From Swansea I boarded a bus bound for Birmingham. The longer bus rides for some of these legs is cheaper than the trains and I pay the extra to make sure I get a window seat so that I can catch the views. With less than 24 hours in Birmingham I checked into my hotel room and headed out to check out the city.

Birmingham is quite nice to walk around and has some great streets and buildings. I pretty much just checked out the city centre, grabbed a bite to eat, and enjoyed some perusing of clothes shops and all that. I am usually such a just go in and get what I need type of person, but being in different places and it being after hours of museums clothes shops were something to wander in and out of.

The next day I was heading to Milton Keynes. Why??.. Well, I like round abouts… for those that don’t know about 10 years ago a bunch of backpackers entered my life and lived in my St. Kilda apartment lounge room for a few weeks. Damo was among them and I was making my way to catch up with him for the weekend.

After checking out of my hotel room, I left my suitcase with reception as I had a few hours till my train and went to explore a bit more. Not far from my hotel was the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery . There were some great little exhibitions on in here that gave an insight into life over the years – from rave scenes to racism in Birmingham. After looking around it was time to collect my luggage and head to the train station.

Damo came and picked me up in Milton Keynes and took for a scenic drive past the concrete cows to his place in Newport Pagnell. Where I ended up staying for 3 weeks instead of just the weekend. My original plan before I had factored in catching up with anyone was that I was going to just rent a place for a month (same cost as a weeks accomodation), chill out, and concentrate on work to get my financial buffer back. Damo kindly offered that I could stay longer and provided me with awesome company, both his, his dogs, and his fams. His dog’s Jess and Ruby were such personalities and both awesome. I did however wind up with a Ruby as my bedtime sleeping buddy. It took Jess a bit longer to warm up to me, she is a bit more wary. But by the end of my stay she was was coming up for the love and pats.

I really settled in and got comfy in my Newport Pagnell life. Working during the day while Damo went to work, collecting Ruby and Jess from his folks place (where they were keeping Callie (their dog) company), and taking them for a walk, before binging some anime or zombies on tv. It was really lovely to catch up with Damo after all these years and it amazing to just reconnect so easily. I guess it was also pretty easy when we connected so many years ago. That’s why I wanted all these people to stay in my apartment rather than them go somewhere else. In a non scary creepy way obviously. It was awesome to meet Damo’s fam Kirsty, Linda and Denholm. All who so kindly welcomed me into their home and lives. Really made me feel comfortable and that I wasn’t intruding into their space. Which for anyone that doesn’t know over staying my welcome, being in the way, or being an inconvenience is a huge fear of mine and something I really like to avoid.

There were certainly a few interesting things to note about MK/NP. Milton Keynes had just received city status! (I also just got a recommended news article today letting me know that the MK council are putting forward a new city plan for it to be as big as Liverpool by 2050.) When I was just visiting for the weekend, Damo took me on a tour of the city, showing me about. One of the coolest things (boom tisch) is the indoor snow field. Where you can go practice your skiing and snowboarding all year round! There is also a canteen area where you can be and watch people stack it. There is an upside down house and a bunch of sculptures and art installations around both streets and parks. There are some lovely green parks and places to walk around.

Newport Pagnell is the territory of local knit graffer the Knitting Nanna, who creates crocheted pieces that decorate and adorn things like the post boxes on the street. I happened to catch a glimpse of one of the recent creations while out walking one day after hearing about them, and that was quite exciting! I do love a good spot of knit graff. Years ago I talked about starting the Nitty Gritty Knitters crew, with the goal to yarn bomb places. I never followed through with that one.

One of the most exciting things to me, that I didn’t tire of seeing during my stay was the delivery robots! The local shops have these cute little bots, that get loaded up with your shopping and make their way to your home. Every time I saw them I smiled. Didn’t matter if they were delivering or just standing still. I did get heightened excitement when I saw them moving about the streets.

It was really nice to stop in one place for a while, I hadn’t done that since being at the house in Croatia. Also having someone awesome to hang out with was a bonus! Being in the one spot allowed me to really get to see autumn turn on and the trees change colour and lose their leaves. The weather has been pretty Melbourne-like mostly. Most days chatting to my folks we reported very similar weather conditions. I really enjoyed getting in the routine of taking the dogs for a walk at night, usually also joined by Callie (Damo’s folk’s dog) and Kirsty. It was nice having a chat and checking out the night sky when it was clear enough. Fireworks are also really popular for people to set off all the time. I notice them heaps, maybe because I am not used to hearing them this often.

I remembered that I couldn’t just stay forever and I had stayed long enough to get back into a financial position where I could be booking my next legs of travel, and so I did. It really sucked leaving to be honest. It’s been a few days and I still feel a bit sad. No offence to anyone in Melbourne, but like I said to my Mum – for the first time on this trip I feel lonely now. I have been reminded that I have emotions, they exist, and then I also remember that feeling emotions suck. I am likely to have a few more emotional and interesting experiences over the next few months as I have some more catchups with people planned! Mind you, I have also already started looking at my plans for next year to potentially include a visit to Damo before I hit the festivals up again. There are a couple of things that I haven’t been able to fit into this trip that are on the list. Including visiting Ireland so I am leaning towards doing some of that next year.