Uptown Girl Abroad
Today is my Mum's birthday.
Listen, I know I've mentioned missing her more than once in this column, but please bear with me.
Today is firmly up there in terms of my least enjoyable days of the year: right alongside her anniversary, Christmas, my parents' wedding anniversary: taken-for-granted moments that become cloyingly bittersweet.
(There is an elephant in the room, and it has eaten all of the birthday cake.)
Unfortunately each of those days rolls around like clockwork and despite the self-help books on grief, and the well-meaning friends and strangers alike, time doesn't make it more bearable.
Nine years ago, it would have been hard to imagine I'd travel the world with the boy in the pink shirt.
It happened by chance - one Saturday night, I had some friends over when a carload of boys I'd never met before pulled up outside my house.
(This isn't as bad as it sounds - give me a minute.)
They were boyfriends of friends, and friends of theirs, on their way back from town to far-flung, exotic locales.
Before I left on my OE, I didn't think I was very intrepid.
To be fair, that assumption was largely correct - especially if the criteria is restricted to visiting war zones or going hitch-hiking.
And yes, given the choice, I would choose a sumptuous king- size bed in a hotel room with a view over a squeaky bunk in a dorm.
But I feel I should get some kudos: No matter how small, I'll claim it.
Going travelling is a constant learning experience, and I'm pleased to say I've advanced beyond rookie tourist.
With such limited time in Europe, holders of a two-year working holiday visa are easily sucked into bouncing from one country's big-name destination to another.
And while that's fabulous - here's looking at you, Barcelona - there's so much beyond the places found in your On a Shoestring.
The Bearded One and I are planning a weeks-long road trip around Europe, part of which will take in some of Poland's bigger centres.
But after a friend raved about it, Mark organised a group to head to Gdansk.
The town on the Baltic coast was a place I knew only from old textbooks as the flashpoint of WWII - and only as Danzig, where a group of post office workers defended the building against invading Nazi soldiers and some of the war's first shots were fired.
The scourge of the Kiwi in London isn't the lack of freely available Watties sauce.
It isn't even Infernos in Clapham. (Hangover-stricken expats are likely howling in protest at this as we speak.)
No, the scourge of the Kiwi in London is the never-ending churning of visa expiration dates.
The ebb and flow of life in the UK means you constantly find yourself saying goodbye to mates - mates from back home, mates you've known just three months - all people you share memories of what will be the most nostalgia-inducing years of your life, when you're in the mortgage slog.
(If you're lucky.)
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