When you speak to horse riders about the topic of holidays, nine out of ten times their first comment is “I can’t go on holidays, I have horses” and usually I too subscribe to this but late last year when my dad asked me if I would like to go away for a few weeks in early 2013 I stopped myself from repeating the worn-out saying and said “I would love to”. So, for a change, I am going to write about my time far away from horses taking a break and doing something completely different.
First I have to acknowledge that I’m very lucky to agist. Usually I long to live with my horses and not to have to drive to see them but agisting with trustworthy, knowledgable people means I was able to head overseas for three weeks knowing that Action and Luna were in the best of hands and having a well-deserved rest. With this in mind, dad and I made plans for our trip. We were to travel to England to visit family in London and Manchester for two weeks and then have a quick three day stop-over in KL, Malaysia to explore a city we used to live in and both love. Mum would stay at home with the dogs and cat while we were in England and meet us in KL on our way home.
We had a midnight flight from Melbourne airport to KL of about eight hours and then a fourteen hour flight to Heathrow. Fortunately I have the unique skill of being able to sleep on any form of transport, at almost any time of day. Thus, I slept sprawled out across my dad for twenty of the twenty two hour flight and woke up to the pilot announcing that we were arriving in London to a “lovely, warm ten degree day”. I almost did a double take having left Melbourne on a twenty five degree day – in my head that was a perfect oxymoron – until my dad reminded me that England is coming out of one of the coldest winters it has ever had and that many parts of the country were under snow. With this in mind, we made our way through the airport and out onto the world-renowned London tube – which I must say is quite a task with a suitcase half as big as yourself – to go to my grandma’s flat where we would stay for the next week.
Although it took me a little while to come to terms with morning weather forecasts below ten degrees and seeing storm clouds outside this first week was great fun. I spent a lot of time catching up with my grandma and my aunt as well as exploring London. My dad and I went to the theatre to see One Man, Two Governors which was easily the funniest theatre performance I have ever seen and a great day out. We also went into Kingston, a small town not far from the centre of London, to explore the old town with beautiful cobblestone streets and historical buildings as well as some great little shops. I was very excited, much to dad’s dismay, to find a Joules store selling their Mary King line of ‘Team Great Britain’ jackets, polos and jumpers. However, as nice as they were, all my dreams of wearing a national team’s colours have been of green and gold and so I didn’t get further than trying them on.
Just a quick bus trip from my grandma’s flat, Carter’s Steam Fair was at Parson’s Green during the first week of our holiday. One afternoon dad and I headed down there to see what it was all about and wow did we get a pleasant surprise! The fair was full of restored amusements from as early as the 1920’s including a shooting gallery, Grand National simulation, dive bomber, dodgem cars, swinging ship and various arcade games. All were beautifully preserved and in original condition, powered completely by steam. Even the old cars and caravans to transport everything were steam powered and in mint condition. It was great to see these beautiful machines and enjoy them with my dad, learning about some of the things he grew up with and reminding me just how much technology has advanced.
After our first week we went to stay with one of my dad’s friends from his school days and his wife, some of our oldest family friends, for a weekend at their home near Manchester. They live just around the corner from Aintree and as the Grand National had just been run the weekend before we were there it was interesting to see some of the signs, stands and other facilities still set up as we drove past. Sadly we weren’t allowed to get a close look as the grounds were closed. However, we weren’t robbed of our horsey fix for the trip and during our visit we went to their local saddlery – which is so big it has an in-store café, three huge showrooms and takes a good half day to get through if you’re being quick! I had lots of fun investigating what’s in fashion in the British horsey world and noticed lines of dog bowls, carriers, jackets and other accessories from the big horsey brands which I can’t wait to see out here – I just hope they come in dachshund size!
Back in London we spent our second week catching up with further family, including my great aunt, and a friend from Australia who is living and working in London at the moment. We went back to theatre, this time with my aunt to see Roald Dahl’s Matilda. What a show! It was so much fun and very true to the story I remember from when I was little. On Friday we packed our bags, said our goodbyes and jumped back on the tube to catch a ten o’clock pm flight to KL to meet mum for our quick stop-over on our way home. Just one catch – there was no ten o’clock flight to KL.
Well no, there was originally supposed to be one. When we checked in, went through security and got to the gate listed for our flight we were notified that there was a delay and we would be leaving at 11pm. Unconcerned, we sat in a corned and read our books for an hour waiting for further information. At 11pm there was another announcement: there was a technical difficulty with the plane, the engineers were working on it and we should be underway shortly. Still unconcerned, we continued to read. We did notice, however, that the airport was beginning to close around us with lights going out and most of the staff leaving. At midnight we were informed that our flight had been cancelled. Whilst the technical problem had been resolved, the airport’s curfew was 11pm and we would not be flying out any time soon. We were given our bags back, put on buses and sent to airport hotels for the night. By the time we were in our room it was 2:30am and dad and I were worrying about mum who was meant to be meeting us in KL and would have no idea what was going on in Heathrow. We got onto the internet and emailed the hotel, asking them to inform her of our predicament, and tried to get some sleep.
We were up early in the morning and went into the hotel foyer to find a message informing us that a bus would be coming to collect us at 11:30. We weren’t sure what was going on as the airline we were flying with fly out from Heathrow every day at 12 noon and 10:00pm and so we decided to order a taxi to the terminal and find out for ourselves. Here we proceeded to the ticket desk where we managed to get a transfer onto the 12noon flight. We checked in, again, passed through security, again, and went to the gate…again. This time our plane did leave and we arrived in KL having only missed one night. Our fourteen hour flight took us twenty six hours but we had arrived! After we had dropped our bags at the hotel and explained to mum what had happened the night before we all went for a walk around the city centre.
My dad used to work in KL and so we all lived there for a while and it is a city I really love. There is something wonderful about its combination of spectacular modern buildings and beautiful traditional ones standing side-by-side in the chaos of streets which twist and turn with no symmetry of system of organisation which has great appeal to me. It was great to spend a few days defrosting from the cold, wet and wind of London visiting some of our favourite places in the city centre, lying by the pool, enjoying the street music festival performing just one block from our hotel and getting our fix of amazing Malaysian food.
It was sad to say goodbye to Malaysia once again and I would have loved a few more days to visit some of the beaches or the equestrian park but I will have to save these for another time! I was very happy to be home by the time the plane touched down in Melbourne and eager to see my horses and catch up with everyone again. I am so grateful that I avoided repeating the old saying “I can’t, I have horses” and said yes to going away. Mixing things up with a complete break from routine was amazing fun and has brought me back to my life here with a new energy and enthusiasm to get stuck in and work hard again.
I hope one day you too change your routine and do something completely different! You never know what adventures you might have.
Happy riding! Or not as the case may be…