The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

There’s nowt as strong as family

There’s nowt as strong as family.

Superglue is pretty strong actually. I can vouch for it too when once I stuck thumb and forefinger together. I can’t remember what needed such attention but I just remember showing Husband my hand that looked like it was going to remain in an ‘OK’ sign for the rest of my life. Perhaps I wasn’t dramatic enough about the incident as he thought I was kidding and also that no one would be careless enough to do such a thing.

What is quite remarkable about the whole experience is just how painful it can be even when you’re not trying to prise your fingers apart. I don’t quite understand it myself but it’s like there’s a little force field at play. I also wouldn’t advise you to try it either. Thankfully over some time, both thumb and forefinger did manage to detach themselves from each other, as you’ve probably noticed.

It’s my last night in Newcastle tonight. I wish it wasn’t. So I think it’s best I talk about it now rather than tomorrow when emotions will be running even higher.

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Years before I moved to Singapore, every return trip to Durham or Newcastle from Manchester or London always brought with it a real feeling of familiarity, of warmth and of returning Home. Odd really, considering it’s been 18 years since I was back for any length of time. These nine days have perhaps been the longest stretch since then.

But every single time, the further north I travel on the A1 or as the train pulls across the viaduct and I see Durham Cathedral and some 15 minutes later the beautiful Tyne Bridge, the heart never fails to quicken and a smile forms because it’s good to be back Way Up North.

We’ve been staying right on the Quayside. Another fabulous welcome back with views of the river Tyne to wake up to every morning and strolls alongside it towards the many bridges that cross over it. To me, this is one of the best views ever.

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I couldn’t possibly tell you where the coolest bars are or the best places to eat. All I know is that this is where my family can be found and after three years away from them, it’s been just amazing to be back right amongst them. Especially with #1, 2 and 3. They have been showered with love and attention and have once again met so many people but now have wised up to the notion that perhaps we’re not complete strangers after all and are asking me how many times have they met this or that person before, even if they can’t remember.

The beauty about this return trip is that it’s likely #1 and 2 will remember you and we won’t be starting from the beginning again the next time we meet. And yet, I have been surprised by these three small people time and again at how easily they have slotted right in. They have greeted family warmly with hugs and Hello you’s. They have ran about homes like they are regulars. They have, most importantly and above all else, liked being with you. They have loved being with their Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. Though the younger you are, the better.

It’s been really good fun watching the next generation of our family get to know each other and enjoy playing together. They are a mischievous bunch I can tell you!

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So how have I found it all being back after three years?

Well, I wouldn’t recommend such a long gap before seeing your family again. Particularly your parents. I was concerned I might burst into tears at first seeing them but I didn’t because it’s not the sort of thing you can do in front of small children and be able to explain yourself properly. Though I instantly saw how #1, 2 and 3 made all the difference to them.

You should have seen the way my Dad, Mr Li’s face lit up upon seeing #1, 2 and 3. There is nothing in this world that gives him more joy than all his grandchildren. It’s a shame all five of them haven’t had the chance to get together yet. It was a relief that they all took to him instantly because even though we don’t see him as often as we would like, you can still build up a sense of how important someone is to you by the way you talk about them and how frequently you talk about them too. Children can be wary creatures and just because you want them to have the same close relationship you have with someone, it doesn’t always work that way as true relationships are built over time and by being together. Children though, are also very accommodating and if you make the effort with them, they’re willing to give you a chance.

My Mum affectionately thinks #3 is a little rascal who doesn’t stop investigating every single thing she sees and like a true magpie, is drawn to all things shiny. She finds it amusing just watching all three potter around and playing. For although you can see lots of photographs on social media, you can never get a good sense of their true personality. Which is what this trip has given my parents, family and friends. The chance to meet #1, 2 and 3 and get a feel for who they are. And for #1, 2 and 3 to know that there are a lot of people out there who think the world of them too.

There’s also been people I’ve really needed to see because I wasn’t there at the time. My longest standing friend of 33 years, Working Mammy and her young lad got on like a house on fire with #1, 2 and 3. I can see they are also going to be a mischievous bunch together. It had been a while but as I’ve already told you all about Working Mammy then it’s no surprise that she and I got together like we just saw each other last week. Shame we only could indulge in a shandy.

