Saturday, August 25, 2007

the excess luggage blessing!
well, I can tell you now 4 weeks is a long time to be away from home, even if you're returning 'home' and visiting family & friends. I had a great, crazy, hectic, lovely trip - hence no blogging and not much emailing. now my feet are back on firm ground and the world around me has just about stopped spinning!

me & niece talia

my journey to the UK went fine, but did take 60hrs door to door - coach from queenstown to christchurch (so I didn't risk winter weather grounding me in QT), a night with the lovely dan & emma andrews, 11hrs to singapore, 6hrs layover and the final 13hrs20 to manchester. my flight didn't start too well, I was next to quite a large man whose arms were definitely in my space, then when I stretched and put my hands on my seat back behind me I was quite surprised to get slapped - apparently the lady behind me thought this the simplest way to communicate my hands had touched her TV screen! thankfully a couple of spare seats further back had me sitting with space to spare and my nearest passenger a friendly man who lives in wanaka, 1hr from home. at singapore airport I had a well needed swim in the roof top pool, lots of time on the free internet, a free crab meal and even changed my seats on the following flight to extra leg-room ones. the second flight was heinously long and I was a little worried to see my seat mates were about 5 and 7, but they behaved perfectly and it was a pretty chilled flight. at one point in the night I looked out of the window by the toilets to the rather sinister view of rocket launchers firing tens of kilometres below me - by the flight map we were somewhere over pakistan/afganistan. later on as we started to cross over the black sea I had a very awesome view of a totally different nature - the thinly curving golden red band of dawn on the horizon as mammoth cumulonimbus clouds towered up towards the plane, their dark brooding form being lit up from inside by frequent lightening flashes. landing in manchester and being picked up by mum & dad was lovely, apart from the journey home with cars so close and fast I mainly tried not to look at the road!


english summer

the strangest part of coming home on my first day was that I had some real alice-in-wonderland moments where I felt like a giant in the house and streets I grew up in. I guess I've gotten used to the spaciousness here, and I can totally sympathize with foreigners visiting england and freaking out on the tiny, narrow roads! my first day back I met my niece, talia, who'd just started walking and had a great day with family. in my first 6 days I had lots of family time interspersed with a crazy road trip around england - which saw me visit lisa in brighton, a quick coffee with fran's brother greg in surrey before a day with my granny and a stay in ann's stately home flat in shropshire. I had a classic moment having coffee with greg - we were sitting in the sunshine in the coffee shop garden when music started playing and I was looking around me for the source of the sound... only to realize a few minutes later mum lent me her phone in case she needed to call me - I felt tres phoebe buffet! one night we went for chinese in liverpool and I was so glad of the place my brother, dave, chose - not only was the food great but we sat next to huge picture windows overlooking the mersey at sunset and it was just beautiful - and my only chance to see that part of where I grew up.

view from a room - ann's stately home flat

all together...

...with a beautiful backdrop - sunset on the river mersey

now time to get a little amused at me... here starts my trip to france. on thursday, a week after I arrived, dad was kind enough to drive me over to east midlands airport where my flight to fran's parent's in france was. security airport restrictions made it easier for him to drop me off in the car park, I found my check-in, and got to the front of the queue only to be told I was meant to be flying the next day! (or I could buy a ticket for GBP177 today - thanks ryanair!). somewhat freaking out I found a payphone and called dad who was 25mins back to liverpool by this time - he came back and collected me and we called in on the off-chance mum's best friend from college, who lives 4 miles from the airport, would be home. meantime I phoned greg who called fran's parents just 5 minutes before they were going to leave to collect me at the airport! thankfully mum's friends were in, and I ended up with a really relaxing rest of the day finishing an art piece and spending some time in the traditional stone village church, which was a welcome sanctuary space as my QT church meets in a primary school hall. margaret & adrian kindly fed me, put me up and even took me to my flight the next day where I finally made it and got to fran's parents!

