My final day in the UK

Trip Start Jul 01, 2009
Trip End Aug 02, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, August 1, 2009

My last session at the gym, the Fitness Factory - such a friendly gym and Ruby was there (the red and white border collie I talked about earlier) - I think she would have liked to join the powerstrength session as she tried to come up the stairs!  After this I cycled down to Stourbridge for my last look around the town, calling in at the craft market.  Last Saturday I had bought a card here, and managed to lose my sunglasses, which I went back for.  The lady remembered me from last Saturday and as it was raining suggested that I wouldn't need my sunglasses, but maybe next time I visited her store.  She was fascinated to hear that I was going back to NZ and made a joke that it was a long way to come to buy a card.  I have to say, as I have said before in this blog, the locals around this area are super friendly, with a great sense of humour. 
After a yummy English breakfast (around lunchtime though) provided by UK Sue and Ray we took off to have a look at Bridgnorth, which is a picturesque town consisting of a high town and a low town.  You can access the low town or high town, depending on where you are, by the many sets of steps dotted around the place or a cable car.  This town, like so many others, had a Saturday market with the stallholders shouting about their wares.  A good way to buy fresh fruit and veges.
Then it was off to the airport and time to leave this crowded little island.  A tearful farewell to UK Sue and Ray, and then the long flight home began.  The plane was on time until Bangkok, where we sat on the runway for about half an hour while they checked something out.  What it was I don't know.  The plane was okay up until Dubai, I had a spare seat next to me, but then from Dubai until Sydney there were no spare seats.  The big haul from Bangkok to Sydney seemed to go on forever, especially with that extra time sitting on the runway at Bangkok.  In Sydney I was called over for a "random" explosives check involving a full scan of my bags and a pat down from a woman.  I didn't have the heart or the nerve to tell them that I had only come in to the transit lounge via the Dubai plane so was hardly going to have the opportunity to pack any explosives as I had been thoroughly checked at all departure points prior!  I guess to all intents and purposes I was just a new passenger, but I was pretty over it all by then and didn't need the hassle!  Not that I was worried as I was totally innocent of course!
Overall I probably got about 4 hours sleep over the course of my 30-odd hours of travel. 
Rob was at the airport to greet me.  The weather was clear as we approached Christchurch and I could see the mountains spreading out before me although I wasn't next to the window.  I had requested an aisle seat all the way as I had felt so cramped going over being next to the window, at least this way I could shove my legs out for a quick stretch in between everyone else going past!  I asked the passenger in the window seat to take a photo of the mountains, which looked sparkling and white with the snow on them. 
Back home at last, and the dogs were very pleased to see me, I don't think they could believe their eyes (or their noses) at first, I had finally returned after a month. 
This will be my last blog of the trip.  It's back to reality now, back to work.  I so enjoyed my trip over, apart from the fact that Rob wasn't with me.  Highlights of the trip were obviously seeing UK Sue and Ray and some longlost rellies and meeting Sue B, but also the friendliness of the people around the area where I spent most of my time.  You really couldn't find a nicer bunch of people, so down to earth and friendly.  Of course that day on the beach near Rome took some beating for pure relaxation. 
Lowlights - the weather!! the first two days were pretty good and I thought I was onto a winner.  But it was not to be.  Still, it didn't stop us doing any of the things we wanted to do.  Another lowlight - the busy roads.  We're just not used to them.  As someone said over in the UK, the roads are great, you just can't get onto them.  We in NZ will probably never have the roading system that they enjoy in the UK, but then the word "enjoy" is probably the wrong one to use, as driving on those motorways is anything but enjoyable.  Also a lowlight was the exorbitant cost of parking - there is no such thing as free parking anywhere in the UK.  All the attractions that we went into, that were mega expensive, also charged for parking your car.  Hope that never happens here.
Also in the "different to NZ" category - they don't have a widespread use of Eftpos (that's electronic funds transfer at point of sale to those who don't know what it stands for).  In other words, lots of places don't have facilities, or don't let you use credit or debit cards.  Due to the bank charges over there, apparently.  So no going down to the dairy for a packet of chewing gum and paying by eftpos. 
Prices for eating out were quite expensive, although food in the supermarkets seemed to be on about a par with NZ.  A Subway was about double what we would pay at home.
The pubs - so cute - nothing like our pubs over here.  I couldn't find a way to describe ours, but the UK takes the prize on that one.
Another plus for them over there - access to the countryside via rights of way across farmland and bridle paths - plenty of them which makes it easy for those who live in towns to access the countryside.  Also, of course, the way that dogs are accepted in so many places.
I did notice the narrow streets - in towns the torturous time it took to get through some of the narrow streets, having to pull over for cars coming the other way.  I guess when a town has been around for centuries, way before cars were invented, the streets don't accommodate the traffic.
So here I am back to the grindstone, like I've never been away.  As I write this Rob is watching motorsport on TV and I'm meant to be doing housework - boring.  Yesterday I went to my first agility event since I've been home and the day was glorious, and today is pretty warm too as we sat in the sun on the deck at lunchtime.
Hope you've enjoyed my ramblings!
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