On 7th June my first year at school ended, Eleanor’s time in DUCKS ended and we boarded a flight back to the UK. Term had not officially ended but I was on my way to the UCAS conference and Eleanor was going to spend a couple of weeks with my parents. Mum and Dad had come out with us after the wedding and spent a month with us before going back to Northern Ireland, recover from jetlag and then fly back to Heathrow to collect Eleanor and take her back.
The end of Year 2 for Eleanor has meant that some good friends have left to go back to their home countries or go onto new schools elsewhere in China, this year despite a number of people leaving Eleanor was prepared for it. We saw it happen last year but it appears that she can deal with it. As ever we shall keep an eye on her apparent ability to cope.
The end of my year was bitter sweet. Having worked tirelessly with our Year 13s I didn’t see the Prom or their graduation but in a way my time with them hasn’t ended until the A-Level results arrive and I know that they are into their chosen university.
Martin arrived back into the UK on 21st and we were all reunited on the 23rd. Eleanor learnt to ride in Northern Ireland all ready for our holiday in Mongolia. And I was continually stunned by the price of my favourite ice cream (The Rinkha) in that it is so cheap! Compared with £4.50 for a one scoop flake ice cream in London. £4.50 got us at least 2/3 ice creams in The Rinkha at Islandmagee.
We stayed in Castle Cary with Kaff and Hannah and Dave. Eleanor was reunited with school friends at Leweston and we had some good play dates with other fab south west friends.
We went to London several times. We went to Dulwich College London’s Founders Day and helped Martin with his mini Mega Menga
I got our visas for Mongolia and noted when in the queue for the visa that I was most definitely the oldest one in the room! Clearly a destination for the gap year students. Whilst waiting for the express day service of 6 hours I spent time wandering through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I happened upon Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall by accident.
I am a wearer of a FitBit. It tracks my steps with a goal of achieving 10,000 steps a day. Since being in the UK and even visiting the universities I have turned my back on public transport. So for 6 hours I wandered around London. Even after the UCAS conference I walked between Paddington Station and Buckingham Palace just to get my step count up. But it isn’t until you do this (with the map app to tell me where to go!) that you see how London connects. I saw parts of London that I knew about but didn’t really know where it was in relation to anywhere.
Whilst in London for the UCAS conference I decided that on the Saturday I would get up early and go to see the Trooping of the Colour ceremony for the Queen’s official 90th birthday. And whilst I got a good view my iphone was just not good enough to get a clear view of the balcony. But love or loathe the Queen’s outfit she certainly stood out. Whilst an historic day, I am glad I did it on my own. It was a long time standing and for the first time I was unprepared. I had the day’s paper but no water or snacks! At 8.30am the spaces were already filling up so I was pretty proud of myself for where I stood and the views I got.
During our time in the UK we finally stopped at Stonehenge. It was a Monday afternoon so not too busy but it was full of Chinese tourists. One such tourist got into conversation with Eleanor – in Chinese!
Martin and I lived in the South West for 10 years. The A303 our route to see our friends Jo and Jon in Basingstoke. Everytime we went past I would recall the time when I was a child my parents stopped at the Stonehenge carpark and let me look at it from the road. I was miffed at this. (My Mum would say sulked). So now about 20 plus years on I got to see it closer than I ever have before. It was still free thanks to National Trust Membership cards acquired for the day from friends.
The other highlight of doingsomething different in the UK was courtesy of friends who were getting married. They got married in Devon and had their reception in Cornwall. Martin played in the string quartet during the service which has to be the best ceremony with the most thoughtful and beautiful music ever. The bride, a musician, and the bridegroom had put a lot of thought into it. Rings were delivered by owl. An owl which then made an appearance at the reception in Polhawn Fort. A ceilidh happened in the evening and again Eleanor was in her element.
The Cornish coast is beautiful and paddling occured. It was cold! Eleanor was taught how to skim stones and we had fish and chips on the shore the night before the wedding. The B&B we stayed in was Penmillard Farm and they let us bring an airbed for Eleanor. At a cost mind you but many other places had said no to even doing this!
We saw who we wanted to see back in the UK, but it didn’t feel like a holiday. Thankfully Eleanor and I are in Mongolia for a holiday where we are about to experience something amazing. I have now caught up on the blog ready for when I am back in China to tell you about our forthcoming journey….