From Taunton I returned to pick up Mum & we were off to Portsmouth on a hot (for England) day. A brief stop at Salisbury for lunch (outside yet another cathedral) & we eventually made it to our hotel in Portsmouth. After settling in it was off down to the historic dockyards for a quick look - managed most of the Mary Rose museum. Quite amazing some of the stuff that was preserved for so long down there - all sorts of things: weapons, doctor's supplies, shoes, kitchen equipment & so on. Saw Portsmouth Cathedral (another one), a Nelson monument (another one) before trying to drive around & find somewhere to have dinner. Not without some difficulty finally found a nice Turkish restaurant - concluded apart from the Historic Dockyards, there isn't really much to Portsmouth.
Back to the dockyard the next morning with a great look around the Victory (still can't imagine the chaos it must have been fighting on those ships) , saw the remains of the Mary Rose with the waxy solution being sprayed all over it - when this has penetrated all the way in to the wood they will start drying it out properly (over twenty years since it was raised). Because there was a Royal Navy "Meet Your Navy" few days starting the day after we were there, the hour long cruise around the harbour was very interesting with many naval ships in - highlights were two aircraft carriers, three Japanese frigates & some other mammoth-sized ships (slightly bigger than a mammoth then) that I don't really remember exact descriptions for.
Out of Portsmouth before rush hour (if they have one) & on towards Mum's second (I think) cousins who live in a small village south of Southampton. Another warm welcome - was interesting to see an armchair-bed, I have seen plenty of sofa-beds before, but never a single armchair-bed - still it was comfortable. A brief look around the original Christchurch on Friday morning & then the half hour Lymington-Yarmouth to visit my previous Pukekohe flatmates, Ben & Gina, on the Isle of Wight.
The double-decker bus ride to Newport (where Ben & Gina live) was great, as I was at the front up the top & as we careened down these narrow back country walled lanes we hit a great number of overhanging trees. Dragged my small amount of gear (pleasant to be travelling without a bike some of the time) to the top of Ben & Gina's shared house. As Gina works with maps at the Isle of Wight council she had considerately pinned a map of all the pubs on the island on the wall - we crossed three of the 150-odd off during the day I was there. Also got the big island tour (still can't believe there was a chairlift down to the beach), saw The Needles, lots of pleasure boats (c.f. with most of England), watched a few cruise ships go out at high tide, visited Carisbrooke Castle (at least I will remember it this time - I still have the pencil case from 21 years ago) & generally enjoyed the warm weather. Up much too early to get back to Hordle & pick Mum up for the dash up to Kent for a family reunion of sorts. There I got to meet all Mum's cousins on her father's side - I don't think they had been all together for quite some years. Of course, I didn't remember any of the ones I had met before. That was pretty neat, if a little strange - getting to know all these people that are quite close, but not (no we are not Irish).
Unfortunately, the follow day was my last in the UK. Mum & her cousin Trish headed off to the Imperial War Museum to do some genealogy research in to both of Mum's grandfathers in WWI, while I gave my bike & shoes a thorough cleaning for the inevitable MAF fine tooth comb inspection back home & was entertained with stories of spying in Egypt for the British after WWII by Fred. Managed to get back to Heathrow on the M25 in about an hour - which I thought was ok from Sidcup & Junction 3, the Passat was gone & I embarked on the long trip home & back to work. To borrow from Captain Darling - simply says, "Bugger".
4 hours ago