For the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to spend time with my extended family back in England.
We are a fairly ‘spread out bunch’, extending from Newcastle (Northumberland) in the North East to Taunton (Somerset) in the South West, with a big splodge in and around the Swindon (Wiltshire) and Newbury (Berkshire, pronounced BARKshire..) locales.
My amazing trip began with a visit to London’s Covent Garden to be enthralled by the cast of ‘42nd Street’ at the Drury Lane Theatre.
To be honest I was going to use this opportunity to recover from my 17 hour direct flight from Perth to Heathrow, (with thanks to the exceptional QANTAS crew who made the ‘Boeing Dreamliner’ flight an absolute dream, there and back), however the show was so exhilarating, there was absolutely no way I was going to ‘catch 40 winks’…OUTSTANDING!
Next up was an attendance with my soon to be Brother-In-Law, Jonathan, at the annual ‘Bedser Lunch’, a charitable fund raising event for the Surrey Cricket Foundation, with Sir John Major (former Prime Minister), Allan Lamb (English cricketing legend..albeit South African by birth) and Sunil Gavaskar (Indian cricketing guru) in attendance; as well as over 160 cricketing enthusiasts (aka tragics), in advance of the 5th England vs India Cricket Test at the Kennington Oval.
Day 1 of the ‘Test’ was attended by myself and a group of nattily attired mates, (photo above), including my original 'travel buddy' to Australia some 30 years earlier, 'Woody'.
Suffice to say Alistair Cook, (71 and 147 runs), shone in his last hurrah as a Test player, capping of a stellar International Test career! As a long-time fan of the ‘long form’ of this most unique of sports, I cannot do justice in words as to how privileged I felt to be present on this historic occasion!
The next phase was the ‘support act’ ahead of my middle sister, Emma’s, wedding, being Jonathan’s ‘Stag Do’! The location was the picture perfect City of Bath, beginning with lunch at a spectacular Tappas restaurant, followed by a 1st Division Rugby (Union) match, between Bath and Gloucester.
A brilliant game, see-sawing throughout, with both teams locked at 31 apiece as the final whistle sounded. Coincidently Gloucester kicked the ball into touch to end the game, right above our heads, being caught by one of our party, (Angus), smuggled out of the Ground (by Jonathan), then unknowingly for Jonathan, signed by all eighteen ‘Stag Do’ attendees, being presented to him during his Wedding Day reception!
Then it was down to ‘business’, with a 2 day shareholder visit of our 118 year old family business operations across Wiltshire, Berkshire and Hampshire. Sand and Gravel pits, Ready-mix concrete plants, state of the art Waste Solution facilities and House Builds might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s in my blood and I love it!
Although this was a wonderful opportunity to be updated on the business, it is without doubt a fantastic time to catch up with extended family members, especially during the dinner between Day 1 and 2, where everyone let their hair down, recalling and sharing stories from the past that had all of us laughing until the tears flowed and sides ached!
The final scene was of course ‘The Wedding’ itself.
My sister Emma was resplendent as she entered the ‘oh so quaint’ Church in the village of Burghclere, the Groom with a tear or two in his eye, (he said it was the pollen in the flowers giving rise to a bout of hayfever….as if!!) The sun shone brightly through the stained glass windows, while the congregation sang loud and proud! PERFECT!
My role was to read the following passage from A.A Milne’s 'Winnie the Pooh', (which was ‘oh-so’ appropriate):
‘If you live to be a hundred, then I want to live to be ‘a hundred minus one day’ so I never have to live without you.’
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
‘Pooh?’ he whispered. ‘Yes, Piglet?’
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’
‘We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.
‘If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember.’
‘You are braver than you believe; stronger than you seem; and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we are apart… I’ll always be with you.’
An amazing reception then pursued long into the evening, once again being a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with family, relatives, friends, not to mention all my new ‘family and friends’, courtesy of Jonathan.
Without doubt the ‘trip of a lifetime’. My eternal thanks to all the ‘players’, with special mention to the Bride (Emma), the Groom (Jonatahan); the Best Man (John), the Worst Man (Sam…only kidding); my inspirational Mum, my other sisters, Sarah and Daisy along with their families; my niece, Jennifer and nephews, Adrian and Angus; cousins Mike, Dave, Jamie and Andy; not to mention Uncles, Beverley and Tony with their families. (My apologies to anyone I missed, rest assured everyone was incredibly special!)
So many good people to mention, so many great memories to be made!
This has, without doubt, been an epic ‘self-indulgent’ blog, for which I make no apology, for as the title indicates… ‘A bit of ‘self-indulgence’ never hurts one’s mental health...’
Although I may be a ‘physically jet lagged wreck’, (at least for the next day or two), mentally I have never felt better or stronger. I owe this enhanced mental health wellbeing to all those I met and shared such great times with. I also owe it to my truly amazing family here in Sydney; Vicki, Cristian, Andrew and Bali, who selflessly allowed me to make this trip in the first place.
I hope this blog resonates with those who read it, so that you too can benefit from a similar perspective, being that ...nothing comes close to the power of family, friends and shared experiences.
Supported videos include:
Please paste your code into the box below: