I’ve returned to England for a two week holiday. This trip was initially arranged around the date of my Masters graduation. Unfortunately the University of Warwick didn’t know what to do with my thesis which I’d submitted early (because I had a job to start in Cambodia) so they popped it in a drawer … and forgot about it for three months. By the time they found it and sent it to the external examiners, it was too late and I was told I would be unable to attend my graduation. Crap. But the plane tickets were booked and my stash of good British chocolate was running dangerously low so I decided to stick to my flight dates and headed home. Now I know winter is cold but Jesus Christ when I stepped off the plane at Heathrow (in flip flops because my trainers didn’t go with my outfit), I was tempted to turn around and head back to the seat I’d been confined to for the past 14 hours and fly straight back to the Asian sunshine. How was I ever able to deal with this freezing weather? Admittedly I had arrived in a particularly cold spell but even so. I’d become so accustomed to waking up every morning to brilliant sunshine that I hadn’t realised what an impact that has on your life. Sun makes me happy, it’s as simple as that. Clouds and frost make me want to hibernate in my luxurious bed with a 15 tog duvet or curl up like a cat in front of the wood burner – both of these have happened several times in the last two weeks. It was great to see my mum in arrivals, although she then asked me to drive the 200 ish miles home because she’d been kept awake by a fridge in the hotel, so loaded up with good coffee, we hit the M4.
Three hours later and I was walking through the door to my childhood home, greeted by my dog, who seemed genuinely happy to see me for once, and then my newly retired dad and my post-kidney removal little sister and her boyfriend. I had well and truly come home. It’s funny how so little changes and how quickly you fall back into a routine. Familiarity with one’s family is so innate that it felt as if I’d never been away. The only difference seemed to be my inability to deal with cold weather – so my parents decided a trip to the beach would be a good idea on my first day back! Coat, scarf, hat, hot chips (French fries for my American buddies), and I just about managed to ward of hypothermia whilst enjoying the fresh sea air.
As I only had a limited amount of time in the UK, I had to fit in visiting as many friends as possible. These included one of the elderly ladies in my village, one of my closest friends who is now looking after my horse, my former work supervisor from when I was a bartender at university, a friend continuing her PhD at Warwick, my spinning instructor, former babysitting clients turned friends, and my best friend Anna with whom I volunteered and lived for seven months in Cambodia back in 2009. Saturday night in London saw a big get together of many of my Warwick friends, predominantly because they were all in the country because they had graduated … the exact reason I was in fact in the UK. Despite not having endured a two hour ceremony nor shaking hands with the university dean, I decided to celebrate being in the UK and reunited with some very good friends I’d not seen for five months.
I was also able to see many family members, including my 96 year old grandfather and my brother’s two young children … and my brother and his wife. This get-together was also a brilliant excuse to enjoy some good pub grub! Once again, as a family we fell into our familiar routine, despite them not having seen me for five months and knowing that I would not be back in the UK before November.
As for the original purpose of the trip? Well Warwick may have royally screwed up but you can always rely on your friends to make any situation better. When Rachel texted me asking if I could pick up the pizzas before heading to Emily’s house for our reunion, I happily accepted. After a slight delay when I somehow found myself trapped in a car park and had to call a nice man to ask him to raise the barrier, I finally arrived with a teetering tower of cheesy goodness. Upon arrival, I saw that my wonderful friends Rachel, Emily, Becky, and Rory had decorated Emily’s house with a graduation theme. There were banners, balloons, and sparkly graduation caps adorning the walls and doorways.
After dinner they presented me with my very own hand-made robes, the trim of which looks remarkably like the twitter logo – they know me too well! I had a cap and everything! Becky even presented me with my scroll proclaiming my successful graduation from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I was so touched that they’d gone to such an effort, and the champagne toast (with mandatory graduation confetti in my glass) was the icing on the cake. This is my public thank you to you four amazing people – that hilarious, thoughtful night was a highlight of my trip.
Before returning to Cambodia, I put out the call on Facebook, offering to buy things for friends in Phnom Penh who wouldn’t be returning home any time soon. The amount of chocolate I ended up buying forced me to do a disclaimer to Sainsburys’ cashier lest she thought I was attempting to give myself diabetes! I swear it took up half my suitcase by the time I’d packed!
I enjoyed my time at home immensely but after two weeks of being cold – it even snowed one day – I was more than happy to be boarding at Heathrow, once again clad in flip flops (Reading station that morning was not fun!). I was greeted at my apartment by three friends and an iced coffee – the perfect welcome home. And to be honest, sitting at work the following day writing this, it feels like I never left!