Tag Archives: England

Empty

Other than a few thrift-store-bound coffee mugs we saved to use until we leave and the appliances with UK plugs we can’t take with us, my house is empty.  Our things have all been packed away, wrapped up and boxed up and, as I write this, they are being loaded on a truck bound for a ship bound for America. 

My house looks like it did the day we arrived: a blank slate waiting to be filled up.

I know this house was never really mine, never really ours, but for three years we made it so and we loved it like it was.  It has seen us through one of the biggest transitions our family will likely ever know: becoming expats, finding our new selves in a new culture, creating this life in England and all the changes it wrought in all of us. 

Places become part of you, part of your story, and this wonky old farmhouse with crooked walls and wavy window glass and an 800-year old church next door is as much a character in this chapter of our lives as the people we met and came to love.

All I can think of as I look around the rooms stripped bare is the overwhelming anticipation and fear and hope I felt during our first days here.  The empty rooms were waiting then to see what story we’d write here, I was waiting to see what our life would be here, we were all waiting to see what would happen here.  And now, we’ve reached the end and the rooms stand empty once again.

We’ll stay in this empty house for the next few days, sleeping on air mattresses and eating off paper plates like we did when we first arrived, and I will say goodbye to all the things I love most about it: the light-filled hallway outside our bedrooms, the view of the sunrise from my window, the kitchen island where we have breakfast every morning and snacks every afternoon, the gorgeous fairy tale garden surrounded by the moss-covered stone wall. 

For the life we built in this place: grateful doesn’t cover it, fortunate doesn’t cover it.  Moving to England was, hands down, the best choice we ever made for our family. 

My heart is full.

Spring

It’s officially spring, although the weather everywhere I look seems not to have gotten the memo.  The garden is popping up some spring-y looking surprises, but England generally doesn’t feel really like spring until at least late May, so it’s not quite time to put away the scarves and heavy coats yet. (Matt got overly optimistic yesterday though and, fooled by the sunshine, wore his spring coat to watch Gabe’s soccer match.  He regretted every single minute of that decision.)

We’re finishing up our second-to-last term of school here, with one more week to go until Easter break (which lasts 3.5 weeks!).  Then we’ve got one last crazy, full term of school to go until we move back to the U.S.

It’s going to fly by.

We’ve got four (!) more trips planned before we head back across the pond.  Plus this last term of school is always the busiest with sports, school plays, awards days, sports days, and other end-of-year activities.  Looking at the calendar with Matt the other night, we realized we only have a few weekends left with no plans.  It’s insane.

We’re going to Barcelona next week.  Venice for a long weekend in April.  Bruges and Amsterdam at the end of May.  And Athens for five days when school gets out in July. 

Then we’re flying home.

The Grand Adventure is coming to an end. A new one is beginning, I know, but man this chapter of our lives was exceptional. 

Until we get on that plane though, we’re ekeing out all the England we can.  Spring means cricket matches, school play practices, late sunsets and fire pits on the patio instead of in the living room, Easter break, flowers in the garden, and slightly warmer rain. It means bright yellow and green farm fields and baby lambs on every hillside.  The Queen’s birthday and a Royal Wedding this year! 

Long may it last.

Snow and Magic

Winters in England aren’t terribly cold temperature-wise, but the damp and wind seem to creep in and settle in your bones sometime in November and there they remain until June.  I never can seem to get warm, even though the temperatures rarely dip below freezing.

I don’t mind the cold really, never have.  Anyone can find happiness in a sunny warm afternoon, but it takes creativity and resourcefulness to be content when the cold takes your breath away.  Maybe growing up in New England thickened my blood, maybe I just have ice in my heart, but I’ll take freezing temps and mountains of snow over a hot, humid summer every day of the week. 

English winters, though.  They’re hard to bear. The wind never stops blowing.  The air is just never not wet, even when it’s not raining.  The nights are so long and the sun so scarce.  They wear on you, make you cranky. 

Until it snows. 

It doesn’t happen often here, but when it does, it makes up for a lot of dark days, grey skies, and damp winds.

You wake up to a world transformed, white fluffy snow dusting 800-year old churches and smoothing out the stark edges of bare wet trees, acres of rolling fields blanketed and quiet, still dotted with sheep that are harder to pick out against a backdrop no longer painted with mud and sodden hay.  The air is crisp instead of damp.  The light is brighter. 

Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as magic.

Walking

People in England walk way more than people in America walk.  Most of the people in my village “take walks” for no other reason but to walk.  And they don’t walk on sidewalks, cause there aren’t any, or on the roads even – they walk on public footpaths.  There are signs all over the place pointing out public footpaths, which wind their way across the country.  But we have been here over 18 months and I am still scared to try it.  

My American fear of walking on someone else’s land makes me nervous.  The footpath signs show you where the paths begin off the side of the road, but they’re not clearly marked once you’re on them.  There are also public bridleways, which are not just for pedestrians, but also cyclists and people on horseback.  They all wind across open fields, through back yards, across roads, and although there are signs at junctions, I am just never sure where, exactly, I’m supposed to walk.  So I stay on the road for fear of doing it wrong.

I’m determined to give it a try though.  There are over 140,000 miles of public footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales and we’re only here for so long!

I set out last week on a walk, hoping to get the nerve up to venture off the road and onto the path.  As a warm-up, I walked on the grass along the road to where the footpath signs mark the junction near my house, rather than on the pavement.  Walking on grass changes your speed.  It also changes your ability to pay attention to other things — you’ve gotta keep an eye on the ground or you might trip.  It slowed me down, but made me more aware.  I think maybe that’s the point of walking those footpaths — it is not to make sure you get x-number of miles in, but that you enjoy and pay attention to the miles you do walk.

When I got to the beginning of the footpath, though, I chickened out.  I looked along the edge of the field where the sign pointed and it just was not clear to me where I was supposed to go.  So I stayed on the road.  I walked, but I’m not getting the full English-walking-footpath experience that way.  I’m going to ask my neighbor to meet me a few times and show me “the way” I think, so I can get a few accompanied walks under my belt and get brave enough to try a solo.

While in Rome, they say, do as the Romans do.  And so, while in England, I shall walk.  Off the beaten track.  Because that’s how it’s done.  I just have to find someone to teach me how.

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