Monday, April 20, 2015

Life in the UK: A(n) (quarterly) Update

No, this is not my garden, and no, MsCaroline has not become a Peeping Tom, but it's difficult not to at least glance when this is the sort of thing you walk by all the time.

Spring has sprung here in England, and I've been rejoicing in blue skies, warm days full of brilliant sunshine, and pretty much every single flowering thing in creation exploding into bloom. This has been a lovely contrast to the near-daily rain we experienced between January and March, and I'm hoping it will last for at least a while (although, if the Tesco deliveryman is to be believed, this will all end in a week or so and we'll spend the next 4-5 months slogging around in waterproofs and wellies, because this is what happens every summer now because of the global warming climate change.  Thanks for the encouragement, Mr. Tesco Man.)

Since we last met here in the blogiverse (if that is, in fact, a place,) things have been moving steadily forward in that way things have of doing (you'll note that I have not categorized this post under 'moving chronicles' because we've been here 5 weeks already and, in my book, once you've been somewhere for a month, you're pretty much done moving whether you feel like it or not) specifically:

The Sitting Room:  clearly, there was not going to be room for a 2nd sofa, even if it was a loveseat.



  • We moved into our rental house  Although we had downsized assiduously before moving to Korea, we still found ourselves bursting out of the seams of the new place.  This was compounded by the fact that our house - like many older homes in Europe - had no closets.  The answer to this, of course, was to buy some freestanding wardrobes, which required us to move everything out of the room in question(and let me just say that every room was packed to the gills) in order to assemble the wardrobes (they were too big to carry up the stairs assembled, and, yes, we'll have to disassemble them in order to move them out when we go and we are not even thinking about that right now lalalala) and then carry everything back in to put it away or hang it up.  We also have one sofa too many and a dining room table that is far too large, which means doing a sort of shimmy to slide between it and the sideboard and the sofa is in the garage until we figure out what to do with it, which makes MrL crazy because he can't do garage-y things until there is space to move in there (sidenote:  in the UK, your garage is pronounced 'GEHR-ahj', not 'guh-RAHJ'.  In case you were wondering.) Not that it matters anyway, since we're eating in the kitchen these days. The ever-eloquent MrL has succinctly described our moving-in process as "Stuffing 10 pounds of rubbish in a five-pound bag."  Except he did not use the word 'rubbish.'   

  • Our dog arrived from Korea Long-time readers will recall that we left Merlot (our French Bulldog/Boston Terrier or some combination thereof) in Korea with our petsitter when we moved to the UK, with a reunion being dependent on us finding a rental that permitted dogs - which we (thankfully) were able to do. After almost 2 1/2 months, reams of documentation, and (groan) some hefty financial investment, we collected her at the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow, to our mutual delight.  She spent most of the ride home demonstrating her pleasure at seeing us again. 
Let's just say she was very excited and continued to demonstrate this for most of the 90-minute ride home from the airport

  • Since then, she has been learning about Living in a House With A Garden in a Country With Tons of Grass and Trees and Many Other Dogs. This is a significant departure from life in an apartment, walks through the concrete jungle, and only very occasional other dog sightings.  She has also experienced squirrels for the first time, never having seen any in the extremely urban landscape that we lived in in Seoul.  We suspect that she may have thought that the first one was a small grey dog, because she did a lot of head-tilting and wagging - initially.  She was thunderstruck when it ran up a tree, and spent quite a lot of time trying to follow it, crying, and circling the tree.  Once it was clear that a friendship wasn't going to develop, the squirrel became her Arch Nemesis, and - in accord with all other dogs in the British Isles - she has come to see it as her responsibility to chase each and every squirrel that crosses her path.  

It's a mathematics problem - see the plus signs?
  • Son#2 Turned 18  It seems absolutely impossible that my youngest child could:  a) be 18, and b) be heading off to Uni in the fall, but somehow, it really did happen. We celebrated with dinner and drinks (legal drinking age is 18 in the UK, an extra bonus) at a local steak house, and had a visit from one of his high school classmates from Seoul who is now attending Uni in London.  While I think I did pretty well in managing to make a cake from scratch less than a week after moving into the new house, I didn't plan so well for the candles and had to improvise at the last minute. 

  • We've been doing a lot of sightseeing.  We joined the National Trust and English Heritage (sort of like joining the National Parks in the US, only these two grant you admission to hundreds of castles, stately homes, and other historic buildings in England, Scotland, and Wales.)  We've hiked up cliffs and wandered through crumbling ruins of castles and mines, marveled at cathedrals and abbeys, tramped through damp fields full of sheep and ancient stone circles (there are more than just Stonehenge, really, and the sheep don't seem to mind) and goggled at incredibly sophisticated Roman ruins.  And all of that has just been in a few hours' drive from home.  And, yes, we did a lot of it in the rain, because if you wait for a nice day before you do things, you may never get anything accomplished.  I really do have every intention of posting about these trips, but they seem to be piling up faster than I can post about them.  

