Okay, I am happy to hold my hand up. Last week’s wet and windy weather in the U.K. was purely my fault. As I surveyed Drama Queen No. 3’s packing, designed to cope with all eventualities of a U.K. summer, e.g. shorts (unworn in the event), insulated waterproof jacket (worn most days), swimsuit (are you kidding me?), I decided the wellies she had packed were a step too far and recklessly threw them out of the suitcase. Guess what the first purchase we had to make in Orkney was? Correct, there we were straight down the farmers’ general store seeking good, strong, practical wellies. To put the weather in context, when we arrived at Kirkwall airport in the very small plane—talk about sublime to ridiculous—over the thirty-three hours of travel we moved from the A380 down to a twenty-seater, the weather was so bad that the pilot warned we might have to circle or divert. As I anxiously peered through the cloud to spot land, my first intimation that we were about to hit the tarmac, was a sheep peering in at me.
Orkney lived up to its historical and mystical reputation, helped by the driving rain that gave everything a veiled look. No matter what the weather, it is impossible to be unmoved by Skara Brae, a Neolithic village and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle in the most magical scenery of hill and loch, that predates Stonehenge in terms of a spine tingling reminder of the past five thousand years.
Edinburgh was in full festival swing with a crush of nationalities and every type of performance imaginable. My father had managed to get tickets for the Tattoo, which despite being the biggest tourist draw known to man, was incredibly atmospheric to the extent that Drama Queen No.3 having previously muttered about the anticipated excitement level of watching marching bands, was completely transfixed and has subsequently voted it the highlight of her U.K. visit.
We also managed a typical expat day of twenty-four hours in the south of England where we scooted across London and met a ridiculous number of friends, relatives, godparents and godchildren. I do occasionally whip myself that I have deprived my offspring of all their adult mentors, so I love it when we can touch base. And, I think it will be some time before DQ no.3 forgets guzzling her way through a chocolate fondue at Selfridges with her godfather or wandering through the dinosaurs at the Science Museum with one of her godmothers. I think the post-chocolate haze gave the giant moving dinosaur the final, realistic touch. I met up with two of my godsons in the twenty-four hours and got a quick fix of them as they hover on that cusp of adolescence, so I am left with tantalizing glimpses of both the children they were (though being honest as it is eight years since I last lived in the U.K. they were pretty much toddlers), but also the even more exhilarating flash of the adults they will become. Perhaps this is the answer with my own particular band of merry teenagers: focus on the big picture and ignore the daily discussions about location of TV remote, house phone, tweezers and nail clippers, number of pink razors in shower, mysterious disappearance of my pair of black stilettos (don’t know whether to be flattered or not that they got the teenage tick of approval), and adult (read ancient and boring here) lack of understanding about curfews, phone bills, pocket money, and parties.
All the excitement aside, the highlight for me was time with my parents. Perhaps it is old age, and let’s face it, I am sensitive about the approaching forty-fifth birthday celebration, but as I get older I realize everything else comes and goes but time with the people that you love is the only thing that really matters.
I do hate the jet lag coming this way. It is 4.15 a.m. and I am wide awake; the dog is eyeing me in a somewhat jaundiced way that indicates that my wandering around eating toast and drinking hot milk in the hope that the carbohydrates will have a pole-axing effect on my wakeful hormones is not normal behavior in his canine eyes.
Somewhat to my chagrin, Husband had the household running like a military machine when I got home, and I am reluctantly forced to concede that I may be the source of the element of chaos that normally so characterizes our life. The upside is that in the ten days that DQ no. 3 and I were away, Sydney has suddenly hit spring. The blossom is coming out on the trees in the road and in the evening you are suddenly hit with wafts of jasmine. And best of all, I haven’t had to wear the wellies once since I got home and I have taken off the scarf that was a permanent fixture round my neck during the Sydney winter and my U.K. week of summer.