When You Travel Back To The Motherland And Feel Like A Tourist

When You Feel Like A Tourist In Your Own Country

Anybody who has migrated to another country will understand the conundrum of whether “home” will always be the place in which you were born or your adopted country.

At this stage of life – the old AF period just prior to death – the question can become all the more poignant with our tendency to become over- nostalgic.

The grass appears infinitely more lush in the company of family, old friends, Jelly Babies – not the green ones, obviously – and Earl Grey tea.

And it’s easy to fantasize and get carried away with how great everything is when you’re on holiday and everyone seems excited to see you and eager to catch up on your news.

It’s particularly easy in London at Christmas time, a city that morphs into the chocolate-box fantasy created in films like The Holiday and Love Actually, if you let your imagination run away from you.

Few countries do Christmas as well as the UK, and Brussel sprout-flavored crisps, decadent Advent calendars with drawers for gifts, mince pie cocktails, and pubs with real fires suck you right back into its charm quickly.

And yet, there have been changes in the country since my last visit.

Not that it should really come as any surprise to find that one’s home country has evolved at a similar pace to one’s adopted one – indeed, much faster when it comes to cities – but subtle changes can cause problems for the out-of-touch, middle-aged tourist, returning to the land of her birth. I refer to the need to remember that pounds do not equate to Aussie dollars, which was something I struggled with, in spite of the intense schooling provided by the old man for several weeks prior to my departure about the meaning of the word budget.

A number of times, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at the cost of a round of drinks or a dinner out, only to remember later that I was paying in pounds, not Aussie dollars.

Admittedly, maths were never my strong suit at school – as was proven when I was hoisted up to top set maths for two weeks in Year 9, only to be dropped back down as quick as a hot potato when my teacher discovered that my new (and impressive) marks had less to do with any previously undiscovered talent and more to do with my access to the answers to our homework in the back of our textbook.

However, in spite of my struggle with basic mathematics – I remember that decimal points and percentages were particularly tiring – I still managed to achieve a first-class degree in spending money, a skill that I have since learned can be highly dangerous during trips to the motherland, in which the currency has become …well…a bit foreign. Added to which, I am not used to carrying cash in my purse – a rule instigated by the old man during Kurt’s pick-pocketing stage (which now has more to do with my husband’s micro-management of my problem) – which means that I struggle to fully understand its value.

It is very easy to convince yourself that you are richer than your husband has ever allowed you to believe when you add in the complication of a foreign currency that looks and feels as genuine as Monopoly money. And as pounds no longer feel “real” to me – particularly those I withdrew from the very generous overdraft facility of a dormant British bank account that (I hope) the old man has forgotten exists – I knew that I had to be careful with coins that resemble the old French franc and tiny bits and bobs of silver – that my father calls “shrapnel” – which frankly could be Italian Lire.

“Bits and bobs” was an example of cockney rhyming slang that Jeff Goldblum attempted to get to the bottom of during his jazz show at Cadogan Hall, which we saw whilst in London – Yass, darlink! Jeff was merely attempting to understand the meaning of expressions such as mince pies for eyes and apples and pears for stairs – obvious, really – and yet I found myself identifying with the expression each time I waded through the play money at the bottom of my purse in search of a tip for a cab or the 30p now charged for a pee in several of London’s larger train stations.

Such changes, along with Pret’s egg and cress sandwich, (stiff competition for the M & S version in my opinion), the choice of the medium or large servings of wine in pubs, dogs in pubs, and the 12.5% service charge, were only a couple of a succession of changes that had me feeling like a tourist in my own country at times, and at others, completely at “home.”

 

And Now For Some Food Porn From London

IMG_2121The old man lost weight while we were away – which is obviously grounds for divorce – and as far as I can see there can be no biological culprit of this inequality, other than my old friend menopause.

Because we ate mostly the same quantity of food while we were away – if you don’t count that afternoon tea I scoffed with my tiniest girlfriend who managed to put away almost three tiers of cakes as well as vats of bubbly and still looked enviably Hobbit-like the next day – BITCH!  He also drank a fuck-load of bitter and became particularly partial to the Magnums my dad had foolishly left in his freezer. He’s SO out of the will.