In these three years, the young people in my family have turned into fine young adults. Where once I would look after them, they are now in turn looking after #1, 2 and 3. I think I’ve successfully roped all of them into doing at least one shift of childminding this past week. Quite often they’ve ended up exhausted after a couple of hours. I’m not surprised. My nearly niece, Loves Buffy was swinging them high in the air, playing tag and I Spy With My Little Eye Something Beginning With Tree. As we all know, once you start such things with children, they all want a turn and they never tell you when to stop. I’m very touched that she and her boyfriend made a very special effort to travel all the way from Aberdeen for six hours on a coach to spend time with us for a few days and spoiling the kids no end

Everyone has been spoiling the kids actually and I’m not sure how they are going to haul their stash back to Singapore.

Nephew #1, often overshadowed by the loud younger ones, is maturing into a fine young man. Completely disregards instructions not to feed his cousins unlimited chocolate but then neither do I heed what his parents say either. He’s a little bit cheeky you know, benchmarking his own drunken activities against what he thinks I have done. How rude!

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I’ve also had my fill of chips and gravy and all foods northern that my prediction of needing the back up expandable dress for the Sister in Law’s wedding has become Fact! Ah well. But no one cooks better than my Mum.

And I’ve also worked my way through the major supermarkets Jumbo Eclairs, they all do them now you know. My conclusion is still a preference for a Sainsbury’s Jumbo Eclair and I was rather disappointed with the M&S ones. You normally can’t go wrong with anything M&S from underpants to the tubs of mini flapjacks but I have to say they haven’t quite got the chocolate to cream to choux pastry ratio right.

We haven’t really done much in and around Newcastle but there are many, many fabulous things to do. The few places we have been to though, like Seven Stories which is a visually stimulating way to get children to love reading and story telling and Adventure Valley which is an amazing outdoor and indoor centre guaranteed to tire out children for the rest of the day. It’s also located right next to HM Prison Frankland and the thought did cross my mind that I hoped there wouldn’t be a prison breakout that day and we would be taken hostage.

To be honest, if there are stairs or a garden, a melon balanced on top of a vase, or even an emergency call button – these things have entertained #1, 2 and 3 enough.

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You know what I really miss?Just catching up on the everyday stuff with my parents. Not just the big things we talk about on the telephone. Mostly about their health to be honest. But you know when you’re just around each other and feeding in and out of conversations. Stuff like that.

Recently, I was asked out of all innocence how could I stand being so far away from family for so many years. I couldn’t find an answer to that.

Another thing I miss is the laughter.

And there has been so much laughter! Like proper tears rolling down your face laughter. When you can laugh with friends is pretty special but laughing with family is even better. Strawberry Mousse and her sister, who I could rename Gorilla Legs but I won’t, have had me in stitches. I don’t think they realise just how brilliantly hilarious they are. Though usually we’re laughing at each other. Because within each family, we all have our quirks. At one time some members used to make us cringe with embarrassment and perhaps made us venture far from home to avoid them. But now, I can see that this is who we are and by embracing it, I actually find we are quite funny.

And I’ve missed the language and the warm Geordie tones. I’ve missed words I used to use quite naturally like canny, mint, hoy, gannin’. Don’t be surprised if some of it has come back to stay when I speak to you next.

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By the time you read this, I’ll have already said my Farewells for now to Newcastle and all who live there. I don’t think you need to know all the details about how that goes. Suffice to say that for those who know me well, you can imagine how I will feel about that.

Even just seeing my Mum wave us off from the window tonight got me going. I miss being in the same room as my Mum. I miss catching up on chit chat. I miss telling her how Our Jenn is rubbish at not dragging me into things. That’s how things get back to the ears of my Dad, Mr Li! His source already has enough ammunition without Our Jenn freely giving out more. And for goodness sake I’m Forty! Why do I still get scared at the idea of receiving one of THOSE telephone calls.

It seems living this Expat life hasn’t really made me more independent. If anything, it’s made me realise just how much I thrive on having a big, blustery family. They are loud, rude and nosy but they are open, caring and funny. I bet none of you have a cousin who has started her own tradition of a solo Welcome Home karaoke performance. Luckily she has a willing audience in #3.

There’s a part of my heart that permanently resides Way Up North. I don’t think about missing it too often otherwise I couldn’t live in the present. However, if there’s a silver lining to all things, then I know that it definitely won’t be three years until I see you again.

It may be a whole lot sooner than you think. Lucky you!

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Gadding about here and there

I’m pleased to say I’ve settled down back into fairly normal behaviour after the first few days of giddiness and intense overexcitement at being back in the UK and functioning on very little sleep.

The cold is rather sobering too.

