Having been a while since we last travelled to the old land, there were some things we noticed and others we had forgotten about. Some good, some less so..
- People seem to be smoking everywhere. I’m not sure if there is actually a greater portion of the population smoking, or it’s just that they do not have many of the laws regarding public smoking that we do. (Ok. Googled. There are slightly more people smoking there, but only a percent or two.) We hate it when we come out of a shop or something here and get hit in the face by the stink of someone smoking just far enough from the entrance. When it’s anywhere outside in public and the shopping areas are open street malls… it sucks!!
- Also, there are shops everywhere for electronic cigarettes/vapes, and you see people using those walking along the street too. I know that people do have them here but I’ve only ever seen Neil using it and that is at home. Possibly because Queensland prohibits using them if the liquid contains nicotine, and isn’t that kind of the point of smoking? So maybe people just don’t bother. So that was kind of strange to see.
- I went into a shoe shop and I tried on like 8 pairs of shoes. I’ve never had this happen before in my life. And there were lots in my size that I didn’t try on, as well. Amazing.
- You can buy alcohol in some strange places. Like the supermarket. And the cinema. Now I think you can get a glass of something if you go fancy and do Gold Class here, but you can’t just get it at the general snack and drinks counter. Strange. (And I thought Aussies were the ones who had the reputation for allthedrinking?)
- Do they have something against salt? We kept noticing when we had fries from a variety of places that they had practically no salt on them. WTF? As Neil likes to say, if you don’t have salt, your arteries won’t harden and you won’t stand up straight. (And I need that, since I have a problem with that.) Also, it tastes nice.
- I can’t understand how 90% of the population is not suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It starts getting light a little before 8am and getting dark around half past three. That is only 7 hours of light, which is not even that light anyway! I found the strangeness of light patterns made it particularly difficult to have my body orient itself in time. I would wake up and it’s pitch dark outside so I think it must be like three in the morning or something. But then I will glance at my watch and see that it’s actually 7am and it’s just so disorienting. Strangely, I don’t recall noticing the light thing to this degree either of the other times that I have been there at the same time of year. Perhaps because the first time, I was 18 and had just arrived to be with Daniel after six months apart. We didn’t notice much of anything except each other. And the second time we had a 10 month old baby and I was not well.
- Bread clips. Why do you not have them, UK? It’s so freaking annoying to open and close the bag of bread with a bit of tape that gets progressively less sticky every time you do it.
- Cadbury Drinking Chocolate, we likes it. It’s quite different from the Aussie version of exactly the same name. We also likes Galaxy Hot Chocolate. We also discovered that it is quite pleasant to put some of each in a cup and have double hot chocolate. Mmm.
- So many channels on the TV. SO MANY. Not really that much more to actually watch. Though we did enjoy watching the Doctor Who Christmas Episode live on it’s first showing.
- Squirrels! So cute. So, so cute. There were some playing in Allan and Lisa’s garden but I suspect not as many as there could be since Allan doesn’t like them and won’t let people feed them :P And the neighbour has a squirrel feeder. Stephanie did try sneakily leaving some nuts out there but they must not have been the right kind because they just stayed untouched for a few days.
- We drove down to Reading one day, to visit Daniel’s brother and sister and to see some friends. Daniel sent a general invitation out to a bunch of his old friends to meet up with us for lunch and in the end only two were able to make it. One was Melissa (accompanied by her own personal Antipodean/husband Steve who is from NZ) and the other was a guy called Mark that Daniel went to school with. I have never met him before. So he introduced himself and then he said “And this is my husband, Jason.” And I restrained myself from squeeing. Because they are the first really truly legally married same-sex people that I have ever met. And I’ve been waiting a really, really, really long time for that. So that was a small moment that was really special for me.
- Tampons. It was an unfortunate set of timing that both Stephanie and I needed tampons while we were over there. We did each bring a whole box with us but we ended up needing more. So we went to the shop to get them. There were, and I am not joking here, only TWO to choose from.. the supermarket’s own brand and one other brand. All the rest of them were those spring-loaded missile-firing applicator shite. Are British women delicate about touching their vaginas or something? I was really not feeling the luxury of the feminine hygiene product buying experience.
- The passport stamping lady when we arrived in Manchester stamped my passport and Stephanie’s passport and Abigail’s passport and Kristian’s passport but she didn’t stamp Daniel’s. Because he has a Danish (EU) passport and there is freedom of movement between countries for EU people so he didn’t need one. And when I asked her if she could just stamp it anyway, she refused. Big stupid meanie head. The Australian passport stamping man, on the other hand, was quite happy to put stamps in ALL of our passports when we came back when I asked if we could have them. He seemed a bit amused that I was so pleased at his willingness to do this. AU 1, UK 0.
- I saw nieces and nephews and cousins with numbers that I have never seen before and that was really awesome. I liked seeing them all but it was especially cool to see Stephanie, David and Sammy because Sammy is the youngest member of my level of the family tree by far so he is kind of extra special :) And he also has a ridiculously cute baby french accent that could turn anybody’s ovaries to goo. And the other that was a little bit extra special was my birthday niece, Cerys. Who is now 6 years old!
- There are people we saw while we were there that.. it’s likely we won’t ever get to see again. This was the main sucking thing about the trip. Some are getting old, some are sick, some are both. I knew that they were old and/or sick before we went, of course, but it is a little different to see it in person. To see just how much time and illness have taken their toll on them. So while it was lovely to see them, the very visible reminders of their (well, and everyone’s) mortality was sad.
- One last thing. On the plane on the way there, four or five hours away from Manchester. Completely tired, very sore. I was sitting next to Abigail. She was awake after having slept through most of the trip so far and she decided to look out the window. She asks me about a green thing she can see. I somewhat sleepily tell her that planes have various coloured lights on the wings and underside and she can probably see one of those flashing. She didn’t seem quite satisfied with that explanation but left it be and continued looking out the window. Then, a few minutes later. “Is it possible… like, can you see the, um Northern Lights from where we are?” And I sat up very fucking fast and leaned across her to look out the window, because I knew that we were in fact flying up over the far north of Russia and yes, you CAN see the Northern Lights from there!! It wasn’t a particularly intense display and we were approaching the end of darkness by that stage but we still saw them! Bucket list item achieved!