Ave Angliae Mater!
Well here I am. Home. I am officially home. I am now neither Homesick nor Heatstruck (Any ideas for a new blog name, folks? Answers on the back of a postcard…). I am not permitted to complain about the British weather in any way ever again – either directly or implicitly – for the rest of my life (this is apparently a proper legal condition for expats returning from sunny climes, according to my husband). I have had a wonderful time clothes shopping – buying woolly tights, scarves, brushed-cotton pyjamas and winter boots. I have consumed pub lunches and craft beers and tea & cake and fish & chips aplenty.
It is utterly bloody wonderful to be home and to be settling back into normal life. I have a very nice job and, although I don’t as yet have somewhere permanent to live, I am very much enjoying being a frightful burden to my family. I am currently (and this is no word of a lie) sitting beside a blazing log fire in my parents’ sitting room, while my mother plays Sailing By on the piano and my father offers to bring me a glass of sherry. I have just been for a glorious autumnal walk in the fields near our house and my cheeks are all appley with the sunshine and the crisp, cold breeze. Heaven.
I’ve only had one wobble so far and that was when I was trying to make my way down a flooded footpath in driving rain in the dark with an umbrella that had all the structural integrity of a Pound Shop artificial Christmas tree. That was a bit of a ‘Well, this wouldn’t happen in Dubai…’ moment, but it wasn’t long before I was home and dry and blissfully cosy in my new brushed-cotton pyjamas and all was well with the world once more.
Talking of umbrellas, I have discovered that I’m not very good with them. We have really needed umbrellas here in the South East in the last couple of weeks; the rain has been BIBLICAL. [Note to lawyer – I am not complaining about the weather, I promise, this is a simple statement of fact.] But umbrellas do not like me. I am the opposite of an Umbrella Whisperer; I am their thrice cursèd nemesis. Umbrellas turn inside out if I so much as look at them. As soon as I buy one, it immediately starts plotting its desperate escape. The other day I owned an umbrella for fourteen minutes – fourteen minutes – before losing it.
So, other than the astonishing amount of autumn rainfall (climate change, no doubt), what else has changed in five years? Well, I’ll tell you the three main things I’ve noticed so far…
1. The telly has got seriously crap. Significantly worse than it was five years ago. Honestly. With the exception of a few beautifully made high-budget dramas (loving the BBC’s Sunday night literary adaptations) just about everything is cheap-as-chips reality drivel. Wall-to-wall singing and dancing and cooking and dining and wife-swapping and antiques-shopping, and, no, Greg Wallace, I don’t care that this family of half-wits could have got their weekly tonne of pork mince 73p cheaper if they’d gone to effing Lidl. I really, really DO NOT CARE.
2. The viruses have mutated into something monstrous. I have caught two colds since arriving home. The second one nearly did for me. It went to my chest, my ears, my larynx, my eyes – have you ever had a cold in your eyes? It is horrific. My immune system may have hardened itself to MERS and all manner of terrifying exotic diseases, but the English Common Cold has vanquished me. Much like our national rugby team it truly is a contender on the world stage. [What’s that you say? Really? To Wales? Oh bloody hell…]
3. The roads are now nothing but pot holes. We’re basically all driving around on roughly cut slabs of tarmacadam-Swiss-cheese. Lord knows what the overall cost of damage has been to the suspension / wheel alignment of the nation’s vehicles. I nearly got whiplash the other day swerving around a cyclist who was swerving around a pot hole, resulting in me driving straight into another, even bigger, pot hole.
Other than these things I can assure you that, whatever the newspapers may try to tell you, everything else is pretty much fine and exactly as it was when I left. Except of course that Canterbury now has a branch of Mole Country Stores (opened by John Craven, no less). And a few extra restaurants. Ooh – and a new Curzon cinema – that’s particularly nice.
Righto, better be cracking on then. Busy busy. Time to top up that schooner of sherry and chuck another log on the fire – it’s ‘Cider with Rosie’ on BBC1 in a bit, and if I’m quick I might just catch the last fifteen minutes of ‘Strictly Bargain Hunt Your Way to a Cheap and Nasty Lasagne’ first…