Trip to the UK: March 13 – April 3 (Part 3 – Highworth/Swindon)

August 5, 2012

Finally I get to the last section.  John’s parents rented a mini van and were kind enough to drive us up to Highworth (a small town just outside of Swindon, Wiltshire where my parents live) on Thursday 22 March.  We more than appreciated that they did this as it was a long day for them driving us up and then staying for lunch before driving home to Worthing again.  After Ann and Bill had left we took a gentle walk into Highworth (only 5 minutes from my parents) and then finished the trip by coming back past the park so that Kirsten could let off some steam.  Kirsten also found the trampoline in Nanny and Grampy’s garden that belongs to her older cousin, Chloe, and had many hours of fun on that during our stay.  Nora and Steve came over a little later once Steve had got home from work, with their son, my nephew, Simson.  This was our first time of getting to meet him and he was 13.5 months old.  Kirsten and Simson hit it off straight away.

I have to admit I don’t really remember what we did on Friday 23.  Saturday though we met up with Nora and family and their friend, Ben, who was also visiting and we drove off to a local farm, Roves Farm.  It was beautiful weather and we all had a wonderful time seeing the animals and walking the nature trail.  Nora helped Kirsten complete the nature trail leaflet (there were stamps all along the trail) which meant Kirsten got to hand it in and get a lollipop.  We drove back via Asda/Walmart and picked up dinner for everyone as my Mother had been at Cirencester Farmers’ Market that morning.  She has had a stall with a number of women selling home made foods and preserves for about the last 10-15 years and so has a very early start and is exhausted at the end of the day. Kirsten was exhausted too when we got “home” and fell asleep on the sofa in the living room, which for those of you who know us, also know that this never happens.

Sunday morning the three of us met up with Steve and Ben at the car park for the Uffington White Horse.  Again, another glorious day.  We were so lucky with the weather on this trip that we made the most of every last minute of it.  The Uffington White Horse is only about a 20 minute drive from my parents house and that was with me trying to remember the way in my head through the country lanes after not having been in over 10 years.  After a walk around the hillside for a couple of hours we decided to head across to Lechlade, the source of the River Thames.  Steve and Ben were going to come too, but after a chat with Nora they headed home to help out with Simson for a litle while.  Lechlade turned out to be extremely popular that afternoon due to the weather, but we managed to find a parking spot and had our walk along the Thames. When we got back to my parents in Highworth we found my father working with his bees.  Yes, he’s a Beekeeper and has been for over 20 years.  He also trains people that want to become beekeepers.  My Grandmother arrived a few minutes after us.  She has also lived in Highworth for about 20 years and typically joins my parents for dinner at least one day at the weekend.  It is slow, but she walks from her house to my parents although typically someone will drive her home again. She is in her 90s!  Nora, Steve, Simson and Ben then arrived to have dinner at my parents too.  My Mum loves to have a full house.  She’s used to a family of 6 but any excuse for a gathering and we’re all there.

Monday we drove across to Bicester to go to the Outlets.  We try and get here every visit and we noticed there had been a big change since our last visit.  There had been an expansion and they really, truly now are Designer outlets.  Kirsten passed out in the car back to my parents which is just as well as by the time we got back, my niece Chloe, she was 12 at the time, had arrived after school and my Aunt and Uncle, Kate and Stephen, who actually live in Chicago, were visiting the UK and spending the night with my Grandmother came over to my parents to say hello too.  My cousin, Rose, their daughter, was then staying on for a couple of months.  Rose had actually visited us in Phoenix for a night a couple of years ago when Kirsten was only a few years old.

Tuesday morning, Nora had invited us over to keep her and Simson company at their house in Wroughton.  It was a relaxing time and Kirsten got to spend some quality time with her cousin.  They even did some art work together that I brought home and had framed.  It is now hanging on her bedroom wall as a reminder of a lovely morning.  We left when Simson needed to go down for his nap after lunch.  Kirsten spent the afternoon trying to master the balance beam in the back garden at my parents house.  That evening John and I went out to curry with some of my friends to celebrate my birthday.  The Indian Restaurant was in Wanborough.  The restaurant was called The Burj and although I was out of practice in understanding the accents of the waiters they gave me a souvenir mug to take home as a birthday gift.  The food was delicious and the company of my friends was equally as good.  My friend, Kerry, organises an Indian meal out every time we return to visit England and both John and I appreciate this very much.

