A UK Trip for the Ages

If you are wondering about the radio silence, I have just returned from a fantastic month away in the UK with Sarah.

I don’t know quite where to start with so many highlights. For once, we managed the perfect combination of downtime in the countryside and city highlife, quality time with old friends/family and larger nights out, experimenting with new activities and venues and enjoying our old favourites, mediating craziness with culture and even spent some memorable one-on-one time.

Firstly, catching up with Sarah’s family (and their many animals) and exporting some of Australia’s finest barbecuing skills… Mr Macdonald even borrowed my ‘off-road’ scooter as a joy-riding-alcohol-trolley, normally reserved for grannies and daytrippers.

Tending to the crops with Farmer Raker (One of Sarah’s oldest friends from Norfolk)

The 3rd Puffin Magic Foundation dinner in London was a screaming success thanks primarily to the organisers, Dan Hough and Scott Tindal (first on the left and middle of first photos respectively), but also all the fabulous guests, generous donators of all the auction and raffle prizes, Spring Events (the production company), Porchester Hall (the venue), Oristem (the stem cell company who gave a very interesting talk regarding stem cell therapy) and all those behind-the-scenes.

One of the highlights of the evening was Zinzan Brooke (pictured second from right in the photo below), Mark ‘Sharky’ Robinson (both ex-all Blacks) and a few other Kiwis performing the Haka live for an ecstatic audience.

They even let me say a few words.

One of my great mates Al Brierley somehow managed to procure a Paragolfer (after months of persistence) which meant I was able to play with all my old golfing buddies at the Puffin Cup. You can only imagine what an amazing day this was from me after 4 1/2 years off, hitting balls again at my favourite golf course in the UK, The Berkshire. The shot here is the intimidating 1st hole which is a 217 yard par-3. I’d love to say the pressure of a full gallery on the terrace and 14 of my golfing buddies watching didn’t get the better of me, however, unfortunately, the fairway was out of reach and a miss-timed tee shot tarnished my perfect return to golf in the mother country.

Some of the more special moments were meeting my good friends’ newborns. Margot Shakespeare in a happy place below with doting parents Rob and Henrietta watching carefully on.

Meeting my adorable Godson Hugo Brierley for the first time below and hitting some balls with my other godson James Mcgeoch (full family portrait below with parents, Bruce and Lou and brother Laughy)

I managed to snap up a cheeky brown trout flyfishing for the very first time on the Itchen River in Winchester and believe it or not convinced the very helpful and committed crew at Norfolk Gliding school to take me up and try my hand at piloting a glider. Again, for the very first time.

Whoever said quadriplegics couldn’t fly…

As something I have wanted to try for most of my life, it was a truly memorable experience which will never be forgotten even though it was suggested I may try to lose 10 kgs if I was hoping to head up again.

I squeezed in some walking in the countryside and a trip to the range with old friends…

Sarah and I enjoyed a sensational couple of days together including a night at the Opera and a trip to Oxford to check out her old college and watering holes.

Another truly inspiring day was with The Disabled Golf Association at one of there many tournaments during the year. As I imagine many before me, I asked the seemingly innocent question to the group of players about to tee off, “so what are your handicaps?” to which I received a range of somewhat unexpected responses ranging from “mine is MS” to “I’m a single limb amputee”. It was amusing to say the least.

Stan, the one-legged amputee who played off single figures and Graeme the head of the association were both particularly impressive. Given my ambitions to set up disabled golf society in Australia and see disabled golf enter Paralympics it was seriously encouraging day with plenty of good connections made.

They even insisted I hit a couple.

I met my first albino puffin living out rest of his days in the Natural History Museum and travelled to Sutton Hoo, the site of two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries, one contained an undisturbed ship burial and a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts.

Finally, we bought Charles (Sarah’s brother) a couple of cheeky beers for his birthday.

All in all, we were truly blessed with the weather, our gorgeous friends and family and all that the British summertime had to offer. Save the Aussies dismal showing in the cricket.

Hope all is well in your world.