The story so far

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Leaving England

After my work leaving party on the Thursday, I decided to have a lie-in. I asked for a late checkout from the Hilton, but true to form, other things came up which meant I did not truly relax. I got a call from my friend Gary at 10.00 saying he was coming to see me at 10.30. Great! Although I wanted to see him, my plans of relaxation would have to be put on hold. Gary only stayed half an hour, we went for a walk in the Newbury sunshine and looked at cars on the A34, the source of the famous Newbury Bypass dispute. Some people will know about it, this guy called "Swampy" climbed up a tree with matted hair and an army surplus jacket and refused to get down saying that it would ruin the natural countryside around Newbury. Swampy had a point, you can hear the roar of the A34 in some of the most beautiful and otherwise quiet patches of woodland on the north side of Newbury and it ruins the peace. I don't think iPods had been invented back then though because once plugged in, the place takes on an even more atmospheric quality, depending on the track you are listening to at the time. I suspect Birdwatchers would disagree, they normally do, but I can handle it.
Photos of the leaving do and others can be found on my public web album here

Once Gary had left, I got myself together and drove back home. The original plan was that Hannah would be at home and would have done a large part of the packing. Sadly though, her Grandmother Maybelle had passed away early on Monday morning and Hannah had travelled to Norwich on Thursday afternoon for the funeral on Friday. Hannah and I had discussed my attendance but had decided that we didn't want the kids to travel and that I had other priorities such as spending time with my extended family who had travelled from Devon and Portsmouth to spend a long weekend with us before we left for Aus. When I got home, seriously hung-over, I realised that we had a mammoth task on our hands. Those who know Hannah will know exactly what I mean when I say it looked like a tornado had been through our room. Half opened suitcases, piles of crumpled clothes, electrical cables and papers littered the floor and bed and every other available space. I can't complain because I had left all that up to her, but it filled me with a sense of horror. the amount of hard work needed before we left on Sunday would not be pleasant. I decided to do the jobs I could do and that my family needed me for. I did some maintenance on my Dad's computer and set up email on my brothers phone which would allow him to better keep in touch. Hannah got back at 9 pm, we gave each other a "happy ten tear anniversary" kiss and soon it was time for bed.

We had run out of time to say goodbye to everyone properly, our tour of the UK for the last three months had allowed us to spend time with some good friends, but we hadn't had a chance to see everyone we wanted to. Hannah, had organised a party for local Gloucestershire people, mainly for the benefit of the children so Zoe and Esme had a chance to see their best friends before they left. I announced the party on Facebook in the hope that a few people who we'd not seen from further afield would come. What's great is that those who couldn't come all seemed keen for a holiday in Australia at some point in the future. Hannah and I have achieved a lot over the past few months but we still felt slightly inadequate about not having made sure we saw everyone we wanted. These messages of Australian intentions made us really happy. Even if ten percent of them come off, we will be really pleased to welcome old friends in Aus.

We had guests arriving from 14.00 the following day and both desperately needed sleep. I woke up at 5.00 a.m. got out of bed to go to the loo and consequently woke Hannah up as she descended from the two foot bounce she received when I dived back into bed over the piles of cables, wires, papers and clothes. We both lie awake thinking. I know Hannah was thinking because she wasn't talking. We both decided we had loads to do, so got up before 6.00. Hannah read the paper and I looked at Facebook and played games on my iPhone, neither of which helped, but both of which took our minds off things. Facebook is a funny one. I went from wishing never to have a Facebook page, to getting one just to keep in touch with friends, to being one of the irritating people who post mundane details about their insignificant lives just in the hope that others will show an interest and it will make them feel that their lives are significant. They are not. But still, I do now try and make a post once or twice a day and I also try to reply to others just to keep things interesting. The thought of losing touch with people is a bit scary but actually I have to say, I have sat in the bar at the Hilton all evening before, entertaining myself in banter with several others on Facebook. I can't help but imagine though that these people are probably sitting in darkened rooms filled with discarded pizza boxes, holding their knees and gently rocking back and forth in the corner admiring the crazed slogans they daubed on the wall last night in their own excrement. Still, Facebook is certainly a way to keep in touch and for certain people, myself now included, it is a fun way to do it and has helped me develop more of a relationship with people I don't know well or who I've not seen for ages. My Step-Aunt-in-Law (?) Jo who lives in Australia has been really good at following up my posts and through her humour I've got to know her a bit better despite having only met her twice before. Hopefully we will live near her in Sydney so Facebook has made a good contribution there.

