Wednesday, January 22, 2014

22:01:14 The Cliffes

When we left Northampton we were emotionally exhausted. So many friendships rekindled. So many goodbye hugs. We realised that we were now coming to the last few days of our trip. Our original plan was to have one night with friends who lived on the outskirts of London and then to book into a hotel for the last couple of nights so we could have time to unwind as a family. A small mini break before the long journey home.

Charles and Sue were one of the first couples Byron introduced me to when I moved to the UK. He talked them up big time, how great they were, how much I'd like them. That Charles was the most competitive person he had ever met (other than himself) and that Sue was a scientist doing research into HIV transfer between mothers and babies. Oh, and that as well as being amazingly intelligent she was witty and fun too!

I was terrified meeting them but of course Byron was right, they were the funniest and most honest people I had met in a long time. Watching Byron and Charles together was like watching two alpha male gorillas pacing around one another in a zoo. Whatever one could do the other could do better, faster and higher, and get paid more to do it! They were masters in the kitchen and each weekend we spent at each others house involved the men trying to outdo the other on the BBQ while us girls sat back and watched with a glass of wine while laughing at them.

Byron and Charles were keen and competitive badminton players. Once when Byron bought a new racquet and won that weeks game Charles went out and bought the exact same one. when Byron won the next game Charles went out and bought the exact same grip tape for the handle just so they would be playing on an "equal footing"

Our friendship with Charles and Sue survived us changing from a carefree couple to parents of a screaming newborn. On the first day Charles got to hold Sian he handed her back with a pained expression. "Byron, your baby smells of sick" We waited 4 long years for Charles and Sue to have their first baby, Ben, just so Byron could say it back!

What was going to be one night in their house became three. We felt so relaxed there and the finances were running low so when Charles and Sue's daughter Hannah begged and begged and begged us to stay longer we did. She is just about the funniest kid we have ever met. She speaks at a million miles an hour and asks a gazillion questions and has an answer for everything. She gets away with it because of her big eyes and her earnest expression. She would talk to anyone.

On our last night we wanted to buy some flowers for Sue to thank her for everything. We asked Hannah if she wanted to come with us to help us choose the best ones. She was so excited in the shop and as we were paying she smiled at the cashier and said. "These aren't my parents you know, they're not even relatives, I only met them a short time ago" We grabbed our change and receipt and pushed her out the door before the shopkeeper could ring the police on us for abducting her!

It was the perfect way to end our trip. Surrounded by good friends, good food a steady supply of wine. And of course the comfortable banter between friends...

"I have more hair than you"
"No, mine is definitely thicker"
"But I can see a thinning patch on the back of your head"
"No way mate, that's just sun-kissed"
"Sun-kissed my arse, you're going grey"
"Am not"
"Are too"

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