Family... Hi Grandma!

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November 13th 2007
Published: November 13th 2007
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There were many reasons for us moving to live here in London - travelling, international work experience, building our indepenence, providing accommodation for travelling friends... but another important reason was for us to be able to build relationships with our families who are in Europe. And this has been the pinnacle of our time recently.

On Saturday 6th October we rose at a dreadful 2am to be on the night bus at 3am to get to Stansted airport at 5am for our 7am flight to Eindhoven in Holland to arrive at 9am local time and to be greated by Kate's second cousin Ingrid. Wow what a start to a very emotional weekend. The reason for our trip was to attend an annual family reunion. As some of you who read our blog know, Kate's mum's family are from Holland and since the death of a great Aunt in1998 the extended family have an annual reunion so that they keep in touch and the family tied don't disintegrate. The event is for people in Kate's mum's generation but since there has never been anyone from the Australian part of the family attend in the past, we were welcome to attend.

Ingrid was very kind and arranged fro Laura to also attend (also in our generation), and she did a wonderful job interpreting a lot for us during the day!

Anyhow after our grand entrance in to Holland on Saturday morning Ingrid met us at the airport and she guided us on the buses back to her house where we were endulged with a scrumptious european breakfast with lovely dark grainy bread with meats and cheese, and dark dark coffee! Mmmm, hit the spot! We took our time to chat and catch up before we went for a walk through Utrecht. Of course we couldn't miss the Dom, the large cathedral in all it's glory, and it really was stunning with all the trees starting to turn into autumn flavours. Ingrid bought a little book about Utrecht and the dom and it had a self guided tour init, so we let it guide us around the canals, through the parks and through some very interesting streets. Ingrid, as some of you might know, is a keen historian and has written and compiled a huge book about the Kuiper family history (Kate's mum's family), so there were plenty of anecdotal storeys about her family on the way. One of the best tho was that the Baron to Napoleon - yes, the Napoleon, is a past relative, and it's his daughter who was the first girl called Juila in the family, and it's where Kate's Grandma got her name, and of course Kate's middle name, plus several other cousins etc have also been called Julia! The baron's daughter Julia fell in love with someone not of any wealth and so since the Baron did not support this relationship Julia and her love ran away and hid in a barn. Well, as we were walking through the streets of Utrecht Ingrid showed us the house where the Baron lived! Well actually, to tell you the truth, Ingrid found the address of the Baron's house in her research and unfortunately we have no way of telling which of 2 houses it is on an intersection, so unanimously we all decided it was the bigger one with the balcony. After a few hours of walking and spending time in the beautiful fresh air we went on a boat ride on the canals. It was really nice and relaxing although not surprising to have a tour guide/commentator who spoke all the necessary languages for those on-board - english, dutch, german, french and italian. We then had dinner in a little resturant right on the canal - in a converted cellar which is on the lower level right on the waters edge. Unfortunately a little too cold to eat outside but a great atmosphere none-the-less.

The next day was the reason for our trip that weekend - Kate's family reunion. Once a year Kate's Grandma's family have a reunion in Holland and we were invited to attend, as the first Australian contingent to ever attend! We walked from Ingrid's house to Laura's (Ingrid's niece) as she had kindly agreed to drive us all. Along the way we picked up Ingrid's sister Jules (yep, another Julia). We had met Ingrid before and Kate had met Jules when she had holidayed in Australia in 1999 but it was a firs for us both to meet Laura, and of course it was a pleasure. And we were relieved that they all had impecable english. We first drove to Dennis' home where he and his wife Adrie invited the family congregation for lunch and a casual catch up. It was certainly overwhelming being introduced to so many new faces in one go and trying to remember how they were all connected and how they fitted in the very complex family tree. But again they were all very welcoming and keen to talk to us about our move to the UK and about our wedding, and of course about Australia. Ingrid came to Australia for our wedding and so was asked to give a small talk to the family about her experence and about Australia in general as there are a few of the Dutch family planning trips! Inrid even prepared a map to bring, and whilst we were pretty up-to-sped with the general info, we were surprised to see a place in Western Australia called Tom Price! So since we've been home we had to look into it and found out that it's a mining town - for more info check out

It was a really special time for Kate to be able to meet so many members of her extended family, she even met the god-daughter of her Grandma, another Jules! Of course all of the Dutch family knew Kate's Grandma as she's the last remaining link of family they grew up knowing from the generation above them all, so Kate spent much time talking about her Grandma and describing the small extended family in Australia.

After a lovely afternoon in Dennis' garden we all car pooled and went to the coast where most of us went for a lovely walk along the beach. I have to admit that if we had been at home we would not have thought about walking along the beach in our coates and scarves, but it really was lovely. We just walked and talked and continued to get to know each other. After over an hour on the beach we all retired to a lovely restaurant built on the beach. Luckilly we were helped wth the menu as our Dutch is very poor, and we thoroughly enjoyed a wonderful dinner, toasting to keping up family ties. It was such a shame to say goodbye after only a few hours but we have been invited back for next year!

