I was going to call this 'holiday snaps', but it wasn't really a holiday in any sense, although it was lovely to spend time with family and friends. Having lived out of the UK for eight years (and it's exactly that - today is the 8th anniversary of our arrival in Cyprus) I found myself noticing things I might previously have taken for granted. And having a digital camera, of course I took dozens of snaps which I shall never get made into prints. Here are a few to give a flavour of our visit... oh, and if anyone reading this isn't familiar with blog photos, any of them can be clicked to see a larger version. But on a dial-up connection that might be quite slow.
We began in Sussex, staying with Richard's mother. The boys both inherited some money last year and wanted to buy professional musical instruments after many years on student types. So we spent much time in the first week in music shops, mostly about half an hour's drive away. Tim selected this keyboard after playing a huge variety:
... and Daniel eventually chose a clarinet from Hanson's, a store in Yorkshire, which sent it down for him to try before buying. They're both very pleased with their purchases!
At the end of the first week we drove to Birmingham to spend a couple of weeks staying with my mother. The day after we arrived, my sister and her family came to spend a day, and in the afternoon we went for a walk with their dog to the local Highbury Park. I found myself amazed afresh at the beauty and greenery of Birmingham parks, and particularly liked this pond:
Daniel's birthday was approaching fast, and he was interested in some Irish tin whistles. We'd been recommended a shop in Birmingham called Hobgoblins, which turned out to be a very friendly place full of fascinating instruments, some of them quite unusual. He was able to play several of the whistles and chose four in separate keys.
We were amused at the wall surrounding the car park we found nearby. After reading the notice saying that cars which had not paid sufficient parking money would be clamped, Dan asked if they received even more drastic treatment if they were left for even longer...
Yes, it was a wall of crushed cars! We made sure we paid for a couple of hours. After spending time in Hobgoblin's we still had a bit of parking time left so we went for a brief walk and saw this astounding statue. The boys posed at its feet just to give an idea of the size. Rather incongrous in the middle of a kind of shopping centre, we thought:
The following weekend, after spending most of the week trying to sort out the various boxes in our house, we spent the day with some friends who live near the enormous Sutton Park. We went for a walk in the afternoon, and enjoyed seeing wild ponies:and wild mushrooms. Or perhaps toadstools. They were amazingly colourful and bigger than I had expected. Suddenly I could see why Enid Blyton wrote about them as fairy houses:
As well as continuing to sort our freight the following week, we spent time with lots of different friends. At the weekend we made a quick trip to the Cadbury shop which is quite close to our house, and I took this quick snap of the famous factory... people used to ask us if there was a problem with factory smells, living in Birmingham. We always replied that we loved waking up to the smell of freshly-made chocolate!
After that we drove along a road I used to take quite for granted - the Bristol Road, or A38, a two-lane dual carriageway that's very busy. It also happens to be lined with trees which were in gorgeous shades of yellow and red, as Autumn approached. In my teens I went along that road every day going to school, and barely noticed the colours.
Two days later we drove to Cardiff to spend nearly a week with my sister and her family. On the way - or rather, not on the way at all! - we took Dan to Oswestry for an interview, as he's hoping to return to the Doulos ship for a couple of years, and so has to join the organisation officially. While he was there, the rest of us drove to Lake Bala. It wasn't as dark as it looks in this picture - it was mid-afternoon. I just haven't yet figured out all the camera settings, so the bright sunshine made it look as if it was dusk. Still, I liked the way this turned out:
We watched some ducks too, very tame and sleeping peacefully when we sat down nearby. Then a couple of women approached with toddlers in pushchairs. Immediately the ducks and nearby doves woke up and rushed towards them, quacking and calling. Evidently they associated small children with food, and sure enough a child started throwing them pieces of bread. Just like we used to when the boys were smaller.
On the way back we drove through Chirk, a small town which has a castle, although we didn't go in. We were a bit horrified to see this pollution pouring into the sky, although I suppose it's better to be in a country area than in the middle of a big city.
We were even more horrified when we realised where it was coming from: another Cadbury factory.
Finally we got to Cardiff. We did get slightly lost, but thank goodness for international roaming mobile phones (which, from Cyprus, aren't even very expensive). Dan called my sister and she navigated us to her home over the phone using her A-Z street map. Our time with her was a bit less busy, although we did a bit more shopping including buying some extra luggage. Cardiff is a lovely city; here's just one of the buildings near where we parked on our last day:
Finally we drove back to Sussex for a couple of last days before flying home. We'd almost forgotten how slowly night falls in the UK, and how beautiful some of the sunsets can be. This shot was taken from the car as we drove south, about 6pm.
The old rhyme about 'Red sky at night' was correct, as our first day in Sussex was lovely: mostly sunny, and quite warm. Indeed it was remarkably mild and dry for October during most of our stay.