As started in the previous episode, after Hong Kong I was headed home, ostensibly for Josh and Maggie’s wedding, but also because I’d promised my re-eneactment friends that I’d go to Evesham in a beautiful circular event, being that the Battle of Evesham last year was where I’d met most of them and where I’d first enquired about joining a medieval battle re-enactment group and was what set the ball rolling to me actually joining the group later in the year. So I had to go.
But first, I had to get back to Worcestershire from London. I landed in Heathrow at a godawful hour of the morning, except that it wasn’t because also – time zones. I had no idea what time it was or how long I’d been awake, or whether I should be awake or not. All I knew was that sleeping on a plane was neither comfortable nor conducive to deep sleep, and I was cream-crackered.
After a mild panic waiting for my bag to arrive (typically, it was one of the last off the plane and so I endured approximately forty-five minutes of heightened anxiety, thinking that it had been left in Thailand (where I’d transferred)), I finally heaved it off the travellator, briefly remembered the toddler that made the news for fulfilling all of our childhood dreams, and then set off for the Underground station.
Travelling through London during and after rush hour was interesting. I was lucky that I alighted the Tube essentially at the start of the line, and didn’t disembark until after the train had entirely filled and then emptied again with glazed-eyed commuters, and so was able to unashamedly occupy a squashy seat that I was utterly unaccustomed to, being that the seats on the Chinese Metros are metal. Travel took me around two hours to get to Matt, Sean and Pippa’s house, which was then a fifteen minute walk from the station, which I was absolutely going to walk since I was now trying to pinch my pennies, not knowing how much money I had in my bank account and only having about £80 on my person, which may have to last me until Monday or longer (this was Wednesday morning).
Matt, being the darling he is, had left me half a loaf of bread and Marmite for me (although I did have to go on a super-quick foraging mission for butter at the nearest corner shop) and I was able to eat toast and drink squash to my heart’s content. I have been telling everyone who’d listen, and those who wouldn’t that I really miss real bread when I’m out in China because they use sugar instead of salt to preserve it and so it tastes sweet and wrong. So I had myself a lot of toast and made a nest on the sofa to wait for people to come home.
This was basically how I spent the next couple of days in London. Vegetating happily, almost speaking Chinese to cashiers, and catching myself at the last minute, and watching a lot of television.
On the Friday morning, I got up what would be considered early but because of the joys of jetlag, I was waking up at stupid o’clock in the morning anyway, and caught the Central tube line from one end to another of it, so that Lauren could collect me and bring me home.
I have the best friends ever, and needed them because my parents, unable to predict that I would be moving to China and needing a lift home from the airport at this particular time, had decided to book a two week holiday in Kyrgyzstan and so were inconveniently unable to pick me up. I had waved to them on the way over and they were landing that same day, just at a time that was not acceptable to me.
I had all of about an hour at home; just enough time to shower and gorge on my favourite meal in the world, before I was heading to Evesham to be a medieval peasant and slaughtered mercilessly by the Royal Army for having the gall to be called up by my Lord to fight for him. You know, the casual peasant problems that every one has.
But first was the obligatory squealing and running and hugging of all my friends whom I had not seen in six months, despite their being what they call sweaty. I soon disabused them of that notion – sweaty is when it’s dripping off your chin and leaving a layer of salt build up on your cheeks – and as soon as the tents were put up, we got down to the business of catching up, while eating fish and chips, and drinking cider, as we didn’t have to be filthy peasants/nobles until the next day.
And filthy we ended up being. While the English summer barely holds a candle to the humid mess that is the Chinese summer, I was running around a field, flailing a sword and wearing a quilt. And I was lightly dressed. So, the by-now-familiar sensation of sweat trickling down my back and further was unpleasantly present. But at least I’d worked for it, whereas here, all I need to do is stand in the shade for a few minutes.
Not only that, but I didn’t care. The adrenaline was flowing and I was forcefully reminded of how much I loved doing re-enactment. I’d been reminded just by seeing my people the night before but nothing compares to the blood pumping as you scream and charge at a wall of shields.
The fights themselves were, on both Saturday and Sunday, were frustrating, but I was still having inordinate amounts of fun. The icing on the cake was that my parents came on Sunday to see what I was doing in my free time and brought my grandparents with them, and I felt truly supported by them, the cherry being that my Dad bought me (for Christmas) my own longbow and four arrows to practice with, as archery is something I’ve wanted to do properly for a long time.
And when I got home? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Am I spoiled? Quite possibly but everyone deserves a little bit of spoiling every now and then. And I was only home for two weeks.
The rest of my two weeks were busy but fairly uneventful. I had a lot of things to do and not much time to do them. Doctors appointments, cross-stitching to get framed, train, bus and plane tickets to book, pictures to look at, relatives and friends to visit, washing to do and bags to pack.
Oh and a historic hall to visit, because no trip to the UK would be complete without it. The trip was arranged by Free, who had just said to me “Oh, I’m going to Aston Hall on Wednesday, do you want to come?” And the answer was yes. The answer is always yes. It helped that Rik, one of our other re-enactment friends was one of the guides there and we went on Wednesday specifically because we knew we would be working that day, and luckily for his job, he proved to be a most adept guide. Aston Hall was built in the 17th century by a man who’d just bought his baronetcy from King James I in the first time a title was able to buy, and it has seen a lot of history since then. Having gone through the pictures I took, it seems I have none of the exterior of the property… Oops.
And then, on the final day, when I was writing a blog post. I talked about using my flat key to open a bottle of cider, as you do, and I thought idly to myself, you know, I haven’t seen that key since then…
Cue frantic searching, and emptying all my bags that had been so carefully packed. Cue being on the edge of tears all night as my parents got in on the hunt. Cue elevated heart rate. Cue low panic levels. Cue not really sleeping as I racked my brain for any and all memories of when I had at last seen that key. Had I actually shown it to my mum in the kitchen, or had I shown it to her over a WeChat call while she was in the kitchen?
I still don’t know the answer to that. I emailed the AirBnb host from when I was in Hong Kong, I emailed ThaiAir, I messaged the London folks to see if they’d found it, I messaged Charlie to ask if he’d left yet and to see if he’d be able to pass a key onto me, since it was not anywhere that we looked in the house. And. We. Looked. Everywhere.
After a mildly sleepless night, Mutti and I were up at the crack of cuckoo, in order that she could get me to the airport and home in time for her first patient, even though my flight to Amsterdam was actually at a fairly pleasant time of day. It meant that I sat in the way of the doors blowing cold English air all over my now maladapted body, since the only seats the wrong side of baggage check in were there, as I waited for it to open for my flight.
And then I was off on the next step of my European jaunt – the Mainland!
And that’s a blog for next time.