A very English goodbye

Moving abroad and saying goodbye to England

5 things I’ll miss about the UK

Tomorrow, I step onto a plane from London and leave England behind with no immediate plans to return. This is the culmination of a year of planning and what has proven to be a very busy, very emotional month. It’s only now, as the countdown to leaving life as I know it behind has reached its hiatus, that I’m starting to realise what it’ll mean to say goodbye. In an effort to pay England the respect it’s due after years of happy inhabitance, I have spent this last month partaking in the most British of activities that me, my friends and my family could concoct. From afternoon teas, roast dinners and bottomless brunches, to long walks in the rainy countryside and picnics in the park, I’ve painted an indelible image of Englishness on my mind that will serve as a mental postcard should ever I want a snapshot of home.

From idyllic rural romps…

…to urban explorations and big-city all-nighters

There’s a lot of things I won’t miss about my life in England. I’m not overly attached to “things” and have found the process of selling up and downsizing my stuff into a few small boxes surprisingly unemotional. But there are more than a few things that I know will tug at my heartstrings whilst I’m away. Here are my big 5:

1. The weather

OK, so England has notoriously terrible weather, this is true. One minute it’s a heatwave and the national press is going crazy, spouting headlines such as “Dehydration across the nation: hottest day of the year takes unsuspecting Brits by surprise” and “Could the UK be the new Caribbean?”, the next it’s shitting it down and the umbrellas are out, the heating’s on and we all start thinking ahead to the colder months and writing out our Christmas lists. In July.

What a different a week makes…the very same garden on two different afternoons in July

Whilst I won’t miss the cold, the wet and the unpredictability, I will miss the English attitude towards our weather. We embrace the heat with the kind of unwavering enthusiasm that teenagers bestow upon boybands. Every hour of sunshine is a novelty, and we soak it up like dried out old sponges. The first whiff of a summer breeze, the first ray of sunshine, and we’re out on the nearest patch of grass with our trousers rolled up and our shirts fashioned into some kind of impromptu tank top as we expose our sun-starved skin to the first taste of Vitamin D its had in months. This strange behaviour is so ingrained in who we are that it’s going to take me a while before I take 30 degree weather and unrelenting sunshine for granted.

The sun’s out? For more than 15 minutes?! Well this calls for a celebration – handstands and cocktails all round!

2. Good old British pubs

Beer gardens in Summer, roaring log fires in Winter; the slightly sweet smell of wooden floorboards steeped in ale; scruffy old mutts behind the bar (and I’m not talking about the women); what’s not to love about the great British pub? The Med may be the best place to enjoy a sophisticated aperitif, a Caribbean beach bar might be the only place to perfect your dutty wine, and it may be that you can only experience a truly boozy ruckus in an America dive bar, but whether you’re after a a quiet pint, a friendly face and a cozy corner to curl up in, or a long-drawn-out catch up with friends and a gin, you just can’t beat a pub.

3. Duvets

I appreciate that when it’s gone midnight and the temperature outside is still in the high 20s, a duvet is not considered to be a necessary piece of bedroom equipment. As such, most foreign countries that I’ve visited are entirely lacking in the duvet department.

“What even is a duvet?” you may ask – this is clearly because you’ve never experienced the aforementioned English weather and have not had to resort to seeking out the warmest corner of the house, climbing under what is essentially a warm cloud, and entering an early hibernation that will not end until the next 15 minute window of sunshine appears. (Which could either be in 5 minutes or 5 months)

Whilst I appreciate that the use of a duvet would be entirely impractical whilst living in Central America – not least because one single duvet would fill up my entire backpack – being enveloped in their soft and snuggly embrace is a sensation that will be sorely missed.

I’m in there somewhere…

4. Gin

Gin is just the best isn’t it? In the last few years gin has, apparently, been “making a comeback” in the UK. For me, whose love of gin began at the age of 17 when revising for a particularly difficult A-Level exam (it turns out that half a bottle of Bombay Sapphire makes memorising large chunks of Paradise Lost actually quite a pleasant pastime), a gin and tonic has never been far enough away from my reach to warrant a comeback. But I’m delighted that my nation’s revived appreciation for this spirit of the gods has meant that almost every pub and bar across the country is stocking a tantalising range of gins.

‘The Feathers’ hotel in Oxford (bottom right) boasts 174 varieties of gin. On a weekend getaway I worked my way through a good 15 of them, but I plan on coming back for the other 159 one day.

I hate to break it to my foreign brothers and sisters, but whilst you may well excel in all other gastronomic or alcoholic plights, your gin and tonics just don’t quite match up. A warm splash of Schweppes over a couple of ice cubes and a measure of out-of-date Gordons just doesn’t cut the mustard.

5. My wonderful friends and family

Above all else, I will miss my friends and family. My loved ones have gone out of their way in the last few weeks to make saying goodbye as hard as possible (that’s a compliment I swear!) I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve having such a fantastic group of people in my life, but I consider myself to be the luckiest girl alive. It’s an exciting new chapter for me and I can’t wait to take the plunge, but it’s with a heavy heart that I say so long, but not goodbye, to the people I love the most.

To all my amazing friends and family – thank you for all your continuing support and companionship, I love every single one of you more than my meagre words can express.

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