I have met members of my English family a number of times, but we have never been in the same country as each other all at once. This past weekend was the first time that happened. My grandparents would have been so proud if they'd been alive. I caught the train to Telford and my Aunty Diane, cousins Catherine and Rachel and their husband and boyfriend plus Catherine's children Alex and Thea were all there at the station waving English and Welsh flags to greet me.
We spent the weekend eating and drinking and catching up. It was lovely. I wished my parents were here with me too.
There are similarities between us cousins - asthma and music tastes and clothes shopping. Rachel, Thea and I are very similar with our love of clothing and shopping, and Thea and I share the trait of loving to dress up and wear sparkles. It's funny not being able to know about these similarities until quite late in life. Its also funny meeting people that you just click with, because they are your family.
Yesterday we had an afternoon out filled with shopping. It was lovely to do this - just us cousins. I wish that we could do it more often. I was treated to a lovely dress and top from Rachel and Diane. I wore the dress to dinner last night and the top today.
We ate dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. We had a banquet and laughed at the Lazy Susan which half the family called a Party Susan. We also celebrated Catherine's 40th birthday for next weekend and a very belated 30th birthday for me. It was fun!
Today we took a trip to Iron Bridge where I marvelled at more beautiful old buildings and we went in a few shops. I bought Dad a gift which I hope he will love (I need to post some things back already, despite not doing that much shopping!). I ate a pork pie too - one of the English foods that I really enjoy. I had a pork pie from Marks and Spencer on Thursday but it wasn't as good as today's!
When we all stopped for a drink, I gave my business cards to my family and the cafe owner saw them and started chatting to me about what I do. He offered to run any charity in the cafe to assist me. He was very nice, and it was very flattering.
I also saw my grandparents' house they lived in before they moved to Australia in 1987. It was a beautiful cottage.
I loved being there - it was fun seeing how they live and having long conversations with them all.
My cousins and aunty laughed at my openness and willingness to chat to anyone - perhaps it is an Australian thing? Since arriving in LA and then the UK, I have talked to so many people - in the shuttle bus from the LA airport, in the airports, on the plane, in the London Tube, and in shops. I am curious about people and so interested in their stories. Last night I chatted to Brian at the Chinese restaurant as he waited for his takeaway. Yesterday on the train I struck up a conversation with Ben who helped me with my case down the stairs. Ben runs an awesome social enterprise called Time for Walkeys - linking up old and young people through the use of dogs. I really love this idea of pet therapy and loved chatting to Ben. He joked that he should get a mention on my blog - and so here you go, Ben!
The days are long here. Daylight breaks at 4.00 am and the sun sets at 10.00 pm or so. I lose track of time. I wake early and sleep well. Tomorrow I will explore more of London, doing touristy things, and Tuesday and Wednesday I work at Changing Faces. I also want to see a West End show - perhaps Matilda. I am so excited!
I spoke to my Mum this morning for about half an hour. It was great to talk to her. I miss her a lot and I am finding I miss my friends back home too. It has only been a short time but I think being away from the country has made me value my friends at home even more. To make me feel closer to home I've been listening to Australian music on my iPod. Bob Evans, Josh Pyke, Hilltop Hoods, The Middle East and of course Darren Hayes. He makes me feel like home. I love when I hear Gotye or Sia on the radio too.
I am overwhelmed with just how much advertising there is here. In train stations and The Underground/Tube especially. Billboards, posters and LCD screens everywhere. I see advertising in Melbourne too but perhaps I notice it more here as I'm drinking everything in like a true tourist. Magazines are filled with gossip about celebs I'm unfamiliar with. I don't read those mags in Australia and so I'm definitely not wasting my pounds on them here. I've been reading books on my iPad - it's easy to because of the sheer amount of commuting I do - but yesterday I wanted something different so I searched the newsagent and found Oh Comely -Britainia's answer to Frankie magazine. It's beautiful and I love it. It has the same quirk and beauty of Frankie but its articles have more substance to them and there is far less advertising. And it is only £4, where as Frankie is now $10. I want to subscribe!
Last Friday I went to Oxford Street and experienced the frenzy of fast fashion. Primark and H&M were manic - people shopping like the world is ending. Next (a favourite of Sydney Shop Girl) and Marks and Spencer were my favourite - I bought two pretty tops in Marks and Spencer. (The M&S in London was far superior to the one in Telford.) I asked the sales assistant about the size conversions between UK and Australia and she looked on her chart for Australia and asked me which country was near Australia! Ummm... New Zealand I guess, I told her! I also went to a range of shops in Telford and decided I love House of Fraser and Dorothy Perkins the best. I saw so many lovely clothes and I wanted to buy more than that sequinned dress. I tried on a duck egg blue and cream lace dress in House of Fraser and it fit beautifully but was too fragile to get on and off so I gave it a miss. Today I went to the biggest supermarket I have ever seen - ASDA - where I bought paracetamol and Australian honey to rid my cold for the very cheap price of £2.19. You'll never see honey for that price in Australia!
Anyway it is late now and I will try to get some sleep before I wake up early to access my university results. Wish me luck for my thesis! :)