procession at the linen festival, brittany

france experienced sunny warm weather for the first time in months as I arrived and I had a lovely couple of days with pete & jane, doing some touristing and helping with a few jobs on the house. after my 2 days rest there, a 12hr journey (don't even ask) got me the incredibly short distance from brittany to saint-jean-du-gard in the south of france, the location of my 'meeting'! once again I got to see good friends (& their families) who I'd missed for the last 20 months, including hannah who'd got pregnant and had levi now 8months old since I saw her, and many friends from my international travels. the meeting was great - lots of time to get to know people I'd only met briefly, and very inspiring planning for the mangola event for austin next march (more on that another time). nectarines and melons were in decadent abundance and tasted divine, every night we sat at a long table having fresh salads and lovely bread and flame BBQ'd meat. I also had my 28th birthday while I was there. I don't really like my birthday that much and some of the daughters of our team picked up on this... on my birthday morning sat drinking cafe noir in the campground (thanks paul!) I was greeted every 20 minutes or so by one of the gorgeous teenage girlies who brought me jewellery and flowers and decorated stones like a wonderful birthday procession. after our morning meeting I spent a smushy girly afternoon with hannah and shannon, and then came dinner... the night before was andrew & debbie jones' 20th wedding anniversary for which I'd been cooking, and now andrew was cooking for my meal - themed 'sheffield pub meets kiwi BBQ'! we started with beers round beer garden tables, chips/crisps and a starter created in my honour - 'fig de jen', then came home made burgers and excellent BBQ fare, but really the crowning glory was dessert. my table was cleared in front of me and people stood round as a large wok with about 30 caramelized bananas with two tubs of icecream on top was placed in front of me, next came the brandy which if course was lit, then mini meringues were added and finally a saucepan full of chocolate sauce!!! thank you guys for the loveliest birthday ever - even in the absence of my wonderful hub!

narrow french streets

han & levi

coming back from france took another 12 long hours (again, just don't ask!) and gave me a day with family again before heading off to sheffield. sheffield time was planned out carefully in an attempt to see as many people as possible for quality time in the space of 3 days. with dinners and BBQs and totally soaking wet days in the peak district national park it was a great time seeing old friends and meeting new babies and feeling very comfortable and like I'd not been away at all! back from sheffield and I had just 3 days left with family before my return journey home. we had a total over indulgence of fine and fancy food and still not enough time to see everyone as much as I would have liked.


the return journey was blessedly an hour shorter on each leg, though arriving in singapore after a 12hr day flight and no sleep only for it to be 7am singapore time was quite challenging. I had a 12hr stopover but only managed about 4hrs in singapore before getting the train back to the airport trying desperately not to fall asleep on the way and miss my stop. singapore was lush and green and sunny and humid, and I felt like a complete alien being white, with freckles, taller than most men and wearing a summer dress in a crowd of asians quite comfy in trousers and shirts with very few other white people in sight. my flight back to christchurch was fantastic - the flight was about 2/3rds full and I was able to stretch out and sleep on 3 seats for 6hrs between dinner and breakfast so I felt pretty good on landing in NZ. then just a sort turn around to immigrate, get sniffed by the MAF fruit dog and get on the flight to queenstown. I couldn't wait to see fran after 4 weeks away - it was SO nice to get home and see him!

singapore washing!

and the excess baggage blessing? after 8 flights and being overweight for all of them I didn't get charged one penny! including christchurch to manchester, 27.5kg instead of 20; stingy ryanair 21kg instead of 15; and manchester back to queenstown 29kg instead of 20! now that is what I call a traveller's blessing!


Blogger Stephen said...

Nice one and it was a pleasure to see you :-) Sweet deal on the baggage!!! :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2007 10:28:00 pm  
Blogger Emma Andrews said...

Its great to have you back Jen,have loved reading your tales and adventures! Love you.

Sunday, August 26, 2007 1:24:00 pm  
Blogger Tk said...

aww sounds like you had a gorgeous time (despite the travel weariness)! :)

Friday, September 21, 2007 3:16:00 am  

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