Our friend James and wife got us into his new “mafia” wagon and got us to KLCCT (thats Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier) terminal in plenty of time to catch our AirAsia X flight to Stansted in UK. Air travel today is not a fun or exciting endeavour it once was and is more something to endure to get from A to B. I'm not knocking AirAsiaX, but if you need to fly cattle class due to financial constraints, its not fun on any airline.
Stansted was so fast and easy to get through, that we got the early bus into London. Its worth noting that from October AAX will fly into Gatwick...and I'm not sure that's such a good idea, as Gatwick is a basket case, although construction work indicates something good might happen there...maybe!
We waited for our daughter and partner to pick us up and they cruised past us 5 times before realising we were on the other side of the road!! Wonderful to see our little girl, who was looking happier and healthier than last time we all got together. We were spoilt with a bus pass each and sim card for our phone, and heaps of yummy food. Crusty breads, salami, ham, pickle and a wide variety of cheeses with fresh salad....but the highlight was a massive 6 hour shoulder of lamb on her birthday, which just melted in the mouth and completely stuffed us. None of Mum's home Malaysian cooking...sorry love, but make it up next visit to Penang. Our daughter is now such a “local” in London, that it was fun being taken around by an expert, seeing the sights and visiting local markets and parks. The weather, with few exceptions, was lovely and sunny and so made the visit even more enjoyable.
Having been a disruptive force for a week, we bussed off down to Southampton to see friends Tony and Joan. We got off at the wrong bus stop, but they homed in on us anyhow. We grabbed a hire car and took off first to Baylham in Suffolk to stay on a friend’s farm and meet her 2 new dogs. We were totally spoilt and so good to catch up with dear friends. Next stop to see another friend and his wife also in Suffolk. Over lunch we caught up with news and his slow creeping M.S. Problem. Two very brave and lovely friends.
Even though KC had pestered me to check my emails a couple of days before, I didn't and so missed the phone number our next friends had sent us. I think they were a bit pissed off we didn't ring ahead, but as I didn't have the number, we were forgiven...I hope. Both Tony and Marie are great cooks and make their own wines and preserves...so needless to say the food was scrumptious. There is a reoccurring theme here, that being wonderful food and it continued the whole trip. Fat chance of tightening the belt before the cruise that was coming up.
The wilds of Tarporley near Chester beckoned and we caught up with Cathy and Brian. Cathy being an ex Malaysian Chinese, cooked up a storm (here we go again) and had 2 wonderful days catching up on news and tasting the local beers and Pub fair. Cathy took us into Chester and we walked the entire wall...and most of the streets inside as well. Its a very beautiful city and one where my Grandfather was born...and from where he journeyed to Liverpool as a 15 year old to run away to sea. His schoolmaster father found out and paid the skipper the return fare from the West Indies where the ship was headed, but Grandfather stayed with the sea and eventually became a Master Mariner in sailing ships. I digress.
And so back to Lower Swanwick on the Hamble for a week of cook-ups and being part of Tony and Joan's family once again. Joan was in the midst of a bowls competition, which she and her club won. The girls one day went to a flower exhibition, while us blokes went to a preserved brickworks and did some hiking and blackberry picking...which we ate and which we got into trouble for.
While we did some walks and visited some lovely old villages, mostly we went to Tesco's to get ingredients for monumental cook-ups, which ranged from traditional roasts to Bak kut teh, ginger pork, curry puffs, spring rolls...the list goes on.
With groaning bellies and I'm sure some relief, Tony and Joan ensured we got to Gatwick for our Thomas Cook flight to Vancouver.
With UK now taxing visitors as punishment for daring to visit the place, I vowed it would be our last trip to UK....we will see.