Things I will miss about England
1. The casual littering of historical things everywhere. This is a grave of a man who died in 1680, also marking the burial spot of his son who died in 1669.
It was placed outside what was then a church. Winchester, however, had lots of old churches (still does) and this particular one has long ceased serving as a church. Instead, the remains of the building now house the public toilets. So poor old Benjamin Clarke Esq, having had his tombstone laid outside the church, now lies outside the loos, with cigarette butts adorning his grave. It’s sad, in its way, but also staggering – there is simply so much history here that 17th century graves are unremarkable.
2. Exploring the food of Hampshire – we’ve been having some fun while we’ve been here.
With Autumn upon us, that has meant lots of game. We’ve cooked partridges (but no pear tree), wild duck and buffalo burgers.
British bacon is a beautiful thing – our favourite is non-smoked, dry cured, thin cut. Clotted cream is also fantastic. I went through a little clotted cream binge, before I read that the fat content is high enough to actually be classified as butter in the US.
We’ve also had some truly spectacular mushrooms from the farmer’s markets.
By far the best discovery though has been this:
Some call it smoked garlic butter, others call it magical food crack. Addictive and transformative, it makes the best scrambled eggs in existence. Served over some local dry aged steaks it’s not bad either.
3. Convenience Foods. I always wondered why Jamie Oliver railed against pre-made meals so much – surely people didn’t eat them that often? Then I got here and realised – oh, they’re actually good here. Not all of them, to be sure (and there are a staggering variety – and an entire supermarket chain devoted to selling frozen pre-made meals), but enough that it’s not a horrific concept.
I’m sure it’s a chicken and egg situation – people eat them because they’re good, they’re good because there’s a demand for them – and I certainly wouldn’t want them too often. That said, especially while away from my pantry, it’s nice to be able to pick up something tasty and easy without having to buy yet another thing we’ll have to leave behind half-finished (last count: paprika, fennel seeds, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, olive oil, cider vinegar, sesame oil, chipotle sauce and coconut oil.) . For our last night we’re having a very good Butter Chicken with tumeric rice. It’s fresh, and tasty, and very very very easy.
4. Watching Dr Who and Downton Abbey as they air live in England. It just seems right somehow.
The rest of British TV is not quite so enjoyable – it seems to consist entirely of shows about stately homes and/or gardens, the X Factor, and repeats of Top Gear and Don’t Tell the Bride.
5. A White (or at least winter) Christmas.
It’s clear Winchester is gearing up for Christmas – the lights are going up in the streets, and the air is getting colder. There is an ice-skating rink being built behind the Cathedral, and winter markets going up. This is a city that will wear festive cheer well, and I’m sorry we’re going to miss it.
Things I am looking forward to about going home.
This has been a fantastic trip, and it’s bitter-sweet to know it’s ending. We looked forward to this for so long, planned it, discussed it and dreamt about it. We know full well it will be a long time, if ever, we get a chance to travel this far and this long as a family again.
But, we are ready to go home. I am ready for our house, our dog, our chickens, our garden. I’m ready for blue skies, and gum trees, and summer sun. I’m ready for Toby to go back to school (oh boy am I ready for that), and for our normal lives to return. It’s a good thing we’re not flying Qantas home, because I think I’d dissolve at the first strains of I Still Call Australia Home.
Before then, though, we have two nights on planes (strictly economy class this time) and three nights in Singapore. A final little jaunt to round out this amazing experience.