 

LIFE’S SO UNFAIR!

 

Since we’ve been home, the scales flinch every time I go near them, and I’ve decided that Sunday night is bad enough without that added level of pain. And if I’m honest with mysef, the extra kilos were probably worth the two weeks of gluttony enjoyed in a capital city not usually known for its gourmet food fare.

 

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Camden Market, innit?

 

So while the jet lag continues to mess with my thought processes, and in particular with an contemplation I have about writing anything meaningful, I thought I’d indulge you in some food porn from our trip, because the food was Poldark good, if you know what I’m saying…and I’m sure any Brits out there most certainly will.

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Meals that were stand out were not necessarily the most expensive – take the falafel kebab I demolished at Camden Market or the Tuna Salads from Pret A Manger that became our staple lunch in an effort to save money and calories, but it was the diversity of food we tried that made it so memorable. That’s the great thing about holidays – how all your usual disciplines float away in a sea of ‘don’t care’ petulance once you look at a menu.

IMG_2026There was the hangover food, which after classier nights was usually a croissant or two, posing in front of one of the trendy bread shop/cafes, dotted down the Kings Road.

And then there were the not so classy mornings when we had both lost the will to live and only animal fat would reach the spot, courtesy of a good old-fashioned ‘that’s what Statins are for’ English breakfast.IMG_2117

 

 

The dinner at the wedding of the year was pretty special and included this wonderful dessert which I had two of because (sadly!) my brother was so nervous about his speech, he couldn’t eat a thing. I might have also had his beef and lobster!

 

And talking of cakes, can you believe I freaking well MADE these macaroons at a cooking class with my sister? Although if you speak to her she will say that these perfectly round ones were in fact her batch because me and piping bags…well, let’s just say that we’re not the best of friends. But I won’t give too much away about that day because I have to dedicate an entire post at some point to our cooking class and how we finally managed to make our Chef smile…at us, rather than with us. IMG_2142

Seared tuna is my current foody passion and I managed to source ocean loads on this trip – this school came from a little French restaurant in Earls Court.

 

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But the repas extraordinaire has to go to the tapas we shared with my brother and his family at a little place in Chelsea called Tendido Cero. Of course I knew it would be a memorable experience as soon as I saw the art work …IMG_2180But even that much promise didn’t prepare me for the quality of the food. Even traditional favourites such as Patatas Pravas were pimped into these tempting bites of potato encrusted deliciousness with the mayo and tomato sauce inside.

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Patatas Bravas, if you please…

 

The Gambas Al Ajillo were frankly sex on a plate, as was the Tortilla Patata and I haven’t even got photos of the lamb because by that point the old man was giving me that ‘put your phone away’ look, which was the most succulent, young meat I’ve tasted since my twenties.

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Garlic Prawns!
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Tortilla Patata

 

 

Man Spreading, Bread Rolls And Lesbian Sex: The First World Issues Of The Global Traveller

I’ve moaned before about the Everest of all tortures; that is the twenty-four hour long-haul flight from Sydney to London. One that rivals any agony ever to be invented for breaking terrorists by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay. appetite-1238406_1280

 

Well, somehow we survived it.

 

Unlike childbirth, it’s not so easy to forget every moment spent gritting your teeth on the cusp of your body’s breaking point once you step off the plane. From the wails of desperate children ringing in your ears and the sight of true desperation of their parents trudging aimlessly around the economy deck, to the queues for putrid toilets and cold, congealed scrambled eggs, if any teenager needs a lesson in humility, this is it.

 

Uncharacteristically, the Gods looked down on us for the first leg of our journey this time, by offering up a half-empty plane and all the promise that brought with it – by my calculations, a reduction in the toilet queuing time by half and double the potential for free booze. Even they must have realised what a truly shite couple of years we’d been through, and how deserving we were of a bit of slack.

 

In real terms it meant that the old man fucked off to a row of empty seats, leaving me to the treat of what was effectively a bed, and what I imagine is similar to the sleeping arrangements of Business – without the Champagne, canapés and sycophantic smiles of the hostesses.

