Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's 4 a.m. and time for toast

Okay, I am happy to hold my hand up. Last week’s wet and windy weather in the UK was purely my fault. As I surveyed Drama Queen No. 3’s packing, designed to cope with all eventualities of a UK summer, e.g. shorts (unworn in the event), insulated waterproof jacket (worn most days) swimsuit (are you kidding me?), I decided the wellies she had packed were a step too far and recklessly threw them out of the suitcase. Guess what the first purchase we had to make in Orkney was? Correct, there we were straight down the farmers’ general store seeking good, strong, practical wellies. To put the weather in context, when we arrived at Kirkwall airport in the very small plane – talk about sublime to ridiculous, over the 33 hours of travel we moved from the A380 down to a 20 seater, the weather was so bad that the pilot warned we might have to circle or divert. As I anxiously peered through the cloud to spot land, my first intimation that we were about to hit the tarmac, was a sheep peering in at me.

Orkney lived up to its historical and mystical reputation, helped by the driving rain that gave everything a veiled look. No matter what the weather, it is impossible to be unmoved by Skara Brae, a Neolithic village and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle in the most magical scenery of hill and loch, that predates Stonehenge in terms of a spine tingling reminder of the past 5000 years.

Edinburgh was in full festival swing with a crush of nationalities and every type of performance imaginable. My father had managed to get tickets for the Tattoo which despite being the biggest tourist draw known to man, was incredibly atmospheric to the extent that Drama Queen No.3 having previously muttered about the anticipated excitement level of watching marching bands, was completely transfixed and has subsequently voted it the highlight of her UK visit.

We also managed a typical expat day of 24 hours in the south of England where we scooted across London and met a ridiculous number of friends, relatives, godparents and godchildren. I do occasionally whip myself that I have deprived my offspring of all their adult mentors so I love it when we can touch base – and I think it will be sometime before DQ no.3 forgets guzzling her way through a chocolate fondue at Selfridges with her Godfather or wandering through the dinosaurs at the Science Museum with one of her Godmothers – I think the post chocolate haze gave the moving, giant dinosaur the final, realistic touch. I met up with two of my godsons in the 24 hours and got a quick fix of them as they hover on that cusp of adolescence, so I am left with tantalising glimpses of both the child they were that I knew (though being honest as it is 8 years since I last lived in the UK they were pretty much toddlers) but also the even more exhilarating flash of the adults they will be. Perhaps this is the answer with my own particular band of merry teenagers – focus on the big picture and ignore the daily discussions about location of TV remote, house phone, tweezers and nail clippers, number of pink razors in shower, mysterious disappearance of my pair of black stilettos (don’t know whether to be flattered or not that they got the teenage tick of approval) and adult (read ancient and boring here) lack of understanding about curfews, phone bills, pocket money, and parties.

All the excitement aside the highlight for me was time with my parents – perhaps it is old age, and let’s face it, I am sensitive about the approaching 45th birthday celebration, but as I get older I realise everything else comes and goes but time with the people that you love is the only thing that really matters.

I do hate the jet lag coming this way. It is 4.15am and I am wide awake, the dog is watching me in a somewhat jaundiced way that indicates that my wandering around eating toast and drinking hot milk in the hope that the carbohydrates will have a pole axing effect on my wakeful hormones, is not normal behaviour in his canine eyes.

Somewhat to my chagrin Husband had household running like a military machine when I got home, and I am reluctantly forced to concede that I may be the source of the element of chaos that normally so characterises our life. The upside is that in the 10 days that DQ no. 3 and I were away, Sydney has suddenly hit Spring. The blossom is coming out on the trees in the road and in the evening you are suddenly hit with wafts of jasmine – and best of all I haven’t had to wear the wellies once since I got home and I have taken off the scarf that was a permanent fixture round my neck during the Sydney Winter and my UK week of Summer.


  1. Oh good, it was your fault. I was taking a lot of the blame while I was there! jet lag in the States is bad enough but going back down under must be a nightmare.

  2. Welcome back in Sydney!

    I read the book 'Norma ever after' (by Nancy Baxter) about a month ago and it takes place in the Orkney Islands. It's not a brilliant book in my humble opinion, but maybe it's nice because you've been there and have seen Skara Brae and such?

    Actually the saying 'never judge a book by its cover' strangely applies here: I choose the book in the library because I truly liked the picture on the cover (being a fan of everything which has coloured stripes on it). But after reading it I like the picture better, even though it has nothing to do with the story. (I'm sorry, not a very convincing recommendation..)

  3. Oh, I don't envy the plane ride. I've lived in the US for >25 years now, and have made the trip back to Melbourne numerous times. Many years ago, it actually wasn't too bad. Planes were usually half full and you could find a row with a few empty seats to stretch out on. But now, it's cattle class.

  4. Hi EM, I am definitely some kind of weather curse - whenever I arrive in UK I am greeted with a) pouring rain and b) constant refrain of "Oh if only you had been here last week/month/year, it was so fabulous".
    Marieke - will have to look out for 'Norma Ever After' - don't think I have ever read a book set in Orkney.
    Hi Nick - I have fantasies about spare seats - I am only 165 cm (on a good day) but I find I have to perform pretzel like contortions to sleep on the plane.