People often ask me if I miss being back in the UK, and if so, what I miss most. Family is a given, and obviously comes first but otherwise I would say stuff like Fish & Chip Shops, Curry and Kebab houses and watching rugby and soccer on TV. Oh and of course the Eurovision Song Contest (ask me....). However, those all come second to good friends and of all my beloved friends in the UK (and there are many) the ones I miss the most are Mike & Cherry and their kids (well, they used to be!) Ben and Lauren.
I've known Mike and Cherry since I was maybe 16 or 17 (and Happy Birthday Cherry, while I'm on this!). We just hit it off. In fact I knew Mike before Cherry appeared on the scene as I used to hang out with his family. Together we shared a love of the absurd in life; the movie Airplane, Bryn Haworth, Guinness, canals, Guy Rope & the Tentpegs, The World's Worst Record, and of course, kitchen tables.
When Cherry came onto the scene, she fit in perfectly and after she and Mike married I'd hang with them a lot. We'd watch all kinds of TV (Eurovision and Hustle spring to mind instantly), drink wine or Guinness and talk about pretty much anything.
The great thing about both Mike & Cherry's kids is that I have known them since they were around a day old. For both Ben and Lauren I held them that early and because of that I think we've developed a special bond. Over the years as they've grown older the bond between us has never loosened and to me they are as close to family as you can get.
I should add that both kids avoided the "difficult" teen years when young people can easily become bolshie and monosyllabic. Both have - so far as I can tell - remained outgoing and fun people, and never rude or awkward. I have to put that down as much to good parenting as anything else.
I guess what I'm doing here is something I have not done before, and that is to acknowledge them as probably my best friends, period, pay tribute to them for their friendship, support and prayers over the years, say thank you for the honour of being part of the family for so long, and tell them how much I miss them.
Incredibly, Ben was 20 this year, which blows me away. He's turned into a highly resourceful, loyal, ridiculously clever guy who I wish I had spent more time with. I have to say I have a soft spot for Laurie. Always have. She's always been cute as a button and hysterically funny. Without taking anything away from the rest of the family I think I miss Laurie the most. She was (and I still cannot believe this) 16 recently, and as you can see from the picture, she's a total heart breaker! What's more is that, like Ben, she's just the same person that she was - except she knows more words now and her music tastes are hard to keep up with. It breaks my heart to have missed her growing teen years - she was 13 when I left the UK.
So there you go, that's what I miss most. I had no idea when I started this post that this was all going to come out! And please don't misinterpret this as homesickness. It isn't. Just to say that I love talking on Facebook with Laurie and by email with the family. I'm just sorry I'm so bad at staying in touch with them.
The family will probably be rather embarrassed by all this attention, but frankly I don't care. I love them; I miss them more than words could ever say, and I can't wait to see them again someday. I just hope they'll remember me!!