Tag Archives: England

Weymouth, 2011

When I arrived in Weymouth, the Canadian side of the family had already been there for a few days. We all ate at a local pub for dinner and it was good to see my aunt, uncle and cousins Kate and  Glen, even though the circumstances weren’t the best.

Our grandmother’s funeral was scheduled for later that week and in the meantime we were to sort through what remained of her belongings. She had given away most of her valuables while she was alive, but there was still a lot of household items to go through.

We all took something that held special memories for us, be it furniture to be relocated to Kate’s new house, the swallows over the top of the fireplace for my dad or grandma’s fountain pen for me. It was the one she used to write all our letters and birthday cards to send across the seas and I hoped to continue the tradition with it.

Going through her writing desk, we discovered that she had kept every photo, card or letter that we had given her- even a record of my travellers cheques, long since cashed- that I had handwritten for her before my trip to Europe. It was nice to keep a few photos of us as kids home and a I also claimed a tiny book of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

When we needed a break from our sorting and trips to Vinnies in Dorchester, we went on country rambles together to Hardy’s monument, the wishing well and Upwey manor. Past the thatched rooved cottages, the church where our grandfather was buried, through green fields filled with thistles; picking blackberries along the way. We found a random bakery in the middle of the countryside which had the best pasties.

It was nice to spend this time together and gather memories in the area for the last time. Grandma’s house was to be sold, so it was sad to think that someone else would be living in the stone bungalow in which we’d all had so many good times and that we wouldn’t have the same pull to return to Weymouth.

We went into town for a walk along the seafront to the harbour. The blue and white striped deck chairs were already set out for summer, though the weather was cold, and the sand sculpture competition was in full swing. The town was the same as I remembered it, but seemed smaller and not as busy.

In the evenings we reminisced and cooked all our favourite foods that grandma used to make, like treacle tarts, fish and chips and rice pudding.

The day of the funeral was a strange feeling. We were all picked up in two black cars and driven to the funeral parlour where we greeted many family members and old friends.

The wake was held back at grandma’s house where I had the job of cooking all the pastries in the oven. It was a good distraction. The Swindon and Cirencester branches of the family were a positive influence and it was lovely to see Alan and Viv again.

As the week drew to a close, it was time to take our last snap shots in our heads and on our iPhones, then bid each other farewell in the hopes of keeping grandma’s memory alive by seeing each other again soon to reminisce some more.

Related posts: London, 2011, Small town vs Big city, It’s an English Thing, England, 2006, England, 2002, England, 1997

London, 2011

In September of 2011, I received word that my grandmother has passed away in England. She was the last of my grandparents left, and even though you are not meant to have favourites, she was mine.

My mother and I flew to London to meet my father in Weymouth. My bestie was living in London at the time, so I decided a detour was in order before the funeral.

My bestie was living in the suburb of Forest Hill in a lovely large house with a cute English garden and patio. Her partner was working on the London Olympics hence the temporary move from Australia.

We went shopping on Oxford St where I very much enjoying being back in familiar London with the beautiful old buildings, red double decker buses, telephone booths and John Lewis.

A visit to Harrods was a delight. The detailed ceilings in the jewellery and food halls and that made it seem more like a museum than a shop. Then there was the life sized beefeater and policeman teddy bears and the London themed Christmas decorations section. We found Paddington Bear, an indoor merry-go-round filled with stuffed animals and shared a glorious ice cream sundae.

The next day we had tickets to The Lion King in the West End, but we decided to explore the surrounding area first. I spotted St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Whitehall Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from a bridge.

We went to Covent Garden for some Christmas shopping. I also picked up some England only products for myself, saw the biggest paella I have ever seen and spotted one of the many White Lion pubs in England. The show was in the beautiful old Lyceum Theatre and was very entertaining, especially the costumes.

Too soon it was time to bid farewell to my bestie and head to Waterloo to catch the train to Weymouth. A brief, but fun packed visit where I was glad to have been able to catch up with my bestie in her new home.

Related posts: England, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

It’s an English Thing

Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I always pause to answer.

I was born in Weymouth, England to an English father and a Sri Lankan mother. We lived in and out of England for the first few years of my life, I went to pre-school there, and then we moved to Australia where I grew up in Berry, NSW and was brought up as an Australian.

However, my father never really lost his accent (I still pronounce garage differently to everyone I know), I received a UK passport at birth and have spent a few trips, including a gap year, back in England.

