Hungerford Fri Dec 7 - Day 7

Trip Start Nov 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 31, 2013

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Where I stayed
Kintbury and Hungerford

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, December 7, 2012

Fiona's Comments:
Packing and leaving the apartment - painful and time consuming. We met the manager of the apartment who came to collect our keys and offer us a peace offering of a big box of chocolates for our epic shower issues. I think she had finally conceded that there was a problem with the shower. We all said our farewells and rolled our way across Southwark Bridge to the tube. As now seasoned tube travelers it was easy navigating the system with all our luggage. We only nearly lost the kids once when we changed trains and the kids and all their luggage were on the train when the doors started to close. I put bits of my body on the train, Zed screamed, the doors opened again and we sort of tumbled onto the train. Of course everyone was blankly looking at us so I cracked a joke but no-one laughed. Stiff upper lip and all.
We got to Heathrow and picked up our hire car. In our hire car we drove back towards London. Hamley was our destination. Zed and Nik dropped us at a suburban tube station and I took the girls to Regent St and into Hamleys - the toy store to end all toy stores. It was the perfect day - a crisp, cold sunny day, Christmas decorations all a-twinkling along Regent St and people everywhere. I wasn't quite clear on where Hamleys was on Regent St. As we got closer though we saw more and more Hamleys shopping bags - and then we were there.

Enter the doors of crazy Christmas toy store madness. It was wonderful. Hamley people stationed all over the place demonstrating toys and crafts, wailing kids, lost parents, violently lollipop pink coloured toilets, cheery store attendants. Sof was beside herself with glee and darting all over the place. On the top floor were lifesized Lego models of Nutcracker soldiers, Star Wars figures and the Royal Family - including a Lego corgi. We had a ball. Bought a The Hobbit figurine for Nik, Sof bought a robotic bubble blower and Bella bought some fake snow. I also bought a couple of gifts for our friends that we would next be visiting.

Made our way back to the suburban tube station and found Zed and Nik who had happily whiled away the time trying different flavoured corn chips. And so on to our next adventure - the Cotswolds and our first stop Kintbury not far from Hungerford where my friends Ray, Louise and their teenage daughters Amber and Lauren live. I love the Map App and driving directions - just keep following the blue line. Missed the Kintbury turnoff though so a bit of a trek down the motorway before we could get off, turn around and go back to the correct exit. One thing we have noticed (luckily) with the motorway exits is that they are incredibly sharp turns - you really have to drop from 100 km/h to about 40 km/h to safely exit. It's quite weird how sharp and dangerous the exits are. Considering rain and ice is an added option in wintertime, the exits don't make sense at all.

Our accommodation is Louise's mums' place - she runs a B&B for friends that are recommended to her. After tackling the thin blue line Map App and the sharp exits, here we are in the Cotswolds staying in a B&B on the main street with all the houses set flush on the main road and made out of Cotswolds stone. Picture postcard village. We met Merle, unloaded our gear and then set off to Ray and Louise's house. Merle gave us very specific directions which we messed up to our benefit as our mis-direction took us to Hungerford's High Street and we saw all the Christmas lights. A local councilman has taken it upon himself to really spruce up Hungerford at Christmas time - little Christmas trees with lights suspended from buildings along the High Street and strings of lights everywhere - it was lovely. Bella missed it as she was still struggling with her cold and stayed home with Merle to have an early night.Finally, after 23 years, I met up with Ray and Louise again. They broke out the champagne and we spent the night having dinner and catching up. All the kids wanted to know how we knew each other and Ray and I didn't quite know. I somehow met Ray on his travels in Australia in 86 when I was living in Sydney with my friend Jenny. When I came over to the UK in '89 I met up with Ray and Louise and since then we have sent Christmas cards and the occasional letter during the year.

We remembered that Ray had lived on a mattress in our Sydney lounge room for a few nights and he remembered that on the first morning my flatmate Jenny was towering over him wanting to know who he was. Apparently I had forgotten to tell Jenny that Ray was staying. Jenny and I always had friends lobbing in and staying - we had travelled around the UK together in 1986 and had met heaps of fellow travellers who always looked us up when they came to Sydney. Anyway the mystery of how we met remained unresolved.
Ray and Louise also have a very cute dog called 'Betty' inspired from Some Mothers Do Ave Em. The kids fell in love with Betty and are now very homesick for Bodie - they all have photos of him on their phones/cameras and keep looking at him and joking about him. Betty was very cute and endured the masses of hugs and lack of personal body space. After a fantastic night, we made our way back to Kintbury and called it a night on Day 7 in the UK.

Zoran's Comments:

Just to clarify something here.  When Fi said "Zed screamed" she did not mean a girly scream, she meant I shouted out to open the doors as we were still boarding and I guess I shouted loud enough to get a response.  Otherwise we would have been separated and I think a part of Fi's clothing or suitcase would have been caught in the doors.
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