South of England for Beginners

Or, How I Learned To Stop Being Sarcastic And Love Buckinghamshire A Little Bit…

Seeing familiar landmarks through tourist eyes must be one of my favourite things ever. Being an immigrant’s daughter with a huge sprawl of relatives from three different countries, and living in the right part of the UK for the most iconic tourist shufties made an otherwise rather confused childhood a lot more fun and colour-supplementish than it might’ve been. Unfortunately any prospects I may’ve had of growing into a brilliant guest-host have so far been dented by my living arrangements, having spent all my adult life either in cramped shared houses or en famille. Currently I’m the latter, and we’ve never had non-relatives to stay for more than two or three days. However, in the spring of last year I met two lovely mutual friends of my late friend (who, like me, came to know him through blogging) and later I spent New Year with them in Belfast. So it was agreed that this month me and my folks would return their hospitality and they’d come over for five or six days – owing to ill-health they don’t travel much so it was an extra-special occasion. I devised a packed itinerary taking in London, Windsor, Marlow and the Chilterns. They also spent a day exploring Oxford while I spoke at a conference in Birmingham. Much fun and innuendo were had, so to speak. And on a shoestring budget, to boot.

In some ways, there was a deeper purpose to all of this than giving my pals a good time or myself a break. I spent most of my teens desperate to get out of this area, sparring with Tory/UKIP offspring, and vehemently chose to move as far away as possible when the time came. Since moving back, with all the adversity that entails, I’ve spent most of the time plotting where to move to next and tweeting melodramatic statements about emigrating. Sadly for a number of reasons this temporary arrangement hasn’t been as temporary as I’d hoped and this year I decided that tentatively trying to make the most of anything and anyone redeemable I can find around here might be a better forward strategy than feeling like a sack of crap and trying to pretend I’m somewhere else. There is a lot more redeemable here now than when I was at school –  if timing and practicalities hadn’t been against me I might even have ended up on a 2014 scholarship for the screenwriting MA at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, with a flat of my own. Sadly it isn’t to be, but it has given me an inkling that a decent future needn’t necessarily involve moving to Palau.

Speaking of TV and films, Bucks and the surrounds are used as locations all the time and a tonne of nerdy websites and books will tell you what was filmed where. If you never want to have sex again, the Hughenden Manor gift shop even sold a Midsomer Murders location guide the last time I was there (Random related fact: I nearly went to see an episode of it being filmed during my gap year – the 2003 heatwave – but was scuppered by not being able to drive as the locations were too far to get to by public transport. I was 19, in a diffy head-state and generally not best-placed for tea and chit-chat with John Nettles, so it’s really just as well, but it’s nice to have a cringeworthy gap year anecdote without having actually gone through the cringe…)

Some pics of the week’s excursions are below (more on Instagram).

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