Tag Archives: living in England

The Last of Everything

We’re back to school here and settling in to the lovely routine of fall and sports and activities.  The lazy days of summer stretched out for what seemed like ages, and we soaked up the slow mornings and relaxed schedules and late bedtimes and weekend trips.  But by the end of August we were all ready for the hustle and bustle to return; even relaxation gets old if you do too much of it. 

But even in it’s welcome familiarity, this school year is different.  It’s our last here in England.  I feel it more deeply than the kids, I think, for whom the last two years seem to have been a lifetime.  I know how quickly the next months will go by.

I’ve already started my morbid tendency to memorialize the “last time” we’re about to do anything.  And this year makes it so easy.  This is my last September in England.  I’m strolling around my garden, saying goodbye to September roses and apples on trees and conkers – those most British of garden friends, little spiky balls that kids pelt one another with and which supposedly keep the spiders out of your house.  Every school event is our last: the last autumn cross-country season, the last back to school night with a wine and cheese bar, the last hurrah for all of it.  Events and traditions that were so foreign to us just two short years ago have so quickly become near and dear; my heart is already sad to let it all go.

We don’t have to leave, really.  Matt’s job will still be here, we could keep on with the grand adventure.  But all good things must come to an end, and we’re choosing a new adventure, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

There are things we miss about home that will make returning worth it.  But we’re new people now, we’ve changed in ways I never anticipated, and our lives are better for having lived somewhere new and different and foreign.  We won’t be satisfied going back to the same old thing we left behind.  And so the challenge will be to create a whole new life, with equal parts America and England, to find the balance between what we missed while we lived away and what we learned to love even more than anything we’d known before coming.

But first, this last year.  I’ll fight my natural inclination to live in the future and do my best to be present.  I don’t want to take away the joys of actually being here, not from me or Matt or the kids. 

And we’ve got big plans to finish — the ever-growing and changing list of places to see remains a work in progress, but with a much more limited time frame in which to accomplish it all.  Plans are constantly in the works, reservations being made, suggestions added and reality ignored for the most part.  There’s no way to do everything we want, to be honest.  And so, we say, we’ll have good reasons to come back and visit.

With the autumn well upon us here, and football for the boys and hockey for Bridget and turning leaves and holidays and half-term trips, this beginning of the end is upon us, and it’s just up to us to make the most of it.

The Halfway Point

Tomorrow marks 18 months since we moved to England.  We’re here for another 18 months before we head back to America.  This is the halfway point. And still I sometimes can’t believe we’re even here and we made this happen.  I love living in England,I truly do.  I love that we did this big thing and we’ll always remember it and it changed us in so many good ways.

I even don’t mind the weather; I can deal with grey chilly winters with a great deal more tolerance and grace than I can handle humid, sticky summers with 95+ degree temps. 

We’ve already done so much in our first 18 months here, but we really do have even more left that we want to do.  I’m glad we’ve got another 18 months, but even with that time I doubt we’ll ever do everything on “the list”.  Mostly because the list grows faster than we can check items off of it.

It’s astounding to me to look back at the first few weeks and months we were here and realize how insanely overwhelmed I was.  I didn’t really comprehend it at the time, because when you’re really inundated, you just do what you have to do without processing it too much.  But then I read my journal or this blog and I can hear the notes of panic behind my voice back then.

Not anymore, though.  Now it’s just normal here. 

I’m used to the insanely narrow roads and the slightly different version of English.  I love the longer school days and the longer school year and the much longer school breaks.  I know that we must take advantage of sunny weather anytime we have it because it doesn’t happen all that often.

I know now that every pub in the country serves a Sunday roast ONLY on Sundays, really there are no other restaurant options that day.  That there’s always fish on Fridays.  That tea isn’t just the drink, but also a term for an early dinner.  That pudding means dessert of any type.

I know that sweaters are jumpers and sneakers are trainers and pants are trousers and underwear are pants.

