England gave us a welcome fit for the Queen. As it were, it was also the Queen’s birthday, so it seems the welcome was not entirely for us and was, in fact, actually for the Queen.
You know those friends (fictitious in my case, but I have heard that they exist) who go to school abroad for a gap year and come home with an accent? I was literally three weeks away from that happening so leaving England regrettably became somewhat urgent. ‘Y’alright?’ as both a form of greeting and inquisition to your well-being is so abbreviatory it is inspired. I am also particularly fond of, ‘brilliant’, ‘lovely’, and most hilariously, ‘bless’ (though that is used as the most backhanded British and polite insult ever).
We limped into the UK with an ongoing CV issue, which was promptly dealt with by our good friend Jed at Campervan Culture. Jed had the misfortune of being under the van when we discovered our emergency brake fell short of quite a few safety standards. Mercifully, Robbie was around and with his brute, manly strength managed to save Jed from Stormie’s bulk. I am being dramatic, but be safe out there, kids. With a relatively painless resolution to the (already once repaired) issue that had plagued us since Portugal, we had reason to celebrate. Thus ensued our second (and third and fourth) instance of being quite hungover after a night with Jed. As an aside, being hungover in England is no biggie because the food is an exceptional remedy that I will carry with me for eternity (the recipes, not the weight).
Jed and his family are great company. He is very Canadian in his sensibilities, sense of humour and drinking habits, so we immediately became friends. Nothing like nerding out on vans, exploring backroads and drinking our body weight in beer. It is rare to find someone who shares our twisted sense of humour and Jed is the real deal. Also, it is only because of him that I was introduced to what I now consider one of England’s most significant contribution to mankind: the Cornish Pasty. Essentially what amounts to stewed meat and vegetables wrapped in a delicious, flaky pastry, a Cornish Pasty sounds simple but I assure you is absolutely inspired. As a snack, it was responsible for many a late afternoon second wind. England offered up a considerable amount of culinary indulgence. Who were we to deny this glorious country the opportunity to showcase specialties like fish & chips, cream tea, Sunday carvery, bangers, fry-ups, curry and crisps. Oh yes.
We were sent on our way with a clean bill of health and spent some time in the New Forest with wild New Forest ponies. I have been dreaming about befriending a wild New Forest pony since I was about four years old. Of course, now that I am an adult and responsible for imparting ‘life lessons’, I was not able to give the unsuspecting ponies the love and attention they did not ask for in the slightest. Henley learned how to ride her new bike here and it was altogether rather magical.
We went to Stonehenge and wild camped about 100 feet from the stones (Robbie thinks 250 feet, but whatever). There were hippies, my favourite being Solstice (not a typo). He was born basically within the stones and has lived there ever since. He told me about druids in the sky and where we could go in Wales to see fairies and goblins in the forest. We actually saw a druid wedding take place within the stones. There were many cloaks and I believe a staff or two; it was intense. The stones are awe-inspiring, so much so that I woke up before sunrise and left the van with frost on the ground to explore the site without the hoards of tourists milling about (for argument’s sake we are not considered tourists at this juncture). We hung out for a few days and it is easily one of the coolest places we’ve been.
We spent some time on the Jurassic Coast, which of course delighted Henley and put our obsessive beach combing to good use:
Liverpool. There are no words.
On Henley’s 5th birthday we found ourselves on the most incredible forest reserve with a most gracious warden. The site had an abundance of history and was absolutely the dream. We spent our days hiking in acres of wild garlic and discovering that we were literally a stone’s throw from Badminton (horse reference). The warden let us raid the hen house for fresh eggs and made Henley’s birthday one for the ages by letting us grab a goose egg from his two incredibly vicious and terretorial geese.
I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the steps required to take ones croquet game from backyard BBQ skills to competing on the world stage. When we stumbled upon the world championships in Bath, one thing was clear: the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is strong amongst the wickets of tradition. Here, a member of Team Spain implores the croquet Gods en route to a thunderous victory.
We loved England. It’s one of those countries where you secretly hope all the stereotypes are true and they are, but in the most authentic and charming way possible. Everyone is lovely. There was so much tweed. People are classy as %@$. There are many proper dogs. Castles. Old stuff. History. Pubs. Dogs in pubs. Babies in pubs. Had we stayed any longer, I would have become an official royal-watcher. I even purchased a ‘Hello’ magazine. Bless.