Fun and Festivities in the UK

Fabulous 40th Birthday cake from the Liverpool Cake Company


The Journey

On the 26th April I left my family behind in the sweltering sun of a Bangalore heatwave (43C in the shade) and headed back to the UK for a week of fun, family and friends. The whole journey from Bangalore, India to Southport, Merseyside, UK took 20 hours door to door and involved planes, trains and automobiles. The BA outbound flight was full, with tetchy cabin crew, a faulty entertainment system and a cabin that could have done with a deep clean. Not the best start to a journey home. 

When I landed in Heathrow I headed straight over to a Boots store and bought a ham sandwich. It really is amazing what you miss when living abroad. A decent ham sandwich is one of them. There’s got to be a whole blogpost to come on how long it takes to make a ham sandwich in Bangalore. Something so simple in the UK is so difficult in Bangalore and demonstrates the daily challenges of life. Anyway, I digress, the sandwich was yummy.

The Weather

My arrival in Manchester was greeted with a fabulous hail storm. It was so thoroughly refreshing and even better that I was able to view it from the airport walkway and not get caught in it! Over the course of the week in the UK there was sun, rain, sleet, snow and hail – literally all the seasons in one week. It was blessed relief from the searing Bangalore temperatures and typically British. It was wonderful. I miss it. I miss the seasons too. 

Southport 

My sister met me at Southport train station with a very refreshing Pimms and lemonade in a glass. Cheers! We headed to the chippy (fish and chip shop) around the corner from her house. Fish, chips and mushy peas have never tasted so good. Yes I know it’s a stereotype but hey I miss fish and chips more than I ever thought I would. 

My twin joined us the following day and the sisters headed out for a celebratory meal at The Sparrowhawk. This used to be called the TreeTops Hotel and it was were Mandy and me celebrated our 40th birthdays several years ago. It was only fitting that we should celebrate our ‘little’ sister’s 40th birthday too. The pub has been transformed from the slightly tired hotel to a modern welcoming pub with fabulous food. As the Liverpool Echo reported:

The Sparrowhawk is a pub. A proper pub. You can sit at the bar with your paper, sup from any of their six real ales, toast yourself in front of a fire and feel quite at home.

But you won’t want to.

After 10 minutes of watching plate after plate of beautifully presented, delicious looking dishes of hearty food paraded past your eyes, you’ll want to eat, too.

We toasted with a bottle of Prosecco and peruse the menu trying to decide which of the delicious dishes we wanted to order. Alison went for the meat platter. It was enormous. A take home box was necessary. We had a fabulous evening catching up as only sisters can.

The next evening was celebratory meal at Jade Gardens, the local Chinese restaurant. We joined Alison and her friends over a set menu meal which had plenty of choice. It was lovely. Alison was spoilt with presents and balloons and a birthday rendition with a gong!

The following day was Alison’s actual 40th birthday and the morning started with presents and of course birthday cake for breakfast. The cake was Victoria sponge at the bottom and a dairy free lemon cake on top. It was decorated in Southport Rugby Club colours (where Alison volunteers). It was made by the lovely Gaynor at the Liverpool Cake Company (see Liverpoolcakecompany.com). It was delicious.

At lunchtime we headed off to The Hungry Monk restaurant in Cambridge Arcade, Southport. Once again the food choice was extensive and everything we ordered was delicious. After lunch it was time for me to head off to Derby and as I waved goodbye to Alison, Jamie and Mandy at the station I wondered how long it would be before I saw them again. 

Derby

A few train changes later (on surprisingly busy services) I arrived in Derby. Gosh it was cold. I huddled behind my cases on the bench outside the stain whilst I waited for Tom to collect me. It was only a few minutes before he turned up with a beaming smile. It is so lovely to see friends again. Tom and Sue had arranged for friends to come over for a fish and chip (and mushy peas) supper washed down with (quite a few bottles of ) Prosecco. Yummy. It was lovely just relaxing and catching up chatting with friends – something I really do miss in Bangalore. It was a wonderful welcome back to Derby.