So far I seem to have also spent my first two Sundays here in a very similar state of a sleep deprived stupor spurred on by the intake of alcohol the night before. Which will also continue this weekend in Stockholm but will come to an abrupt end when I am in the company of my Dad, Mr Li and my Mum again the week after that.

It’s been two weeks since we landed and #2 looked out of the plane window and disappointingly declared to me ‘But there’s no snow Mummy’. Followed by several days of ‘Why is it cold everywhere Mummy?’, instead of just in particular artificially chilled aircon rooms. Nearly everyday we have ‘When is it going to snow Mummy?’, to which I explain, it would be snowing now if it was just a bit more freezing cold to turn this constant rain into snow but not so freezing cold that it becomes too cold for snow. Someone explain that to me, because after all these years I still don’t get how it can be too cold for snow.

It has been raining a lot. Not a jot of blue in the sky to knit a sailor’s buttonhole has been seen for days in this part of Yorkshire. As I drove up and down to Cambridge for the Sister In Law’s Hen Do on Saturday, it was like passing through the seasons on fast forward in the space of two hours.

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Thankfully, I’ve mastered the art of driving again and have only stalled the car four times in nine days. (The car is still fine Mrs Cake Pops) I’ve decided for the duration of my six weeks and three days back in the UK, I’m not going to reverse park into a space once, which is the unspoken rule of what you must do in Singapore.

Luckily I enjoy driving because we seem to have spent quite a bit of time in the car as we gad around here and there. To the point where #2 has been singing, ‘I don’t want to go to school, I just want to break the rules’. What? You’re only four where did you hear that? On the radio in the car Mummy. Which is much better than the ‘You stupid idiot’, that #1 has picked up in the car from our driving excursions in Singapore. Whilst no means perfect, there is courtesy on the roads in the UK.

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I guess with having travelled 13 hours on a plane to get back to the UK, an extra hour or hour and a half in the car doesn’t make much difference if it gets you to the people you really want to see.

Luckily local radio doesn’t irritate me as much as the local radio stations in Singapore which makes my ears bleed. However I don’t know why I was surprised to come across a local radio station I once was so familiar with, still being in operation. It’s like coming across a packet of Beanfeast in the supermarket and marvelling at its very existence. Like just because I’m no longer a Student then all things Student cease to exist.

At least from all this driving I can safely say the expansion of my bum will be due to the constant sitting down on it and not on the growing numbers of chocolate eclairs, crumpets, crisps and fish finger baps I’ve been having. Incidentally, I located my preferred Sainsbury’s Jumbo Eclairs yesterday to show my Mother in Law just why these make the most satisfying chocolate eclairs. Bigger than your average one so you don’t have to eat two which is just gluttony.

Chocolate eclair count to date – 5.

It’s still hard to believe how three years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Naturally you and I don’t look any different but the children certainly do. From babies and toddlers they are growing into confident, funny young people.

In Singapore, #1 and 2 are always surrounded by lots of their peers either at school or in the condo. They asked in all seriousness earlier this week whether there were children in England.

So to prove there were, we set off towards Warrington along the M62 where some old friends of mine live. I say old, they are very young. We used to live on the same street (in Chester-le-Street) and our families have known each other decades. He was that annoying 1st Year to my 5th Year Prefect, who thought it would be very funny to just be annoying. But I’m pleased to say he grew up, met his lovely wife and is now totally agreeable.

I love how children just want to play. There’s a small degree of shyness at first and you wonder whether they’ll get on but before long they are tearing around inventing off the cuff games, laughing uproariously and having a great time.

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I have to say that #1, 2 and 3 are doing really well with all this gadding about and being thrust into the midst of people you could say were complete strangers to them. Even if they have met them before on our previous trips back, it’s unlikely they’ll remember. But I’m very proud of how quickly they get on with it. I haven’t had any hiding behind me or refusing to get out of the car. They’ve just gone wherever I’ve taken them.

The only times I’ve thought it wasn’t going so well is when introducing #2 to some four legged family members. As I’ve mentioned on a previous occasion, she seems to have inherited my natural fear of all things animals. Although I have to say that I’ve started to overcome it somewhat because #3 doesn’t have the fear of all things animals gene.

It’s really disconcerting when you land upon relatives and your children run amok. It’s worse when they scream like a banshee and start climbing up you like scaling the heights of a coconut tree. The first time I got a welly boot in the face, the second time I was wise to the situation and only suffered a socked foot to the temple. Yet take #2 into a pigeon loft, birds flapping around, not a problem. Absolutely loved it. This is also an advancement on two years ago where she would scream like a banshee if pigeons were lurking around us at an outdoor cafe. So I think in another two years times she’ll be fine with the dogs.

