…..and Away

As the title to this and the last Post suggest, I’m not quite sure which is ‘home’ and which is ‘away’ now, but I’m describing my trip to the UK on holiday as ‘away’! It was quite a novelty to fly into Aberdeen airport on the fairly recent direct route that Air Baltic have introduced.  This suited me perfectly because it gave me opportunity to visit my oldest niece, Pauline, who lives with husband and daughter in Dundee,  and spend time with my great-niece Freya, now 18 months old. I felt I’d done my ‘auntie’ bit entertaining Freya by pulling silly faces and doing funny little dances round Tesco so that her Mum could do the weekly shop in relative peace!

Later that evening I enjoyed a train ride in lovely sunshine and with delightful views of the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh, and thence to North Berwick. The journey also proved to be entertaining in other ways as well.   A little family got on the train – grandparents, mum and dad, and two children. The grandmother was the last to get settled in her seat. She came huffing and puffing with lots of bags which she distributed around the seats where she, the grandfather and the girls were sitting. Then, almost as soon as the train started, she started too.  Out came the ‘stringy cheese’ for the granddaughters, and mini yoghurts. For grandpa there was a large plastic picnic plate with some kind of full-scale meal served on it, and after that out of the capacious bag came boxes of washed strawberries, and other assorted fruit.  Having got these members of her family settled, off went the grandmother down the train to find mum and dad (clearly, her daughter and son-in-law). She was carrying a casserole – yes, a casserole.  Where she had managed to hide that in the bags I can’t begin to imagine.  Mission accomplished back she came to enjoy a well-earned rest – or so I thought. However, to my utter amazement, the next installment then started to come out of another bag – this time the drinks, tea, juice, milk, and, the crowning glory, an assortment of cakes! She reminded me for all the world of Mary Poppins. I sneaked a photo of the table as you can see,  laden with the many goodies which emerged throughout the trip to Edinburgh. As well as keeping me amused throughout the journey, I was touched by this lady’s obvious delight in being able to serve her family in this way.  It was clear that, for her, it was very much a labour of love. Later, commenting to her daughter  about her mum I learned that the family were travelling to attend a wedding.  ‘We are only going for four days,’ said the daughter, ‘but my mother thinks she is preparing for a seige!’.

There are not many things I miss about the UK living in Latvia, but the lines full of billowing washing in the photo made me feel wistful.  I’m not able to hang washing outside my flat in Riga, everything has to be dried inside the house. I took the picture for nostalgic reasons, to be honest.  I do miss the simple pleasure of getting into bed between clean sheets which have that sweet scent which is the hallmark of  laundry hung out to dry on a fresh, windy day.

A highlight of my time in Scotland was the annual Raft Race which I was able to attend, held in North Berwick where most of my family live.  Is it only British people who are as mad as to make flimsy sailing crafts out of an assortment of materials and then trust the resulting vessels to carry them out into the cold North Sea?  However mad it might be, it is great fun to watch, and this year had special appeal because my nephew and a group of friends were part of the race.  Their raft had been very scientifically constructed just the night before and tested for sea-worthiness – not!  It literally was held together with bits of string, but, to be fair, did not collapse as some other inventions did.  I was in Scotland a week before the famous Referendum, and I have never in my life known such a buzz about things political.  Old ladies in coffee shops, families out for meals, conversations at church, and robust arguments in the family by those on opposite sides of the argument – everywhere you went people were passionately arguing their case.  It is for this reason that I have  included the picture of the very diplomatically designed raft which was careful to fly both the Union Jack and the Saltire!

A few days ‘down south’ in the London area completed my stay in the UK. It was good to be with good friends and spend time in their company.  A highlight was going out for a meal with Helen and Marjorie. The three of us had not been able to meet together for nearly two years. It’s a friendship that goes back over 45 years to university days shared together, and there was something lovely about reflecting on all the stages of life that we have shared – weddings and children in the early days, and now the challenges of caring for elderly parents and the joys of grandchildren. Such rich, lasting friendships are a rare treasure.


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