Month: September 2015

Is there a skeleton on your back?

Have you returned to where you grew up? Noticed how much smaller the streets are, and narrowed with more cars? Did you feel nostalgic, longing for good times past, or relieved to have gotten the hell outta there, no matter how picturesque it looks at sunset? My experience was definitely the latter. My son ‘15’ and I were just in Dawlish, a quaint seaside town, full of aged tourists and desperate English families trying to find shelter for their beach picnic. I lived there aged 10-20, and haven’t looked back since I fled to Australia. We’ve come to visit my Mum, who now lives 100 metres from the house I grew up in. The beach still smells of fish, piled with pebbles and seaweed. The amusement arcade still flashes distraction that sucks all coins. Ducks still waddle, but now outnumbered by monstrous seagulls, closely followed by multiple grey gangs of pigeons. The many gift shops still lack style; the strings of coloured light bulbs along the brook running through the town centre flicker like lost …

Medieval Toy Town?

‘How long will it take us to get to Paddington?’ I asked my cousin ‘The G-Man’. To his answer of ‘An hour at most’, I added 45 minutes. Notorious is he for underestimating traffic, and I hate rushing when I’m travelling. Moving from place to place is stressful enough, never mind adding 2 x 18kg suitcases, recalcitrant teenager, precious small backpacks, AND a time deadline. Yes, we’re on the move. From the comfortable, 3 bedroom flat near Brixton where we’d first landed, laughing and talking with fav cousin G-man, down to his sister’s place in country Somerset (known as Toy Town in the family). Sister ‘C’ has 3 kids, and no TV; G-Man’s flat we’d christened ‘Wifi Heaven’. This is going to be interesting… First, a bus, two tubes, and [thankfully], several escalators. Then a fast train journey through autumn fields, speeding so much that the approach to every station seeps the smell of burning brakes. My son ‘15’ suddenly asks me to imagine a time when the countryside would have been full of horses, …

Travelling with a teenager: Then and Now

I last came overseas with my son when he was 12, three years ago. We went to the UK to reconnect with the cousins he hadn’t seen since he was 6, and his maternal grandmother, who used to live in France. We snuggled in the same guest beds, took tourist tours on open-top buses, and ate familiar foods from home, like fish and chips. We posed with wax loookalikes at Madame Tussaud’s, and got scared witless in the London Dungeon. We played cards, watched crap English TV, and bonded with relatives by telling silly Australian stories (I think they were just enjoying listening to our accents more than anything). Now he’s 15. Tall, growing his hair, hyper-aware of his daily outfits, and often attached to his smartphone (yup, just a regular teenager). Everything is different. He sets the agenda: I want to go to Chinatown. I want to go to Camden. I want to go second hand clothes shopping. I don’t want to go on a bus tour, I don’t want to do the wiping …