Last night I enjoyed the finale of the Australian soap Neighbours and it was a kitsch and nostalgic celebration of my youth.

Neighbours to me is one of those comforting programmes, it is home and happy, simple times. I haven’t watched it in over 25 years, but it was a constant as I was growing up. It started when my friends and I discovered it in 1987. We were addicted and thanks to a very late school lunch hour and the proximity of school to my friend’s house, we got our parents to approve lunchtime passes and off we went to munch our sandwiches and watch Neighbours before returning to lessons. I moved to a different part of the country in the summer of 1987 and Neighbours was there, my link to my old friends and providing that comfort when I felt lonely. My new friends also loved it and although it was so uncool, I remember listening on repeat to Jason Donovan’s CD in my friend’s bedroom. Neighbours was always there when you needed a pause on homework or revising for exams, 5.35 was that special half hour just before tea, when you escaped to sunny, happy Australia. When I went to work in France for a year, it was Neighbours that I craved to watch back on British tv and I remember asking my mum for the recaps on the phone. Helene et les Garcons was a similar series in France but not quite my Neighbours. As I got older and started work, I watched it far less but it was always one of those programmes you could just dip into and feel good. Sometimes you just need a series that does this, it is familiarity, comfort and nostalgia.

I finally visited Australia in December 2002 to watch the Ashes cricket matches in Melbourne and Sydney. I couldn’t go to Australia and not visit Ramsey Street, or as it is correctly called, Pin Oak Court, so on Christmas day after Christmas dinner, we jumped on a suburban train and headed off to Ramsey Street. I loved every minute of my time on the street, recognising the houses and picturing all the famous scenes. Its one of those things you do that seems a bit crazy but you never regret. We returned 4 years later for more cricket and on one night in Sydney we went to see one of my favourite musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (I loved the film with Guy Pearce aka Mike) As we walked in we saw Toady in the audience, which was just class.

The finale last night was just the perfect mix of nostalgia with flashback clips which I remembered watching the first time, so many cameos and clever touches. For me the story reuniting Mike and Jane (oh how I rooted for Plain Jane Super Brain in the 1980s, I really identified with her rather than feisty Charlene) was the perfect ending I needed. So many characters from my era were featured and it all just felt so warm and comforting. Neighbours wasn’t just a tv show, it was something which grounded me during my teenage and early adult years and I’ll always smile remembering how a simple Aussie soap brought happiness and comfort.


My week … the one with a trip to London

Following Mr S accident last week, its been a pretty full on week. I’m working full time (over 4 long days), and have returned to being housekeeper, cook and driver whilst he recovers. Its frustrating but I always try to make the best of all situations. It has been a busy week, with another family birthday, the end of term for both children, an end of year treat for the scouts, a trip to London, an important medical appointment and the week culminated in supporting our son at Saturday’s cricket match followed by watching a friendly football match for our local league team. I’m not sure full on quite describes my week! Oh and there’s been a heatwave and the hottest day ever.

This week’s highlight was my son and mine’s trip to London. We had planned it for the Spring of 2020, but it became a casualty of the pandemic. Since the pandemic there has been so much to catch up on (we’ve still 2 weekends owed) that it was wonderful to finally do our visit. I chose the very first day of his holiday, as his sister was still at school and I had my day off, so it had little impact on others. My son has been a little worried about visiting London, as living in a small seaside town, it seems quite daunting. However, he actually took it all in his stride, so much so by the end of the day, he asked to go on the Underground which he had been very unsure of.

When he was little, my son had a small picture book on London and he loved looking at the illustrations. It is the most beautiful book and is one which I kept for the happy memories of reading and looking at it together. I surprised him with it on the train and we looked through what we might see (I had a fully planned itinerary, organisation was key to see all we did) Our big trip was to the Imperial War Museum, military history is my son’s passion and he was so excited to see a spitfire and all the other exhibits. I found it a really interesting museum just the right size and the air conditioning was very welcome on a hot day in the capital. Thankfully it was 15 degrees cooler and cloudier than the 41 degrees and blazing sunshine of Monday. After the museum, we walked on the South Bank, so vibrant and bright and then crossed over to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson! There was a giant ice cream on one of the plinths and the music from the buskers filled the square with such a lovely atmosphere. We then walked onto Leicester Square and had fun finding the statues, my son was particularly delighted by Mr Bean and me by Paddington. We had a potter around China Town and then headed off to Covent Garden, where we stopped for a much needed sit down and some delicious crepes. My son then asked to see Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street, so we walked there via Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey, before our trip on the tube back to the station. Needless to say we walked a lot, 30k steps, but it was worth every single step, we had an amazing day and have a few ideas for our return trip.

Its been a lovely week of making memories with my son, we had London which was one of our best ever days together and then due to Mr S injury I got to take him to see his football team who by chance were playing my team, another brilliant experience. Yes its been a tough in places, and a mad, crazy week but one where there have been very special times which I am so privileged to have enjoyed.

My fortnight .. the one when Covid struck.