My grandmother never left Weymouth and I always loved going back to visit her. The green rolling hillsides, the little wishing well behind her house and the thatched rooved cottages. The typical English seafront, the rocky beach and the harbour filled with fishing boats. The gorgeous Dorset countryside of quirky towns, white cliffs plunging into the blue Channel and walks through fields picking blackberries along the way.

I also love the city of London. Red telephone boxes, double decker buses, Big Ben, the tube and my favourite Tower of London. I love the parks, the palaces, the plays and the feeling of being at the centre of the world when you walk down Oxford St. I like mixing with the hip crowd at Covent Garden, standing on the edge of Greenwich Mean Time and imagining what it would be like to live inside the houses of Notting Hill. I enjoy seeing the gold encrusted Buckingham Palace gates, Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and the bustling Piccadilly Circus. It’s also fun meeting all your Australian mates in a London pub as they are living there temporarily too.

So of course, I am Australia, but I also identify with all things English.

I was brought up on Sooty and Sweep, Noddy and Blue Peter on the TV, Punch and Judy shows at the sands and reading Beatrix Potter and Rupert at bedtime. I enjoyed eating treats from grandma like Hula Hoops, Hob Nobs and Quality Streets.

It’s always fun to go shopping at Boots, Marks and Spencers, H&M and window shopping at Harrods. I love drinking at one of the many great traditional English pubs with the same names in different places like The Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms; and running to get into a nightclub before lock out. I have seen people being out on the pull for a snog, have worn a thong on my bottom instead of my feet and flitted off to Europe for a long weekend to escape the long dark winters.

The English culture is not so different to ours which makes it easy to relate to and it’s those little details that help strike up a conversation with a visiting Brit come to Australia to escape the bad weather for a time.

So, I guess I’m not English, as you are from where you grow up. But it is nice to know that I have the experience and knowledge to morph into an English person if needs be.

Related posts: It’s a Spanish Thing,  Toys, People vs Place, England, 2006England, 1997

England, 2006

My first overseas trip with my husband-to-be (HTB) was to Weymouth to introduce him to my grandmother. My dad was also visiting at the time, so we caught up with friends old and newer. Alan and Viv cooked us the best roast I’ve ever had. One of Sarah’s brother’s friends had his 30th birthday at a local pub so we went along to share a few beverages with my old drinking crew.

I showed my HTB, Perry’s where I had worked the summer on Weymouth harbour and the sea front where I had spent my time off on the beach. We saw a very cool live band in a local pub as he loves live music.

We took my HTB on the usual tour of Tyneham Village, Corfe Castle, the Man of War at Lulworth Cove and Stonehenge. We also went to a few pubs including the Red Lion in Weymouth, The Cove House Inn at Portland and the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers for the warmest cider on the planet.

For a healthier alternative, we climbed up to Hardy’s Monument and visited the town of Cerne Abbas with its ancient monastery and large Abbey Farm House. We went to Cirencester to visit family, Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury to see Arlington Row.

It was nice to show my HTB where I had come from and the places that were so much a part of my childhood and trips away.

My HTB had been to London before, but at a time when he had done more drinking than sight-seeing. So I dragged him around on a whirlwind tour of my favourite iconic sights- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St James Park, the River Thames, Oxford St and Covent Garden.

This time I got to go on the London Eye and we had a rare clear day affording great views of the city, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the new to me Millennium Bridge. I also got to see the awesome media centre at Lords Cricket Ground and sit in the captain’s chair on the HMS Belfast – two things I never would have done in London before meeting my HTB.

Between us, we had lots of family and friends living and working in London- both local and Australian. So, rather than spending days driving all around the city visiting people, we organised a night to meet everyone at once at The Horniman at Hays which had a view of the Tower Bridge and most importantly- lots of beer for more drinking.

Related posts: Europe, 2003England, 2002, England, 1997,England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988 

Europe, 2003

Leaving my parents in England visiting family; I went to Barcelona to party with local friends Ernest and Jordi. Ernest and Jordi were students of Leigh (who I had stayed with last time I was in Barcelona). They had recently travelled to Australia and were now back in Barcelona at university.

This time, I stayed at Ernest’s house with his parents and sister. His mother, Lidia, took me to a modern flamenco show one night. It was very different to what I had previously seen of the traditional dance in Seville, kind of like the difference between modern dance and traditional ballet.

Ernest and Jordi took me to Parc de la Citadella which seemed to be a bit of a student hang- out. There were musicians, fountains and modern statues. We went to Zara and complained about how much the prices had gone up since the introduction of the Euro the previous year.

