London Family

May 19, 2013

pink flower
We had a glorious summer here last week. I can’t remember if it was for three or four days, but whatever it was it was divine. Sunny days, warm breezes, smiles galore, it was fantastic.

When we first moved here I found the endless chatter about the weather quite odd. My first instinct when the conversation veered down that road was “Who cares?”. I’ll tell you who cares. I care. We all care. We are obsessed with the weather because it is truly bizarre. A typical day starts with, oh let’s just say for arguments sake, clouds and overcast. We have our cloudy clothes and mindset firmly in place and go about our day. Wait, hang on, oh yayyyy, it’s sunny. Not just a little sunny, superb, blue blue skies, puffy pink and white clouds sunny. Fantastic, walking will be so lovely and, wait, is that HAIL???? It’s HAILING , are you kidding me? Icckkkkkk, it’s hailing and it’s wet and cold and oh my God it is suddenly hot. Hot like we just finished samba dance class hot, humid, sweating and …… oh my, here comes the wind.

I may sound ludicrous, only because I am, but that’s a typical day here. So we carry on with our blumbershoots and talk about the summer that was.

Dr. Seuss trees sprouting

Dr. Seuss trees sprouting

Baby ducks

Baby ducks

Baby ducks discoverer

Baby ducks discoverer

flower wall

Flower wall

What a beautiful summer!

What a beautiful summer!

February 20, 2013

2013-06-07 09.15.17
Keeping in mind that England invented train travel, it is a country that knows how to take a train. My children’s favorite character for years was Thomas the Tank Engine, heralding from England. We loved Thomas so much that he played a key role in three different birthday parties. Thomas the Tank come to our house and drove countless cheering children around the neighborhood. We also have in storage possibly every Thomas the Tank Engine toy ever made. So it is with amusement and curiosity that we revel in the amazing English train system. The Rev. Wilbert Awdry, creator of the original four Thomas the Tank Engine books opened each book with a letter to his son Christopher:

“Dear Christopher,
Here is your friend, Thomas The Tank Engine.
He wanted to come out of his station yard and see the world.
These stories tell you how he did it.
I hope you will like them because you helped me to make them.

Some days people watching on the train is better than others. Recently my mother and I were traveling on an unusually crowded morning. Sitting in a “sixer” with three seats facing three seats is a cozy situation in which to be confronted by strangers, but if it’s a seat you take what you can. Sitting across from us was a lovely lady and gentleman who did not appear to know each other. Next to me was a girl deeply immersed in her Filofax and ipod. Together we happily sat ,like chickens in a coop, quietly awaiting our destinations.

Halfway into our journey a passenger pushed through to the one remaining seat in our “sixer”. She was of an indeterminate age, jet black hair (the term jet black coming from the black stone in Yorkshire – just sayin) save a few grays sprouting up front. She carried several new plastic bags filled with goods, clobbering us all with them while getting to her seat. The lady was very petite, wearing a vintage white Chanel jacket, and fatigued with her journey. She opened one of her bags and took out the tiniest diary I have ever seen in use, and checked her details with a teeny, tiny pencil. As my mother and I chatted I noticed the diary was gone , but had been replaced with face toner and a cotton pad. While swabbing her face I sensed a toilette about to begin. “Oh my God” my mother stated as our neighbor pulled out tinted moisturizer , pumping it into her hands and spreading it (quite evenly) all over her face. Now we are both watching as the blush and mascara come out, along with an enormous club sandwich the size of her head which is heartily and loudly eaten. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulled out a shower” states my mother in a stage whisper. Not so quietly that our neighbor across the way doesn’t hear her. She looks up, we all lock eyes and it’s over. Non-stop, uncontrollable giggling. Oh sure, we looked out the windows, at the ceiling , on the floor to divert our attention but nothing helped.

Then out came the popcorn.

Never has popcorn been eaten with such gusto, every kernel sucked through and macerated into oblivion.

Cue commencement of the teeth picking.

My mother, myself and our neighbor convulsed in laughter, tears pouring down our faces, not able to catch a breath. Half the train started giggling. Now, my mother and I have been known to giggle uncontrollably at inappropriate times. I’m not sure this was one of them. As for our source of amusement, she was completely oblivious – to any of it.

Ah, train travel.

February 4, 2013

We Christmas shopped in sweaters, endlessly remarking on the balmy English weather. How easy winter is in London, no trudging through frozen tundra to get where you are going. Those cold, snowy Dickensonian scenes from movies were clearly thematic fantasies, conjured up in some film maker’s head. Walking from the beautiful Royal Albert Hall after the Christmas sing-along we were awash in history and talent. And no snow. Skating in front of Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House was lovely, almost tropical. We oohhed and aahhed over the sparkly lights and missed the snow, just a bit.

Hold on. Fast Forward to vacation time over, everyone settling back in school and scheduled routines and Hello Blizzard.

England shuts down. Schools, trains, cars and anything else that moves outdoors slowly comes to a snow covered halt. We were blanketed in 5-10 inches of snow (depending who you ask) and that was that. Grocery store shelves were emptied, with lines out the door. England had not seen this kind of snow for twenty years. My children could not have been happier. Snowmen were created, sleds pulled out and homesickness evaporated. We could not have asked for a better gift.

Then just as quickly, all was gone. Within a week our enchanted Narnia had completely disappeared. Without the photos it would have been a very quick memory. All to be replaced by what appears to be spring. Birds are chirping and the air smells of buds and grass. I’ve been told not to get to attached to this idea as a normal day here presents all four seasons. But you never know. There are buds on the trees…

January 10, 2013

We live in an area where every house has a gate.

It is unusual in the U.S. but very common in England. I think it goes back to a moat mentality, fearing conquerors in knight dressage leaping onto ones property at any given moment. So now we all have gates. They are old and creaky and not reliable. I told this to my “letting” agent upon signing our lease but he did not agree. Fast forward to an icy, cold London morning with a sick child at home.

It was one of those mornings where everything was off. My daughter woke up ill with the virus that was flying through her school. After racing out the door, late for other two’s school run, I realized that I did not have my phone. Is there any panic like not having your phone, lifeline to the universe? Normally I would have enjoyed the break but with my daughter home, alone, and feeling awful I felt full on panic. Additionally, I had to pick up a package at school and tick tock it was taking FOREVER. Finally back on the road – about a 20 minute drive in moving traffic, screech into the driveway, push the button – and gates do not open. What the %^&$ ? Why won’t the gates open??? I get out to call on the intercom and it is silent. Now I am truly hyperventilating. Child inside, can’t get in – only one possible solution – climb over the gate.

No problem, I can push myself over.

After five heave-hos I am riding the the ice covered brick part of the gate bare back holding onto that mare for dear life. Now what? I could stay, frozen till help arrives (possibly never) with my ailing child inside the house or I could roll myself off the gate with the grace of a hippopotamus and go splat on the other side. I voted for the roll. Slowly, slowly, eeeerrrrgghhhhhhhhhhh, got it. Success. Run inside the house to find said daughter relaxing in front of the TV. “You forgot your phone”.

I know.

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