We’d been busy in our first days back in the UK. After a few more days of relaxing, eating too much, drinking far too much and rarely exercising, we waddled off southwards. We had a flying visit with Nicky’s dad, enjoying a nice catch-up with him and happily helping out with several jobs around his house and garden. Then on to park Benny at Stansted, in a huge, entirely empty parking lot, before catching a flight to Dublin, Ireland. We had more family and friends to visit on the other side of the pond.
We were met by Mary at Dublin airport and driven north to their home in Co. Meath to catch up with Andy and their two girls, all bounce and noise and smiles. A late night and a few drinks then followed, us all trying hard to capture our highlights of the past year in easily-digested sound bites. Saturday morning took us all out for a steady run around some very pretty woodland near the town of Virginia (no, not that one) before finishing with a short walk with the girls to locate all the pretty fairy doors built into trees around the park. On Sunday we had a lazy morning playing around the house then, with the weather clearing up and looking brighter, we enjoyed a cycle trip around a nearby lake, followed by a park walk and an ice-cream with their extended family. It was a wonderful, relaxing few days catching up, something we only manage to do once a year or so now that our lives are taking different paths.
But Monday morning brought with it the requirement for our friends to return to work. With a very early start and bleary eyes, we drove with Andy to a local station then caught a train into Dublin Connolly, before saying our goodbyes and us catching the Enterprise up to the north, where we were smoothly met by my sister around 10am. From there we had a quick pit-stop at hers before driving on northwards, back into the Republic, to visit Buncrana. From there we drove to Malin Point to be the most northerly people on the island of Ireland, at least for a brief moment, walking along the cliff path and enjoying the views out over the wild, foaming ocean. A raucous family dinner out completed our visit then a long drive back to my sister’s home for a well-deserved long night’s sleep.
The next morning we awoke to visit my mum, and headed out for a lovely lunch at the local golf club. Later we played family games; chess, Monopoly, Texas Hold’em, talking nonsense and having lots of fun. Our few days in where I still refer to as home, passed quickly, as always, and soon we had to again say goodbyes. Hopefully we can all meet up soon in our new place in France, should we ever find this illusive home we have been searching for. We returned from Belfast international to a patiently-waiting Benny at Stansted and drove north, back to the wilds of Lincolnshire for our final days of packing and organising. In one dry-weather window we managed to fit in a windy beach walk on Mablethorpe strand and afterwards a muddy and wet 10km run home cross-country, passing by all manner of water management installations and huge, stalking wind turbines, spinning furiously in stormy skies.
So, packed up and ready to go, we said sad goodbyes to our host Mummy Finch and headed south. We still had a few friends to see. First we called in to see Jannette & Paddy in Market Harborough for dinner and drinks, then we briefly called with Cathy in Northampton for tea, cake and a catch-up chat, before reaching Louise & Nigel in St. Albans where we enjoyed lamb curry, prosecco and whisky. The night was a tamer, more civilised affair than many other nights spent in their gregarious company but it was mid-week school night for them, so excuses were readily available. Our love to all, great to have seen you and thanks for fitting us in. We had then hoped to visit Brighton, but it all seemed to be quite anti-motorhome, so we skipped on and parked on the expansive seafront in Seaford, a much more welcoming place for larger vehicles and also much closer to our next morning’s goal – the ferry terminal in Newhaven.
Walking the seafront, we passed through the ruins of Tile Mills, the foundations of an almost entirely lost mill complex that has slowly been eroded either by the encroaching sea or the changing flows of tides. We continued our meandering beach walk to a fishing pier right by Newhaven harbour and later we enjoyed proper chip-shop fish & chips as we watched the sun set over the still sea and pebble beach. Our last meal in good ol’ Blighty was a tasty one, and we felt contented with our jobs and whistle-stop tour of the UK, feeling we saw and fitted in as much as we realistically could. We quietly overnighted in a curved area of the seafront that was set back a little from the main road; the signs suggested we could stay for 12 hours, and we overstayed this a little, but were gone before 9am to catch our ferry to Dieppe; the opening gambit in our next exploratory chapter back in the heartland of France.