Saturday, June 14, 2008

Family Reunion: Part 1

Well this is a bit of a special post. In May, I got my first (and probably only) familial visit to London - though my dear Mum and Dad didn't need any excuse to visit their old stomping ground. And I got the distinct impression that they would have been quite happy to take my place here!

Their visit was wonderful for lots of reasons but especially given that it was a chance to retread some of the ye olde Chalke history, and to revisit some of the places I could remember from my childhood. First up was Worcester, where we went round to the house my Dad spent his teenage years, and where he got up to questionable, though I'm sure perfectly innocent, activities with girls at the school across the road, which he was about to elaborate on when Mum cut him off!

Here's Dad and I with Worcester's favourite son, Edward Elgar (Pomp and Circumstance, Land of Hope and Glory etc):

It is amazing what lies in the dark recesses of the memory. Walking down the high street, somehow I could remember where the Marks and Spencer was, and which corner Boots was on, when it had been 13 years since I had last been there.

We also did the tour of the old school, and the old Cathedral, and all those other mainstays of medium sized English towns. All of which Dad seemed to know the history of and have an accompanying story about (which I am hoping he will record someday - hint!)

We went to the little village Dad grew up in, Crowle, and saw his old house and schoolhouse, and the stream he used to swim in as a boy and the big house on the hill. We went to the Old Chequers Inn where Grandpa Jack used to drink and take to Dad (who was waiting out front) a bottle of Vimto and crisps. We saw the barn where Dad used to park his bicycle which was near the stop for his school bus. We saw the old town hall where my grandfather used to dress up as Father Christmas for all the village children (prompting my Dad to recall a horrible year, when he was little, when the nasty boy behind him yelled 'That's Chris Chalke's Daddy!' thus ruining my Dad's fastasy of Father Christmas. Little Chris fled the room in tears - poor duck). And this was the village church:

A highlight was when we drove out to the real life house where Guy Fawkes and cronies planned the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. It was the coolest house in the world, all Tudor and wonky, with huge chimneys and it's own moat and it's own church - which was what we pretended to visit when we really wanted to snoop about the house, which is still privately owned:

We also visited what we know as the bluebell forest, which I have a vivid memory of from my childhood visits, the memory in question being a forest of hundreds of bluebells and a little make shift cubby house that my Dad had played in as a kid. How times have changed. Now the bluebell forest is fenced off by barbed wire, and all the gates were locked. We hardly saw one lousy bluebell, but it did give us the chance to see the beautiful countryside. Even though I've seen quite a bit of it over here, I don't think anyone that grows up in Australia ever gets used to seeing a landscape that's so green:

There is more to come, this is only the first installment, but it is obvious that I loved being back with the fam and in a place where I felt I had heritage, which due to being a first generation Aussie, is not something that I've ever felt particularly strongly at home. Because of this, being able to walk down the street and see where different generations of my family lived seemed truly amazing. It was this stuff, I think, which was what originally made me what to come and live in England, rather than that whole cliched thing about spending a year getting pissed in London. Well, I'd like to think so, anyway.

Next up: Hay-on-Wye (a whole town dedicated to books! Heaven!), the Golden Valley and the Cotswolds.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'll have everything with extra feta

My I am behind on my blogging, and I'm sure my loyal readership (hi family!) are wondering what has happened to me. Lots has been going on, including planning a move, a parental visit, a pilgrimage to the family origins (well on Dad's side anyway), and being bloody busy at work.*

Anyway, though it was a while ago now, I wanted to include a blog about Crete. You know you've had a good holiday when you're looking in real estate agent's windows to check out house prices.

My top 10 things about Crete were:

1. They fed you everywhere! You ordered a drink, they bought you food. You bought a coffee, they bought you food. And yummy food too. Salty food, which incidentally made you feel like another drink. So the only logical thing to do was order another one (and so on and so forth...)

2. And continuing from this, the Food! the Food was amazing, the sea food was fresh, the feta plentiful, the Tsaziki creamy, the Pizza toppings varied (yes, there was loads of Italian Food, something about shared history and past Italian conquests - I was too busy relaxing to be historical).

3. The little churches you would see all over the place - so simple and lovely.

4. The people - the Greek people are the most hospitable and relaxed I have ever met. Nothing is too much trouble for them. They were so friendly. In restaurants the service was so good. I'm not used to these things anymore.

5. Waking up, going out onto our balcony and seeing the ocean with the mountains behind it. Spectacular.

6. In conjunction with that, the beach. Yep it was a little on the rocky side, and that sand was awfully hot, and the water was absolutely frickin freezing, but I'll take whatever I can get these days.

7. Our lovely little beach was also home to a number of cute little bars - all with big sofas outside, just opposite the beach, where they served you cocktails and free food (see point 1).

8. There were people around but nowhere was too busy. You could walk around the streets and no one would bother you. That said, the traffic was still pretty busy. There will also a fair number of lappers, broadcasting the latest on the Greek charts, which made me laugh and reminded me of Rundle Street!

9.The colour of the water:

10. A nasty (in a good way) little aperitif called raki, which tastes like aniseed. You're supposed to drink it in little sips but as it came in a shot glass and we didn't know that, we were drinking it like shots, much to the bemusement of the locals sitting near us. There was also a little bottle of it in our room that got refilled each day. Curses.

*Not something I'm used to anymore. What a public servant I've become!