So, after more than 2 years of the pandemic, we were finally struck down with Covid. It started with Mr S, then our son and finally me. Our daughter so far has swerved it and we are all clear now. I feel a bit of a fraud as my symptoms were so mild that I would never have known I had Covid if I hadn’t done a test. The Covid episode has been prevalent over the last 10 days, with Mr S going down with it first and ending today with us all negative. I do believe that I reacted so meekly because of my vaccinations and booster and am incredibly grateful to the scientists and medical professionals who developed these.

I am incredibly grateful that we were all so well and that our isolation was as pleasant as it could have been, we have a nice house and garden and were able to potter around and play. We had food deliveries and our neighbours and friends all offering to drop in anything we needed. This is privilege I will never take for granted.

The most frustrating aspect of Covid was our cancelled plans. Last weekend we were due to go away to Longleat for a weekend which had been booked nearly a year ago. The weather was perfect and it would have been lovely, but it wasn’t to be. However, we have been able to transfer the tickets and hotel to the October half term holiday so the break will happen just at a different time. Our son also won a very special award at his presentation assembly, Sportsman of the Year but as we were still testing positive we were unable to attend. My parents came to the rescue coming down to watch the assembly and then taking our son with them for the weekend so my dad could take him to see the car racing he had been really looking forward to. I did have a week’s leave last week so all my plans were cancelled which is frustrating as I need to rearrange everything into a tightly packed schedule. Just to add the mayhem of Covid, my husband dislocated his shoulder on Wednesday, so this meant trips to two different hospitals. Now he is unable to drive for a few weeks just as the summer holidays are starting, this calls for organisation skills of the highest order.

Unsurprisingly given our confinement to home, I have watched a lot of tv. I watched the series of The Summer I Turned Pretty and Everything I know about Love. Both are brilliant, perfect summer dramas. I also have been busy reading and One True Loves, was superb with the ending I was rooting for. I have also been busy with Wordle, Quordle and Heardle to keep me occupied, proving that I reckon I’ll do fine when I retire as I can always find things to do.

Today was freedom day (aka negative test day), and I celebrated with not simply a parkrun, but my 50th parkrun and earnt my red t-shirt. It was sooo hot as we are in the midst of a heatwave, but it was worth every bead of sweat to finally get my 50. Its taken 3 years due to the pandemic, so I’m hoping to get to my 100 slightly quicker.

The highlight of my diary next week is a trip to London with my son, a promise made just before lockdown which we are finally getting to do. Having had Covid I’m more relaxed about the trip, cases may be high but I think we have a little immunity now. Fingers crossed its a trip we do get to do in July!

My week .. the one with simple pleasures

As I started to prepare this entry, I questioned whether I had anything to write about this week, as its seemed quiet and relaxed. However on reflection, there have been sparkles, unexpected simple pleasures which have lightened the days.

One thing which has given me great pleasure this week are my peonies which have gone from bud to blooming flowers over the week. I love peonies, they are so beautiful and there is a magic in the transformation from a tight bud to a large petaled flower. I have them in the kitchen window by our table so I get to admire them at mealtimes and they are the first thing I see as I walk in to the house.

On Sunday afternoon, we were at a loose end and decided to head over to a beauty spot. Its a lovely walk, a canopy of green from the tall trees and natural water features on the ground. It is a perfect example of forest bathing and you do leave feeling more peaceful, grounded and relaxed.

In what has become quite a rare occurrence, I did take my Thursday off this week and it was lovely to have a free (ish) day. I had my nails done, I love a natter and nails session and the pastel green is mint (see what I did there!) After the appointment, I took the time out to enjoy a tea at the courtyard café in town and just sit with my book and feel the sun on my face. I then took a call from a friend and had a spontaneous meet up, I love it when you can just go with the flow… I had arranged to be present for the unveiling of the town’s jubilee mural, so she came too and we enjoyed what was a really sweet event promoting arts for young people. My school had been involved in the project and I am so proud of our dolphin.

Today, was another early start for a cricket match, my son was captain for the game and gracious in defeat. The respect and sportsmanship of my son’s team was in stark contrast to the opposition, I would prefer they lost with grace than won with unsporting behaviour. We took a picnic and headed over to the local town, which has a lot of beautiful spots. We happened across a craft fayre in the church grounds so the children had fun on the tombola whilst I perused the craft stalls. I treated myself (its birthday month) to a new ring which will complement some other pearl jewellery I own. We also stopped by a rather wonderful patisserie for a tasty delight. Away cricket Saturdays have become a real treat day and it was sad that this was our last for the season as we’re home for the remaining games. Next season the games for the next age group are played on Monday evening, so there will be no further days out for a few years, its been an unexpected highlight of this summer, making each away game an ‘event.’

Next week is a little busier, I’m swapping my day off for 2 afternoons, so I can attend my son’s sports day and parents evening (so appreciate the school’s organisational skills here) and then leave early on Friday so we can pick up the children from school and make a quick getaway for our weekend away. We’re off to Longleat which is one of our family favourites.