I’ve been back in New Zealand for just over two weeks and came from record breaking high temperatures and dry conditions in the UK to the wettest winter on record in New Zealand and hundreds of slips all around Wellington. Earth is on a scary path of more extremes and it is frighteningly noticeable. I travelled to England with my youngest daughter, Alice (who is now 12), as she is still home educated and free from the restrictions of school term times (that is until February next year, when she’s going to join her 16 year old sister at high school). The last time any of our children visited the UK was in December 2018, nearly four years ago, and on that occasion all three of them came. They are now all growing up so fast (one has left home and is at University in Melbourne), that I doubt we will ever visit again as a complete family.
That last trip, in 2018, was particularly special as it was the last time we celebrated Christmas with my dear Mum. She became too unwell to travel to New Zealand after that, so I visited on my own, a couple of times a year, until March 2020 and the pandemic put an end to that. My last visit to her was in September last year, to be with her in her final months of life, before she passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in December 2021. I had to travel on my own, leaving New Zealand, my husband and children, without knowing when I’d be able to get back (due to the New Zealand borders being shut and citizens requiring a booked place in a quarantine facility to return – and the demand for those places far outweighed supply). It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
After leaving England so shortly after Mum’s funeral, in January 2022 (having secured a place in a quarantine facility), it was good to have this July trip planned (and be free to leave New Zealand knowing I would be able to return without any restrictions). The main focus of this visit was to see my Dad and sister and catch up on the many administrative things they had had to sort out since Mum passed away. The family home, which my Dad and Mum had lived in for 43 years, was on the market and sold whilst I was there. It is the sensible thing to do, as my Dad doesn’t need a four bedroom house and large garden, but it’s a stressful process to clear so many things and let go of those ties. What’s more he’s going to move away from the town that he’s called home for all those years and move close to my sister, some 200 miles away in the Peak District. She has been incredible in supporting him through all this. Thankfully he has wonderful siblings that live closer to where my sister does, so he will have loving company and I am sure will settle in time.
Over the years that I’ve been in New Zealand I have appreciated trips back to England immensely and was fortunate that so many school friends stayed in the town where I grew up and where my parents lived, so was always able to see them. It’s going to be very strange on my next visit, to not land at Heathrow and drive south to Hampshire to where I grew up and where so many dear friends live. So whilst this recent visit was one filled with many happy moments it was also one of letting go and accepting change.
In the first few days of our arrival in the UK we spent time getting over our jet lag and adjusting to the heat. We’d come from winter to summer and it was a hot summer! When we landed at Heathrow it was 30 degrees celsius and after a drive to Hampshire we went for a short walk, to get our natural light fix and help to reset out body clocks, before taking a nap and waking up in time for dinner.
We had a couple of quiet days, knowing we had a holiday in Cornwall to look forward to with my Dad and sister. My Dad took Alice and I out on a visit to beautiful Mottisfont Abbey, a National Trust property. This was somewhere Mum loved visiting, particularly in the summer with the roses in full bloom.
Another day he took us to ‘Bird World’, somewhere my sister and I visited with our folks and grandparents when we were children.
After a couple of days settling in we felt adjusted to British summer time and stopped glancing at our watches at 5pm, expecting it to being going dark! With our jet lag behind us we were ready to head down to Cornwall for a week’s stay at a place called ‘Coombe Mill’ in Bodmin Moor, owned by one of my sister’s school friends, but that’s for another blog post!