We went to Parc Guell for its famous view of Barcelona and I was in love at first sight with the place. I marvelled at the pillars, tunnels and ceiling detail underpinning the balcony and the brightly coloured gate houses. My favourite part was the lizard statue on the staircase.

As previously mentioned, the real life in Barcelona starts at night, and this trip was no exception. Most nights we partied too hard, got up too late the next day and missed the entry times for Gaudi’s other masterpieces such as La Pedra and Casa Balto.

We walked La Rambla at night and went to the Mercat del Born. I witnessed the best fountain show I have seen- La Font Magica at Placa de Espanya. The coloured fountains were magnificent and perfectly timed to the music.

There were many new bars on the beach were you could sit on a deck chair with a cocktail and we danced the night away at Otto Zutz nightclub.

I flew back to London for more bar hopping with my friend Selina who was living there with her boyfriend at the time and to travel to Weymouth to visit my grandmother.

Fog in London delayed my flight back to Australia in Paris for 2 days. I was put up in an airport hotel and eventually flown to Melbourne instead of Sydney, but there are worst places you can be stuck in than Paris, that’s for sure!

I went to Sacre Cour to marvel at the white washed building and a view of Paris that was new to me. I wandered through the Monmarte district taking in the artistic alleyways, Moulin Rouge and Monmarte Cemetery which was beautiful in its own way and full of cats.

Flying out of the ridiculously hard to navigate Charles De Gaulle airport on the way home, I hoped that I would never have to go through there again. The only way to get from one terminal to the next was by a bus that only traveled in one direction which almost made me miss my flight again!

This post was republished to the Social New England paper.li

Related posts: Vietnam, 2003, England, 2002, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling

England, 2002

I returned to Weymouth to stay at my grandparents house in the winter of 2002.

My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and was staying in a home not too far away so my uncle from Canada was also visiting as the same time.

My grandfather had deteriorated to the point of not really knowing who my grandmother was and it was a sad time for us all. When I visited him, he didn’t know who I was either, but he had one moment of clarity where it clicked and he started crying as he did not want me to see him like that.

My grandmother seemed to have partially accepted the inevitable as she had her engagement ring, which she hadn’t ever taken off, resized to fit my finger so that I could take it with me when I went home.

I was glad that I had lived with my grandparents during happier times and hoped that they wouldn’t suffer for too long.

Trying to make the most of the trip despite the circumstances, I went on a country walk to Upwey Manor behind my grandparents house and spent some time with my grandmother.

On New Year’s Eve, the whole town of Weymouth gets dressed up in fancy dress and goes out. So I dressed up as a fairy with my friend Sarah and her brother’s girlfriend Nadine and we hit all the old haunts with the old crew and some new friendly faces.

Sarah now lived in London in a flat with three friends. So I went to stay with her and hang out for a couple of days.

I visited my family in London and we went to the usual sights- Big Ben, Parliament Houses, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, Shaftesbury Avenue, The Strand and the London Wall.

The London Eye was a new attraction which meant the line-up was too long to go for a ride so we admired it from below instead.

I visited Kensington Palace and Holland Park with my friend Clare. She also took me to Kensington High St and the fashionable Notting Hill area near where she lived. I loved the tall houses with their communal gardens.

Related posts: England, 1997, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, Travel rememberings, I first started travelling

The Fashion Files

As I have previously stated, I am not much of a consumer. I don’t keep up with fashion and prefer to wear the styles and colours that suit me. I detest the societal pressure to look model thin and the requisite downsizing of sizes that goes with it.

That being said, I am so excited about the new H&M store that is opening in Sydney’s Macquarie Centre this Thursday. I haven’t been this excited since…well, since the first Australian store opened in Melbourne and I went to that one- currently the biggest H&M in the world as the young helpful sales assistant informed me. My favourite section is the comfy casual Logg clothing that I recently found in the Orchard Rd store in Singapore.

I first discovered H&M when I travelled to England to visit my grandparents. I just found that the pants fitted me better in European clothing brand shops. I was also taken to Zara on Oxford St, purchased a black ruffled skirt and a love affair with Spanish clothing brands commenced. Every overseas trip since then has included a trip to Zara and H&M in Europe, Asia and the Americas wherever possible.

After purchasing a t-shirt with an underwater fish scene in Las Vegas, I found the sub-brand Trafaluc and it is now my favourite section in a Zara store. When Zara opened in Sydney I was ecstatic, but this enthusiasm quickly turned to disappointment as I realised that in the tradition of many fashion outlets in Australia, we were at least one year behind all the European fashion.

