2018: My Hometown Glory? ... Bilston, England!

I have a strange old relationship with my hometown of Bilston, it's a place I can't stand but when I go back its like no other place compared to China! Looking for a slice of 'Hometown Glory' I boarded two flights from Beijing to see my first Niece, Orla! Bilston Market gave me some interesting sights, for motivation. Even though the flights were long, It was a wonderful week! 

Getting over my jet lag was very necessary, feeling rested it was time to visit Bilston to take care of some things. Depositing some money into my bank was on my list, my VPN would need renewing in November and being China there's always a few restrictions with that business. Swinging past the Outdoor Market allowed me to stock up on some much needed western 'Dove' toiletries because some of those soaps, shower gels and deodorants can be damn expensive in 中国! Hearing the local accent was the best, living in China I always hear the Mandarin language, so hearing a bit of a Bilston twang sounded good to me in that hometown moment. I loved listening to those Bilo' conversations and iconic passing phrases. The indoor market took me back to scenes of normality with the meat and fish counters, the same sweet shop stood and being no Aero in China I had to eat a supersize bar there and then! The day before I had some pork scratching but I wanted that Black Country treat in my life again! Oh, I prefer these visits! 

It had only been ten months or so since I took off for round two of life in China, I had a very special reason to come back so soon after settling into my teaching life. The last ten months had been pretty damn hectic, a beach holiday was on the cards or more likely a trip around the Grasslands of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region but flights to the UK had been booked well in advance. The drive back from the airport was the same as it was before, whereas the area in Beijing I live in is classed as a 'outlying suburban district' so not seeing high rises didn't freak me out as much as it had done the first time round. Seeing a China Shipping truck on the motorway pass gave me the chance to show accompanying family my Chinese language skills! Cheese and potato pie with beans and bacon went down a treat on the first evening back home, nothing tastes as good as home cooked English food! That week I ate everything in sight, I didn't want any rice or noodles! Home is better for a holiday visit, I'm not a home bird! Sorry, B! 

Going back to the UK to begin my 'Uncle Duties' I couldn't wait to see my first Niece! From that birthday phone call to only seeing photos through Facebook Messenger and occasionally WeChat, it was the greatest gift to see Orla Rose on the 22nd of August 2018 for the first time! Seeing my younger Brother as a Father made me feel so proud, he absolutely dotes on Orla and so he should because she's a beautiful little girl with an amazing future ahead of her! Seeing both new parents together with their daughter for the first time was equally as great, the last time we had all been together was the epic night out we had in Birmingham. During that August week I wanted to get in as many hours to see my precious Orla before I jetted back to China for the start of the new semester. With the wait over it was fantastic to see Orla! If truth be told, being an uncle felt amazing! Those 7,202.66 miles flown were worth every moment spent with my Niece! It wasn't how much time I spent with her, it was the quality! I love my Orla with all of my heart! 

Setting out for a day at the Cotswalds Farm Park, it was nice to see some countryside because as much as its home the concrete fashion of Bilston gets a bit grey. Driving through the nearing countryside gave myself, Lewis and Alice to have a good old catch up, as mentioned before a lot had changed compared to our last meeting. It was all very exciting to be talking about the baby in the present tense. The farm was nice, we had lunch and got some important photos taken of me and Orla because being a long-distance Uncle meant I needed something to remember her whilst I wasn't at home. We fed the animals, walked around the enclosures where were saw goats, sheep and a whole host of other farm animals. I couldn't help but think it would be a great place to take my 3-5 year old students to! Spoiling Orla with a special plush rabbit and a book about a 'Magic Rabbit', her Mom and Dad called the bunny 'Magic', of course she loves Magic! Flying from China to see Orla was worth every single mile! I didn't want to say goodbye! Noooo!

For the rest of the week it was all about relaxing at home and catching up with family. I wasn't home for long enough for my sleeping pattern to get back into gear, the annoying thing was I found myself falling asleep before 10pm until the last night I was able to get back to normal! Sunday brought a lovely Roast Dinner, how I had missed Yorkshire Puddings and mashed potatoes! Seeing my cousins all grown up was crazy, the eldest will be a teenager and at secondary before we know it! I loved the fact it was a week away from the madness of life in China, the weeks leading up to my holiday home were lovely, settling into my new campus was great. I had something genuine to look forward to upon my return to Beijing, China. The Sunday Roast was lovely, it was like Summer Christmas because I am planning to spend it in India and possibly in another place, that second place hasn't been confirmed yet. Oh, Yorkshire puddings! Not going to lie, I had a certain craving for some noodles! No not from the takeaway! 来自中国! 

The day before I flew back to China I went to the cinema with my Mum, Aunties and Cousins to see 'The Greatest Showman'. I had seen something about it on Facebook a few months earlier but hadn't given it a seconds thought, I was unknowingly in for a treat! I was captivated from the very beginning right through to the rip-roaring finale. Hugh Jackman played a blinder as Barnum and I adored the 'freak unique' theme of the story that surrounded the show, the message of acceptance and that people should be loved no matter what they looked like or who they were really impressed me! One of the leading songs would follow me back to Beijing's Destination Club! Spending one final night relaxing at home, I was back on my Cathay Pacific flight bound for Hong Kong, I was over the flight on the way back! With a beautiful niece at home I need to get my ass home a lot more often! From Bilston Market to my family summer Christmas dinner, my whistle stop trip home was great! Back to China, back to my overseas life! 

Home Sweet Home!

Joseph Harrison 


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