So, it is all over. We have said our goodbyes and are now on the plane to Hong Kong.
"It's like having your heart torn out," Lydia said the other day and she's right. The last few days have been a blur of goodbyes and I feel like a washing machine on an endless rinse cycle.
I managed to drag the kids up to London one last time on Monday, walking them through the icy streets until their feet nearly froze off. We went up in the London Eye for a surreal look at London in the snow and the mist, but I have a feeling they enjoyed the seven minute bus journey from Leicester square to Euston much more. Oh well, at least we can qualify as proper tourists now! There were so many places I had wanted to go to in London, old haunts I had wanted to visit, places I've always dreamed of visiting, but for some reason we haven't had time to do any of those things. I had dreamt of going to a concert at the Wigmore specifically, but couldn't get tickets. One day I am going to come back to London all by myself and do all the things I want to do without any grumpy kids who just want to be at home watching TV...
Then, after London, it was goodbye to people. Goodbye to my grandmother in the knowledge that it will almost definitely be the last time I see ever see her - I thought that the last time we came, but since she is now 101, I suspect that the chances of ever seeing her again are quite a bit slimmer. What makes it even harder is that it's not even as though I can ring her anymore, as she is as deaf as a post.
Goodbye to my sisters, Lalla and Bernadette, Clara and Miriam and their lovely husbands, goodbye to my weird and wonderful parents, to all my nieces and nephews and cousins and their children, my Aunt and Uncle, my sister in law and my parents in law, my friend Emma and her family.
It's been harder than I thought, to be honest. In fact, if I'm really honest, I have been bowled over by my emotions on this trip. I was looking forward to it as a chance to catch up with people and to see some sights before returning home to Brisbane and resuming life as normal. But I feel as though I have fallen in love with England all over again - or rather, fallen in love with England, I should say. I have been revelling in the landscape, the old buildings, the atmosphere of age and history, the excitement and beauty, the culture and the cosmopolitanism - is that really a word? - of London. Most of all it has been wonderful to spend time with my family. And I have been asking myself, again and again, why we moved over to Aus? And also, would we have moved to Aus if circumstances had been different?
When we left England, we only had one child and were young and adventurous and wanted to try living somewhere new, somewhere with the blue skies and heat that I had grown up with and that we both craved. When we left England, my parents and three of my sisters were not living there, few of our friends were married and none of them had had children. We didn't realise that life would move on so quickly and that when we came back we would be that much older and so would everyone else. We didn't realise that as soon as we left, everybody would move to England and start breeding. I don't think we realised quite how far we were going.
I guess I need to remember that if we lived in England, the novelty of snow would soon wear off. If we lived in England we would not be living in the Bennet's house from Pride and Prejudice, we would be lucky to get a tiny terrace on the outskirts of London; the people who have been making such an effort to see us in these last few weeks would resume their normal lives; we would be busy with our own lives and we would only see them once in a blue moon; trips to London would not be sight seeing tours, but would be undertaken as grey faced commuters battling with the vagaries of London transport.
And, on the other side of the coin, in just a few hours we will be swimming in our pool, eating our own mangoes, catching up with the many loved and wonderful friends we have made in the years we have spent in Brisbane. Normal life will take over and England will seem like a dream. I will be having my sleep disturbed by my cat again and hauling myself out of bed to walk my beautiful dog in the mornings. But most of all, at the risk of churning stomachs, I will be with Rupert again, we will be reunited as a family, and that is the only thing which really matters.