Wednesday was our last day before family and friends were due to start arriving from Norway.  Again, the weather was beautiful so we decided to take a day trip up to Cadbury World.  Definitely worth at least one visit in your lifetime especially if you have a sweet tooth and love your chocolate.  I enjoy chocolate, but Kirsten and John have extreme sweet teeth.  We didn’t book our tickets in advance but purchased them on the day.  Thankfully we arrived early in the day as there were a lot of school trips.  Word to the wise, if you are not going to arrive soon after opening make sure you have booked your tickets in advance.  On entering the exhibit you are each provided with a couple of full size bars of chocolate.  Trying to explain to Kirsten she could not eat these all at once was not easy and by the end of our visit although she’d not eaten everything she’d had more than enough chocolate.  On our return to Highworth/Swindon area we decided to make a surprise visit to the older of my two brothers, Magnus, and his partner, Kim and their children.  They were just getting home from shopping so that was perfect.  We spent a couple of hours with them before heading back to my parents house.

Thursday my friend Irene was flying in from Norway to visit for my birthday weekend.  Irene and I met when I was at Seljord Folkehogskole from 1990-1991.  We have managed to see each other a couple of times since this time.  A visit for a 5 year reunion; then Irene met myself and John in Denmark in late 2006 when I was pregnant and travelling with John on a business trip; then most recently when Kirsten and I went to Norway for the long weekend end of 2010 we took the bus to Larvik, where Irene lives, and stayed overnight with her and her family.  I was thrilled that Irene had agreed to come over to England to help celebrate my birthday.  John, Kirsten and I drove to Heathrow to collect Irene as she was staying with us at my parents house.  My Aunt, Anne, well she’s really my Mum’s best friend from childhood and is classed as “Aunt” was also flying into Heathrow today, but not till later.  She was bringing her daughter, Margrethe, with her.  Margrethe is my Mother’s Goddaughter.  They were staying at a local bed and breakfast during their stay.  Anne and Margrethe fly to England for every special event that they get invited to.  It was a leisurely late afternoon and evening.

Friday.  Well it’s my 40th birthday and we had decided to go and visit the sites starting out at Stonehenge and finishing at Avebury to see the Stone Circles.  It was a little overcast, but what a fantastic memory for my big day.  Thank you to everyone.  We were at Avebury Stone Circles and bumped into John’s parents.  They were coming to my party tomorrow, Saturday, but hadn’t known previously if they were going to come down the night before or not.  I insisted that they come over to my parents house later that day for Fish and Chip supper.  Anne and Margrethe also joined us for dinner.  I think the total was in the region of 12 or 13 and then my Aunt and Uncle and daughter, Clare, Thom and Victoria arrived a little later.  They had driven down from Edinburgh and were going to stay with my Grandmother.  Of course, we can’t forget that my cousin Rose, from Chicago, was also staying with my Grandmother so Victoria actually stayed at one of the local Bed and Breakfasts.  It was a lovely evening.

Saturday morning arrived and everyone was getting excited.  Today was my official birthday party and was being held at a Twelve Oaks Golf Club in Highworth. Over 40 members of friends and family came along.  My Dad went round and gave everyone labels so that people could tell how I met them.  I had friends from secondary school, friends from Norway, family, nieces and nephews.  It was wonderful that so many people wanted to help me celebrate.  Apologies to anyone that I forgot to mention.  Dinner was amazing and the room was large and spacious allowing us all room to move around and chat.  For those who could, we then went back to my parents house for tea and cake (very British I know for my American friends).  I can’t say it enough, but I had a wonderful day.

Sunday morning saw us going to the local craft shops.  Irene, like myself is also a craft enthusiast but, if I do say so myself, so much better.  She had asked to go to a local craft store.  My sister recommended Hobbycraft.  I’d never been as this was a new shop since we’d left England but would highly recommend.  Irene was in heaven.  The cost of craft supplies in Norway are extremely high so she made sure she stocked up. We had to say goodbye later that afternoon to Irene, Anne, Margrethe, my youngest brother, Conrad and his wife Marie-Clare.  Conrad and MC were driving home to Worthing and the others were all flying back to Norway on the same flight believe it or not.  My Dad drove them back to Heathrow this time.

