A self-confessed lover of lists, I do like a good Top Ten of anything. Whilst this is a challenging time in life at the moment, it’s not without some happy moments for our family. So I thought it would be good for me to start this week with a list of things I really love about the UK. These are some things that I missed whilst I was away and other things that I didn’t miss but I’ve realised in the last few weeks of being back, they make the return that little bit better.
Friends and family
As my mum said today, when she dropped in on her way to take her aunt away for a weeks holiday, “It’s nice to see you without having to take a 30 hour journey.” Even though we have moved to an area of England that we don’t know, and don’t know anyone who lives here, we are a drive away from all our family and lifelong friends. The ‘catch-up’ list is huge (and daunting), but it will be lovely to spend a summer seeing lots of people we love and haven’t seen for five years.
Marks and Spencers, and John Lewis
Moving back wasn’t particularly planned and felt very rushed at the time. Sometimes I would be gripped with the fear that we were doing the wrong thing. One of my comforting thoughts was that at least there would be Marks and Spencers Food Halls to visit. They have not disappointed, their ready-made meals and selections of sweet and savoury snacks make me so happy. I also realised last week that there is nowhere like John Lewis in New Zealand, with all its quality goods and many and varied departments.
I am not going to talk about this much now, as I feel I have banged this particular drum more times than is polite (politeness: something else I love about England, so I’m sneaking it in as a bonus point), but I cannot describe the pure joy it is to nudge a dial and 15 minutes later, your entire house feels warm. Not just the room the switch is in, THE WHOLE HOUSE! It’s a wonderful thing peoples.
Granted, we still haven’t watched any television because our TV is on a ship sailing towards some UK port right now, but when it does arrive, I am going to buy that licence and bask in the delights of BBC dramas, British comedy and The Great British Bake Off. Yes you heard me, I don’t care that it’s gone to Channel Four. I refuse to despair until they have definitely ruined it. I don’t even think I will mind the adverts because after five years of New Zealand TV ads, these are going to be Oscar worthy in comparison!
Of course New Zealand has online shopping but it’s just not as good. Only one supermarket offers online shopping and then you have to pay $13 for the delivery, no matter how much you spend. In the UK, all shops sell online and most of the time you will get your order within three days. This is an upside to living in an over populated country – more of a demand, equals competitive service.
The way the English is spoken
I LOVE the Kiwi accent and feel very sad that our children seem to have dropped their accents immediately, seriously Minnie sounds like she has lived in the South of England her whole life?!? However there is something quite wonderful about the many accents and colloquialisms you can hear in just one day over here. No one speaks english quite like the Brits.
The National Trust and all things historic and architecturally impressive
I love history and can get positively giddy with excitement when I visit a stately home. It’s what happens when you read way too much Austen and Bronte. Coming back to my home country and seeing the architecture that is so typical of England has been an unexpected comfort as we lived first in Bath and now in rural Berkshire. The house we are currently living in was built in the 18th Century, which is just fascinating right? Who has lived in this house? Who was it originally built for? What has been changed over the years and why? Has anything dramatic happened within these walls?
It’s summer here and for me, there is nothing better on a sunny afternoon than to take the family to a good country pub, sit in the garden and order a hearty lunch with chips. We’ve only done it a couple of times since we got here but both were just as I wanted them to be; tasty food, friendly service, relaxed atmosphere, varied crowd of fellow punters. Charming.
Factor 50 isn’t always necessary
One of the activities that will undoubtedly cause a massive argument between child and parent in our family, is the application of sun screen. In England, the weather and thicker ozone layer, simply does not require you to apply Factor 50 twice a day. I can’t begin to tell you what a pleasant relief this is to us all. Not having to automtically apply sun screen to my children before school is just fab. An upside to living in a cooler, wetter country. That said, I did almost get burnt this afternoon sat outside our local cafe, so it’s not all snow and blizzards over here.
I like the way villages have centres to them and green spaces with houses around them, and little lanes with cottages on, and beautiful gardens that aren’t blocked by high fences. Most villages will have at least one pub, a bus stop, a post office, a church and then maybe a hall, a cafe, a school and playing fields. There is a sense of character and community in a village. We live in a pretty little village, over the river from another pretty village. Between them they have two big playing fields, two schools, five pubs, four churches, a butchers, a grocers, two cafes, a post office, a library, a hardware shop, a doctors surgery, a dentist, a hairdressers, a train station, even a mountain bike shop and an interior design shop. I’m enjoying visiting them all and becoming part of the community.
There is a lot of good things in the UK and I think it’s often the Brits who will be the first to dismiss it. Perhaps it takes an extended period of time away from a place to realise there are things to celebrate in the return.