In a week, I head back to Europe for a few months. The period of impatience has arrived, when you just want to be heading to the airport and setting off, getting on the way to the destination. Final arrangements are happening here, with the waifs and strays of possessions being rounded up and prepared for storage; decisions on what to pack and how to pack. It is incredibly exciting to be going, yet at the same time apprehensive. I have never spent longer than 6 weeks at a time in Europe since 1999 and here I am, heading there for at least twice that.
The last long-stay was a work trip. I was across in the London office helping with a management change-over, so things were focussed on that. I was able to catch up with friends and family of course, but conference calls with Sydney at midnight with the lawyers and clients have a way of putting a damper on social life. This time it will be a little different. I have the luxury of leisure and time to spend on things that I want to do. I even have the luxury of being able to choose when I return to Sydney as there are no commitments here to bring me back on a fixed date.
There have also been reminded of what I miss about London – not the least because I went and bought a guide book for the place last week. Reasoning that I haven’t spent much time there in 14 years I will be seeing the city anew and in many ways with tourist eyes so I decided that it would help me focus on the options.
So here is my list of the top five things that I am looking forward to, in no particular order:
Family & Friends
I suppose this goes without saying, but I am looking forward to getting some time with people I haven’t seen for over a year and a half. People who have known me for over 20 years in most instances. Expats tend to have fragmented friendships, split and spread across the globe, so any opportunity to settle down for more than a snatched conversation is welcome. And my parents are no doubt working on a devious plot to persuade me to stay permanently. I know my friend RN certainly is…
Yes, I know that we Brits love to complain about the weather, but trust me on this one: sunshine for 300 days a year can get boring. I miss the variety of the British weather, the way that you never really know what is around the corner (sometimes literally). Will be making a beeline for some family time when I arrive. The first week up in the moorlands of North West England with the lowering clouds and vast expanses of heath and heather where the weather just seems bigger and bolder. Literally Wuthering Heights country – the Bronte family lived just 15 miles away. The second week will be on the Kintyre Peninsula, with views of the ocean and the Isle of Arran from the windows. The soft and salty sea air mingling with the wood smoke of the fire in the house. Because I am also perfectly aware that it will be utterly freezing and I will spend a lot of the time sitting in front of a fire trying to keep warm. But, hey. Am being nostalgic here, so bear with me.
Bear with me on this one. My first meal when I get to my parents will be my mother’s famous meat & potato pie, with pickles. Even in the height of summer (a British one, but still summer) it is the first meal I eat when I get home. It is home to me. I couldn’t imagine being at home without eating it at least once. As soon as word gets out that mum is preparing it, half the family will turn up, feigning ignorance of the food, but staying for dinner anyway. And then my niece will probably pack up anything that is leftover to take with her for lunch the following day. It always works this way.
The second thing in the food category is a decent (British) Indian meal. I love Sydney food, but there really is not a culture of Indian dining here so it is always a special trip to get a good curry. Have already made plans to catch up with a couple of Sydney friends who are in London at the moment for a good nosh-up down at Brick Lane. Maybe followed by a bagel from the Brick Lane Bagel Shop, just because we can.
The Theatre/Arts/Museum/Music scene
I have already trawled through Time Out London and earmarked about 50 things I want to go and see. The real thing here for me is that I can actually find 50 things to do in three months. To be back in one of the major cultural capitals of the world will inevitably lead to cultural surfeit, but at least I will be happy at the end of it. Sydney has amazing cultural life too, but just not on the sheer scale that London can offer. Or Paris, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid or any of the other places I could hop on a train or plane and head to at some point…
Something you don’t appreciate until you don’t have them. The ability to enjoy your evenings with sun, rather than always being dark by 8.30pm at the latest. I will be arriving a few days before the clocks are put forward and all British people suddenly look happier. It works every time.
I am sure that there are a hundred other things which could be listed if I sat here long enough, but those are the top five for me right now. Ask me tomorrow and there will probably be a different answer. And you may have a different view (especially about my mother’s cooking) so feel free to share!