After a 27 hour journey and thanks to Pamela who picked me up at the Airport I got home late Thursday night. And as I walked in the door I felt it was MY house. At almost eleven months out is is "my home" now. Of course it is a big change stepping out of a fairly warm English summer back into an Aussie winter but it is only a matter of having extra clothes on for a few weeks and hopefully it will turn into a glorious Spring. And yes, plants died, leaves accumulated, rubbish built up and no-one swept it away but I am GLAD I went. Must teach Trev how to water the garden before the next big trip though.
It was scary to do that long plane flight and all those transfers alone, with some uncertainty about transport in Britain. I made some mistakes. One hotel cost almost two hundred British pounds for the night, I had to book it at the last minute when I realised I couldn't get to London to start the bus tour from where I was for a 7am start so I paid top price for a hotel room with tennis at Wimbledon. But I swallowed the cost and knew if I had to pay extra for not thinking about things in advance that was another learning curve.
I hated that I could not share my excitement in the build-up to the holiday because it is not safe to share that your home will be empty for five weeks. Gone are those days.But nothing major happened. There was some rain but good temps and 2013 is down as one of the milder winters.I had great weather throughout Britain, the best summer since 2006! I laughed when it was described as a heatwave when I thought it was just warming up nicely! But English houses are not built for hot weather and there was a high humidity factor too that caused som stress.
I loved staying with various cousins, overnight or for longer periods of time.I stayed with Jacquie in West Susswex the first week and when I got back from the trip, I have stayed with her twice before so know her routine and when I make myself scarce! It was great once I got though the explanations about the death of my husband Ray, and the death of my dear Mum to simply spend time sharing the stories and catching up on the doings of the family since I last saw them in 1998. Just little things like attending the birthday party of one of Jacquie's grandsons made me feel like family. And that is really important to me since the passing of Mum and Ray - to feel as if I have family out there who have a affection for me.
It was good to meet a few cousins that I have been writing to or emailing for years. In one case I only saw them for a couple of hours but it is good to find that is okay, we were still the same people, still friends, still able to communicate on certain levels. And I finally caught up with my Mum's step-brother and his wife, I had never met Jeannette and not seen Gordon since I was seven! But we all enjoyed the experience and that is what counts. The London cousins were the easiest to live with, comfortable homes full of noise with boisterous sons who reminded me of my own and and an anything-goes attitude that is so part of the culture here in Australia. Other cousins were still quite formal and I felt as if I had to mind my manners.
Travelling alone is a bit scary, I went on the coach tour and it is definitely a couples world but I became friends with a couple of American widows, one travelling with her daughter and one with her grandchildren and talked to whoever was at my table, Americans, Australians and a few others travelling together. I had a bit of a down day when I reached Ireland as Ray had loved Ireland when we were there together and so much made me remember our love and my loss. Seeing the couples getting into the jaunting cars was the worst experience as last time Ray and I did that "romantic experience" together, so I just walked around the village for a couple of hours instead.
The cousins that had offered hospitality made a big difference. I was confident that if anything went wrong I only had to ring one of them and ask for help. Staying in their homes was good, reinforcing our bonds and talking together made us realise we could be friends as well as cousins. I felt we were growing in affection, remembering we are family even though our parents, the original siblings are now all gone. It was well worth the cost to rediscover that. Some of my older cousins asked me to promise to come again soon. I understand that, to learn to love is to prepare for loss and we older ones sensed that. It was so great to look at people and realise we have so much history in common.
Although I went to some places Ray and I had been to I also saw Britain through new eyes, through the eyes of "Sue as she is today". It was almost fifteen years since I had been there so time moved on and there were many changes, old buildings and streetscapes replaced by new. I only passed through London but the traffic was horrendous, the sidewalks crowded and the noise was loud and raucous. I was glad I was not driving myself this time and that transport was quicker and easier without Ray's post first stroke slowness to figure into the equation. On the whole I found everyone courteous and willing to help a stranger on her way.
I know the journey enabled me to see life from a different perspective, so now there is time to settle back in and plan for the future. There are a lot of things I need to list, need to plan for, need to do. I know that if I take it slowly I will get there in the end. There is no rush, I have the rest of my life to do it. God willing.