The next day we had a leisurely morning before headding back into Utrecht to spend a little time browsing the little botique shops before starting the journey back to the airport and back to London. But it was an extremely rewarding wekend and we were so greatful to Ingrid for having us stay and for organising for us to be able to attend.

So that was the family event of the month. The following wekend we went to visit Mark's mum's family in Newmarket, just out of Cambridge. After only 4 days in London we honestly loved getting back into the country again. We caught the train to Cambridge and as always were pleaseantly surprised by how quickly the trains get out of London into the lush green countryside, with fields and blue skies a plenty. There were engineering works on the cambridge rail line so before we got to Cambridge we had to disembark the train and catch a replacement bus service, which almost took less time than the train would have! Maybe we just had a driver who liked to floor it, which was a little oncerning as we went OVER the small local round-a-bouts. Louise, Mark's mum's cousin, kindly offered to pick us up from the Cambridge station to save us from another journey to Newmarket. And once at her place she kindly cooked us up a great english breakfase with sausages, bacon, fried eggs, beans and of course lovely fresh bread. Mmmmm. Mark particularly enjoyed and felt he could easilly manage without his cereal for that! So once our bellies were full Lou took us for a drive into Berrie where we had a lovely walk around the town and through the Abbey gardens. The ruins there were amazing, old stone walls with moss and grass all around - the only remnants of the old abbey. There were plenty of families there, even an wedding party having photos (shame about the brides huge merangue bright red dress) and there was even a family walking their pet ferret! Mark desperately wanted to join in with the 2yr old kids and feed the ducks bread. We also went into the Cathedral - relly beautiful. It has been well looked after and there are huge efforts to keep it well restored. It almost looks new! It had beautiful stained glass windows and the huge huge ceilings always astound us with the marvel of how they could have been erected.

One little querk in Berrie that Lou showed us was the smallest pub in Brittain. It was packed with 8 customers. It was quite funny as Lou was trying to find it to show us and we actually almost walked right past it. We think they must have all been regulars - but the bar seemed well stocked.

After a lovely afternoon in the fresh air we went to visit Mabel, Lou's mother-in-law (Mark's great aunty) who has been unwell for some time now. She was in hospital and our visit was a surprise for her. We took flowers and photos to show. We had family photos from our wedding where we showed Mark's mum and family - all people Mabel hasn't seen for years. We stayed for a while chatting and telling her about our travels and our work. Whilst it was obvious to see she was frail she was still able to tell the nurses where to go! Lou was trying to organise for Mabel to move to the Newmarket hospital when a bed becomes available so that she's closer to home and in a more familiar place.

We went back and had dinner with Bob and Lou and were able to catch the first half of the rugby semi final before we had to get to the train station to catch the last direct train back to London. If we had have known what was going to happen we would have stayed the night, but we were not to know that freight trains delayed our first train from Newmarket to Cambridge which made us miss the last direct train to London. So as before there was a replacement bus from Cambridge for the last leg of the trip, then we caught a train half way to London - made all the more enjoyable with a group of under-aged teenage girls drinking away and singing really out of tune, then there were 2 busses to get us into Kings Cross, then 2 night busses from King's Cross to get us back to Fulham and home, one of which went straight through Picadilly Circus and got stucj in traffic because of England making it through to the final, as well as a fight, fists thrown and a nearly broken bus door. So in total - a 6 hour Journey 9pm to 3am! Oh my god - never again.

Unfortunately there was no rest for the wicked - Mark still had to rise at an early hour to play football and Kate couldn't sleep well after all the night's travel excitement. And in the afternoon we had another family event - Antoinette, Mark's Aunty from Las Vegas was leaving the next day so we were having a farewell dinner for her at Geraldine and Paul's house. Their twins of course had the limelight as they pottered around, danced and 'helped set the table'! But Gel cooked a lovely dinner and it was really nice to be able to spend a relaxing evening with Antoinette. We have to admit that we were a little glad that Antoinette was keen to go home as she hadn't started packing yet as we were happy to be able to get a good nights sleep!

Now since we watched half of therugby world cup semi-final on that Saurday, of course with England in the final the following weekend was a rather large event. Now to be honest we were incredibly surprised that there was no fuss and no-one had any ideas of any big screns being errected for crowds to watch the game. As a last minute arrangement the London city council organised for the big screens at the O2 dome to show the game. They sold tickets to watch the game inside the dome and then there were tickets to the big screen in the outer areas. Mark managed to get an sms going round that offered free tickets to the outside screen, and since we were keen to be with a crowd he sent Kate into town after work to get the tickets. She did well batting her eyelashes and got 6 tickets instead of the allocated 2! Nice work. So with Sam (flatmate), his friend, Paul (friend from Africa), his friend and us both we went to the O2 dome at Greenwich. We enjoyed a couple of warming drinks in the bar first, where we really got into the spirit of singing chants and English songs. We've added a couple of videos of the singing in the pub. You'll notice that Mark is te main vioce!

