2 Busy Weeks Back in Durham - Fun, Food, Laughter (and Much Admin!)

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Friday 10 April 2015

2 Busy Weeks Back in Durham - Fun, Food, Laughter (and Much Admin!)

After the peculiar sensation of landing back in Britain after 10 months and returning to Durham after so long, the business of being temporarily back 'home' began. The whirlwind of administration, motorhome maintenance (MOT, service, rustproofing), apartment visits, paperwork, policy renewals, doctors, dentists, hospital check-ups etc. was certainly a culture shock to say the least. Looking back at some of our days now, reliving the number of tasks, visits and chores we crammed into many of them, we can scarcely believe we managed to do so much in such a short time. However, it is not the memories of late nights, stressful phone calls and rushed commuting that will stick with us, but rather the memories of laughing, sharing and enjoying the company of our much loved and missed friends once more that remain and we hope will sustain us as we plan to hit the road a while longer.

It is very hard, with all of the fleeting visits intermixed with appointments and collections, to recount in any simple way all of the fun times we had during our fortnight in Durham. However, we will do our best to record some of what happened.

Our return to Durham began very hospitably with a stay at our wonderful friends Barry and Yulia, who made us feel very much at home. During the past year we have enjoyed several long Skype calls with Barry, Yulia and their son Alex, being electronically invited into their home to share dinner time and Alex's pre-bed routine. So it was with great delight that we were able to spend some real life quality time together, being able to say goodnight before heading off to their spare bedroom rather than logging off remotely.

On Saturday night there was a welcome home dinner which Ali also came over for and we toasted our return, plus we became the proud owners of a new motorhome, albeit a lego one (thanks Ali). The meals we shared, seeing the family in the morning together and just generally being around and together was a very heartwarming experience for us.

Having seen Alfie on our first day back in Durham, we had also made time on our first Friday to pay an emotional visit to Thumper and Missy, our other bunnies and catch up with Erica and her wonderful family who are currently fostering them. We felt happy at seeing them, but also mixed emotions with missing them so much while wanting to extend our travels a while longer.

On our first weekend in Durham, on the 29th March, we made a journey southwards to Richmond in Yorkshire to the annual Hot Cross Bunny Day fundraiser of the Bunny Burrows charity that we are so close to. Travelling down with Barry and Yulia and also our friend Ali made it even more special. It was great to see our friend Gwen, who runs the charity, and catch up with all of the other volunteers as well. The springtime flowers in Richmond were in bright bloom and put us in a very happy Easter mood.  (Click here for more photos of the brilliant day at the Hot Cross Bunny Fundraiser).

That Sunday evening, we moved on from Barry and Yulia's to spend the next few evenings with Ali and Dave, who cooked an extra special welcome home meal. Based on that meal alone we will definitely have to come home more often!

A couple of nights later we were on the move again, this time to stay with Christina and John, whose wedding we had sadly missed during our travels, and so there was a lot to catch up on. There wasn't really enough time in the two evenings we spent together but we laughed, discussed, philosophised and enjoyed each others company as much as we could. (We had many laughs particularly when Christina tried to cook an egg for John :-) !)

There was an extra special surprise treat for us on Good Friday when our old friend and neighbour from our time in Cambridge, Jamal, made the trek all the way from Glasgow to Durham to see us. It was really touching that he came so far and it was great to catch up after such a long time. After a stroll around Durham and nice meal together it was sad to say farewell.

Then suddenly it was the Easter weekend and it was time to get our hiking boots on once more to take to the Weardale Way with Sam and Kitty. We'd managed to say hello briefly on Friday evening in their favourite pub, the Elm Tree, where they'd had their wedding reception (another one we'd missed during the year), but everyone was fresh faced on Saturday as we caught the bus to Willington to begin our walk home. Being back out in the fresh air after a busy week was something we really needed and with good company it was lovely to be back on our old stomping ground.

After a brief pause to change and an unexpected meeting with another old neighbour, Claire, we then spent an evening in Sam and Kitty's flat enjoying a magnificent home cooked curry and a 'relaxing' movie.

As Easter Sunday dawned we accompanied some of our friends to their church service. Having the time this year to explore religion, but not having faith ourselves, it seemed like a good occasion to attend. After the service, our friends Becca and Sammy had invited us over for Sunday lunch in their new home that they'd moved into after marrying the previous year (another missed wedding!). With the sun shining it was nice to catch up and be among friends at Easter. As evening came around we decided to put our feet up and have a much needed early night.

The Easter bank holiday weekend gave us an extra day to spend time with friends. With the sun still shining, we decided to cycle from Durham, stopping once more to visit Thumper and Missy, before heading on to Beamish where we had arranged to meet Barry and Yulia for another attempt on the High Ropes course. We'd enjoyed this the previous year just before setting off and with a few vouchers left, we wanted to share it again with friends who couldn't make it the year before.

Esther, much more confident this time around, danced through the trees, while Barry really grew in confidence right through to the final leap (having initially declared there was no way he'd do the whole thing). Yulia also made a spirited effort, while providing much amusement for the onlooking crowds! Sitting in the sunshine, post-climbing, enjoying a drink together before our cycle back to Durham for another meal with Barry and Yulia, was a wonderful moment all together.

Tuesday daytime was mostly rushing around, but also another visit to Thumper and Missy who we wanted to see as much as possible before setting off. That night gave us the chance to see another pair of friends, Catherine and Tom, who had also got married while we'd been away. With Catherine having just had a big birthday at the weekend, there was a lot to celebrate over some good food and lots and lots of laughter.


As our time in Durham was almost over, Wednesday night bought us together once more with Barry, Yulia, Dave and Ali for a farewell meal, after some fun time playing games in the garden with Alex. Sitting around the table together, with good food and lively conversation, we realised  just how much we had missed all of our friends and how lucky we were to have so many people back home to share happy times with. While Skype and mobiles during the year kept us in contact, nothing beats face to face time with friends and loved ones.

In many ways that final meal together was when we really said goodbye to Durham, even though we didn't physically leave until Friday morning. However, Thursday was such a full day of appointments (some very stressful and throwing our plans into uncertainty) and another visit to Thumper and Missy and also to Alfie, that by the time we arrived back at Barry and Yulia's to take over the baby sitting from Ali we were in a bit of a daze.


After loading the motorhome on Friday morning and a last few items of admin/chores we were finally underway and on the M1 by late morning, heading south to visit friends and family.

Looking back over the previous fortnight (and a bit) it just didn't feel real. The strange mix of feeling settled and so at home in Durham with familiar faces and surroundings, while simultaneously feeling unsettled with no home of our own and not knowing what the future held was very strange.

When we had left Durham the previous year, following a very stressful few years and an especially traumatic illness, we had been completely ready to go. We just needed to escape and find space to recover, which we certainly felt we had done. But this year was different. While we still longed for the adventure and the open road, to continue our journey of self-exploration, we also appreciated all of the good things about Durham with fresh eyes. Our overriding feeling was one of being so lucky to have such good friends who made time for us and made us feel to welcome in their homes. It was very touching.

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