It is always tricky dipping back into England every year but this year it was particularly hard. We were homeless, in limbo and I think we all felt disconnected and confused. I always go for a month but by 3 weeks I am on my knees.
The intensity of trying to catch up with a year of family trials and tribulations can be emotionally exhausting. Dashing round and trying to spend some time with my oldest friends is great too, but usually demands a bit of drinking and bad parenting (i.e too much TV and bad food to keep them quiet while I chat, no baths or teeth cleaning and every routine goes out the window). All this usually leads to lots of bad behaviour and two cheeky boys fighting and refusing to sleep.
Last year I went without the boys and just with Saskia who was 5 months old. I only went for 2 weeks but after the first week I was missing the rest of the family so much it felt strange but was certainly an easier and more relaxing visit. I even managed a great little trip to my beloved France to visit Saskia´s godmother, which really did feel like a holiday. Great food, wine and chat and swimming in a pool surrounded by ancient oak forest.
This year for the first 3 weeks we were staying in a cottage in a beautiful Cotswold village close to my mother and sister full of smart well-preserved retired people. I had ordered a USB internet connection, which did not work and always have my mobile phone reconnected (which had no network coverage). I had happened upon a village that had communication problems that rival Cuba. I had so many things to do and so many people to call and catch up with on the phone but could not do much more than try to get through the days without one of my children spilling food on English carpets or waking up the neighbours during jetlagged nights.
We climbed up to Broadway tower with Paulo´s godmother and watched the boys chasing sheep trying to catch them and stroke them in their red El Che T-shirts.
They became experts on CBeebies, rude English words and fruit pastels, maltesers, Fruit Shoots, Hula Hoops and all the rest…….. I was so sad when they didn´t like cherries!
Before Rafa arrived ……… just trying to work out all the appliances, recycling and the TV and get them all in the hire car every day to shop at Budgens was enough. And having the elderly couple, who owned the place pop in all the time to remind me of the various recycling collections. Phew………..
By the time I managed to get them all up and fed in the morning Saskia was ready for her morning sleep and I had to put the TV on to keep the boys quiet and feed the pay phone, then it was lunch for the three of them and maybe a stagger to the park to see if I could find a corner of the playground where my phone might work whilst keeping my eye on three children ……….. not easy believe me.
I was supposed to be sorting out all the admin of my English life: banks, credit cards etc, shopping for the whole family for a year (no shopping in Cuba and 3 growing children and things as ridiculous as bath plugs and car parts, deoderants and low sugar Ketchup, tampons, toothpaste, digital radio).
We spent a wonderful half an hour in John Lewis with a fantastic Indian mama who kitted us out with footwear for the children for a few months. I dragged my non-consumerist man into New Look to get a wardrobe for Cuba in a 20 minute Sunday Summer Sale power shopping session before hitting the amazing Salisbury Cathedral. That was after a 20 minute Stonehenge stop off.
My boys had their first taste of surfing on a Devon beach and ate fish and chips and sausage rolls. We buried them in the sand of the dunes and experienced every weather in one day. Typical English seaside stuff.
When Amy Winehouse died it hit my hard. A strange thing when the death of a famous person feels close and personal. It was quite a shock and I hadn’t even been living in the UK for her rise to fame but I loved her voice, her style and her vulnerable irreverence and never read all the tabloid rubbish about her life. Maybe there is a bit of Amy in me, or maybe it was just the moment.
Then the riots ………….. a sociological disaster that will be discussed in newspaper columns for years. At this point we were all staying with a friend in London close to the action and the police sirens were going off all night. It felt quite strange to be with my Guatemalan husband in London during the worst social unrest in 26 years, But such is life ………
So my beautiful England I do love you, but I am not quite sure I understand my old world so well anymore. But thanks to all my family and friends for making this trip so wonderful despite the challenges of being on holiday in your own country, you always make me feel so welcome and loved.