I know that we’re all expected to just get on with things, regardless of the weather or the complications or the extenuating circumstances.  Stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, and all that.

I also know that my kids are amazingly adaptable and will rise to any challenge.  That they embrace whatever they’re doing and wherever they are with open arms and their whole hearts.  I know they can and will be fine anywhere they go, because I’ve seen them adapt and overcome and assimilate.

I know, too,  that Matt and I can get through difficult things with a reasonable amount of humor and cooperation.  We can navigate through really, really confusing times and we can fake it till we make it, and we always do it together.  I love that.

More than anything else, more than the amazing travel and the incredible schools, what I know and love is that we’re doing something that has forever changed us and will forever stay with us.  We are different today than we were when we got on that plane in August of 2015, and the things we’ve done and learned and experienced have shaped us into more well-rounded, adventurous, adaptable, happier, more open-minded people.  No matter where we go or what we do for the rest of our lives, these years in England will stay with us.

Here’s to another 18 months, and to all the adventures behind and ahead.

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Scenes from the Village

The village where we live is tiny and adorable.  There are probably no more than 40 homes, and our house, at 200+ years old, isn’t even close to the oldest one.  Our neighbors’ house has original sections that date back 400 years. 

The church next door is 700+ years old. 

The pub (every good village in England has one!) is located right in the center of the village. There’s been a pub operating continuously in that location since 1352.  There are areas inside where Matt, at 6′ tall, has to duck under the beams that support the the low ceiling.  Even in the places where he can stand up straight, the ceiling is only a few inches above the top of his head.  A sign hanging by the taps states that no one under age 14 is allowed to sit at the bar.  There’s a pub cat named Amber who snuggles by the wood stove and winds her way around people’s feet when they come in the front door.  I love it.

Our little village is sitting right at the top of one of the highest points in the county, and all around us, farm fields stretch out for acres in every direction.  There are public footpaths all over England that wind their way through land both public and private, so you can basically walk across the country on publicly protected trails. 

There are also public bridleways everywhere, so we get nearly as much horse traffic as we do car traffic.  I will always and forever love that I hear the clip-clop of horses going by my house on a regular basis.  For the first few months we were here, the kids would basically all run to the window to look out every time we heard the hoof beats.  But now it’s become second-nature. 

The clock on the tower of the church next door chimes the hour, every hour, all day, every day. Most of the time I don’t even hear it anymore, because it’s become the background music to my days and nights.  When I do notice it, it always makes me smile.

It’s not our home forever, but I’m so glad it’s our home for now.

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Home Sweet Home

the old vicarageWe’ve been in our house for a week now, although we still don’t have furniture (it comes tomorrow!  YAY!).  The Old Vicarage, as it’s named, is a 200+-year old brick and stucco house with, happily, majorly updated bathrooms and a lovely modern kitchen.  And as I stand at my sink, looking out the window, this is what I see:

view from my kitchen window

The church which stands just on the other side of the stone wall that borders our yard was built in the mid 1300’s.  We haven’t been inside yet, but looking at it from here is dreamy enough.  It’s a view you can’t get sick of.

The English don’t have a reputation for their amazing gardens for nothing; our yard is bordered by and entwined with gorgeous flowers, herbs, bushes, and trees.  So far, we’ve identified a few pear trees, a plum tree, at least 3 varieties of apple tree, and two other fruit trees I don’t know.  I’ll have to ask a neighbor.   We have big plans for all the ripening fruit.

gardens

It’s a garden that begs to be walked through, hidden in, and enjoyed.  There are trees in our yard that probably are older than America.  It’s humbling and thrilling all at once. 

There are plenty of quirks in this old house: uneven walls, crooked door frames, inexplicable bump-outs, and wavy-paned glass windows.  I love every last one of them. 

keys

And these are the keys to our castle, just as charming as the house itself.  We may be just temporary caretakers of this beautiful old place, but we’re already in love with her.  For now, at least, she’s home.

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