Instagram makes traveling look so wonderful, doesn’t it? As much as I am a sucker for a good old Instagram photo (@hartypie, if you please) it doesn’t quite tell the whole story about a person and their world, their families and their long-time, often long-distance, friends. England will always be our home and we have three. London, Stoke on Trent and Gloucestershire. Traveling around and living in Asia, I believe, has made us wiser and geographically more fine-tuned (before living here I thought Thailand was close to Africa, which, embarrassingly, says it all…) but there are things about ‘home home’ that one never forgets or looses sight of. One of those being a proper cheese board.
This is England. If you have never visited, do. If you live there, these things should never be taken for granted. Do sit down, and enjoy!
Heathrow is the gateway to home, even though it is nearly a whopping thirteen hours from Bangkok. However, when two of your best friends are standing there with an extra tacky ‘welcome home’ balloon all is forgotten. Nothing changes, despite eighteen months apart, newly married lives and all. This feels nice. So does the cool, crisp air of December. It’s like air conditioning, but for free!
It also means you can cosy up by the fire to warm up, drink fruity wines and gaze at a Christmas tree with home-made chicken nugget salt dough decorations. Oh, us English love our chicken nuggets we do (especially this Northern pair!) You can also wrap up in so many layers that frankly you don’t care what you look like, as long as you are toasty and warm on the inside, smug that the nippy air can’t really get you this time and the drizzle is not welcome.
Full English breakfasts, roast dinners and Christmas puddings are also a necessity after burning all those calories just trying to keep blummin’ warm.
If you get really desperate outdoors, you can try a naked flame. We lit up outside Hampton Court Palace. It was worth a try and brought a true feeling of Christmas to the annual Christmas carol sing-a-long that we so tunefully joined. We got shut down quite early on for health and safety reasons.
May I present to you, Sainsburys. This gem of a supermarket can be found practically everywhere in England. This particular one was in Crystal Palace, London, where there were ‘great prices’ on all things not good for you, like crisps, sugary cereals and wine. I would like to emphasise that us Brits do like cooking and cook our own things, from scratch, too. I hear rumours in Asia that we like to eat from cans, but this simply is not true. Of course we like our baked beans, tomato soups, spaghetti hoops, spaghetti alphabet shapes, ravioli and, my personal favourite, tinned Macaroni cheese… The list could continue I suppose.
London has some beautiful sunsets in the Winter, especially at the top of Crystal Palace in South East London, where you almost feel like you are on top of the world. The hills are very steep! We bought our first flat around the corner from here, but I could not visit for fear of feeling too sad for saying goodbye so soon.
North London is just as beautiful and where we spent most of our time as university students, living off most of those canned foods listed above. London is a city of course, so living is not cheap, especially for students. This kind of scenery is just too hard to be tear away from, so if its canned food it’s canned food (with an avocado on top). Let’s be on trend, at the very least. Below is Regents Canal in the cool Winter sunshine, on our way to see some more special friends.
Living in London is the best thing in the world when you can share it with friends. We shared many-a breakfast, lunch and dinner with ours and feel very fortunate indeed.
Family dinners are equally as special, and another opportunity to feast away and ‘retire to the lounge’ afterwards, resting that big, full belly. Festivities were in full swing and tables laden with crackers, sparkly decorations and bottles of red wine. Gin and tonics are a popular pre-dinner drink, especially when you can sample ‘Iron Balls’- a gin only available in Bangkok from the distillery near our Asian home. We took some back for the family to slurp, and slurp they did. We wish we had bought more.
Pubs are a frequented hotspot for socialising, and, although biased by my roots, Gloucestershire can give ‘country pub’ a run for it’s money. At Winter time you can hunt down an idyllic pub from the smell of burning log fires wafting from the chimney’s and into the winding lanes. As Gloucestershire is part of the Cotswolds, many are built from that chalky-white Cotswold stone and truly look the part. It is hard to turn the invitation down, especially if you happen to be walking by or if your husband is celebrating a special birthday very soon.
Unlike Bangkok, walking is a major attraction in England. Although walking has never been my strong point, being labelled ‘lazy’ as a teenager, walking everywhere sweat-free is now in my top ten favourite activities.
Walking in the snow is even better… oh how we have longed for that crunchy, soft snow under our feet. It did not disappoint.
Thank you to all of our friends and family for a lovely Christmas in England. We are proud to say that this is our home, and we will never loose sight of that. Our post-Winter bellies won’t let us.