England - Round The World Tour 2003 T-13

pre-departure

Basingstoke

Friday 28th February

Well, where to start. We had a great day today with a trip to the South coast in a van full of kids. Louise had arranged for us to go to Portsmouth with David (her boyfriend) and his family. It was only when the 12-seated minivan showed up half full with David, his parents and two other siblings that we were really sure that the trip was on. The weather this morning was at its most British so far. A light drizzle with overcast skies cast a blanket of gloom overhead but we were determined to make the most of it and to put on our best stiff upper lips for the day.

As we set off Southwards on the hour and half journey through the back roads and picturesque country villages of Southern England, I sat up front whilst the van full of active kids, bubbling with excitement and anticipation of he day ahead, amused themselves. The atmosphere was so very reminiscent of many a journey I myself made as a kid in the back of my Dad’s station wagon on the way to the seaside. Next to me was a CD case with Tom Jones laughing at me on the cover. His greatest hits CD was just released and I found myself curiously thinking how nice it would be to listen to some of his soundtracks. My god, have I grown that old? Have I actually grown up to the point of no return? Luckily, my self-cantered embarrassment was immediately halted when some of the younger kids started demanding that the CD be put into action. For a mild mannered Welshman, this aging singer-songwriter is still to this day commanding the admiration and enthusiasm of an audience that spans the widest of generation gaps. We hummed along merrily, one and all, as our moving caravan of merriment meandered along towards the South coast.

Much like our family and the families of most of my brothers and sisters, David’s family subscribe to the lifestyle of a marching band. This is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t already experienced the way of life. Competitions throughout the year mean that the kids have to practice several times a week. As much a social event as a practice evening, much of my youth revolved around ‘band practice’ nights. It affects almost every aspect of the social calendar and is even the catalyst for many marriages.

With eyes full of wonder, we eased closer to our destination as the sight of the sea paraded into view through the huge windscreen. The fact that we could barely see much of it through the mist and steady drizzle and the fact that almost everything appeared to be closed, did not dampen our enthusiasm – much. You have to love the British weather 🙂

Not everything was closed and we soon put the kids into action in a play centre. An excellent opportunity for Sandy to put the new camera to further use and she snapped away with her usual gusto. The new toy is certainly a joy to use as it allows for a much more rapid succession of photos to be taken. With our existing cameras, it can takes between 5 & 10 seconds between shots. With this one, you can take 3 snaps a second if need be. The additional resolution now also means that we have the luxury of printing any photo without worrying about lack of quality.

As we were ‘at the seaside’ I was keen not to leave without playing some prize bingo. Much like the dismal weather, prize bingo is as truly British as you can get and we all sat down to enjoy a few games together. As it happens, the almost comprehensive lack of anyone else at the seaside resort meant that we were able to enjoy the whole place to ourselves. After three games and thus three wins (not difficult when there is nobody else to compete with), the kids were allowed to pick out some sweats and toys. With this, we were to round out our visit to Portsmouth. We headed back to the van for a return journey that took us, again, through some of the nicest villages, complete with thatched roofs, that England has to offer. It would have been nice to have seen the Isle of White which, as I understand it, would have been clearly visible were it not for the mist and fog which only just obscured our view of this sleepy island just off the South coast. Oh well, perhaps next time.

This evening was rounded out in front of the tube and the entertainment of a DVD.

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