On Tuesday morning, I woke up and went downstairs to discover that Jane had made fudge and cookies! I think I forgot to mention that I don’t think I know anyone who can put Jane to shame in the kitchen. She said that she’d made lunch reservations for us at a local restaurant for 2PM. We passed the time until 1:40, and then left for the restaurant, which was attached to a farm, so I suspect that most of the ingredients were fresh from the farm. The meal was delicious and so filling! After lunch we went to the animal hospital where Jane helps, and I got to see all of the amazing animals that they are helping. They had lots of birds, owls (MY FAVORITE!), countless hedgehogs, a cygnet, ducks, and my very most favorite: a fox. Oh! And some kittens! After fawning over all of the animals, we went to pick up the kids from school. Jane started making dinner for the kids, but neither she nor I were hungry as we’d both had such a substantial lunch. Several hours later, I did eat, and it was an absolutely superb meal, because Jane is an incredible cook. That night we shared another bottle of wine, and talked some more before bed.
On Wednesday, I woke up to say goodbye to the children before they left for school, which involved waking up at seven in the morning (an ungodly time), and went back to sleep for a while before genuinely getting up to start the day. Jane made me the best breakfast I since my arrival to Europe, and I’m sure for months before that as well. After I ate and packed my bags, Jane took me to the station so that I could continue my journey and head to see my Granny for the night. She made sure to send me on my way with ample supplies for lunch, including a giant bag of the best fudge I have ever eaten in my life.
The journey to my Granny’s was long and interrupted by rail works that caused me to arrive an hour later than I’d intended to. She picked me up at the station and we spent the night catching up as it was the first time I’d seen her since returning from backpacking around Europe.
On Thursday morning, she had to go to a women’s group that she regularly attends, so I went with her. They had a friend come in and tell them about his safari holiday in Kenya (from many years before), and the pictures were remarkable. Guess where I want to go now? Yeah, you guessed it: Kenya. Afterwards, we went home and had lunch, after which I was dropped off at the train station so that I could head down to Brighton, to see my aunt and her family, as well as catch The Specials for a second time.
I arrived at my aunt’s house and was almost immediately ambushed by my small cousins who I’ve only met once before. Rachael told me that they’d been eager about my arrival all week, and I was delighted that they immediately took to me. The hours after my arrival were filled with catching up, and building puzzles, mostly. We ate, and then Rachael dropped me off at The Specials show… such a juvenile sentence. I can’t remember the last time I was dropped off at a concert! I wrote about the show in a separate entry, which can be found here. Needless to say, the show was bloody incredible, and to my delight, they were even better than they had been when I saw them in Blackpool.
On Friday, I went walking around Brighton, and inevitably ended up at the pier, where I spent a fair amount of time, yet very little money pushing pennies. For my American friends/readers, I now have to explain pushing pennies. In short, it’s the single greatest form of entertainment known to mankind. You take money, and get it changed down to two-pence or ten-pence coins, and then you play these machines… you’ve all seen these machines because they’re in arcades, but in the States, you play with tokens and receive tickets as your reward. In these machines, you get the coins you win, and on top of the stacked coins, there are usually small prizes that glitter in the bright yellow light. You know that these prizes are worth an astonishing ten-pence, but you cannot help but want them. So, you push your pennies, and you win some back, but eventually you’re all out of coins and must call an end to the fun. Maybe this sounds totally ridiculous, but it’s something that my family has always done, and always enjoyed. After spending sufficient time at the pier, and walking around town, I went back to Rachael’s. The kids were again pleased to see me, and totally wired; I wish I had that energy. We had a delicious dinner and a quiet night in.
On Saturday, I packed my bags once again before we went for a pub lunch around the corner. After lunch, my family accompanied me at the train station and bid be farewell. As the train departed, my small cousins kept up with the train for the first twenty seconds, running and waving frantically; it was nothing short of adorable. I was now on my way to Hatfield to attend my friend Helen’s engagement party! The party was amazing; I had a lot of fun meeting all of Helen’s friends. The night was filled with glasses of wine, beer, good food, tequila shots, and lots of dancing… and that, dear friends, is a recipe for a good time. We went back to Helen’s, where she and Matt (her fiancée) opened presents. We then ordered pizza and continued to stay up well past our bedtimes! Eventually though, sleep sweetly called our names, though I didn’t get to sleep for as long as I would have liked to.
In the morning, Helen took me to the train station, where we said our goodbyes, though I hope/plan to see her again within the next few months. From Hatfield, I headed down to Surrey, to spend a day with Martyn and Lesley, who are family friends. My dad met Martyn in University; they both attended Southampton, where they built a pirate radio station together (!), and, as they say, the rest is history. They picked me up from the station; we went back to their house to wait for their eldest daughter Karen, and her boyfriend, to return. We then decided what to do with the rest of the day and set out. First up: pub lunch! From there we drove to Box Hill, which offers a splendid scenic overlook of several towns. We went for a small walk, but the further we went, the more muddy and treacherous we found it. We went back to their house and had an amazing Sunday roast, followed by the X Factor results show. I had to say my goodbyes to Martyn and Karen that night, as they were both leaving for work at hours of the morning I don’t actually believe exist.
On Monday morning, Lesley drove me to the station so that I could head down to Southampton to see their other daughter, Rachel. I arrived around midday, so we went for quite a long walk around Southampton. We spent a bit of time in the mall, where I got a pretty new dress (yay!), and we got milkshakes… because no delicious treat makes more sense in cold weather than a near frozen beverage, right? We walked all the way down to the docks, then back through town and back to Rachel’s flat. That night we had delicious spaghetti bolognese that Rachel had made, and watched a movie before calling it a night.
The rest of my time in Southampton will be continued in the next entry! Picture time!!
An oriental pheasant at the animal hospital
A snowy owl. This bird was just so majestic; I love owls.
A great horned owl
This is the animal hospital’s resident fox, Mumsy. She’s a permanent lodger because she’s become too tame to be released back into the wild, but each year she mothers the injured fox cubs that get brought to the hospital. She was the most marvelous creature, and I was so lucky to be able to get so close to her!
A tawny owl… possibly the cutest of the owls
A barn owl! He’d just been feasting (feasting: see tearing to shreds) on his dinner.
The Brighton Pier
Inside the Pier… penny machines!
The lovely Helen Stoy at her party!
The view from Box Hill, where I went with Martyn, Lesley, Karen, and her boyfriend Matt.
The Southampton port
And the Southampton port again!
Next up… more of Southampton, and more!