St. Albans is my ‘UK home’, thanks to the endless generosity of family friends Sandy and Lois, who have hosted me at various times in my life, from when I was at a loss after graduating and breaking up with my boyfriend aged 21, to the year I did my Masters, to various trips back to the UK from Mozambique, both before and after having Lauren.
Lois will be best known to my friends through her tireless work on Where there is No Doctor, lusophone edition, which I know graces many people’s shelves in Maputo. Sandy is a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and also no stranger to Mozambique, having lived there in the 80s (along with Lois). They have both been instrumental in my choice to live and work in Mozambique, and Sandy’s father was influential in my choice of economics as a discipline, and Cambridge as a university (he suggested I apply to Oxford, where he was a Master of one of the colleges, but I was a stubborn and principled 17 year old so applied to Cambridge).
My most memorable trip to this warm if often chaotic household was the time I visited just before Lauren turned one. One morning, to my utter horror and disgust, I found a long white worm emerging from her nose. The thing just kept coming. I screamed for Sandy, who came rushing down, and whose first reaction was “oh, cool, I don’t think I have one of those… let me see if I have any formaldehyde in the garage”….. once I pointed out there was a living thing coming out my baby’s nose!!!! he calmly went to get some Albendazole – this is probably one of the very few households in the whole of the UK that would have had this in their first aid kit – and since then, I have dosed us both every 6 months, religiously.
Anyway, suffice to say, we are always made most welcome here, even (especially!) when harbouring extra parasites.
Last Friday was one of those glorious sunny Autumn days that you forget about when out of the country. The sun was out, there were few clouds and the glorious backdrop of lush green fields and autumn trees in vivid shades of red, gold and green really served to remind us just how beautiful the UK can be. When I am not here, my main image of the UK (at any time of year, but particularly in Autumn/Winter) is of grey drizzle. Not dramatic weather – not hugely cold or wet, just endless grey.
Well Friday didn’t live up to that image – in a very good way.
School was out, exams were done, and we had designated it a special ‘Mummy-daughter day’. These are just days when the two of us do fun stuff. We hit the library for yet more Wimpy Kid books that Lauren had reserved (goodness knows what we’ll do when she finishes the series – if anyone has recommendations for similar books, please advise, she’s obsessed) then bought the ingredients for a picnic lunch and headed to Verulamium park in St Albans.
We walked for a while along the river, with Lauren crossing it on stepping stones while I walked round to the bridge, then reached a large lake that was surrounded by families out enjoying the half term sunshine.
A heron was perched on a bush on an island in the lake, and there were all sorts of ducks and moorhens and swans and geese around. We enjoyed spotting the squirrels as well, and Lauren found many dog owners willing to let her stroke their dogs.
We ate our picnic by the lake, and read our books for an hour or so, then walked all the way around the lake to the children’s play area, where Lauren spent nearly an hour racing from swings to merry go round to slides. It was absolutely packed, but she had a great time. As the sun started to set we climbed the hill up to St. Albans cathedral, and walked through the grounds to where we could get the bus home. A lovely, cheap day out in a beautiful part of the world.