December 18, 2010
After another run, we showered and packed. Joshua made a full breakfast for himself, but unlike my husband, I’m about the same size I’ve always been, and I have no need to gain about 20 pounds.
Before we head down to the station, I show Grandma Vivienne the rest of our slide show. We talk for a little while, and once Joshua’s brought our packs downstairs, we give hugs and say goodbye.
Outside, it’s snowing like mad, and we acquire a thick layer of snow as we walk to the station. Once we arrive, we swat at each other’s packs and shoulders, knocking of clumps of white.
The train arrive a couple of minutes late, and by the time it pulls in, the snow is coming down in blinding sheets. Off in the distances, naked, white branches sway in the wind, and everything is covered.
On the train, we watch the snow fall. It’s wonderful to see our family and winter in England, but as we sit there, we sense – without talking – that we’re both ready to go home. It’s time to go home.
In London, we take two short underground connections, and eventually, we board the train headed for Charlton Station. The ride doesn’t take long, and as I wait, I listen to a mother and daughter debate in another soft, lilting language.
Finally, we arrive, and once we disembark, we realize that, here, the snow lies almost four inches deep. Outside in the streets, the citizens of London are shoveling and scraping their sidewalks. One family has built an enormous snow man, and they’ve stuck a whole carrot out of the top for his nose. People stop to take photos with their cell-phones.
At David and Rosemary’s, we find them all in the living room. School let out on Friday, and today, their first day of holiday, they are decorating the Christmas tree. They have a bowl of popcorn on the coffee table, and they’ve strung colored lights. David shows us a couple old Santas that the girls made when they were little girls, and they roll their eyes like the teenagers they are and explain that they made these cardboard men ages ago.
Before long, Rosemary is getting ready to go off and sing for yet another event. During the holidays, she has quite a few concerts and private ceremonies. As she dresses in her long, black dress, she warms up her voice, and we can hear her lovely high, clear voice all the way downstairs.
After Rosemary leaves, I head over with Sophie to feed a neighbor’s cats. Yoddeling for food, they practically pounce over each other to reach their smelly, wet food, and afterward, they curl up in our laps for a little cuddle.
Back at the house, we busy about in the kitchen, drinking tea and helping David prepare a dinner of baked fish stuffed with mushroom. While we cook, we chat about his last term and our travels. Sophie listens in, stretching, pirouetting, and kicking her feet high into the air like the ballerina she is.
The fish cooks, and we all sit at the table to eat it. Owen isn’t feeling well, and we pass the meal listening to teenagers ribbing their little brother. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a normal family meal, but the sounds and conversations are humorously familiar.
After dinner, we devour a delicious chocolate pudding with custard. Owen and Jessica drift off, and Sophie, David, Joshua, and I stay at the table, surfing the internet, talking, and sharing funny youTube videos.
Just before Rosemary got home, I sat down to write, and one by one, everyone headed off to bed. Now, I think it’s my turn 🙂
December 17, 2010
I’ve left off writing the blog again, and now the days are running together. A bit of what I’ve written for yesterday may have actually happened today, but I’m not sure…
Joshua and I went for a run again in the morning, heading off in a completely new direction and exploring a few streets we’d never seen before. It had snowed a bit overnight, and the trees were lined with a thin coating of silver.
Back at the house, Joshua cooked another breakfast, and this time, I requested boiled eggs. They were done to perfection, and as usual, Joshua teased me that boiled eggs are more of a vehicle for salt and pepper than anything else. It’s true, and that’s why I love them.
It’s another slow day, and although Grandma Vivienne worries that we’ll grow bored, it’s just nice to relax and do a bit of nothing. Joshua and I work some more on job applications and my personal statement, and although I’m still not finished, I’ve resolved to spend just an hour more and be done with it.
Midday, Joshua and I head off into town again to pick up a few more things for dinner. Spying a charity shop, I make Joshua peek in with me, and we try on jackets and shoes. Nothing quite fits, but I do purchase a small pair of earrings shaped like roses.
In the house again, we snack on more crackers and cheese, and just generally loll about in the living room, working, reading, and chatting. Snow begins to fall outside, and Grandma Vivienne grimaces while we make annoying comments about Winter Wonderlands and Christmas frosts.