At Wells Cathedral

  • I've been enjoying my new city.  Actually, to be more precise, I've been enjoying walking around the outskirts of my new city.  I really do appreciate that Bath is lovely and historic, its architecture is graceful and classic, and the Roman baths are incredible, but after almost 4 years in an Asian megalopolis of concrete, metal,  glass,  and Jumbotrons, I am less interested in the City Centre (and its shops and tourists) and more interested in what really does my soul good:  sights like this:
Cherry blossoms blooming on my street

View from the bridge over the Avon

Merlot appreciates the rolling hills of Somerset.


Sunset over the park.





14 comments:

BavarianSojourn said...

So pleased you are settling in, and that you are gradually managing to unpack and get sorted. Moving back into a small English house is one thing that puts me off coming home! I will have to get rid of a lot of stuff before we do anyway! Promise me you will go to Avebury soon, I know you will love it there! Emma :) xx

Clare Taylor said...

Lovely! (One question though: What is a 'jumbrotron'?)

MsCaroline said...

Emma - We've already been to Avebury - I am so ashamed to say so, because I have tons to say about it and haven't blogged (it seems) for months. The best thing about these NT and English Heritage memberships is that we can head back as often as we want. Brace yourself - I have set today aside to catch up on a million posts, and you will shortly be inundated with far more than you ever wanted to know about Sights to See in and around Somerset. ; ) Oh, and, let me tell you - the house situation has been an unprecedented challenge. Partly our own fault for settling on a house built in 1905 (we are suckers for charm) and partly for vastly underestimating how roomy our apartment in Korea was. The number of times the Red Cross collection man has been to our house to pick up things is not to be believed. Sigh.

MsCaroline said...

Clare: Thanks! - I thought you'd appreciate and (as I said to Emma) actually have a post coming about our first weekend jaunt (suggested specifically by you.) A 'jumbotron' is one of those enormous TV screens that you see hanging off buildings in Times Square or Tokyo. They were all over the place in downtown Seoul (and even had one on the ski slopes the last time we went.)

nappy valley girl said...

I'm glad the move went smoothly and I hope you make the most of this lovely weather. It's true, it may not last all summer, but when it goes well, English summer is delightful (for one thing, no mosquitoes or humidity which were the bane of my life in New York). Make sure you get down to Devon and Cornwall, and do let me know if you're coming to London for any length of time! x

Nance said...

So happy to get an update, and so CHUFFED to read about Merlot! (are you impressed by my use of Brit slang?)

Glad you're out and enjoying the settings rather than trying to capture them. If Mr. Tesco is accurate, you're banking a lot of Valuable Outdoors Time.

Lovely photos.

MsCaroline said...

Nance - well done! I have no problem using 'chuffed' in writing, but I still struggle with using it in conversation without feeling self-conscious. It's a process, I'm finding. Re - weather: not to worry, I am spending as much time outdoors as possible - Ms Merlot has seen to that!

MsCaroline said...

NVG - We have been to Cornwall - but really need to go back, because 3 days were absolutely not long enough to even scratch the surface - I absolutely loved it! Devon has been added to the list. We have a standing invitation to stay in London from a colleague of MrL's and plan to take advantage of it as often as possible once #2 is off to University (at Fordham, in the Bronx, by the way - much more your neck of the woods than mine! I'll be sure to say hello to the Big Apple for you when we head over to move him in in August.)

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Delighted to see you are settling in. How do you fancy a trip to Wales? Or maybe a lunch in Ludlow? Have you been to Ludlow? Think you'd love it and it is about half way between us.

Janet Wheeler said...

Thank you again for sharing your adventure. I moved for the 23rd time last year and it never gets any easier and it never gets any harder. I enjoy the rearview mirror and what is in front of me. Your blog is so refreshing and a treat. I've followed you for many years now (Asia Vu stalker I guess). I've used your side trips and vacation blogs to catalog places to go and I'll be looking forward to lots of great input on the UK. Thank you again for sharing such a lovely perspective.

MsCaroline said...

Hi, Janet - thanks so much for your lovely comment! I love hearing from people who enjoy my blog, and I'm so pleased to know that some the 'stuff' I put out there is actually useful or interesting to people! Biggest problem here in the UK is that there is almost too much to write about! Thanks for the encouragement, and thanks so much for reading - I'm quite flattered that my blog has a 'stalker'! ; )

MsCaroline said...

Elizabeth - I've been to Cardiff twice (we actually bought our car in the are, so that actually makes 3 times) but nowhere else in Wales, and I would love to meet you in person! I'm off to Google Ludlow and figure out whether I can get there by train or if I need to wait until I've taken a few driving lessons before attempting it on my own!

Trish Burgess said...

Good to see all those facebook statuses coming together in a blog post. I now know what will be coming up on your blog in the coming weeks!

We must try and sort out a quick meet up over the next few months when we do an Exeter trip - one where we haven't got to be back home as soon as we've arrived!

MsCaroline said...

Trish- and I warn you, I've already used all the best photos on FaceBook, so be prepared for recycling! Let me know the next time you'll be coming south, maybe we can meet somewhere between here and Exeter!