Back in the UK..but only briefly 26 Feb to 10 Mar

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
Worthing and Rugby

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, March 14, 2011

Saturday 26 February to 10 March

One of the main reasons for coming back to the UK was because I couldn't get flights from South America to Egypt and then to Australia, London was always the connecting hub. So this time I am back for just under 2 weeks. It’s a time to re-pack for my next journey, sort out stuff for the forthcoming trip and see family and friends. I have a friend called Vicky who I met 20 years ago when I was living in Australia and we both went on the same trip to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. We’ve remained friends ever since and she lives nearby in Shoreham. We’ve started a little trend of meeting up for breakfast every time I am back in the UK at the Sea Lane café in Goring. We did this a few days before I left for Peru, then back in December and now in March. Again its lovely to catch up with her, but surprisingly the weather is probably colder now than when I met her last time in December. It really is freezing cold and grey in the UK.

I have to organise my visa for China. There is a visa application centre in Chancery Lane in London.The problem is that when they issue the visa the starting date is from that day and only valid for 3 months, hence mine would only be valid for early March to early June. I am heading to China 17 June. Typically I have to get the more expensive double entry visa which is valid for 6 months. It also takes 4 working days. I head up to London by train on the Wednesday. I hate not having a car, and the lack of independence, although the petrol prices are now extortionate £1.40 a litre it has increased to so maybe its not such a bad thing to go by public transport. But I search the internet for cheap rail fares. If you can be flexible about timings then there are special cheap tickets at certain times, so I manage to buy single tickets for my journey from Worthing to Rugby via London for about £30 so not too bad in the scheme of things. I have to apply for an appointment at the visa centre, mine is at 2pm. I am early and arrive at 1.30pm and wait for an hour or so. You get a ticket with a number on it, and wait for your number to be called. Then you just hand in the passport and application forms, so pretty straightforward - it will be ready to pick up on Monday.

My friend Annalize works for the famous French fashion house Hermes in the city. I didn’t get to see her in the summer before I left for Peru so as I am nearby, her shop is at Bank, I head off to see her. It is a beautiful spring morning, clear blue skies so I walk down Holborn Viaduct which takes me straight to the Royal Exchange. Unfortunately as Annalize is the shop manager and her assistant manager is off sick…we can’t leave the building, so have a sandwich, drink and a quick catch up in her office. It is good though to see her. I then get the district line tube to Richmond where I will be staying the night with my good friend and former boss Lisa. Lisa had a hideous 2010, she is only 45 but was diagnosed with breast cancer in June after going for a routine mammogram (at the suggestion of her doctor). And thank god she did because they found a very small tumour. She has private health care so was having it taken out within days. But thankfully is all clear of it now and hopefully 2011 will be a better year for her. She is a very very positive person and its always good to see here, she is just a lovely caring friend.

Off to Euston Thursday morning to get the train up to Rugby, my friend Ish who lives in Northampton and I’ve known since I met her temping at the council there back in 1995, is now working for Network Rail at its HQ in Euston, so I am able to catch up with her, albeit briefly, before I board the train. I arrive at Rugby station (my home town) a little over an hour later and Claire (sister-in-law) picks me up. We do some shopping before he head home in time to go and pick up Ellie at school. She looks so grown up in her school uniform, soooo cute.

Next day and its Justin Bieber concert. We were going to catch the train up to Birmingham but Jay kindly said he’s take us. It was me, Ellie, Claire and Claire’s youngest sister Carla (Carla and Ellie are the fans….). The concert is at the National Indoor Arena. We get there about 5pm, it starts at half seven. Every restaurant is fully booked and packed with families and dozens and dozens of young girls and teenagers with Justin Bieber t-shirts, he’s a popular young man. Claire got Ellie a special I love Justin t-shirt made too. We finally get a table at Pizza Express and order the child’s menu. I know it sounds strange but we didn’t have much time and it was 3 courses for £6 - we didn’t think we were that hungry…but alas the portions really were tiny and didn’t really fill us up! But it was food….we then headed for the stadium. It sold out. Our seats were the very last row up in the gods, but we had a good view of the stage and large screens. There we two support acts. Some guy from London, who had a good voice and was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and Willow Smith (Will Smith’s daughter).

