On a trip like this there is one thing we all miss, seeing family and friends. So it was with great excitement that we jumped on a plane in Kuala Lumpur and popped back to the UK for a couple of weeks. The official reason was that the girls needed new passports, the UK passport office only issue small passports for children and with all the visa stamps we will need over the next year they will soon be full. Malaysia seemed the best place to leave the truck and it had been a while since we had seen anyone, so we were all keen to get back for a while.
Our first afternoon back was so quintessentially English you couldn’t have made it up. The rather surreal effect was even more pronounced as we had been up since 2am with jet-lag. My sister Clare and her boyfriend Noël took the girls and I out for afternoon tea at Wimborne St Giles’s Village Hall. We whizzed down single lane country roads bordered by hedgerows to arrive in the pretty village. Nestled amongst picture-perfect thatch cottages we enjoyed delicious cakes prepared by a local bowls club, washed down with lashings of tea. As we wandered around admiring the ancient village on the Shaftesbury Estate, it seemed a world away from tropical Malaysia we had left the day before.
Steve and I started the working week with a day trip to Newport in Wales for the kid’s passports. Apart from having to go in person for the express service, it was all relatively straightforward and they arrived a week later. Steve also had to renew his HGV licence which needed a medical, which was far easier to do in the UK. As the forms had got lost to us in the post, we did a quick 120km detour to hand in the application personally.
Even I was happy to be woken at six early one morning, as Steve shook me awake to tell me that Thailand was going to process our truck entry permit application. Hurray! We had almost given up hope that we would be able to pass through Thailand and have had a stressful 6 weeks lobbying the authorities and coming up with alternative plans. We are now just keeping our fingers crossed that there is no hiccups in the paperwork.
We had some rather more alarming news from Asia the next day, we heard from another traveller that the hotel we had left the truck in had burnt down! A few emails later we were immensely relieved to learn that although the main building had indeed caught fire, the area around the back where we had left the truck was supposedly untouched. The hotel is now closed but they said we can retrieve the truck when we get back.
It was wonderful to be back staying with my Mum and near the rest of the family. The whole McDermott clan got together one day. All the nephews had shot up since we saw them just over a year ago, when we popped back while shipping from South America to Africa. My brother Courtney and his partner Charlie were due to have a baby in the second week we were back. Unfortunately for us, my soon-to-be nephew is far too comfortable where he is and still hadn’t been born when we left.
The girls had an absolutely fabulous time at Grannie’s cooking, sewing, playing with all the old favourite toys and generally being spoilt. There were sleepovers at Auntie Clare’s; individual days out with Grannie and Clare to a farm, cinema, forest and historical houses; and lots of fun. It was no wonder that they both said they wanted to stay longer.
We spent a day with old friends from Prague, Victoria and Paul, who were back visiting family in Winchester. Alisha was delighted to see Mimi, her old classmate, again and all the children got on like they hadn’t ever been apart. We got to immerse ourselves even more in England’s history as we explored Winchester and the kids dressed up as knights, queens and soldiers under King Arthur’s round table in the Great Hall.
The second week was centred around seeing Steve’s family as his Mum and Dad flew over from Spain to stay at his sister Jo’s house. We went over to Southampton to see them everyday. We were all impressed to see Matt’s (Steve’s nephew) new racing wheelchair and hear about his exploits on the track. It was wonderful to see everyone and catch up in person, FaceTime on the iPad doesn’t make up for actually being together.
A year seems a long time away, that is how much longer we plan to be on the road driving back to Europe from Asia. However, we did have one detail we wanted to get into place before we return-Alisha’s schooling. After 4 years of being in a “class” of two, we didn’t want her return to more formal schooling to be too much of a shock, so have explored lots of different options for her. Especially as she will be going into Year 8, the second year of Secondary School, when we return. Part of the problem is that we don’t know what our lives will look like when we return back. It has been nearly 20 years since we have lived in the UK and the girls have never lived there. We visited 3 local schools and she had to take 3 hours of difficult exams for the one she most liked. Thankfully we heard the next day that she had passed the exams and they wanted to offer her a place. It is going to be a big change for her from homeschooling to go to a very academic, quite traditional, independent all girls school but that was what appeals to her most and we think she will rise to the challenge. Being younger, Lucy is less of an issue at this point as there is a small primary school in the New Forest village we have a house in. She is currently keen to stay homeschooled, which would mean we would not have to arrange anything in advance.
As the two weeks drew to a close, we were very sad to say goodbye to everyone. Being away for so long enjoying other cultures and scenery has made me look with fresh eyes at our English history, culture and scenery which has been wonderful. As we got the flight back to KL, with our Thai permit hopefully being processed, we were ready to start driving through Asia.