Monday, our last day.  I had to work out the packing of everything.  Thankfully we had thought ahead and already prepaid an extra suitcase.  Definitely worth while and far cheaper.  It actually worked out cheaper than sending a package over.  There was a lot of weighing on the scales to distribute the weight back evenly.  We also drove across to see my Grandmother at her house and spend some time before saying goodbye plus took a last trip to the shops.  What a vacation.  We made the most of the beautiful weather.  In the 11 years (well almost) that we have been in Phoenix and traveled back for visits this was the best weather so far and we made the best of it.

Can you believe we flew home on Tuesday and John and I were back at work Wednesday morning and Kirsten was back in school too.  Yes, we were exhausted but it helped to get our body clocks back in sync that little bit faster.

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Finally Trip to England Part 2 (December 15 – Christmas Morning)

February 14, 2011

Hip hurray I’m finally sitting down and writing part 2.  John arrived in England on Wednesday 15 and I think it was the next day that everything ground to a halt because of the excessive snow.    We didn’t do as much out and about as we had thought we might as we just couldn’t get anywhere but it did mean we got to spend far more time with friends and family locally.  The last Saturday before Christmas, December 18, we went to the Designer Outlet Village in Swindon.  This should have been the busiest shopping day of the year and we arrived at about 4pm.  Within 30 minutes of us arriving they announced that due to the weather conditions they were closing at 5pm (3 hours early).  It didn’t really affect the customers are there just weren’t any!!!    On the Sunday morning we took a short walk from my parents house to Highworth Public Golf Course.    Although John and I have been together 10 years and it is a 2 minute walk from my parents’ house I had never taken John there before.  The scenery in the snow was spectacular.  It looked as though we were miles from anyone and anywhere which of course was not the case.  Kirsten was not happy having to walk with all the extra clothing on and because she was cold.  This was the case during much of our visit.  After 5 weeks I would say she was just about used to it.  At least now back in AZ where we have had some unusually low temperatures she has not fought with me over having to wear more clothing than normal.

Back to our visit.  The remainder of our stay in Highworth continued much as the first half with catching up with friends and spending a vast amount of time with my sister who had finished work and was on maternity leave.  Christmas Eve morning we all headed across to the small Cotswold town of Burford.  When I first met John this was where he lived and we lived there together for almost a year before moving out to Arizona.    Burford High Street is on a hill and we, or rather I, decided to park in the public car park at the bottom of the hill.  This was covered in snow and ice, and yes, when it came time to leave, we needed a little push in order to get out.  We were rather surprised that no effort had been made by the town to keep the car park or the road to it clear.  What we also found quite funny was that there was a sign in the car park asking patrons to park in marked bays only…what marked bays all we could see was snow.  Kirsten and Nora in front of Burford Church  For those of you who have never been to the Cotswolds go.  Burford is one of many small beautiful towns and is only a 20 minute drive from my parents, not that most of you would be visiting them.

I was extremely worried about my sister as we walked around Burford so was constantly holding onto her.  She was 7.5 months pregnant and I most certainly didn’t need her falling!!  Kirsten was happy though to have Aunty Nora along.

Served with cinnamon and lingonberry juice

  We went back to my parents in Highworth for lunch where we continued with one of many traditions I was raised with.  My mother is Norwegian so we typically have rice porridge.  My mother hides an almond in the main dish and whoever discovers the almond in their bowl of porridge wins a marzipan pig.  We eat our porridge with cinnamon and lingonberry juice on it.  Many others eat it with sugar and butter.  It is down to preference but it is a warm and filling dish.  My Mum had actually forgotten to buy a marzipan pig this year on our trip to Norway so my Dad found the almond and was given a selection box of chocolates which were shared around everyone at the dinner table.  All the girls (3 generations of Gregory women)

We had a relatively relaxing afternoon of my parents, my grandmother, Kirsten, my niece Chloe, John and myself,  and not forgetting my sister, Nora.  At about 4pm the girls (minus my grandmother) headed off to the nativity service at Highworth Church.  I have to admit we’re not church goers but growing up Christmas and Easter we always went.  The bonus was that when we got to the church they asked Chloe and Kirsten if they wanted to borrow Angel costumes so that they could participate in the nativity story.    Both of them were thrilled.  Highworth Church was beautiful with the snow and winter lights.  It definitely felt more like Christmas than if we had been here at home in Arizona, and I loved having the opportunity to spend it with my family.