After over 12 months in Canada, we’ve just been back to the UK for a fleeting visit to see family and friends. The most I’ve ever spent outside the UK at any one time is probably 2 weeks – so I was interested to see what I’d notice the most after such a long period of time away.
The humidity in Alberta is very low, such that your skin dries out quickly, lips crack and a good smothering in all types of lotions and potions just to retain and regain moisture is a must. So immediately upon arrival, the humidity hit me and my hair quickly adopted its natural ability to frizz at the hint of any moisture, and my skin breathed a welcome sigh of relief. The humidity was also quickly followed by the UK’s signature offering – rain. In abundance. That said, we hadn’t really experienced such rainfall for 12 months so it was a familiar sight and treated as somewhat of a novelty. At least we knew we’d come home 🙂
A cockney bus driver ferried us to pick up our hire car where his ability to talk and recount tales was clearly in his job description. The funniest observation being made by my kids who remarked at how he seemed to understand every word I uttered and didn’t need to ask me to repeat anything. We may be living in Canada where the common language of choice is English, but let’s just say there are dialect challenges when it comes to deciphering the terms used by someone from Northern England which never fails to amuse my kids, who are usually called upon to translate requirements. Oh the delight of being back on familiar turf and linguistic terminology. We chatted for ages ….
I have a new-found sympathy for any American or Canadian traveller arriving into London and picking up a hire car. My goodness. Not only do they have to fathom the whole ‘driving on the left’ scenario, but the delights of a manual gearbox. In fact, even making it out of the maze of roads surrounding Heathrow deserves applause. Roads are small, lanes are narrow, volumes of traffic huge, and with endless congestion – welcome to England. The pace of life is much quicker, the prices of petrol absurdly high, and traffic signals seem to move back to red as soon as they touch green. Being natives of the UK, we quickly adapted but it’s baptism of fire for foreigners and goodness knows how they cope.
All the scenery (albeit wet and rainy), is much greener. In fact, the famous lines of ‘Jerusalem’ – a national anthem for any Brit – certainly sprang to mind as ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. It certainly is. It was awe-inspiring to see rolling countryside and hills. And sheep. Lots of them. I’ve spotted the occasional flock in Alberta, but just not in the same volumes and varieties you see in the fields back in the UK. It’s interesting how much you take for granted when you live there all your life.
I loved driving on the country lanes and winding roads. Knowing some of the areas we visited like the back of my hand, my knowledge of the back streets, cut-throughs and scenic routes quickly kicked in and had me smiling with delight at familiar sights and places. Whilst the grid system in Edmonton is brilliant to navigate and decipher with many opportunities to vary your route and avoid any queues, the logical and structured development of unbelievably straight roads doesn’t provide as much stimulation and interest to the casual driver. That said, I quickly lost patience with the traffic chaos, time spent waiting in queues, and sheer volume of traffic on the UK roads. Some things I don’t miss in the slightest.
The history, just the ‘age’ of anything and everything, the buildings and architecture is stunning to see. Western Canada is fairly modern in every shape and form by comparison, so I had a renewed appreciation and noticed more readily, quaint villages, old bridges, picturesque canals, historical buildings and monumental statues which would in previous years have passed me by.
Food wise, we made a bee-line for a local chippy. Several times. What a brilliant British institution. And pubs. Love them. I had great meals out with various concoctions of family and friends. I think I managed to cram my usual 6 month social calendar into the space of 10 days, so I’m now back in Canada for a rest and diet. That’ll just about do me for another 12 months. I loved going back home, being in the UK, the sights and smells – and enjoyed my refill of friends and family. It was wonderful and had much more of a regenerative impact than my friends probably realised. A huge thank you to all.
Our new home is in Canada. But did I miss my UK home enough to want to return?
No, not yet … 🙂