just happily reacquainted myself with every street and town I possibly could. Even Apex Corner was a joy thanks to the David Beckham billboard posted there for practically the whole summer!
So what were the best bits? Where do I start?! The diary started to get filled up in February I think, every precious minute taken care of – Josh had his summer camp, he caught a few Watford matches, went fishing with my dad and loved it, had sleepovers, camped in the garden, saw Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, visits to his old school and had a birthday. I had a birthday too. We went away for a special weekend with fabulous friends, went on many great day trips and had more playdates than we can count.
Eden declared everyone her best friend, had her first visit to the dentist and boy did we shop?! Clothes, food, shoes, toiletries and whatever else we could fit in the 7 suitcases we brought back to Hong Kong between us!
Probably the ultimate highlight and best surprise ever was a teeny tiny bundle of pink who arrived 4 weeks before she was supposed to but she clearly wanted to get in on the love and join the family. My sister brought little Maya into the world on 3rd August and what an impact she made. The kids were smitten, desperate to see her as soon as possible, touch her, hold her, poke her and just stare and her! She has joined a cousin group who are so close, love each other, worship each other, look after each other, bicker, eat and play together as if they are brothers and sisters, not first cousins. She is so lucky.
I have to give a special mention to Tesco. My time in Tesco this summer (and there was lots of it) reminded me of how we Brits used to view America back in the 80’s and 90’s. Compared to what we had in the UK, at that time it seemed as if everything in America was bigger, better, cheaper, more plentiful and with more choice. That was how I now felt walking round the UK supermarkets after my chunk of time in Hong Kong. I am a person who actually enjoys doing my supermarket shop. I would rather go there in person, wander the aisles, shop at leisure and check out everything that’s new. I only order online when I have to. However, food shopping in HK is not a pleasure, it’s a frustration. If something goes out of stock, usually one of life’s staples like apple juice or 7up, we may well not see it in stock again for up to 6 months. So I hoard as best I can with the little storage space I have – now if something goes out of stock, you can normally find it in my kitchen! Today for example, I did my food shop, needing to stock up on the small size cheese & tomato pizzas I buy for Eden. Not exactly an unusual requirement. However, they only had the salami flavour available. I found the Manager and asked if they had any of the cheese & tomato kind to be told, “Sorry, we only do one flavour.” “No you don’t, I’ve bought the cheese & tomato here many many times before,” I replied and asked if it would be coming soon. The reply I got was still a firm insistence that there is only one flavour and no, it’s not coming. OK then. Hong Kong food shopping summed up in a minute. Like I said, I love Tesco. I may have actually kissed the floor when no one was looking.
And speaking of hoarding, I think my mum felt that the world is about to run out of sliced Leerdammer cheese as the world’s supply of it appeared to be in her fridge. And unfortunately for my waistline, it’s very moreish! I sincerely hope the world has indeed run out of it by the time we next visit!!
We reunited ourselves with Capital Radio, blaring out this summer’s hits wherever we went, something we didn’t do so much last year as we couldn’t drag ourselves from Olympic commentaries! Our anthems of the summer were Jessie J – Wild, One Direction – Best Song Ever and Icona Pop – I Love It. Joshua has jazzed up his iPad Playlist good and proper!
And the goodbyes weren’t so tough this time either, mainly because we will all be back again for a shorter visit at the end of September which is already less than 5 weeks away. I can’t promise to say the same thing after that trip though but nothing helps more than knowing you are loved, missed and that good friendships and family bonds really do stay the same.