Green… burgeoning, blossoming green, the English countryside in full flood of a generously watered summer. Trees billowing over hillsides, clouds billowing in the sky. Busy roads, speed traps, impatient drivers beeping, as I struggle with the gears of the hire car. Winding country lanes, one car wide, lined with lacy white cow parsley, jagged with stinging nettles, tall hedges blocking the view except at farm gates, which give glimpses of low rolling hills, patchworks of fields, spreading endlessly to the horizon.
We got here safely and survived the first leg to Jo’burg, despite the fact that our son discovered that he suffers from motion sickness in planes and moaned and groaned into a sick bag for the second half of the flight. Luckily our stop-over at Jo’berg enabled us to dash to the pharmacy for pills to quell the nausea and the endless miles to walk between Domestic and International, the maze of confusing signs, specially designed to employ several staff just to stand around and field bewildered travellers, gave plenty of opportunity to re-acquaint our feet with the ground and get our circulation going in preparation for the next ten hour stint.
Their aunt had thoughtfully provided activity bags with colouring books, puzzle books, crayons and pencils, which helped pass the time and the moving pavements kept the kids busy at the boarding gate, as they went round and round, backwards and forwards. Nobody managed more than three hours sleep on the plane, but had the novelty of being allowed to watch unlimited movies on the in-flight system and we discovered The Golden Compass, the movie of the Philip Pullman novel, which was excellent. I even switched over to it, as it was miles better than the lame romantic comedy that I’d started off with!
Arrival at Terminal 5 provided more opportunities for exercise, with the transit train not working, but the kids had survived the flight in good spirits and stepped out gamely. We even made it through passport control, with Youngest on her SA passport, putting on her standard ‘looking at strangers’ frown. Then came a friend meeting us for breakfast, mango smoothie wiping out two of Youngest’s spare outfits, the trek to the hire car place and a struggle with fitting three car seats into the back of the medium estate car we’d booked. Our oldest son was resigned to the indignity of a booster seat, but we just couldn’t fit three seats in a row. The arms of the booster seats interlocked and jabbed into the next child. In the end we took him back into the hire office and lined him up against the measuring chart. His head was close enough to the line that he’d pass muster, with marginally thicker shoe soles, so we handed the one booster seat back, feeling like we were living dangerously, in this newly regulated land of three points off your license for the slightest misdemeanour.
Finally we headed out of Heathrow’s concrete jungle, towards the lush green hills of Somerset. The kids slept most of the way, waking only to see Stonehenge through sleep-blurred eyes.
None of them had any clear memories of Granny’s house, our son only remembering playing on the stairs and that the carpet had been green then, so much exploring had to be done and discovering of Mummy’s old toys that had come down from the attic specially to meet them.
They’ve had a busy two days settling in and we even braved the shops to change the wellie boots that Granny had got them for different sizes (with more symptoms of motion sickness discovered in Youngest, though that was probably due to my less than smooth driving as I struggled to discover the optimum gear ration and grappled with the multiple roundabouts, speed limits and traffic of the metropolis of Yeovil!) – they’re jolly fancy ones too here, with fairies and fashion victim girls and camouflage patterns adorning them, much prettier than the bog standard blue ones from our local farmers coop at home.
Granny had arranged for our son to get some cricket with the local boy’s cricket club yesterday and there’s the village street fair on Saturday, so they’re being plunged into English village life already. Middle Daughter said yesterday that she wouldn’t mind living here. Right now they are having a raucous time with a wooden marble run that is now on its third generation of kids and the sound of cascading marbles is echoing around the house from the upstairs landing. Watch your footing as you reach the top of the stairs as one misplaced marble could have you cascading down them too.