The green, green grass of home…

1 year 6 months 25 days and 8 hours after I left Korea I returned to England for my winter vacation. Shrugging the trend set by most other teachers in Korea of heading to the sunny and warm climates of South-East Asia I decided it was high-time I returned home to visit family and friends and indulge in all the luxuries of England that I have recently and increasingly begun to miss.

I arrived in Manchester late on Saturday night after a hash of air travel complexities that involved delayed flights, reroutes and lost luggage. Shattered from failing to sleep on the long-haul flight from Korea to Finland as planned, and having stayed up the whole night virtually in Korea to try to fool the impending jet lag, I rocked up to Dan and Anna’s gaff and was welcomed with some English beer, decent red wine and a reunion with my other good friends Chris, Zoe and Nick.

The following day I contacted British Airways who informed me my bag was still lost. Thankfully, three hours later it arrived and I began my British public transport experience. Having driven in the UK for most of my twenties I had hoped to hire a car in the UK but was disappointed to find my driving licence photo card had expired. I was left at the mercy of taxis, buses and trains… After a cramped train journey to Devon (no leg room, reduced carriages annoying crying child) I met my dad at Exeter St David’s and headed home to the farm.

I spent four incredibly relaxing and wholesome days in Devon. Apart from the joy of seeing my Dad and the rest of my family members I enjoyed being overindulged in home cooked food, meals out, walks in the countryside, and trips to Burgh Island and Exeter. Everyone seems content with life at home which is reassuring and it eased my homesickness that had surprisingly built on me recently in Korea.

After my convalescence in Devon I headed back to Manchester for five days of alcoholic overindulgence and cath-up time with friends. Having being overfed in Devon, and undoubtedly overworking my stomach, it was now the turn of my liver to be tested.

On the Friday I hit up Didsbury and Withington with Dan, Anna, Nick and Sarah.

On Saturday I headed down to Hough End to see my old team mates at Manchester Rovers and watch them get beaten 3-1 in possibly the windiest conditions a game has ever been played in. In the evening I caught up with Kate and Kate in Didsbury for more drinking.

Sunday turned out to be an epic all day session. I headed to the Etihad stadium for a painful 90 minutes of football as Manchester City beat my beloved Tottenham 3-2. My torture was increased by sitting in the home fans section just yards from the away end where I belonged! The torture was increased by Simon, Dan’s friend who had got me a ticket, who forced me to join in the celebrations of every Manchester City goal, threatening to out me to the opposition fans surrounding me if I didn’t. I headed off sulking to the city centre to meet Rosey and watch Manchester United beat Arsenal and drink far too much! Dan caught up with me later and I hung out with his work colleagues in the Northern Quarter. The evening was rounded off with a dirty curry in Rusholme.

On Monday I woke with a hazy head, angry kidneys and a liver wondering why I was punishing it. Dan and I headed to Wilmslow. I didn’t really want to go, feeling how I did, but Dan was getting a tattoo and I was too excited at the prospect of tears and screams and being able to record them and then post it to the world! Disappointingly he handled it like the man I had doubted he was… In the evening I caught up with Tracy and had a civilised curry in the city at Akbar’s and drinks afterwards in Sam’s Chop House. I only relented to having one glass of red wine as well!

Tuesday was my only day of alcohol avoidance in England. I managed to do some shopping in the city centre. I almost couldn’t cope with the choice of clothes. In Korea I am pretty much limited to the few western brands that aren’t in the upper echelons of high-end retail which I can’t afford. I dropped in on Tracy to say goodbye before I headed back to West Didsbury to go for a guilt run around Hough End in the dark before cancelling it out with sausage chips and gravy!

Wednesday was my last day. Dan was off work and we headed out to watch a movie at the cinema only to discover it was cancelled due to the 3D projector being broken. Instead we went ten-pin bowling. I posted a lifetime best of 163, gained the title of the spare king and kicked Dan’s ass 5-0. We had a game of left-handed bowling which Dan regained some dignity by winning. But that doesn’t really count. Nando’s was ticked off the ‘too eat list’ and we headed out to The Red Lion in Withington in the evening. Big thanks to Dan, Anna, Nick, Andy, Sarah, Sara, Zoe, Chris and Joe for all coming to see me off!

I really enjoyed my time in England, bu not enough to justify returning yet (the economy is ruined still, jobs are non-existent and everything costs a small fortune). I hope I come back sometime and I am fortunate enough to have great family and friends that care about me there.

On Thursday I headed off to Manchester airport content, but tinged with a little sadness and disappointment that I didn’t get around the country to see other people who I had hoped to see. I boarded an on time plane (unbelievable) and headed for Finland…

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