We’re not the only ones to have left London and an old colleague and AA regular, Jimboni, has moved up to Hebden Bridge with his wife. I’ve seen some fabulous photos and updates on the goings on of Hebden Bridge that I couldn’t miss out on visiting their new home town.

It’s a shame the hour long drive took place in the dark which meant I never got to see the scenic views along the way. Or the majestic natural canvas that greets them every morning. But I did get to sample a very small glass of local ale and come away with bottles of many more.

Do you know The League of Gentleman? It’s one of my favourites. Tubbs and Edward in particular. As I was driving down the seemingly endless road off the M62 and passing through towns named Luddenden, Mytholmroyd and Friendly, you naturally start imagining a local town for local people. Would I find anything there?

I did indeed, it’s a beautiful town. Bigger than I thought with lots of pubs and bars. You’d have a week long hangover I imagine if you did a pub crawl round them all. So after a very small half of Ringmaster, we left to see their new home. As we headed towards the door, I noticed Jimboni was without his country coat. Oh it’s on the coat stand says he. And no one steals it? That’s quite amazing.

There aren’t many places that would happen still, perhaps not even in my beloved Newcastle, Durham and Chester-le-Street. Which is coming up next on our travels and I just can’t wait!

In the meantime, there’s another 40th to Embrace.

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One Fine Day

It’s like I haven’t been away at all.

Not for three years. Not even for six years.

When I go through Arrivals in any other country, I love the anticipation that comes with exploring a whole new world outside.

But when it comes to arriving back in the UK, it’s the excitement of returning to all that’s familiar. All the things that I have missed and suppressed my thoughts on whilst living abroad.

That first intake of crisp, fresh air. The cold breeze on your cheeks. It never fails to bring a huge smile to my face to feel you’re not suffocating in the humidity. Or haze as they currently have it in Singapore.

But like all things built on nostalgia, it didn’t last long as I discovered just how cold it bloody well is.

Much to the astonishment of everyone else who keep telling me it’s ‘lovely and warm’. I just don’t quite get it. The toilet seat is cold for a start.

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As much as I will never truly acclimatise to 32 degrees tropical heat. I obviously have been softened by it. In fact what am I saying, I long lost the ability to venture out in hot pants and cropped tops like a true northerner after a few years of living down in London. What hope do I have now?

But I had forgotten that feeling of going out in the cold (to me) and quickly warming up after a brisk walk along the canal which nestles not far from where the sister in law lives in semi rural Hertfordshire. It’s wonderful. Followed by a pint of Guinness in the local Public House which is even better. I was impressed with how swiftly I’ve managed to get a pint in this trip back. Simple pleasures.

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Jet lag is not the most fun after a 13 hour flight where #1, 2 and 3 were like a tag team in their sleeping patterns. Fellow passengers possibly had the right to be annoyed at the commotion from #3 but what can you do. I don’t know whether you can compare jet lag to the state of delirium caused by sleepless nights with a newborn but the effects of prolonged periods of no sleep definitely takes it toll on normal levels of functioning human behaviour and rational thought. I’m not sure it’s come back yet.

The fact that I was barely able to hold a thought during a flying catch up with Mr Muffin on Friday afternoon was blamed by him on these factors in this order: being 40, being Mother to three children and being just me but not on the jet lag. So by the time I arrived at Nana Moon’s on Friday evening having been chauffeured down by Uncle Monkey, I apparently was a lost cause displaying signs of giddiness and overexcitement. So they did the sensible thing of plying me with red wine and sending me to bed before the end of X Factor. It was like a severe case of déjà vu, have I even been away?

Incidentally, a journey that should on average take just over an hour was squeezed into 40 minutes by Uncle Monkey in order to reduce the amount of good quality interrogation with no escape. But it was a fruitful 40 minutes as he now owes me £100.

So having gone to bed half cut, you can imagine my annoyance when I woke up at 2.45am. Wide awake. With a wedding to attend at 2pm and the intention of continuing on until the early hours. It wasn’t looking good at all for that. Neither was Nature going to allow a quick snooze in the maze either.

To quote the concern for my wellbeing at the time, here is an excerpt from Uncle Monkey. “Delirious and giddy again? I feel sorry for Nana Moon! I bet you are currently hyper, but in about an hour you’ll be shouting at cars passing you by in Geordie asking them “what the hell do you think you’re doing man?”.

Where he gets this idea from is beyond me.