 

Having slammed it in the past as a leftie luxury only available to the ‘more money than sense’ classes, I now fervently believe that Business is one of life’s necessities.

 

However, to be spoiled so early on set us up to fail for our second leg, where wedged between two long-limbed males with major man spreading issues, I struggled to straighten either leg for the entire eight hours and at one point believed my knees had permanently locked into the pap test position. Not even Cate Blanchett in ‘Carol’ could help me through the seven hour ordeal, (which really should have been a breeze after the previous seventeen). When your body is deprived of deep sleep, your back has been reshaped into the shape of a car seat, your stomach is a bloated carb mountain from the number of rolls forced into it to stave off boredom and the hosties have a three hour round trip to bring your first drink, it’s hard to digest the possibilities of lesbian sex.

 

Sod education, sod the migrants, sod Waleed for Prime minister, it’s time our government invested in a decent transport system for the cattle classes.

And The Prize For The Most Incompetent Tourist Goes To…

It shouldn’t be hard, to go away for two weeks by yourself, with no-one to be feel responsible for other than yourself.

 

Bread on sale in Borough Market, London.
Bread on sale in Borough Market, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But it seems that these days, I am an incompetent extraordinaire of the highest order.

 

And what’s even more freaking bizarre about this whole trip back to the motherland is feeling like a complete stranger in your own back yard.

 

I made it back, in spite of my many anxieties about flying, getting lost in Dubai airport, kidnapped and forced to become the eighth wife of some very rich Sheikh. And with time at a premium (due to the family duty of having to see them), I commenced my sightseeing agenda VERY early on the first morning (being still on Australian time) with an uncharacteristic zeal for life.

 

 

I thought I had planned well – I was a badged Brownie after all. The aim was to visit Borough Market, take a lengthy stroll and window shop along the Kings Road, (all the while feigning to be part of the Chelsea Elite), pop into Oxford St and pick up my hire car on the way back.

 

Being the professional blogger/photographer that I am, I was going to take lots of stunning photos to use on the blog, and then show off to my FB friends to prove just how fucking fabulous my life really is.

 

Sounded simple, dinnit?

 

Unless you are foiled by three of the biggest banes that seem to follow you through your life:

 

Technology…

Map Reading…

And walking in heels

 

So when your phone runs out of battery five minutes into your best-laid touristing plans, in future I will know not to waste time, but head straight back home. Everyone knows that it’s impossible to function without a phone these days and my first day in London drove that point home.

 

Without your device, not only can’t you record the experience to brag to your friends, but you don’t have the aid of maps or any location indicator to tell you where the fuck you are in the middle of nowhere – which is tricky, even in a place that was previously your home town.

 

Without a phone, you can’t text anyone to look up where the fuck you are or to find out where or why they’ve moved Borough Market since you googled the address two hours previously.

 

Without a phone you can’t call your parents when you finally get back and realize you don’t have a key either, don’t know their apartment number (because it’s in your phone), and don’t have the ability to call the porter for assistance, who has apparently taken a sabbatical down the pub, anyway.

 

Without a phone you can’t take wonderfully ambient shots of quaint East End market stalls so that for once in your life, you look like you have a life.

 

And you can get seriously lost. A lot.

 

And did I mention that heels, when you walk many more miles than you calculated for (because you chose your footwear on the basis that they went with your scarf rather than for any practical reasoning), can become super-uncomfortable. Walking the full length of the Kings Road seemed like such a good idea before you found yourself walking those five extra miles around the Tower of London – even thought it looked so close to Borough Market on the map.

 

So, every step becomes a wince and you’ve forgotten why you’re still going to the market anyway because you can’t take any photos to demonstrate the carb and paleo celebration of amazing breads and meats on offer. And you could have sworn that you switched on the power point of your phone charger in your drunken stupor the night before, but the ‘making your life as difficult as possible gremlin’ must have taken the same flight.

 

Read how I reversed into a black cab within five minutes of picking up my hire car in my next instalment.