Monday, 3 August 2009

Family matters - a day at the seaside and a drive in the country

I have a far-flung, fragmented family. The five members of my immediate family – parents and siblings - live in two countries and three states. To catch up with any other rellies you need to travel halfway across the world.

Yesterday was the day. My dad's little sister and her family are holidaying in Southwold, on the Suffolk coast, so Thelma and I hopped into the hired Passat and zoomed off to see them. Well, not zoomed, exactly. Not terribly sure about British speed limits and so on, it was more of a scenic crawl. And we got lost in the tiny town of Bungay (thanks a lot, Google Maps!) and had to ask for directions. Ooops! There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that I get lost on purpose, simply to have an excuse to chat to total strangers, by the way.

What a fabulously noisy and warm welcome we had when we finally found Southwold. It's funny, you know – despite barely knowing my cousins – the last time I saw Tamsin, for example, she was about 10 years old, and she now has two little boys of her own – we were slotted into the family and made a part of their rowdy Sunday lunch.
Thelma wants to adopt my auntie, who drinks wine from a pint glass (yes of course it's watered down!) and who won't let my uncle have a motorbike until she can have a pink car with eyelashes on the headlights..

Little Charis, who's 5, drew me a picture of her teddy and wrote me a lovely letter, and gave Thelma a guided tour of the house, complete with non-stop commentary. And we all took a walk to the beach and to Southwold Pier after lunch. There's an hilarious waterclock on the pier which has to be seen to be believed, and the beach huts are so picturesque. Oh, and this - a cocker spaniel in sunglasses (the Brits are very dog-friendly). What's the line about mad dogs and Englishmen and the midday sun?
The Hat of the Day - perfect for a drive in the countryside - was G Garb 7 –
- and you'll be glad to know that we didn't get lost on the return trip. We saw a live squirrel, a squashed hedgehog, a very cliched chicken trying to cross the road for reasons known only to itself, and more bunnies than I've ever seen in my life, hopping by the roadside and in the fields. We motored through picturesque English villages with thatched-roof cottages that looked like gingerbread (and which, according to my uncle, house all kinds of witches), and I developed a deep and abiding love for hollyhocks. I wonder if they'll grow in Canberra?

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