Saturday, 30 July 2016

Family reunion

Hannah grew bored of nights out in DC, massages and pedicures, and having a king-sized bed to herself.  Having successfully made sure that Hilary got the Democratic nomination she jumped on a 747.  She was overjoyed to see us and the Dairy Milk bars we've been purchasing for her as we travel around.

"Is the holiday over now?" Pete asked.

"Of course not, it's only just beginning," I told him, pouring myself a G&T.  "Now go and play with your mother..."

Yay - Mummy's here!

English idyll.

It must be the summer.

Friday, 29 July 2016

It's a long journey to get back to where you started

For some strange reason there's no motorway from Haverfordwest to Manchester so Pete and I made our way up through mid-Wales on country roads.  I did pull off some astounding overtaking in our rented Nissan Juke and it wasn't too long before we were at Aunty Rachel's and enjoying the drizzle that falls over this part of the country all summer long.

We could only enjoy one night of hospitality and one day around the coffee shops, canals and museums of the city before we were off again to Durham.  Ah, Durham, where the long story of Pete's arrival on this earth began.  It would have been a shorter story had Hannah required less convincing to marry me but I think she was disconcerted by how young and reckless I was then.  I've improved with age, like a fine wine or a Camembert.

Mat was our host here and had arranged a night out at the Traveller's Rest pub for everyone.  He was also gracious enough to be on the kiddie table while I enjoyed a cloudy cider and catch up with the North East crew over pie and chips.  The best of British.

It was another too-short stay before we were speeding south and west again, on roads amusingly referred to as "motorways".  After eight hours of service stations and stationaryness I wondered why I ever complained about the DC Beltway.  But we arrived back in Frome no worse for wear, simply annoyed that Hannah is going to cross the Atlantic quicker than we crossed the British Isles.

Early morning on the farm.  Well, they're milking by 5am, so early is relative.

Out of Wales and into Manchester, where I handed on the baby to Aunty Rachel.  Having lots of relatives is extremely useful.

A summer perambulation around Levenshulme.

What's that?  Aunty Rachel's cooking is as good as Mummy's?  Shhh!

Entertaining the Manchester public with a bit of The Star Spangled Banner.

On arrival in Durham, Mat offered Pete fish finger sandwiches in front of the telly!  It's like heaven.

In front of the theology department, where Hannah was first attracted to my intellect and eloquence.

Pete helps finish off Mat's latest book.

Durham Cathedral!  Not the real one but a Lego version that we contributed to many years ago.

In the undercroft cafe with Juliet and Andrew.

We took ourselves on a quick tour around the labyrinthine corridors of St John's College, where Hannah was first attracted to my wit and athleticism.  This is my old room.  The memories!

The famous stairway that ends in a wall - a metaphor for studying theology at John's College.

Lunch at Gregg's: a cheese pasty and a sausage roll.  Nothing better.

We spent the afternoon at Hall Hill Farm, up on the Durham hills, where Pete put his Welsh-learned dairy skills to the test.

Feeding the locals.

At the rock face.

Tractor ride.

A wallaby!  What's a wallaby doing in a freezing field in County Durham?  The wallaby was wondering the same thing.

A real tractor ride.

Another meal, another kids' table.

At the end of a long drive, Grandma's there (and she lets you watch all the TV you want).

Monday, 25 July 2016


Thankfully Hannah made me a nice spreadsheet so I can check where I am, which has come in useful in a first 72 hours that's included...well, lots.  The man at the car rental place took down the mileage before we left but I told him not to bother - I don't want to give him a heart attack when we return.

Anyway, the spreadsheet tells me we're in Wales now, which seems about right as I look out over the lush fields and valleys and notice how much better at football everyone is.  We got here via a Goddaughter in Somerset, in-laws in Dorset, church in Frome followed by lunch in Herefordshire, and then a trip back to Carmarthen and some ten pin bowling.  Manchester tomorrow.

My sister caught a ride with us, sponging off her elder brother at usual, but has been very useful as Pete prefers Aunty Emily at bath/bedtime.  To be honest, he's met so many people already that he's just assuming we're related to everyone in Britain and therefore (like Grandma) they'll do anything he asks.  Mostly it's true, although he met his match trying to keep up with his three older cousins here in Haverfordwest.  Running around like mad, shooting guns at imaginary monsters, seems to be an excellent remedy for jet-lag.  If I don't get a decent sleep tonight I'm going to try it myself.

Goddaughter Charity, beginning to pay back the 10,000+ hours she owes me in babysitting.

As a Godfather I advocate a healthy and varied diet.

Granny entertains with bubbles.

Lunch at the Huckles.  What's one more added to this crowd?

Expending some energy.

Me and Miles (father of most of the children above).  The years have been kinder to one of us than the other.

Two of the highlights of Wales: Aunty Liz and Russ.

Pete and Godson Freddie, leading each other astray.

How old to be legally employed on a farm?

Back to Carmarthen for lunch.


And more play.

We met my cousin Vicky and her kids at the Carmarthen bowling alley for a family competition.  Vic won the first game, Pete the second.  Honour was maintained.

An American pastime in Wales.


Cousins sitting on cousins.

Rev Neil Evans, who wed me and Hannah a few short years ago.  Then he converted to Roman Catholicism, which I think means our marriage is now voided.  I'll have to check that.

Three minutes after leaving the bowling.

Back at the farm, Pete convinces Great-Uncle Bill to watch Peppa Pig.  Shouldn't a farmer want to learn about animals?

Saturday, 23 July 2016


It's been a while since I returned to the bosom of the mother country.  Maybe I'm just getting more comfortable in the USA, especially now that nice Mr Trump is going to make it great again (Britain, as everyone knows, has always been Great.)

Talking of which, Hannah has had to stay behind for the moment as she's supporting Chevron's sponsorship of both Republican and Democratic conventions.  There's nothing like hedging your bets!  So Pete and I headed to the airport with our bags full of exotic gifts, such as Key Lime Oreos.

All our past flights back have been from the West Coast with the ten-plus hours that location requires, so I wondered how the short trans-Atlantic hop would be different.  The captain announced that, as it was an overnight flight, he wouldn't disturb us with announcements, but then we had to wait 40 minutes before the gin and tonics were served - outrageous!  A further 40 minutes passed before food arrived (chicken or pasta) and by the time they turned out the lights there was a three hour window before they came back on again.  The joy of travel.

Pete demonstrated an amazing ability not to sleep, which Hannah blames my side of the family for, but apart from an obsession with the more mechanical aspects of flight like the tray table and moveable arm rest he was an exemplary travel companion.  Peppa Pig was on the in-flight entertainment system, so that helped.

For the first time ever we were met at the airport, by wonderful Ellen and Meg who drove us back to their house for multiple coffees and brioche.  I slipped Meg a few quid and she entertained Pete like a pro until Grandma and Aunty Emily arrived and we had lunch at The Cricketers pub (of course) and a trip through a very green and pleasant land to Frome.  Finally sleep happened in the car before much playing in Grandpa's new shed.

Today the grand tour begins!  I'm picking up a rental car in Trowbridge, which should be amusing when I try to use a US driving licence and credit card out here in the rural West Country.  "Are you local?" I expect to be asked, before being chased out of Wiltshire with torches and pitchforks.  As long as I remember which side of the road I'm meant to drive on as I make my getaway...

Apple juice, Peppa...all set.

And Daddy too.

Welcome to London.  The weather's just as you left it.

Pete with favourite British lady #1.

Pete with favourite British lady #2.

Pete with favourite British lady #3 (and her new car).

Grandpa puts him straight to work on the potatoes.