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But as soon as we arrived at the wedding venue, it was clear it was going to be One Fine Day.

I already knew I would be catching up with many of our old crowd from University. But it was equally as fun to catch up with faces from years past I’ve encountered through Big D’s social engagements. All of us now sharing similar stories of domesticity. Equally as good was being introduced to familiar names but not faces of new friendships and relationships that have formed since I’ve been away.

I must admit to experiencing a severe absence of presence a couple of times as the impact of not sleeping kicked in. But regular bouts of bracing cold air throughout the day soon sorted that out. I still wasn’t getting why people were pronouncing it ‘positively balmy’ when my teeth were chattering and I’m trying not to look it as others are waltzing around like it is ‘positively balmy’.

What the f has happened to me?

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In short, it was a fabulous wedding and so worth deferring my UK trip for. To see good friends united in matrimony and share in that moment with them with other good friends is always an honour. I wish them both a long and happy life together with good health and great times ahead. Doesn’t the Bride look stunning?

Naturally, Uncle Monkey kept in contact through the evening to check on my sleep/delirium status and Nana Moon obligingly provided updates on the amount of times I was shoved outside for more bracing London air. How can you tell me it’s not freezing when there is steam when I breathe?

I’m not quite sure how it happened but it was gone 3am before I went to bed. Some things change but most things stay the same and that’s quite reassuring in many ways. I’m sure Nana Moon will agree as she discovers I still can’t seem to divide the bed in two down the middle instead of either side of me.

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It’s barely been a few days since I landed back in the UK. Everything feels how it should be. Time doesn’t seem to have passed by at all as we fit right back into the last conversation we had. Such is the advantage of modern technology where you can have a very real and current presence in most people’s lives if you are both willing to make the effort.

I’m happy to be back. More than happy to have milk that tastes like fresh milk and thick buttered toast with hot mugs of tea that don’t stay hot for very long. To drive on motorways with open fields either side, even the back logged M25 held a certain charm on our first day back. Incidentally last week I could drive, this week I apparently can’t as I stalled the car five times in a row at traffic lights. (The car is still fine Mrs Cake Pops.)

So are #1, 2 and 3 happy to be here, who are loving being amongst family and Godparents. Being outdoors in the garden intrigues them and having stairs provides endless entertainment possibilities.

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However, with every high, there is a low and after marking our 7th wedding anniversary, Husband has had to return to Singapore to keep one of us in gainful employment.

But as I know only too well, absence will only make the heart grow fonder.

In the meantime, for such sacrifice, I really ought to make this trip all the more worthwhile.

For now, it’s about time I got some sleep.

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Where the hell is my winter coat??

‘WHERE THE HELL IS MY WINTER COAT??’

That was the distressed bellow of yesterday afternoon. I know it’s been years since I last saw it which is neglectful of me. I thought maybes it had been completely eaten up by moths. Or maybes I sensibly asked the in laws to take it back to the UK some time ago. But as it turns out, it’s under the bed and will take up about 3kg of luggage allowance.

So, you know, when you need an answer to anything, you just put it out there to your friends and you’ll get lots of helpful replies. They keep telling me just how warm the UK is right now and that I really wouldn’t be needing a winter coat just yet. Some were still wearing short sleeves, some were wearing flip flops, some were even doing without a full set of pyjamas at night and some were saying how a heat wave is predicted for this month.

Let’s put this into context. With visual aids no less.

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Need I say more?

I’m telling you now, that there better be temperatures below freezing point in the six weeks and three days I’m back in the UK. Otherwise I’m demanding a refund.

I’ve packed all my winter gear. Beloved scarves, gloves, shoes, bags, jeans, tops, coats and my very favourite woolly hat I came across last night.

Am I overly optimistic? Not as much as #1 and 2 who are talking about building snowmen and have been wearing welly boots, hats and gloves to ‘practice’ being in the cold. They will soon learn. They are so excited that #1 woke up at 6.30am yesterday and declared he’s just going to pack his suitcase.

He also asked if the people of England spoke English. A Daily Mail headline contender if ever there was one. Yes, they do but all slightly differently, with a much more pleasing ring to it the further north you go. Do they speak Chinese? Not all of them do. Why not? Yes, why not exactly?

I can hardly believe the day has come! I’ve been waiting patiently for this return trip for a whole year. I could have made it back earlier this year but I’d rather be able to attend Big D’s wedding and that of sister in laws with all the stuff inbetween. Plus we really wanted to do the Japan trip and you can’t do everything. Besides we thought we would have moved back before now. Though that’s by the by and lucky you Singapore.

