Thursday, May 17, 2018

United Kingdom

Avid followers of my Facebook feed (I fantasise that such people exist; indulge me) will have noticed that I have been checking in from venues outside of Wellington. Yes, we are on our travels in the Northern Hemisphere, where we are dividing our time between visiting families and having a holiday ourselves.

We landed in London’s Ye Olde Heathrowe Airporte at an ungodly hour on Wednesday morning, having been transported by Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong. Our journey was uneventful – the only notable observation was that New Zealand lounges are much nicer than Cathay Pacific’s lounge. We were greeted by Paul and Sacha, and, after a short delay to avail ourselves of UK-style SIM cards for our phones, we made our way back to Guildford. On our first day we didn’t want to exert ourselves too much so, after a short rest, we wandered down to the community cafĂ© where Sacha volunteers, and had a light lunch. After lunch we went for a short walk around the wetlands area of the Wey Navigation.

The next day dawned sunny but not so warm. I was still in short trousers, hardy New Zealander that I am these days. We went to visit the RHS gardens at Wisley in the morning, before heading into Guildford town for a spot of lunch at Franco Manca, and a little light retail therapy – Marks and Spencer was calling – before heading home in the afternoon.  

On Friday, we had an appointment in London with Nicola’s friend, Alison. We managed to navigate our way through the crowds to Waterloo, and then walked along the South Bank, noting what had changed building-wise since we were last there (the walkie-talkie is now finished, and the cheesegrater and scalpel are new).  We met up with Alison in Bermondsey, and went to lunch at ultra-hip Flour & Grape. I had to draw on a goatee beard before they’d let me in. After a late lunch, we took the Thames Clipper back along the river, and just about managed to miss the Friday rush hour on the train back to Guildford.

On Saturday, the weather looked like it was taking a turn for the worse. Nevertheless, we pressed on with our plan to go for a picnic at Dapdune Wharf, the National Trust property where Sacha used to guide schoolchildren and Paul now drives the boat tour on Saturdays. The Cumming clan joined us with the exception of Eli, who was on a flight to Tel Aviv. As we opened up the picnic goods we noticed a slight smattering of rain. As we went on, it got more and more like actual rain, and after we’d had enough we rapidly packed up and decanted ourselves into the tea room for tea and cakes. This prompted us to recount our adventure in Clissold Park, which was the site of a picnic in the rain before we left to New Zealand. Inevitably, the cakes had been left out in the rain, and we sang MacArthur Park.

We couldn’t hang around, however; we had a further engagement in the evening in Chichester, so we were driven to the station and made our way south. In Chichester it was proper raining, and as I’d left my waterproof behind in Guildford, had to dive into a shop for an umbrella as soon as possible. We then rendezvoused with the rest of Nicola’s friends, who were due to go off on a walking tour the following day, covering three cathedrals – Chichester, Winchester and Salisbury – over five days. We went out for dinner at Carluccio’s, which was to the required standard, and had a breakfast the following morning at Bill’s, who seem to have discovered the art of making a little bit of food look like a lot more than it is through artful arrangement on a plate. Their smashed avocado (there go my dreams of home ownership) was somewhat soured, literally, through the overapplication of lime juice. Clearly, avocados aren’t being smashed to order at Bill’s.

After breakfast we saw the walkers off on their bus to their starting point – one of the Witterings, I forget which – and then headed towards the station ourselves, to get back to Guildford in time for Sunday lunch with Sacha and family. Unfortunately there was a bus replacement service for part of the way, so a journey that had taken us just over an hour to get down took over two hours to return.

Our flight to Cyprus was leaving at 7:15 on Monday morning, so we had booked a hotel near Heathrow for overnight. We took the bus to Heathrow and the shuttle to our hotel, and had an early night, as we were due to be up at 4:00 the following morning.

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