It was cooler in the UK!
Actually the very first day it was quite warm. Having landed at 06:05 we were in the Heathrow Terminal 3 car park at 06:45 (is this a record?) and it was hot! In some parts of London it reached 35C that day. On leaving 3 weeks later it was cold, around 17C. Such are British Summers!
Oh the flowers!
The British climate suits flower boxes and hanging baskets perfectly, together with the skill and care of those planting them. We miss going for walks looking in people’s front gardens and all the wonderful flower displays.
Friends and Family
So wonderful to see friends from the different walks of my life in the UK; from school, from the skating rink, from church. But so many in such a short time was a challenge for an introvert.
My family were so wonderful and hospitable to their ‘foreign’ brother! Giving me somewhere to stay; giving up their bedroom for me; picking me up from the railway station late every night; organising a wonderful family holiday in South Wales; meeting up with aunt and cousins!
And of course, the purpose of my visit: Miriam’s 95th birthday!
And for those that know me, I have a headless ancestor who ‘inherited’ the Bishop’s Palace in Lamphey which was very special to visit.
The sad part was meeting with so many friends to celebrate the life and passing of our dear friend and colleague Alan Kreider.
But the thanksgiving service date was adjusted so that I could attend! And I wasn’t the only long distance visitor. Anne Wilkinson-Hayes came all the was from Melbourne Australia, like me fitting in this reflection time into our holidays. And it gave me a chance to play the guitar and sing again with other former Wood Green Mennos. Precious. Who knows, probably the last time that will ever happen!
Sorry to be a grump, but the UK has the worst mobile phone network! I’ve got used to reliable 4G everywhere and there you were lucky to get any signal at all (especially if you were on the train) and only rarely 4G. And it’s only a small island, highly developed technological society! What happened? Someone pointed out that in world speed rankings the UK is placed only 27th behind Bulgaria and Greece! But take some comfort from the fact that we’re ahead of both Germany and the USA, but way behind Canada! I have wondered… if the networks had been in public ownership, all that money providing masts etc for 4 separate networks could have been spread out to provide universal coverage for everyone instead of duplicating each other and leaving huge blank spots everywhere. And if privatisation was still required then the infrastructure could have been rented out to the providers, in much the same way that GiffGaff piggy backs O2 and Virgin piggy backs EE, or Southern Trains piggy backs the rail network – oh but that’s another story!
One big highlight was visiting Bletchley Park. Highly recommended. But do some reading up before you go.
So, now back to being an expat in China.
“What, ‘expat’? You’re an immigrant”. Well actually the best I can do here is to get a 3 year residence permit. Permanent residence does not exist (at least for the likes of Tom, Dick or Will; you need to be a multi-millionaire or a major captain of industry to qualify for that, and I’ve NEVER heard of anyone getting it). So expat I am, despite intending to remain here for the rest of my days, it’s still up for scrutiny every 3 years.
Back to my pension being fixed with no annual increment; back to it’s value going down due to the exchange rate fall following the Brexit vote; back to hot summers and air-conditioning; back to a new gymn with a nice swimming pool just 10 minutes walk away; back to delicious Changsha spices; back to my darling wife and our beautiful cats; back to VPN with fingers crossed; back to our beautiful home; back to KTV (Karaoke) with friends.
And now I’ve got over jet-lag (it’s taken me 10 days; it’s always worse flying East), I’m grateful.
NB: many of the photos are links to albums in Flickr if you want to see more.