Sunday, 22 July 2012

Back to Ye Olde England

We took our cheap and inconvenient late night Iceland Express flight from Keflavik, powering through four hours of sleep at a Stansted Airport hotel after booking the last available tickets for an early morning series of connecting trains to Birmingham. "You're very lucky to get these tickets," said the friendly cockney-accented man at the ticket window, "Wha-ever you do, don't miss the first train!" We all laughed in agreeance. Arriving half-an-hour early the next morning, we combined minimal sleep with some very poor signage, and managed to miss this crucial train to London. We could not believe it, but pacing up and down while shouting "Grr!" to the empty platform didn't seem to help. Neither did having to circumnavigate a couple of out-of-service tube lines with a convoluted replacement-bus service and queuing again to officially change the validity of our tickets during London's morning rush-hour. We barrelled through the crowds using our heavy backpacks for momentum to narrowly make our rescheduled train to Birmingham, arriving dazed and rather frazzled into the hugs and smiles of family.

What a smile, Jude loving the ball pool - Coleshill
We babbled on in the car about the last seven weeks of European adventures, while our little five month old niece kept eyeing at us with that suspecting look of "I've seen you before … but where?"

Aston Villa's newest member - Jude at the Villa Stadium
Family life in Birmingham cracked along as normally as it could with a revolving door of visiting relatives and a baby. The household's Aston Villa membership was renewed for the new season. Ben and I got right into the complicated process of getting Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas for a future Trans-Mongolian journey as non-UK residents (going through an agent to fabricate the "necessary documents" worked out easiest for us). Jude went on her first set of swimming lessons - turns out she's a natural water baby. Ben and Layla picked up their dad James from his first ever long-haul international flight (besides New Zealand, but we're Aussies so that doesn't count), and he seemed more or less intact, although he did swear to never ever do that again.

Reach Out - Birmingham
Madonna was in town and a couple of tickets were up for grabs, so four of us went to see the Material Girl put on one of her famously spectacular shows, complete with dazzling acrobatics, theatrical fireworks and controversial stripping. We all left Birmingham's NIA very thoroughly impressed with the energetic 53 year old's ability to entertain, Express Yourself still buzzing in my head.

The Hand, Jude playing in the ball pool - Coleshill
And of course, normal family life features birthday parties! Tom had turned over a 30th year, so it was a brilliant barbecued bash featuring balls, boules and booze to while away a fabulous English summer's day.

The whole family enjoying the balls - Coleshill

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