Leaving the sunny shores of Europe and returning to England I spent an enjoyable few days in London seeing friends and detoxing from Florence. I enjoyed activities like the viewing deck of the Tate Modern where you get a view straight into the living rooms of an apartment building where despite the signs saying please respect our neighbours privacy we all spent 30 minutes staring straight into their flats critiquing their decor and hoping someone would do something scandalous!!
I was also able to catch up with friends who I spent a lot of time drinking with when I lived in England on my gap year… This was a very strange experience as we realised that many of us met for the very first time nearly 6 years to the day prior as we started our Contiki tour of Europe. The strangest thing was that it really did feel like out Contiki tour had only started six months ago…
I also snuck in a few more snuggles with one of my best friends Steph’s newborn boy Austin – while he has made a bit of a habit of throwing up on me he is adorable and I can’t wait till they are back in NZ!
After a few days mooching round London we headed as a family down to Somerset to celebrate Alice’s 30th birthday… This was a seriously fun weekend! We stayed in a house in Bruton that was connected to an art gallery and The Roth Bar and Grill. The house was incredible, an old English house with a very “shabby, chic” look to it was beautiful (although one we all agreed we probably wouldn’t want to live in).
The weekend of Alice’s 30th birthday was an absolute cracker!! An enormously fun weekend was had by all filled with a lot of eating and drinking involved… So much so that first up on Alice’s agenda as a 30 year old was a big old vomit from being hungover!!! With a number of family friends coming down to Somerset for Alice’s birthday I had a lot of fun. It was also to finally see where Alice lives and meet all her friends who have made her life here so much fun!
Leaving Somerset behind we returned to London where I had about of week to be a tourist/lead a normal life with homemade meals, naps, consistent access to a washing machine… You get the idea! I filled most of my days in London with trips to art galleries, seeing west end shows, a lot of walking and catching up with friends in cafes across London. Because I am trying to recall all this and haven’t made notes yet I am going to write this in bullet point form… Sorry for the laziness!
- Yayoi Kusama – Out in Shoreditch, not the most convenient location for where I was staying, I went to a very popular and free exhibition of a Japanese artist! Given that most of her works of art were light and mirror based you spent a fair amount of time queueing and eventually got let into a box (of sorts) where you and one other person were allowed about 30 seconds to appreciate the art and then you were booted out!
- Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy – The Summer Exhibition shows over 1,000 pieces of art from up and coming artists. It really is an exhibition where there is something for everyone. The 10+ rooms of the Royal Academy are all curated by different artists with different themes. The works cover a full spectrum of artistic styles from sculpture to printmaking to photography, there is everything and anything in there! It is hard to pick just one favourite piece of work from such a wide ranging exhibition but if I had to it would be this…
- Exhibitionism – Growing up in a house where The Rolling Stones were regularly played on road trips (at volume!!) the Exhibitionism exhibition detailing the life and times of The Rolling Stones was a very interesting exhibition. While any exhibition about The Rolling Stones would be interesting the calibre of this exhibition was NEXT LEVEL, it was superbly laid out, interactive and struck the perfect balance between disseminating knowledge and just being entertaining! If anyone is going to make it to London before September 4th and likes The Rolling Stones (even a little bit) you MUST go to this exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery (Sloane Square tube station)!
- Austentacious – As part of the Udder Belly festival in London, Austentacious was an improvised show in the style of Jane Austen. This was absolutely hilarious, the title that the cast were given was ‘Bridge of Flowers’ and from that alone they performed an hour long show that adhered to the traditional hamburger method of story telling and presented an entirely coherent story! DP, Annabel and I laughed our way through the show and all left completely awe struck by the talent of those performing.
- Matilda – This was quite possibly one of my most favourite activities on this trip to London. An absolutely AMAZING show with seriously talented kids and adults, Roald Dahl’s story was brought to life (this time with music). While not wanting to give away any of the amazingness of the show all I will say is anyone going to London get to this show, you won’t regret it!
