England seemed much more bearable this time. I think there were several reasons for this. Firstly, now that my family have all up and moved to Bournemouth, there are actually things to do when I’m visiting. About the only thing worth doing in Hyde Heath was getting a lift to Amersham station and a train to London.
The second thing is that it was summer, which means the rain was slightly less frequent and it was pleasantly warm. There’s definitely something to be said for visiting at times other than Christmas.
Another bonus is that I love the sea. I could probably just sit on the beach and listen to it for an hour.
The final factor is that I hadn’t been back to England in three years. My mother didn’t even begin to annoy me for the first week. Edd seems to have taken over the responsibility of arguing with dad, so I had no choice but to get on with everyone.
Bournemouth is still very much the traditional English seaside resort, complete with beach huts, pier, and chip shops. The town center has streets of shops radiating away from a central park, with a balloon ride for sightseers. West of the town center, where my parents live, the hills almost become cliffs and there are all kinds of excitingly rugged chines suitable for geocaching.
To the east is the New Forest, so called because it was planted on the orders of Henry VIII, who felt that England needed a ready supply of timber for wartime use. Obviously for me, one of the high points of the visit was the weaselarium. It’s officially called the Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park, but there’s a clear emphasis on mustelids. Oh, yes, there are plenty of owls I suppose, and some deer… but they have weasels galore. American river otters, European river otters, Asian small-clawed otters, mink, pine martens, stoats, ferrets, polecats, and even a couple of badgers. I think I can safely say you won’t see more varieties of weasel in one place. The animals all seemed to have plenty of space, too. Inside there was a definite musky weasel smell, which we began to recognize from time to time while out walking in places like Hengistbury Head.
Being away for July 4th, we still managed to see fireworks, but without the attendant nauseating warmongering and overpatriotic fervour. The evenings were warm enough to wander the beach, mostly. All told, a pleasant vacation.