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What a long time has passed!

September 14, 2009

Many distractions have made it some considerable time since I wrote so here goes.

After nearly nine months away has taken a while to get used to being back in the UK. I have just about got used to it now, having grown accustomed to New Zealand from spending the previous six months there. It was interesting to see the country from more of a travelling, exploratory perspective and compare it to places I had been. The architecture here struck me as being vastly more varied than New Zealand. The variation exists as a result of different fashions over time, the different stone used to build in different parts of the country creating grand stately houses built with Bath stone to row upon row of red-brick terraces in northern industrial towns. I thought I’d find that the countryside would pale in comparison to New Zealand’s majestic mountains in the south island but with the sun shining overhead as I travelled north on the train from London, the fields were bright green and the hedgerows served to add to the picture of quaint beauty. Add to this the colourful spectrum of rolling heather-covered hills of moorland areas, especially in Scotland, and you realise that there is plenty of spectacular scenery to be seen around you wherever you live so long as you have the eyes to look for it. I suppose I have always tended to enjoy discovering my own country, either running or cycling around the different places I have studied or worked over time as there is a lot of variety here in the different county areas. Along my travels I have often been asked about certain places and had to admit that I hadn’t visited there. The issue is that compared to New Zealand, Great Britain has vastly more villages, towns and cities and as I like to rest occasionally, I’ve not had time to explore so much or so freely as I was able in New Zealand because I was able to designate a sufficient period of time to doing so there. And somehow, a holiday in your home country does not quite seem as exotic or as exciting as some foreign destination. “But in the UK it always rains, that’s why you go abroad!” I hear you say, Well actually, it does rain with reasonable regularity, but that’s why the fields and hills are so green! I was actually quite shocked in New Zealand when I passed through the very warm and sunny northern south island to see that it was so yellow compared to the image of greenery I had in my head from famous films or tourism advertisements.
There is some sun in the UK, though which part of the year it will actually shine with regularity and heat enough as to be described as “summer” is debatable. I was naïve enough to believe I’d return from a wet autumn in New Zealand to a sunny summer in the UK. There were a good couple of weeks of sun but the rest has been patchy and has had me reaching for my waterproofs and umbrella rather too often for my liking, though partly because I had become a bit of a rain-wimp rather than it actually raining heavily enough to require the aforementioned waterproofs.

Still, the weather has not managed to dampen my travelling whims. Some interesting activities I have managed to get up to since I returned are: getting lost trying to navigate around London via the cycle paths (a lot of patience and time required due to various unwanted diversions when the trail of signs disappeared and a random guess was required and going round in circles following bent signs); being guided around London by a Malaysian traveller (I’ve never lived in London, he’d lived there 2 years); hosting a Hungarian and a South Korean in Bath and giving long walking tours; picking up some friendly and interesting hitch-hikers from Czech Republic and the Isle of Coll (Scotland) on a spontaneous road trip to Scotland with a friend; hitch-hiking around the Isle of Arran, getting guided tours from the locals, camping on the beach, and eating blackberries from the hedgerows; catching up with family and friends all over the UK from as far south as Barnstaple in Devon and as far north as Edinburgh in Scotland. Oh, and somewhere amongst that lot I broke my wrist and no, not from any crazy bicycle exploits, just crazy attempts to balance on an overturned watter butt/barrel (usually used to catch rain water for garden irrigation). The cast was off before the mad Scotland trip but is still in need of some more rehabilitation before a significant amount of bicycle riding can be done. And so, after making the most of the summer and opportunities laid before me, I’m ready to settle down and work…well, after my month-long trip to the US is over that is! I leave tomorrow.

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