The same could be said of the Sydney Mango shop, which went one step further and held leftover stock from Europe as far as I could tell as I found the exact same pair of black high heels that I had bought the previous year in Belgium. They used to have a great shop on the Gold Coast, but have now closed this along with all their other shops except for the flagship store in Melbourne and now distribute through David Jones.

On a recent trip to Barcelona, I saw the Desigual label. Very pretty and colourful, but a little too young and hip for me!

Now if I could just take a mental picture of my wardrobe so that I don’t end up buying the EXACT same top twice that would be great.

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England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Flying from Bombay, my parents and I landed in London, England. The main purpose of this part of the trip was to visit English friends and family and Sri Lankan relatives.

In London we went to Highgate cemetery with the impressive grave of Karl Marx; the Natural History Museum with its life-size dinosaurs and colourful butterfly exhibit; Kew Gardens to see the squirrels and make daisy chains and Madame Tussauds wax museum to see Ghandi and the Queen.

We drove three hours south to Weymouth, Dorset to visit my grandparents and my Canadian cousins who were also visiting at the same time. There were road trips to Sherbourne and Godmanstone with its white chalky hills and what was then the smallest pub in England- the Smith’s Arms. We went to Oxford, Bourton-on-the-water and Windsor Castle to see the queen’s dolls collection. We visited Gloucestershire, Swindon and Bibury where a relative had lived on Arlington Row. I remember seeing Stonehenge when you could still walk right up to it and touch the stones.

On the way back to Australia we went to Singapore. We stayed in the train station which was very humid and muggy as they had no air conditioning. I loved the Merlion statues and the variety of food that you could get in Chinatown.

We travelled to Penang in Malaysia which was full of temples and monkeys and went riding in rickshaws in Kota Bahru. We stayed in a hut on the beach in Merang, passed through Kuantanand caught the ferry from Mersing to Tekek village on Tioman island.

Tioman was largely undiscovered at the time. You could only get there by boat and we stayed in a Apex hut. There was a pet monkey tied to two trees outside our hut and I spent many hours playing with him on the hammock hung between the trees. The owner wanted me to take the monkey back with me to Australia, so we had to explain about our strict quarantine laws.

I went snorkelling and got spiked in the foot by a giant sea urchin. We walked to a waterfall in the middle of the island and over to Juaru on the other side where there was a long wharf. Dad and I jumped off the end and swam all the way back. I took a picture of the first beautiful sunset I remember with a sailing boat in the foreground.

A few years after we visited Tioman they built a huge resort in the middle of the island and an airport.

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Travel rememberings

My parents had been married and travelling for 10 years before they had me. They travelled to Afghanistan before there was a Lonely Planet guide for the country, went to the Black Forest in Germany when the Berlin Wall was still up and got my mother’s engagement ring in Turkey. Or was it that I was conceived in Turkey? Or maybe that was the second time they went back?

Either way, they travelled A LOT. So much so that even they have trouble remembering where they have been in what year, let alone wether I was there or not. This was also before the time of digital cameras with locality devices recording every time, date, place and memory.

Therefore, it can be hard to piece together where I have travelled before my own memory kicks in, but I will endeavour to give it a go. A lot of the stories are snippets of memories that have been retold to me over the years or photo’s that have been unearthed and referenced.

When I was three weeks old, my parents left me with my grandparents in England and travelled to Corsica. Apparently it was a pre-arranged trip- not child abandonment as it would be labelled today. Perhaps due to this trip, or maybe because of it, I was henceforth deemed old enough and dragged on every trip that came after.

There were trips to England where my father lived, Australia where my mother lived, Canada where my uncle lived and Sri Lanka where a lot of mum’s family lived. It was a time when maybe they were trying to decide where to live or maybe they were making the most of the flexibility they had until I started primary school at age five.

My parents remember me riding a red scooter down the driveway at my grandparents’ house in Weymouth.

My mum remembers that all I ate on the European combi van tour when I was six months old was Boots powdered baby food.

We went to Yugoslavia before it was renamed.

There are pictures of me holding natural cotton flowers on a hill in Scotland.

My dad remembers going on the Matterhorn roller coaster with me as a toddler in Disneyland.

There is a picture of me sitting on Chacmool at Chichen Itza with a nappy on.

There is a photo of me as a baby with my face full of chocolate in high chair in Maui.

The two places that I am sure we never went to are China and Japan as they have never held any interest for my parents.

Calling any friends or family who can fill in the blanks to please comment below!

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