England - Round The World Tour 3 2004 T-5

Train to London

Thursday 9th September

Much has happened in the past few days. Work is finally over and is fast fading into memory. My leaving do was a lot of fun and the people I most wanted to be there were. I left having enjoyed my time there and will remember my colleagues fondly for quite some time to come. The new guy is trained and I sense that I have left my work in very capable hands. I will no doubt be in contact with some of them again in the future.

That future seems unimaginably far away at the moment, however. Tonight is the last night we will spend in this house, as tomorrow evening we will be taken to some guest house near Heathrow airport where we will spend what will doubtless be a restless night ahead of our morning flight on Tuesday. I keep telling myself that that will be when the fun begins but I still can’t shake off that feeling of apprehension that has been presiding over me for the past week or so. I’m sure the first few days and weeks will be difficult as we struggle to find our routine but we will eventually start to relax and enjoy ourselves. It’s hard to describe why this would be any different to just another two or three-week holiday. In a way it’s not really a holiday at all, but moreover a temporary change in lifestyle. I hope we enjoy our new lives.

In the meantime, we’ve been tying up all the loose threads before our departure. Today I went shopping with Dad to make sure their food larder was fully stocked for some time to come. When I was a boy, Mum & dad would do Nanny & Granddad’s weekly shopping for them. Richard and I would go with them every week to visit and to drop off the shopping. Although I still to this day get a lot of resistance from Dad when I try to buy shopping for them, I see this as no different to what they did for Nanny & Granddad all those years ago. With their financial situation being what it is, it will bring a great deal of peace of mind to myself whilst we are travelling to know that they are somewhat relieved from the financial burden of simply making ends meet. This has become somewhat of a periodic ritual with Sandy and me in recent years. Supporting Mum & Dad is something that all my brothers and sisters do and have done in varying ways. Saying goodbye to them this afternoon was difficult for the both of us. It’s something that I find hard to dwell as I sit here typing.

Jacqueline, as it turns out, has offered to drive us to the airport tomorrow. I must admit to being a little surprised to receive this offer, very welcome though it was. When asked why she was being so thoughtful and nice, she replied, “I want to make sure you go.”

We spent much of the day today cleaning out our bedroom so that it will be habitable for whomever John and Lisa might have to stay here in our absence. After some hours, we finally found something not seen for many months – the carpet. After having stayed here for so long now, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are simply guests in this house and that there is no permanency. Both John & Lisa have expressed their wishes for us to stay here again after we get back from this trip. Perhaps they should be careful what they wish for.

Our backpacks are now completely packed and are sitting at the foot of the bed waiting for us. Most of yesterday was occupied with the arduous task of going through everything and deciding upon exactly what we will be taking and what we will be leaving behind. It was not an easy task. Sandy in particular seems to be taking an entire wardrobe of clothing with her. You know, there are some creatures in the animal kingdom (some species of spider, for example) where the female eats the male if he strays too close or makes a wrong move. I felt very much like one of these creatures yesterday as I tentatively tried to persuade her to lighten her load a bit. I managed to live to tell the tale but I think she is still hungry. Most of my backpack is taken up with all the gear, equipment, medical kits and so on. I think there is a small corner in one of the compartments that has some clothes in it somewhere. We’ve weighed everything that we will be taking and I’m quite chuffed to have been able maintain a combined total weight of everything (including the backpack and day-packs themselves) that I will be taking for the entire trip to just 20Kg. Sandy’s total compliment worked out to be around 15Kg. Guess which one of us is the mule! That’s a total of just 35Kg for almost a year on the road for two people. Not bad.

I spoke with Paul David this evening on the phone. His divorce will be finalised and settled within a few days. He’s been going through a particularly tough time of late. Whenever one of my close family members is having a hard time with life’s ups and downs, I feel a particular sense of discomfort and turmoil myself. A feeling of helplessness mostly I think. I felt this way before when Charlie died and I saw Annie going through her own emotional hell. It hit me hard too to see Mum & Dad going through their own problems in recent years – particularly since I’ve lived so far from home. The one thing about Paul in particular, though, is that no matter how hard things might be for him personally, how much life might be getting him down, I always come away from a conversation with him feeling better about myself. It’s not just his upbeat attitude that does it. It’s his unique way of looking at things and that way he has of making me feel that everything is all right regardless of what the situation is. It isn’t something that is easy to describe but it’s a defining aspect of his character that I’ve always looked up to and strived for myself. For all the day-to-day annoyances and bickering that erupts within all families from time to time (and ours is no different), I can think of some defining aspect to each and every one of my direct family members that I admire and respect. Perhaps if I can adopt a little bit of personality from each of them, then I know I can’t be a bad person. Either that or I’ll turn out to be a complete bastard, one or the other.

Well, it’s well past midnight and I really should turn in (or put the laptop down at least). Just one more night to go.