- Kinky Boots – While this show had flashes of brilliance (primarily the OK GO! like dance scene) it took a while to get going… I think my disappointment in the show could partly be attributed to the fact that the male lead was meant to be a drippy character… The guy played this role to perfection.. In turn it made some of the show feel like quite laboured viewing!
- Les Miserables – The only other time I saw Les Mis live was as a 13 year old watching a Rangi-Christ’s College production… I remember being completely astounded at the quality of the show and thinking it was one of the best things I had (and would) ever see(n). In comparison I watched the West End version of Les Mis and was impressed but didn’t leave with the same awestruck feeling I had as a 13 year old. While I do not think that the high school version of the show would have been better than the West End version I think I had just set very high standards for a West End show, particularly one that had been running for 30 years! The singing was incredible and the revolving stage was very clever but outside of that it sort of just felt like another show… It really does pain me to say that as I really wanted Les Mis to give me that same feeling I had 11 years ago!
Outside of the shows and exhibitions, I enjoyed numerous cups of coffee (from A Wanted Man in Chelsea), far too many cheese straws (from Gail’s) and countless other culinary delights from all over London (honourable mention to Wokit in the Borough Market (and just the Borough Market in general)). Seeing friends from high school and generally reacquainting myself with the city of London the time flew by.
With just over a week left in the UK and with Mum and Dad with a week left in the UK we had plans to visit family friends in Suffolk and then all go our separate ways. Unfortunately my sister, Alice had a very bad horse riding accident that left her with a broken femur, crushed pelvis, both collar bones broken, broken ribs and a punctured lung (and despite that rather horrifying list thankfully no brain or nerve damage). All plans were promptly put on hold with Alice’s health becoming the centre of attention – Mum and Dad were not getting back to NZ anytime soon!
Airlifted to Coventry Hospital she received some of the best orthopaedic care in the UK… While we were all thrilled she was receiving such wonderful medical attention our thrill at the location stopped there. Coventry is a city about 1 hour from Birmingham that is one of the most depressing places I have been to in the UK. Littered with off-licences, ladbrokes and betfreds the city is not one that is thriving in the 21st century, rather it appears to be one that is a Mecca for those on the dole.
Having spent four days in Coventry, the only really exciting activity I did there was spending a day sitting alongside a judge of the family court, getting an insight into the private realm of family law hearings. This was a very cool experience (especially as I got to sit at the bench, next to the Judge) and gave me a far greater insight into how a court case operates outside of District Court 1 in Christchurch. Hearing four cases, all of which concerned the welfare of a child or group of children I became enormously grateful for my upbringing in Christchurch and the sanity of both my parents!
As Alice’s drugs were pulled back her sense of humour began to return and we began to receive many more smiles. While she is still a long way from being up and running it is enormously reassuring to have moments where she acts like her normal self! Alice has also managed to give the nurses and doctors quite a lot of entertainment (not always in a good way)… Day one in the general ward (not trauma ward) Alice declared she wanted to sit in the chair, despite being told by Mum and the nurses that she couldn’t when left alone for 10 minutes Alice managed to manouvere herself from bed (with railing up!!!) to chair! Much to the astonishment of the staff… All this really confirmed to her family was that she has a very high pain threshold and is very stubborn!! She also performed a terrifying fainting routine when the physio had her out of bed. Just after saying she thought she should sit down for a bit she collapsed forward over her walked and onto the physio and nurse…. It was a lot of limbs falling! The physio declared she was relieved that for someone who was 6 foot tall she was so light, otherwise we could have been in real trouble!
Prior to going to Coventry, in the limbo phase between Alice’s fall and her operations I skipped off to Suffolk to stay with some of my favourite Poms Lucinda and Crispin (and their children Oscar and Claudia)… While only there for two nights they were superbly hospitable (as always) and entertained me with kayaking, swimming, biking, croquet and ping pong.