I write this latest update inside the apartment, as the weather outside fretfully decides whether to continue with the wind and rain of this morning, or return to the sunny skies that I’ve become used to. I fear that in returning from across the seas last night we may have brought with us the wind and rain of England. Sorry Göteborg.
It was not all rain and bluster fortunately, though I think the fact that the weather lived up to my expectations of the typical, cliqued sort of conditions I’ve heard so much of was a bit satisfying in an odd way.
So what were we doing in England you ask? Well, before we’d even left Australia my partner had heard of an annual airshow in Southport, which includes some of his favourite airplanes, and which he was pretty eager to go along to. Göteborg being a mere hop, skip and jump from England, we duly made plans and bought tickets and so last weekend popped over to see the show. I’ve wanted to visit England for as long as I can remember, seeing it as the home of many of my ancestors and a large part of the culture of Australia. Plus Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Dorothy L Sayers etc etc etc… The idea that Australia technically has a Queen also makes me geek out a bit, in a historical way. How Medieval eh?
So, we caught the plane to Stansted and landed, all running more or less to plan and found the hotel. Morning arrived and so did we, though possibly not as quickly as we should have. By the time we were in our hired car and pootling up the M1 it was a bit later than planned, but after all, Google Maps had told us it would only take a couple of hours to get to Southport. No problem right? Guess.
For all that it was longer than planned, it was a lovely drive. Traffic issues meant that we went on a small diversion, passing through small villages that were so very English that I almost didn’t believe it. Twisting streets, hedgerows, old churches, quaint double-storey houses and the most fabulous names, it almost seemed a parody of itself. As we drove, the sky cleared and for much of the afternoon the fields and houses were bright and sunny. I also enjoyed reading out the names of pubs that we passed, such as The Bears Head, The Green Wheelbarrow and The Wrestler. I’d guess there would be a story behind each name, that would be as old as the buildings, or at least an invented tale.
Though late, we did arrive in Southport in time for the displays that were most eagerly anticipated. Eventually making our way to the beach, we stood and watched and photographed the planes as they wooshed overhead. From the Typhoon, a modern jet that sounded as though it was tearing the sky apart, to a Lancaster bomber flanked by Spitfires in honour of the Battle of Britain, it was a very interesting show. The planes and helicopters eventually headed off into the distance, and so did we, venturing into town for something to eat and somewhere to sit. During our wandering I realised that without being really aware of it, Id become accustomed to the reserved, almost genteel manner of Swedes and being confronted by people who shouted questions at us and loud groups of swaggering sorts of men trailing young children and tired women was a bit of a shock. It felt like family night in Northbridge and I felt like a cosseted stranger. We did find a very nice hotel though, with friendly and gracious staff who also employed a very good cook. More relaxed and full of food we headed to Chorley, the closest place I could find accommodation an prepared ourselves for another early morning.
I mentioned that the weather was typically English didn’t I? Well on the Sunday this trend continued, and as such the second day of the airshow was cancelled with the expectation of storms, so we hopped into the car earlier than the previous day, with plans still up in the air. If we returned the car in good time, I hoped, there might be time for a quick trip to London, but as we drove on and I checked times, this seemed less and less likely. Fortunately, as it turned out, our route back took us closer to Cambridge than the previous day’s drive, so we decided to stop there for lunch. After some traffic issues, we parked in the city and looked around. Where is the University? I thought, peering around for old towers and gates and finding only winding roads and old buildings. Then it occurred to me why I couldn’t find the University; the city was the University. I was right in the centre of it. The old buildings were colleges and campus buildings, and those young people trotting and cycling around us were students, tolerant of the peering tourists who must be often getting in the way.
I decided pretty quickly that I very much liked Cambridge, with it’s mix of the old and the new, and rather than just stay for lunch we made an afternoon of it, wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. A particularly touristy activity we did was a punt up the Cam, guided by a student who had a lot to say about the history of the town and University, and in particular the colleges that we passed as we floated upstream. It was the perfect way to get to the heart of the town, passing the old houses of Trinity, Trinity Hall, King’s and Queen’s, and under the bridges. Some ducks and swans also joined us, as tolerant of us tourists as the students had been.
After the tour we hurried back to the car to head to the airport, and managed through a little bit of speeding to get there only 30 mins later than planned, and after more running made it to the gate with time to spare. Then all that was left was to wait for the plane to take us back over the sea, and home.
Tomorrow I am off again, this time to Stockholm, to hopefully find the house where my mum grew up, find something suitable for my brother’s impending birthday and general exploration. Adventures and another blog post are on the way!