So we stood outside in the chilly black night in front of a big screen with a few hundred other people to atch what turned out to be a very average game. Now if you ask Mark it turned out to be a prety average weekend with the recovery of the time in the bar taking the whole rest of the weekend - so much so that he was unable to play football the next day! So there's not too many more memories that are too appropriate to share about that weekend, other than to say sorrows were drowned.

Now we're up to the end of October and to a couple of special dates that are celebrated well. We went to a halloween party - a charity event for children in Africa. Halloween is something that we have never really celebrated as it isn't an Australian thing but over here they seem to throw a few parties and get into it! That night we met many familiar faces including scooby doo, dracula, the guy off of Saw, a thunderbird, Shaggy and a couple of witches. We also met up with some of our African traveller friends. Megan had travelled down up from cardiff and Ash who had been travelling Europe had made it into London with her friend Elise to meet up with us again. Paul aka Scooby Doo was also there and getting stuck into the Scooby snacks. It was great to catch up with them and find out how they were going. As the night wore on the mysterious powers of hops and distilling took over some of the party people and we helped them from there merry slumber and walked with them home. We took the wrong direction, Scooby had lost his sense of smell to get home and so after about an hour of walking the length of the thames we bumped into a group from the party that were heading in the right way for them so we caught a bus back home in the wee hours of the morning. The next day after the glorious win of Mark's football team FC London, we met up again to see Megan and ash and Elise for a traditional sunday roast in a pub. We got a top feed that day for £6 and had a good chat about the previous nights events and what ash had been doing and was going to do.

Later in that week we went and saw Chelsea play Leicester City in the Carling cup knock out competition. Due to opposition the tickets went on to general sale and were we glad that they did! The ground was packed and unlike the Chapions League match that mark saw before the atmosphere was 10 notches better. The Leicester fans were loud and made even more noise when they scored first. Mark and Sam had to contain themselves as they both half jumped out of there seats as Leicester scored the first goal as they both were hoping for an upset. To all of our amusement the chants and banter between both sets of supporters was awesome. The chants of 'who are ya?' from the Leicester fans to the chelsea fans was met with 'you're not singing anymore' as the scoreline changed. The game ended in a 4-3 win to Chelsea which was a shame but the football was aweome. One thing that took us by surprise was the police presence. Usually on match days there is nothing to worry about but that night the police were in full riot gear and horses patrolling the streets. It is really intimidating walking through the lines of police knowing that something small could turn out to be massive. But there was nothing to worry about and I look forward to the quarter finals when Chelsea play Liverpool!!!

That night also Ash and her friend Elise stayed with us and for the next couple of nights. The next night we ventured into the sloppy slug for a few beers and had a good time. The snakebites were flowing (a drink of ribena, beer and cider) and the bingers were out in force but that is the usual crowd at the slug. But we had a good night and it was nice to get out and about again. The following night the firework celebrations started for the guy fawkes night of the 5th of november. England has fireworks happening all over the weekend and we went down to Clapham Common to watch them. Unlike at home where the sky show is the best you will get for fireworks (if that is even running still) the fireworks we saw went on for a long time and were also pretty ingenious. The way they get the fireworks to explode these days I think is pretty unbelieveable and it still makes me smile when the big ones go off and all the parents still do the whole smurf oooooo, aaahhhhh thing! One thing must be said though Sydney still has the best fireworks displys in the world!!

Ash left us that night to travel onto Africa and Elise left to stay at a backpackers that she had booked in advance but we did ctch up with elise and trina and joel for a curry in Brick Lane. On our previous experience it was quite daunting having people come up to you and offer everything but the kitchen sink to get you to come in and sit at their restaurant. But at the end of the day it's the guy who almost burst a blood vessel to win our patronage who won. And it was a great easy night, sitting back sharing curries.

That brings us pretty much up to date, only needing to add on that since the weather is now much crisper that we went to the Science Museum and easily passed a whole afternoon there, and we cooked our first roast together in our small kitchen.

But as we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, one of the reasons for our trip is to spend valuable time with our family, which brings us to some sad news. You will remember that we travelled to Cambridge and Newmarket to visit Mabel, Mark's great Aunty. Well sadly last weekend she passed away in hospital and we went to the small, private funeral in Newmarket. It was a fitting service for a lady who was not religeous, but who worked at the pub on the corner by the chapel for many years. We went to the cemetary aond watched the comittal. And unfortunately on the same day we heard the very sad news that Kate's Grandma has had a stroke at home and is not doing very well so Kate is currently flying back home to be with her family.

So on that note, everyone take care of yourselves. It's at times like these that we realise life is too short to waste. Have fun, live life and treasure your family.

God Bless you all.

Love Kate and Mark

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