The boys were on the edge of their seats,
straining out the window of the bus for their first glimpse
of home. I wondered if they'd recognise it after all this
time, particularly Cameron who seemed so small and young
when we left and is now a proper little big boy, way too
big for the clothes, shoes and toys he left behind.
"Are we in England yet?" he asked, scratching away at his
hair, all tousled and bleached from nine months in the sun.
"Yes, we're in England. We've been in England for six days
now," I explained patiently. Somewhere along the line Cameron
got confused about England and decided it was the village
he lived in. His grasp of geography was still shaky even
after or perhaps as a result of all our travelling. "And
now we're coming into the village we live in. Look there's
your friend Holly's house."
"Ohhhhhh, Holly's house, Holly's house" he squeaked. "Is
that it Dad, that one?" It wasn't.
The bus turned and headed out into open countryside, down
the country road that led home, past cows, sheep and goats
grazing in fields, old slate topped farmhouses, and quaint
stone cottages. I'd forgotten what a pretty place home was.
"Yes Dad I recognise it," shouted Matthew jumping off his
seat and riding rodeo at the front of the bus. I knew he
would remember. I'd tested him on the colours of the carpets
in our house on the flight up from London and he'd got them
all right. "That's Holly's house and Megan's and we used
to play there. We're nearly home now. And I recognise that
tree and those cows and that house and that road." he jabbered
away excitedly. "That's where we used to go to the little
choo choos down there."
"Is this England?" asked Cameron again, trying hard to get
a fix on his home.
"Yes sweetheart, this is England and we're very nearly home.
Your house is just down here." I replied.
I put my arms around the two of them and enjoyed their excitement
at coming home after travelling thirty four thousand miles
around the world together.
"Is that my house?" asked Cameron pointing wildly out the
"No Cameron, that's the pub," said Matthew, "our house is
on the Square."
"Is it a big one?"
"Yes Cammy. Look, over there. That's it. And look there's
someone waiting outside."
As one family adventure ends...
another begins as we await the imminent expansion of the
"Look there's Mummy," said
Cameron as the bus pulled up at the stop. Kirstie was over
the road, standing on the doorstep, waiting for us with
her friend Kate. She'd had to take the train home by herself
because her bump was too big to fly but she didn't return
home alone; a welcoming party of two good friends from the
village surprised her at the station and helped her home.
Friends and relatives have been so supportive throughout
this trip, running us to the airport, keeping an eye on
the house, turning over the car, sending messages of support,
not to mention keeping us up to speed with village gossip
and the latest news from Heat magazine. I don't think we
realised what good friends we had around us until we went
"Who are those girls with Mummy?" asked Cameron.
"That's Holly and Megan," explained Matthew, "Holly is your
"Is she the big one or the little one?"
Inside the house looked in
good shape, much cleaner, tidier and better decorated than
I remembered it. I'd forgotten about all the work we'd done
to get the place into shape before we left. And friends
and relatives had been in to freshen it up before we got
back, hoovering, dusting, making up beds, stocking the fridge,
putting flowers on the mantelpiece, champagne and chocolates
on the dining room table. I couldn't imagine a nicer space
or more thoughtful group of people to come home to.
It didn't matter whether
Cameron remembered Holly or not. Within a few minutes of
arriving the shyness was gone as the four young playmates
tore around the house rediscovering playrooms, bedrooms
and bathrooms and unearthing long forgotten delights from
creaky old toy boxes.
"Oh look, lego, we've got lego and a train set, with trains
and a Thomas train."
"Hey mum, I've got a dressing gown and pyjamas."
"And we've got bath toys and a bath and bubble bath, lots
of bubble bath and story books for bedtime. Can we have
stories at bedtime Mummy?"
"And there's a cot in Cameron's bedroom Mum. Is that for
The excitement was palpable, like Christmas, birthdays and
Easter all come at once. I felt it myself as I wandered
around, but something about the place wasn't right. I remembered
something my sister said about the house in one of her emails,
"Your place looks terribly clean but what it really needs
is some toys spreading about, and a layer of biscuit crumbs
on the sofa, and toys in the bath and clothes on the stairs
and an overflowing laundry basket.........it is crying out
to be lived in again, to come alive with a family." Now
I understood what she meant. Still it looked like it wouldn't
take the boys long to put that right.
"Daddy, Daddy. I've got a bike and a scooter, an action
man scooter, a big one," squealed Cameron as he ran in from
a recce in the garden.
"No that's my action man scooter Cameron," screamed Matthew
tailing in behind him, "You can have the small one. Dad,
tell Cameron the big scooter is my one."
Since we got home the boys have really enjoyed catching
up with friends and relatives
It's a strange sensation
coming home after so long on the road. There's a fleeting
sense of unfamiliarity in a very familiar place, a short
time in which you see your house, home and possessions from
a distance, like they are not your own, at least not yet.
I guess it takes a little time to mentally arrive home,
to slip back into a more settled and homely way of living,
accepting and enjoying the material comforts I'd forgotten
we had. It feels for a while like a game of 'Through the
Keyhole', taking a voyeuristic, up close glimpse at the
fixtures and fittings of our life before the Big Trip. And
after so long on the road, living a simple life with just
a couple of changes of clothes and very little else, it's
a good time to question the need for some of the trappings
of modern life before we stop noticing them again in the
flow of everyday living.
And in those first few hours
home, I wandered around and surveyed our castle, peeking
in cupboards, browsing shelves and wondering why we needed
a breadmaker; why we had so many clothes, dishes, mugs,
pots, pans, toiletries; what was the point of a telephone
in every room; what need we really had for a dishwasher,
tumble dryer and two toasted sandwich makers. But for everything
I questioned there were things I felt pleased to be reunited
with too: like the cafetiere; washing machine; that nice
big family dinner table; the comfy sofa; my desk and computer;
my piano; our bed, clean sheets and soft duvet; the bikes
and kayaks in the gear loft. And beyond the niceties noticed
too the pressing realities of things deferred that now needed
to be faced: the roof that leaks, a falling down chimney,
the rot in the cellar. But there's plenty of time for all
of that once we've settled back in.
There's plenty of unpacking today
as the expedition gear returns home
I reckon it will take quite
a few weeks to get things back to a kind of normal; to unpack
stored clothes and possessions, sort through the mail, get
the phone working, settle bills and get the car back on
the road. And when we've done all that I guess we'll have
to create a new normal, with Matthew starting school, Cameron
off to playgroup, the baby due before the end of September
and questions of work and money to address too.
But for now, to all those
who ask, "Are you pleased to be home?" we all say a resounding
"YES WE ARE." Travelling was great and home is too. But
for those of you who we meet in the coming weeks and months,
as we catch up with friends and renew old acquaintances,
a word of warning: there's only one thing we really dread
about being home and that's the questions we will never
be able to answer about our experiences over the last year,
namely "What was the best bit then?" "What are you going
to do now?" and "How did you find the time and energy to
get pregnant while doing all that cycling and living in
a tent with two toddlers?" So please don't ask because I'm
not sure we know.