But it has been a hard, emotional struggle, especially at the start of this year when October seemed so far away. There were times I felt quite upset at the thought of having been away for so long from my family. Of the fact that many, including my parents haven’t met #3 yet.

My excitement is not just about getting a fix of cold weather. It’s about being with my family and friends, back to the people I love the most. The ones who help you to recharge, reconnect and reassess whether a privileged Expat life is still for you or whether it’s time to come back.

It will also be a time to take a realistic look around and consider the prospect of a move back. Where to live, what schools to choose, what form of gainful employment to take on. All things that you already know about.

It’s been a while so forgive me and allow me to marvel at the everyday British things that may seem mundane to you. I’m well aware I’m viewing the UK with rose tinted glasses right now but wouldn’t you rather that than I put a downer on things?

So I’ve been preparing myself to integrate back into UK society and have come up with a Note to Self list.

1. Remember to pack own groceries at the supermarket and not idly wait doing nothing whilst wondering why the cashier is taking her time and the shopping is piling up and overflowing off the conveyor belt. This actually happened on my first return trip, just a mere six months into being an Expat.

2. Same goes for filling up the petrol tank myself and not wait for someone to rush over and do it for me.

3. Whilst driving a manual car, remember to change gears. And that the speedometer is in miles not km.

4. At traffic lights when the red light is on, it means STOP with no exceptions not even to turn left or right when pedestrians are not crossing.

5. Laundry will take a lot longer to dry.

6. That I must do my own laundry and clothes will not miraculously re-appear each time you open a drawer or wardrobe.

7. There is no $5 chicken rice option should you can’t be bothered to provide a home cooked nourishing meal for #1, 2 and 3.

8. My Dad, Mr Li is monitoring my every move.

9. Do not constantly remark out loud how cheap everything is in the UK in comparison to Singapore.

10. Do not buy any more books, shoes, bags and clothes or other sundry items because of number 9. Except for a new milk pan. I really need that.

I asked Husband if he could just check whether I’ve overpacked and he says, ‘I don’t need to look to know that you have’.

Like all well organised people, there were a few jobs I realised I forgot to do, just two days before setting off. I needed new glasses having sat on the ones I’ve got many a time.

The Optician did all the usual checks and is pleased to inform me that my prescription has weakened. (Has yours Nana Moon?) Feeling quietly smug, I’m about to hop down off the chair when he casually says, ‘So how’s your reading?’. ‘Very good thank you, I no longer read books with pictures in and can manage some really long words by myself’. If only.

Me: Why do you ask?
Him: No reason, can you hold this at your usual reading distance and read out loud the bottom line.

So I did, it was simple. Back to feeling quietly smug. Then he said, ‘Tell me when the words get blurred as I move this closer to you. Now try again wearing these.’ I honestly fell about laughing at the implication of this. Sort of like hysterical laughter. I’ve reached that stage of needing reading glasses. You have got to be kidding me!

I spoke with Nana Moon on Sunday to let her know what time I’ll be at hers on Friday with Uncle Monkey giving me a lift there. (I bet he’s really looking forward to an hour and a half of good quality interrogation with no escape). She’s already concerned at the high levels of giddiness I’m displaying and thinks I might wear myself out halfway through the wedding and find me asleep in the Maze. Quite possibly.

But at least I know I’ll have had my lunch as she proceeded to tell me our movements for getting from hers to the hotel to the venue via M&S for a sandwich so that we won’t miss out on eating lunch at the time lunch should be had. She couldn’t understand why I thought this hysterical. Neither can I actually but I guess it’s down to the fact that I’m the one who is constantly planning when to eat and for someone else to take care of that for a day is quite refreshing. I also asked her if it would be bare legs or tights for the wedding we’re going to but we all know her assessment of the correct attire suitable for the weather as per our Hanoi trip.

I have an itinerary of where I’ll be during the next six weeks and three days. I’ve got most of you booked in but I’ll be in touch again once I’ve figured out where to get a phone thing.

If I get a chance, I will let you know how we’re doing but this has been a long time coming and I just want to be with people, go places and quietly enjoy it all.

But I was very touched when Little Red told me she would miss us whilst we’re away. No tears though. And for the stoical amongst you, don’t worry, I do know how you really feel.

Farewell for now to Mosquito bites and sweat, couples in matching outfits and inappropriate work wear, free flow champagne and a beautiful skyline.

The ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign is about to light up.

We’re ready.

Are you?

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