We've been back in New Zealand for six days now and we're beginning to settle back into the kiwi life, but it's tough! The house is starting to feel like ours once more and we've caught up with most family and friends. Tomorrow, Monday, I'm back at work; it's going to be a real shock to the system after six months off!
Having had time to reflect on our journeys aboard Northern Pride on the waterways of Great Britain from April to September, I've compiled a 'Top Ten' of my personal highlights - there's actually many more than ten but I'll keep it short initially!
Firstly though, some more pictures from the past week ...
A brief stop-over for refuelling in Hong Kong, ground temperature 31 degrees C
Feeling OK after the first ten hour plus flight ...
Sunrise over the east coast of Australia - awesome!
Our first dinner back home, kindly prepared and cooked by Sam, one of our lodgers - Left to right: Sam, Mariam, Tom & Sandra
Welcome home banners - hand made by Barry's mum and sister - very touching bless them - note the blazing fire; it was so cold when we returned! The photo on the wall is of reflections in the canal at Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, April 2007
This one is Jenny's, Barry's sister, we think it's the winner!
Barry's family - brother Ray, Sandra, Barry, dad Frank, sister Jenny and mum June
Barry and Frank - leaning on each other at the front of our house
Barry was photographing a wedding on Saturday, and late in the afternoon there was the most amazing light across the ocean of 'Poverty Bay' where we live. Captain Cook first came here in 1769, the inaugural setting foot on New Zealand soil, and it was the anniversary of the landing that same day. Unfortunately they mistook the Maori greeting for a call to arms and shot many of the locals - hence the name 'Poverty Bay; as unsurprisingly they then had to set sail without provisions!
So, onto my highlights of our canal adventures (not necessarily in order of priority):
- Writing the blog each day, or most days, was definitely number one for me. I loved capturing our daily lives, what we saw, did and felt. The feedback we've received from people across the world, some known to us but many we've never met, has just been incredible!
- Having the time to discover an England that I never knew existed. Visiting cities, towns, villages and Hamlets (I didn't even know there were such things anymore!) and learning about the history of each place. I was never really that interested in the subject at school, but it all came alive when we moved around the country.
- Of course being 'close' (they are so scattered all around England!) to my family for six months was awesome. I believe that I have more quality time with my relatives because I live in New Zealand strangely enough. When we do get together, we appreciate it so much more than if we all lived around the corner from each other.
- Catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. There is, mostly, an amazing camaraderie amongst boaters. We would talk to complete strangers most days and always have commonalities in the fact that we were on a narrowboat - whether people were on a boat they owned, part-owned, or hired. The towpaths were also hives of activity much of the time; it was great to see so many people out walking, even though it was mostly with dogs.
- The wildlife on the canals and rivers - we've loved being so close to the mallards, swans, moorhens, coots, geese and herons and their offspring; and spotting the occasional mandarin duck, terrapin, water snake, peacock or other unusual beings.
- The peace and serenity of living on a narrowboat much of the time is an experience to relish. Many times we moored up in the middle of nowhere and the only sounds we could hear were of the local birds and ducks. Often though, despite the remoteness of the mooring, there would still be a major road somewhere nearby and you could hear the constant drone of the traffic - not a problem, we just treasured the fact that it wasn't us rushing around in a state of constant stress.
- Partaking of a drink or two in the local pubs. We've met so many people this way and have found some brilliant places, and so many friendly people (there was a converse side but I'm not doing any negatives today!).
- The fact that each day was so different. We probably travelled further than was practical in the time we had, but the beauty of doing that was we never knew where we would end up and what we would see along the way.
- A chance to catch up on some reading! I read so many books in the six months we were away, life is so hectic most of the time that I don't think we take the opportunity often enough to expand our horizons by reading good books - or even bad ones!
- In fact, just the act of sitting, mainly in the evenings, and doing very little. We'd write the blog and put on the photos, read books, I'd do my embroidery (haven't done a cross stitch for many years and still not completed the canal scene I'm doing!), talking to each other or phoning family/friends, visiting the local pub or just going for a walk. We didn't watch the TV, the one left on the boat when we bought it was relegated to a cupboard - we rarely read a newspaper either. We believe that the media influences people's perceptions of the world in such a negative way that it's best not to collaborate with them!
There are more positive reflections for me, but I'll leave them for another time.
The weather promises to improve here next week, just in time for me to return to work. But working has a different focus for us now; it's a way of earning enough to return to the boat in 2010 to live once again in the parallel universe of the canals and rivers.
In the meantime, on the rare days when I'm not working between now and the middle of December, there's always an array of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy here too!