I fly into Heathrow along with the dawn that has grown beautifully bold outside my window, slow hour after hour, as we course our way over the top of the world.

Coming in over London

It is not a comfortable flight. I had made the mistake of selecting a window seat – great during the day when you can gaze out over extraordinary vistas, but a bad choice at night. The window is a freezing bed-pillow, and I can’t get out to pee. Easily. Without waking other people. Which isn’t what I want to do.

So, as I said. A bad choice.

We land early, just after 6am, and already it’s full-on day. China already feels a million miles away. And then the absolute wonder of driving through the fresh green English countryside where the Ox-eye daisies along the motorway verges, like a froth of Victorian relatives waving their white handkerchiefs to speed you on your way, is a home-coming like nothing else.

So you still have great sunsets here too...

I stay on the outskirts of London and see family and friends I have missed for a year. As with any adventure – for coming back home can be just as much a voyage of discovery as going away – there are moments which are “captured” emotionally, as much as they might have been by a camera: holding my great-nephew just two days after his birth; hearing a cuckoo; glimpsing the very last of the early bluebells. Or the night the fox got the chickens…

And the excitement of small boys as they unwrap their presents and find blow-pipes inside! Of course we play with them in the garden and, as far as I know, no-one has lost an eye yet…

Here's Harry!

All too soon, it seems, it’s time move on. To pick up the pieces of a family that the last year has ridden roughshod over, and to figure out where we all go from here.

I hit Bath at the beginning of the Music Festival, Fringe Festival, and various other cultural events which make me realise that my cultural experience in China is one of how people live their lives, rather than what they do – a more anthropological view than academic. And I feel like I’m jonesing! I pore over the programmes, soaking up the delight in going to live music events that I can better relate to, art shows, street theatre and just hanging out in my old pub haunts catching up a year’s worth of gossip and several pints of real ale.

I hadn’t realised, until I left China, that just being there was such hard work. But having said that, I am aware that there are many more opportunities there for someone with initiative, than there are in England. The middle class is growing exponentially: they are conspicuous in their consumption and they are investing heavily in art.

My arrival “back home” is made all the easier by an invitation to stay with friends, as I’d given up my rented country cottage and put everything in storage when I first went to China in 2009. However, their wholesome farm-house cooking is forcing me to consider gym membership. And none of this is helped by my discovery that if you leave your clothes in storage for a year, the waists shrink.

But that hasty visit to the lock-up supplies me with the necessary “winter” clothing now that I’ve missed the scorcher of spring. The brolly is coming in handy almost daily, but I haven’t needed the wellies yet. But then, I’m not planning on going to Glasto this year. Rock on!

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