Being away from my friends has definitely been one of the downsides of our move to Melbourne. I have two close friends from my younger days, and a tight knit collection of university girlfriends. Together we have been through many a rite of passage together, and it's lovely that the bond we share never seems to fade.
Since we left for Australia, my friends and I have been blessed with engagements, marriages, babies and new homes. Tom and I have shared these moments through fleeting visits and Skype glimpses, and I've ignored the pangs of homesickness through the pace of everyday working life.
The arrival of the next generation of little friends makes this so much harder however - three of my good friends were pregnant at the same time as me, and between us, our four babies are separated in age by only a couple of months. We exchanged bump photos via email, birth stories via FaceTime, and share sleepless nights via text message conversations that never end... but despite all of that, nothing beats catching up face to face and meeting all of the new additions in person.
So, back to where we left off in the last post... we departed Norwich en route to London (well, Raynes Park to be exact), but first made a stop off to catch up with Sarah and Neil, our UK friends that we met in Melbourne. They have a three year old daughter Amelie, who was born in the same Melbourne hospital as Sienna, and a new addition, Sebastian!
It was fantastic to see them all looking so well, and I enjoyed a cuddle with the gorgeous Seb. Amelie has grown up so much since we last saw her, and is full of infectious happiness. She couldn't wait to show me her bedroom, especially the 'hoppity hares' on her wallpaper! I took some creative licence and encouraged her to jump on the bed for some fun photos... sorry Sarah!
Our hosts in London were Sarah and Matt, part of the uni girls clan. Matt, to be clear, is not a girl, but is married to a uni girl and did also go to uni with us. He and I also used to work together. (Are you following all this?)
Sarah and Matt have just renovated their Raynes Park home and have done a fantastic job - the pièce de résistance being a large open plan kitchen/dining/living extension at the back of the house. Notable features of their new 'room' are a huge skylight, a tap which wouldn't be out of place in your shower and meticulous kitchen cupboard organisation (which features a shelf for 'seasonal' items such as bunting and party games, and makes it very easy for guests to navigate, thanks Sarah!). Sienna was honoured to get her own shelf allocation for her little food pouches. I'm not sure if this is because Sarah likes Sienna or dislikes her mess?!
On the Friday Tom went off into central London to take care of some work, and I set about catching up with the above-mentioned friends with new babies. First up was Lynne and her little boy Bertie, who is about 12 weeks younger than Sienna. Lynne and I have known each other for ten years through work. We always joked that we should have babies at the same time and then return to work together as a job share, never imagining that the timing of actual events would align so perfectly. Just the distance factor to get over now then....
Three hours of constant chatter probably covered a similar amount of ground to the past three months of constant text messaging, and it was really really lovely to catch up. Next I hopped in the car to go and meet another of the new arrivals. Sally and I lived together for years in our early 20s - who would guess that in our early 30s we'd have baby girls just two months apart? Oh, and 10,000 miles...
Sally and baby Lucy
Lucy was born just before Christmas, and until now we had only met on Skype. It was so lovely to be reunited with Sally and to introduce each other our baby daughters. I get a bit emotional just thinking about how lovely the afternoon was..... I blame the breastfeeding hormones!!!
Lots of blondies.. check out the tenderness on the bottom row!
Saturday was devoted to my Poole friends - Lucy and her daughter Dora (who was a baby when I left and is now about to turn five!), and Elian, who in the 15 months since we last caught up has got engaged, bought her first home and moved jobs! There was barely enough time to catch up on all of that news, but we still managed to fit in photos :-)
A picnic in the park with Lucy and Dora
Sienna's first Starbucks with Elian
Back at Sarah and Matt's, our hosts were busy preparing for the main event - a BBQ for all of the uni girls plus husbands (some of whom are uni boys) plus all the children. In anticipation, Sarah had of course checked the seasonal cupboard in her kitchen and dug out the bunting, but alas she could not find a BBQ. So, off they went to buy a shiny new BBQ (the 'Bondi' model, no less!). It was quite possibly the most complicated assembly job known to man, but with Tom and Matt on the tools, obviously it was an easy job. We were slightly concerned when we heard Matt with his electric drill out to make some 'modifications', but it worked with no safety issues!
One BBQ, two degrees, four hands
With the BBQ built, a huge Waitrose shop done, and the bunting hung, we were ready to entertain! What followed was the most *amazing* day of catching up with my dearest friends and their loved ones. We met baby Leo for the first time, son to Pippa and Rowan and just one month older than Sienna. We also got to meet Annabel, nearly 15 months, daughter to Alex and Fiona who were Best Man and Bridesmaid at our wedding. I had met Annabel as a three week old, but that almost didn't count given how much she had changed :-)
Clockwise from top left: Our wedding tea towel in use, Sienna ready for the party, the guests have arrived, the garden dressed from the 'seasonal' cupboard!
Clockwise from top left: Rowan and Leo meet Tom & Sienna, Pippa and Leo with Katie and Sienna, Sienna & Alex, Fiona & Sienna
Annabel and Sienna get acquainted
Annabel prepares for the sunshine
Left to Right: Andy, Richard, Sally (with Lucy), Rowan, Pippa (with Leo), Tom (with Sienna), Alex, Katie, Fiona (with Annabel), Matt, Sarah, Ella, Tush (with Michael).
Part of the clan but not with us on this occasion are Andy and Ameile (belonging to Ella!), and Kate & Chris, and Sarah & Anthony.
I may profess to be a children's photographer but photographing five children under three in one shot is hard!
Left to right: Annabel (14 months), Leo (8 months), Michael (29 months), Lucy (5 months), Sienna (7 months)
It's ten years since we all graduated from Bath University. We've been together for Friday nights at Babylon nightclub as students, for happy hours in London bars as young professionals, and now we have civilised BBQs on weekends and turn down booze because we are either pregnant, breastfeeding, driving or just too exhausted to bother!
And so our London stay came to an end. Tom and I both absolutely loved it and can't wait to see you all again! It was a shame we didn't have time to catch up with everyone, and we look forward to seeing more of you next time. A huge thanks to Sarah and Matt for hosting us so generously.
If you add up all the names mentioned above, you should get 24. That brings the total number of people we've met so far on this trip to 45, leaving only 18 to go.... in Part Four, coming soon!