But then I had to go home and prepare to say goodbye to my parents and my brother again.
We're a family that has always been very close, despite the many miles between us all. I went to university in Aberdeen, which was about as far as I could have gone from the New Forest, where Mum and Dad lived at the time. We came back to Cambridge for 6 years when we did our postgrad studies, and the 2 big boys were born during that time. In the meantime Mum and Dad had moved to Kent so were able to pop up and down easily, then we went back to Scotland, where my brother now was too, and then to Australia. For that reason when we see each other it is usually for a couple of weeks at a time, in houses that were not designed for 9 or 10 people. Amazingly we all still get on! There are obviously moments, all the celtic blood ensures some feisty discussion at times.
Being on my own with my parents was very special, I can't think of a time when I've ever been with just them. Occasionally I did have to remind my father that I am in my 40's and have 5 children, but I do appreciate that he is always going to be concerned about me!
This is one of my favourite photos of Mum, we got her a Google Nexus Tablet while I was there, but found that the only place in the house with decent wifi was the stairs! This is her trying to play Candy Crush as some kids at church on the Sunday had shown it to her and she wanted to be able to play it next time!
My last day was spent trying to close my case. I had managed to get clothes for everyone at my favourite outlet centre at Livingston - fab place if you hate shopping- and had got the required Percy Pigs, Jammie Dodgers and Jaffa Cakes. The final result was a case that looked like it could split open at any moment, but weighed in at 29.9kgs. My limit was 30kgs so I was very pleased with myself. My hand luggage also squeaked in at just under 7kgs - I was on fire!
We had one last walk along the front at Largs, to the marina where we had a fantastic lunch. It was just as well we had to walk home! I chose the Gateau of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties which was fabulous. We're definitely missing our haggis in the Southern Hemisphere, in fact I don't think Robert has even tasted it!
I was determined to get a good shot of the Pencil Monument, which commemorates the Viking Battle of Largs in 1263. In yr 7 the 2 big boys have both had to do a project on the Vikings and have both downloaded pictures of the Pencil to explain that Largs was a Viking settlement. When Joseph goes to high school and has to do the project next year, he can use one of mine!
The world famous Nardini's art deco ice cream parlour. Hasn't change since Dad was growing up here!
And then that was it. A quick meet up at the airport with my brother to discuss when we'll all see each other again, Dad retires this summer so we 're hoping that they'll be able to come out before Christmas... There were tears, it's a very long distance to be apart from family and I think it gets harder every time I have to say goodbye to them all. Having said that, the long flights gave me the chance to get back into 'home' mode. Being away was like being in another dimension where the family didn't exist (except first thing in the morning when they sent me messages and every available smiley!) so I felt like I had a chance to properly recharge my batteries for the first time since becoming a mother.
By the time I was back home, it was like I'd never been away. Noone had suffered, been injured or starved while I was away and everyone was delighted to see me. Apparently the house is much tidier when I'm away, and John even managed to, not only conquer the laundry, but due to having one arm in a sling, set in motion a fantastic new system where all the kids make/prepare their lunches the night before.
They were so organised I now feel able to plan my next getaway...
PS in case anyone is interested, I flew with Emirates from Sydney to Glasgow, through Dubai. The A380's on the Dubai -Sydney leg are amazing! Thanks Faither xx