We did shift into gear later in the day and spent some time re-arranging our suitcases and things and then decided we had plenty of time on Sunday so I wrote the last article of my blog and Hannah helped cut up sausage rolls for the party. The funny thing is, that David had organised the catering for Maybelle's funeral the day before. I think his wife Sue normally deals with this type of thing, but she had left for Australia to help her daughter prepare for (and probably, if her enthusiasm got the better of her, participate in) the birth of her second child. Anyway, David had ordered three dozen sausage rolls for less than twenty people and had not realised that they were the size of giant Cornish pasties. They were the biggest sausage rolls I had ever seen and were also the tastiest. Consequently they did not get eaten at the wake and were brought back by Hannah for our leaving party. Hannah had the great pleasure of walking round the party offering "Funeral Sausage Rolls", "Funeral Sandwiches" she even gave John Slinger "Funeral Lemonade”.

People started arriving from around 14.00 starting with Michael Wawra who had caught the train from London and who I was picking up from the station. As I drove out, Jenny, Anthony and their two boys arrived and on my return from the station,both the lounge and the kitchen were packed and half the sausage rolls were gone. I quickly took one and stashed it in a secret location somewhere in the kitchen. I felt quite bad until I learned that my brother had taken one to bed the night before. I feel even worse now I remembered making the plant but I do not remember going back for it. I hope mum and dad read this, I don't want to confront them directly with the possibility that there is a fast mouldering meat product lurking in the back of one of their cupboards, but they ought to know well before it becomes obvious.

The evening was great, quite a few people came to see the girls but Hannah and I had quite a few guests also. We counted 44 people in all, some having come great distances, especially Trevor and Amanda from Ireland and Michael from London. Trevor and I have shared some great times together, most of them infantile in our avoidance of responsibility in the face of our draconian wives. I exaggerate and I think we deserved most of the mothering we have received in the past from our better halves, but we have bonded in a similar way to how I imagine military men bond when faced with traumatic events in their lives. Trevor and I recounted one particular occasion and also spared some thoughts for Hannah's grandmother Maybelle, who we had both got on well with and had been a bit of an accomplice of ours while on Holiday one year in her apartment complex in Majorca.

Trevor and I had had a couple of drinks and after dinner we decided to take a stroll to the local bar for a nightcap. "Don't be back late" Amanda warned us. Maybelle had been encouraging Trevor and I with San Miguel and Sangria, one of her specialities so we were in high spirits. Anyway, after several drinks in the bar, we discovered it was closing and decided to take the English barman up on an offer to take us to a bar in the centre of Puerto Pollensa, the nearest town. We were on the way home, staggering along the main busy road into the port when a car roared up, pulling over as the door slid back. Thinking the worst, Trevor and I made for the cover of the bushes when the unmistakably ferocious voice of Amanda cut through the darkness. Just two words were uttered, but were enough to render Trevor and I sheepish and speechless all the way back to out apartment. "IN NOW!" she barked. We searched for that bar in the port for the rest of the holiday, but never could find it.

The party was a great success anyway, hundreds of children were there and Zoe and Esme had a chance to say goodbye to some of their friends. Harry and Aneurin created quite an impression. Harry especially is very affectionate but dribbles. Throughout the party I could see guests with dribble stained shoulders where Harry had obviously been cuddling them without warning of his salivating tendencies.

