I swapped the north of Germany for the north of England last week, in a trip that was the first time I got on a plane by myself in … years? I spent the first half of my twenties travelling by myself or with girlfriends, the second half with my now husband, and the first couple of years of my thirties will go down as those spent studying the worst ages to take a child on a plane (my pick: 18 months, what a shocker). It was rather bizarre to sit in the departure lounge with a mediocre white wine and absolutely nothing to watch or wipe or feed or change or warn or, really, do.
The trip that ultimately led to my moving to Europe after my studies was a round-the-world-backpacking-without-a-backpack situation, with two of my oldest, dearest friends. I still, every now and then, as I go about my days inhabiting and travelling around this part of the world, get jolted by memories of that trip, prodded to the foreground of my conscience by a scent or a particular coloured light. Especially the light. It’s different up here, warmer in autumn, duller in winter, whiter in spring.
It was then, I suppose, rather fitting that the first solo trip I have taken in a while, was one to attend the wedding of my backpacking-without-a-backpack buddy, as a bridesmaid alongside the third point of our travelling trio. I left the kids at home – for the first time since having them, oh the emotions – and hopped a bus to Hamburg, a (delayed) plane to Manchester, a train to Sheffield and a small Ford Focus (driven by one friend, directed by another, and filled with the voices of three friends catching up after a few years apart) to a village in the middle of a very beautiful nowhere.
When one is in storybook England, one must partake of such things like rambles and high teas and pub lunches. We only had a few days, but we gave it our best shot and probably spent around 50% of our time in the pub across the road from our B&B. Indeed, there was a very long pub lunch that slid seamlessly into a pub dinner, all of it washed down by bottle after bottle of Pinot Noir. But it was necessary – how else does one write a bridesmaid speech?
It was only periodically sunny and cool enough to have the Aussies in boots and leggings. The only comfort I drew from such bleak end-of-July weather was the fact that clearly this summer has been a bust for other parts of central Europe. The nice thing, I suppose, about this part of the world is how everything seems to suit the rain. The old trees and houses, the corner pubs, the wildflower and green gardens, they look as pretty in the drizzle as they do the sunshine. And it’s not like one ever really leaves the pub anyway – you can go from the morning pot of tea to your evening pint (or generous pour of wine) without ever actually moving.
Back home, the kids seem bigger, the garden greener from its summer of rain and I’m off the prosecco and Pinot Noir for a while. The next trip will be out to Oz with both kids during which I shall look back on my glass of mediocre wine in the departure lounge and laugh hysterically.