The Wedding 

Saturday afternoon I arrived at Shottle Hall in Derbyshire for Amy and Becks’ wedding. I wouldn’t have missed this wedding for the world. Amy and Becks are truly two wonderful ladies and whom I have the privilege to know through Rolls Royce and Derby Hockey Clubs. It was delighted to be invited and more than happy to fly the 5048 miles to be there (it was a wedding quiz question!). 

Drinks were served on arrival and I signed the guest book and ‘wedding jenga’ brick whilst waiting and chatting with fellow hockey players. We formed a hockey stick archway for the brides to walk through after they were married. The wedding breakfast was held in a marquee attached to Shottle Hall. After playing a  rather great ice breaker of heads and tails, with questions about Becks and Amy, we took our seats for the dinner to be served. The main dish was bangers and mash; I was in heaven!  The speeches were heartfelt and emotional. The toasts were made with port in engraved shot glasses (for the guests to take away along with bottle openers). 

Then the party started. The band was the lead singer from the Drifters, Roy G Hemmings, and the music was awesome. It was also the band playing on the cruise ship when Amy proposed to Becks. After the band finished the disco started with songs played that every guest had submitted as their favourite tune to get them up on the dance floor. As a consequence the dance floor was full all night. It was a brilliant party. I didn’t actually dance all evening as I was too busy catching up with friends. At 10:30pm the jet lag and alcohol was catching up with me and I was starting to nod off. The fabulous Tom came to pick me up and take me back to Oakwood. I had a cuppa before retiring to bed. 

Sunday

Sunday was a lovely walk to church through Chaddesden Wood. Walking is something  I really miss doing in Bangalore – the heat and poor conditions make it virtually impossible. 

Bluebells in Chaddesden Wood

It was so good to go to church and spend some time, all be it brief, with the church family. Again something I really miss in Bangalore. 

After the service I walked over to Amy and Becks’ house for the ‘open house’ or ‘after party party’. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t a house full of people and a full buffet and drinks reception, which is exactly what greeted me when I turned up at 1pm. I was amazed. Not only had a wedding been held but another party catered for the following day. It was impressive. I had another lovely few hours catching up with people I hadn’t managed to chat to very much at the wedding. 

I stayed for a few hours and eventually said my goodbyes again and headed over to Eleri and Keiths’s for a cuppa and a catch up. They were in the garden erecting a new garden swing when I arrived and it was just starting to drizzle (very British weather). I stayed for an hour or so chatting – it was so relaxing.

Again I said my goodbyes and headed back to Sue and Tom’s for a delicious traditional chicken Sunday roast dinner. I was being spoiled. More Prosecco but I really couldn’t manage a red wine too and had to decline. Another friend joined us after dinner for a glass of Prosecco and we chatted whist watching Sunday evening TV (Country File).

Monday

Monday was a Bank Holiday in the UK so most people had a day off work. We headed over to Hollies, a farm shop cafe, for breakfast with friends. I don’t think I’ve ever had a reserved table for breakfast before but as there was so many of us it was necessary. I ordered a large full English Breakfast and it was delicious. We chatted for hours over breakfast and tea.

a traditional full English Breakfast

It was nearing lunchtime when we finally left and said our goodbyes. I headed over to Matt and Alex’s for a catch up and offer more encouragement to Alex who was standing as an Independent candidate in the local elections in a very safe Conservative seat. I then headed back to Tom and Sue’s and the lovely Donna came over for a cuppa and a chat. 

The Journey back to Bangalore

Again the time passed so quickly and it was time for me to head off for my train back to Manchester. I arrived at the hotel and quickly settled in for an early night ready for the long day ahead flying back to Bangalore. The flight back was pretty empty which made for a much more pleasant flight than the one out. As usual the traffic was chaotic at Bangalore airport at 5am and it took some time for our driver to navigate it to me. Zahra ran out to greet me when I arrived back – there is nothing better than a huge hug from your daughter to welcome you back. The week had passed quickly but I had missed my family.

Postscript – Food
After reviewing this blogpost I realise that food has featured highly. It is true that I do miss traditional UK fayre and the fact that I seem to constantly have Bangalore Belly whilst in India makes eating UK food even more enjoyable as I don’t have stomach upsets. I had only been back two days before Bangalore Belly struck again and incapacitated me. I did enjoy a whole week of lovely food and a settled stomach whilst in the UK. 

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