The large screen then showed a 15 minute count down until Bieber mania. When he came on stage the crowd went mad, I’ve never heard so many girls screaming at once. To be honest he’s not my cup of tea, but he performed well, is kind of cute if you are a teenager and he actually plays the drums, guitar and piano. So I can see why most 12-year girls are in love with him. I think it was all a bit much for Ellie - I forget she’s still only 4. It was a long day for her what with school and the concert didn’t finish until 10pm, so not sure how much she really enjoyed but hope she did.

I spend Saturday with my best friend Nick who I have known for 30 years since primary school and his partner Neil. We went for a lovely meal at The Duncow in Dunchurch. Started on the wine at 3pm with the meal and by the end of the evening…back at Nick's…we somehow had managed to polish off 10 bottles in total between the 3 of us!!! Sunday morning and the hangover kicks in. I really want to see the King’s Speech - there isn’t a cinema in Luxor, so I’ve not had a chance to see any of the Oscar winning or nominated films, and after Colin Firth’s and the film’s brilliant success I really wanted to see it on the big screen. Nick is not up for it but Neil comes with me. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and can see why it was so successful. T

Sunday night and I visit Fi (a friend from college days) and her hubby Phil. Phil and I over the last few years have spent many hours over a bottle of wine moaning about our jobs. I got out and am doing what I am doing now, he is still in the same job after 9 years and still hates it. He shows me his CV and I look at some job applications. He lacks confidence and is definitely not selling himself properly on his CV, so we spend sometime talking it through and the next day I update it for him. Fingers crossed by the time I come back in the summer he has a new job closer to home. Monday and Claire and I have a fish pedicure. It’s the first time for both of us. OMG what an experience. We sat for 15 minutes with our feet in a tank of water with a hundred tropical gaffa rufa fish (originate from Turkey) that literally suck away the hard skin from your feet by realising some kind of enzyme. It was just so ticklish, that at times I didn’t know if I could handle it but I preserved, just. Not sure if I’d do it again but for £10 the result was worth it.  Nick and I pop into Walsgrave Hospital to see Dolce who is an old family friend of Nick that I know too. She’s 79 and has been poorly since I first left for Peru back in September, in and our of hospital. But she has finally had an operation which we hope will stop the problems she’s been having. It was lovely to see her and hopefully she’ll be back home soon. Tuesday and it’s the train back to Worthing, via the visa application office. I’m back by 4pm and then meet up with Sheryl my former lodger for a drink and a catch up.

Wednesday and it’s my packing day but before I get started I went round to see my old flat just to make sure all is ok. It’s strange going back in after 6 months and seeing another person’s stuff in it, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. The place is still looking good and clean I hope the tenant stays for another year. The owners of the downstairs flat Caroline and Andy are also renting out theirs. They had been there for over 10 years…this summer I’d have been in the flat for 9! They have a 17-month old son and now have a family-sized house. I then meet my friend Ruth who I’ve know for a couple of years. She used to do my false nails. She has since moved down to Somerset but was back for a couple of days so it was great to see her again. Went for a coffee and cake and bumped into Mark, a friend of my friend Jan who I will be staying with in Bangkok. So we had a quick chat.

And then it was back home and packing. This time though I know exactly what I can fit into my backpack and never panic about the weight as I know that even packed to its fullest capacity it is never over 20kg. So that all goes well without any traumas. I have also sorted out new travel arrangements and flights. I am now flying from Cairns to Brisbane instead of getting a bus….which would have taken forever and was quite costly. So will give me more time to see friends in Noosa and Gold Coast. I have then rescheduled my China trip from end of July to 19-27 June. I’ve also booked flights from Phuket (where my uncle lives) to Kuala Lumper, will spend a few days in the city before flying onwards to Shanghai where I will then pick up my China trip, which is booked with the company Intrepid Travel. Those flights are with Air Asia and just cheap as chips. So all my travel plans are more or less sorted. The only think I have left to do is re-schedule my flight from Beijing to London for the end of Jun.  An earlish night as have to be up for 6am my long flight ahead to Oz tomorrow.
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