Entries from December 20th, 2012

December 20, 2012

Looking out the kitchen window I see…

…my youngest walking Ruffles in his jammies and my coat

Is it just me or is this tree croaked?

in the window Santa watches all

Raindrops on jingle bells

that’s better

See you in the New Year

December 19, 2012

We love Christmas. Gingerbread houses, drinking eggnog lattes at Starbucks (well, I do) decorating with sparkly ornaments and dazzling giant nutcrackers bought years ago. We love it all. So when faced with the annual challenge of creating Christmas in a new country, the task is daunting. Happily, the English love Christmas as much we do. Yet with all the charm an English Christmas season brings it is missing one American touch. The gigantic tree. I never gave a great deal of thought regarding the arrival of the 9 foot tall tree in our home each year. A lovely little shop in town delivered the sweetest smelling “most beautiful tree ever” and took it away when called in January. This wonder happened because, why? Christmas tree forests. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of dedicated farmland growing big, sprucey lush trees.

England does not have these farms.

England has little trees.

As our exuberant love of Christmas is represented by the tree, we set off to find our jewel with 11 year old daughter and 8 year old son leading the way. 15 year old son begged off with mumblings about studying and finals but I, being razor sharp, sensed a certain disinterest in the project. Not to worry, we will return with our beauty and you can help decorate. Excitement lit up his eyes – not.

First stop, the local garden center. Driving into the parking lot we feel salmonish, as hundreds of tiny cars drive past us. Jammed inside the tiny cars – two to three tree trunks poking through the front seats. So much for the question of delivery.

Undeterred, we proceed with anticipation to the back of the shop and acres of trees. Yippee! My youngest ran ahead and found one instantly. It was 5 ft. tall and sparse. Upon perusal, all the trees were 4 – 5 ft, mis-shapen and bare. In the states, the whole lot would have been last weeks rubbish. “Now that’s a beautiful tree” I hear from the tree hawker behind me. “Shall I wrap her up for you?. “We were looking for a fuller one” “Fuller than this?” I have shocked this man out of his socks. “You’re not going to find one fuller than this!”. As I ponder Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree my daughter chimes in “But our tree last year was 9 feet tall. We always have a BIG tree.”

Re-creating Christmas away from what your children have known as their only home is hard. They want everything to be the same. It’s not so much the height of tree as that all aspects of the holiday season are different. I’m finding that I want to recreate the familiar as well. But it’s not possible. No matter how similar it may appear, it is still different.

We decide to continue our search.

The following weekend we pass a large hand painted sign on the high street. GRADE A X-MAS TREES , TURN HERE.
So, of course we did. A small local florist had stacks of trees tilted against the back of her shop. Lush, sprucey BIG hearty trees.

And she delivered.

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

December 7, 2012

The kick-off to do one cultural activity per week officially began today at the Valentino Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House. The exhibit is perfection. Human scale in a stunning 18th century public building that began its life as a Tudor palace. Like all of England’s royal history the buildings past is fraught with horror and peril, but has been resurrected as a cultural jewel in the city of culture. Glorious after glorious gown on display mannequins staged as a runway. Calligraphed name cards on front row seats prominently state Valentino’s famous clientele.

Okay, it depends on what your definition of culture is whether or not this exhibit qualifies. In the words of Valentino “I like spectacular things of beauty but really I have simple taste.”

I have been living in England for five months. Five months is a concise amount of time from which to assess one’s environment if one is awake – which I am on most days. We left our American hamlet in July to re-locate to London, three school age children in tow off for an adventure. And it is.

London is truly one of the great cities on the globe. Welcoming to all cultures, sharp, posh and the most literary city I have been where I can speak the language. I mention that caveat because Barcelona and Madrid appear to be well steeped from a literary viewpoint but, alas, I cannot read Man of La Mancha in the native tongue. Paris also feels literary, bookshops on many streets, people holding and reading books in cafes, metros. The front of Parisian bookshops are filled with serious books that would be in the back heap collecting dust in US book stores – that is if you can find one. But I digress.

This blog is about living in London.

Every story ever heard about living in a different country rings true.
It is:

Utterly Fascinating:

The day is heightened with a learning curve a mile high – if you want it to be. Journeying outside the door requires Google maps, trains, cars, buses and numerous questions of generally helpful strangers.

Sensorial Beauty:

London and England are stunning. Architecture and physical beauty delights the eye. Twenty minutes outside of Central London bucolic sheep graze on the hillside. What the English think of as “far” we Americans think of as “nearby”. As I have been told many times since arrival, “We are a tiny little country” and as a result, nothing is particularly far away.

London is a city of Culture:

The school run begins with classical music and ends with classical music. Several good classical stations play on the radio and no one complains when I turn them on. The children sit back and relax. What really amazes me is how the classical stations refer to the “school run”. Picture hundreds, maybe thousands of children across England taking in beautiful, soul filling music everyday.

The arts are supported by the government in a big way and are offered as respite for all. Museums are free and the performing arts are bolstered by people with deep pockets, happily and as a matter of course.

A Literary City:

Not just in the Dickens, Bronte historical way. People read here. On the train, tube or bus at least 70% of the passengers are viewing the written word. And not eating. Notice any contrasts here? The British school system focuses on reading well. Aside from US cable – which is less popular here than one might expect – there is an absence of endless children’s programing. The little ones are encouraged to pick up a book as a way to amuse themselves and for many it sticks.

Peace and Calm:

The English are organised. They que up for lines and everything requires an appointment or reservation. Visiting Santa, ice skating outside of various palaces, bowling – you better make a rezie or it will be a cheerful “I’m sorry. We are fully booked. Better luck next time.”

This culture of order transcends into a general sense of calm. It’s like generational knowledge – great when you have it, follow it and know that it’s good.

Oh, and treat yourself to a little online entertainment, www.valentinogaravanimuseum.com.

The man is a genius.

Theme by Blogmilk + Coded by Brandi Bernoskie