At one point, there were so many kids in the house that the parents decided to take them into the garden to play games. After half an hours peace and quiet, I looked out of the lounge window to see a scene straight from the pages of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. John Slinger, playing the piper, was leading a large group of doting children round the garden, the whole scene lit by my Dad's 6 million candle power floodlight. I could see his lips moving but due to the double glazing I could not hear what he was saying. I imagine it was something like “Follow me little people, we're off to see the wizard!” said in a warbling high pitched voice.
Trevor and Amanda had planned to leave at 7.30 but we were having such a good time and Roan, their son was having fun in the garden with The Piped Piper of Highnam, so they didn't leave until 9.00. The last guests to leave were Haydn and the Earls. We all just collapsed in a heap and went to bed.

Hannah and I woke up at four in the morning, I'd never heard of “jet lead” before, but it seemed like our bodies were acclimatising already. Or maybe not; we had gone to bed at 11.30. The whole family were still staying over, Mum, Dad, Hannah's sister Beth with her two sons Henry and Stanley, my brother Mike and Uncle George. This was going to be the last day we would see them in a while so it would have been nice to spend some time with them all, but you could tell mum and dad were worried about the mess we might leave. Hannah and I were also mildly stressed;I think it was a good thing we didn't have much time to think about the broader implications of what we were doing.

We had given away quite a lot of things and had sold the car to Beth and Gary, we had packed our suitcases but there were still papers, cables and clothes as far as the eye could see. Then we weighed the suitcases. Holy Moses! We were overweight. We looked at the Qantas website and found that the baggage limits were 23kg per person and 7.5kg each in hand luggage. We packed out my rucksack to 12kg and decided to risk it (I've never had my hand luggage weighed before) but we had to get the cases down to 92kg in total.
Mum and Dad have a set of baggage scales so we started to weight the bags and remove items which we decided were not totally essential. We made up another suitcase which we gave to Beth as she plans to visit us at Christmas, but the bags were still overweight. The removal of towels and more clothes did the trick, we moved all the suitcases downstairs, hoping that the scales were correctly calibrated.

Rejoining Hannah in the bedroom, I noted that there were still hundreds of papers, cables and clothes. We bagged up some of this for charity, some for the tip and other stuff to put into storage in mum and dad's small loft space in their garage. By the time that was done, Beth was ready to leave. She said a tearful goodbye to us all, especially Hannah. Zoe and Esme gave Henry and Stanley a big hug and then they were off. This left us with no transport to get to the tip so I had to beg a lift from mum. She was only too keen to help, knowing that if she did not, she would be left with a mess.

By the time we were back from the tip, it was around 4.00 and our taxi was expected at 4.30. I think everyone was a bit nervous. Zoe was in her “cling to mummy” mood and would not give Granny and Granddad a cuddle before we left, but Esme obliged and fell asleep on Granddad's knee.

Mum and Dad had prepared Hannah and I that George might get emotional. Actually I think he held himself together better than some others. The taxi showed up, we had a frantic two minutes trying to load our impossibly large and heavy bags into the taxi and a few rushed goodbyes. I gave my brother, dad and George a hug and then there was some fussing over the children, getting them strapped in. I felt fine, everyone had stopped saying their goodbyes and only the tearful Hannah and I were left to get into the car. The only person I had not said goodbye to was mum and I turned to see her going back into the house, she seemed to have forgotten me.

I asked her “what about me” and she came over and gave me a hug and a kiss and some well wishes. Its at that point that I felt something like tears welling up and as I retreated to the taxi I held myself together settled down and kind of enjoyed the emotional feeling of leaving my family behind.

You see, when you leave people, you remember all the good things and all the many irritating and annoying habits they have are forgotten. I think that is a good way to feel about your family. I reckon they will be out to see us sooner rather than later and what's more, when they come, they will probably have forgotten all my irritating habits, at least for the first 24 hours.


  1. Nick,

    Very well written and quite moving at times (especially the Pied Piper bit)!

    You ought to try to find a career which combines your electronic engineering with journalism or writing.


    PS a big thanks from Emily for the bike. She's mastered reverse pedaling. Now for forwards...

  2. well, what a send off. have you now the perfect life in touch with your friends whilst living in luxury in Thailand?

    Why bother about moving on and finding work