For dinner, Grandma Vivienne makes a wonderful fish pie, and we scrape our plates clean, sipping glasses of red wine. It’s delicious, and I vow to make fish pies of our own once we get home.
Afterward, we sit and chat, and I pour through Grandma Vivienne’s lovely cook books. I love the gorgeous photos, and I’m particularly enchanted with recipes for soups. In Delia’s Frugal Foods, I come across recipes for souffles, and copying them into our little cooking journal, I resolve to make the souffles just as soon as I’ve made the fish pies.
December 16, 2010
This morning, Joshua joined me for a run. We ran down to the train station first to check on times for this weekend. Although public transportation in England is light-years ahead of the United States, they have this wonderful habit of striking and repairing things on the weekends just before Christmas. It’s the perfect time of year to disrupt people’s traveling plans, and while you might think it useful to post such disruption on the internet, you would be wrong. It’s best to just show up at the station and ask someone who knows.
Sure enough, Sunday’s schedule is screwy, and instead of hourly trains, they’re bringing in buses. We commit the schedule to memory and continue on our run.
It’s frosty outside, and as we pound the pavement, we can see our breath creating great clouds before us. Our ears turn pink, and our noses begin to drip. Out across the frosty fields, we see a horizon grey and heavy.
Back at the house, we do a wimpy set of sit-ups and I skip push-ups all together. Up in the bathroom, I turn on the water heater and take a scorching shower. I like the water to be so hot that it stings a bit.
Once I’ve toweled off and dressed, I pad downstairs to find Joshua serving up plates with fried tomato, toast, and omlettes. He’s even steeped Irish Breakfast tea in a couple of mugs, and I surreptitiously doctor it with some milk and sugar.
As we eat, Grandma Vivienne gets ready for her monthly meetings with a medical research board. Dressed in one of my favorite colors, a jewel-like teal, she looks very smart indeed, and she tells us how she’ll give those smarty-pants doctors and research a reality check (excuse me, sir, but do you think it might be possible to speak in plain English?).
Just after midday, someone picks up Grandma Vivienne, and Joshua and I resolve to get some work done. Heading upstairs, I hop on the internet and begin filling out the application for a Masters in Social Work in earnest. Luckily, everything is on-line, and my resume is updated. I’m able to notify the people I’ve chosen to write my letters of recommendation, and I’m even able to upload an unofficial transcript. Within three hours, I’m completely finished with the basic information and transcript section, and now, all I have to do is make sure that my letters of recommendation make it in and complete my personal statement and writing research sample.
Once I’ve finished the application, Joshua does some more job searching and I go downstairs to work on my personal statement. You might think that after six months of writing as much as I have, a personal statement would be no problem. You would be wrong. I’ve now written 2,000 words four different times, and it’s still not quite write. I assure you I’m not being a perfectionist; every time I hand it off for someone to read, I get different feedback. I seem to be getting no-where, and it’s quite frustrating.
Before Grandma Vivienne gets home, Joshua and I hurry into town to buy some frozen spinach and eggs. We link arms to ward off the cold, and when Joshua slips on the ice, he doesn’t fall because I’m standing right next to him.
At the grocery store, we picked up the spinach and eggs, and just before we went to pay, we nabbed a small box of flapjacks for good measure.
Back at the house, we watch an episode of Scrubs while we nibble on crackers and cheese. Grandma Vivienne gets home, and we catch one another up on the events of our days.
After a bit, Grandma Vivienne goes off to the kitchen to whip up mushroom risotto, and I go back upstairs. Joshua has found a couple of jobs he thinks I should apply to, so I hammer out a cover letter, tweak my resume, and send it off.
Just as I’ve clicked the ‘Send’ button, Grandma Vivienne calls me down for dinner. The risotto is lovely, and we each sip of glass of wine. Everything is delicious, and the company is lovely as well. There’s something very wintry and Christmassy about a warm dinner with wine and family when there’s snow outside.
After dinner, I work on my personal statement and grow more and more frustrated. Eventually, I hand it off to Joshua, and he reads through it. Once he’s done with his comments and edits, we sit next to one another and he tells me what to axe and add, and I finally feel that I may only have an hour’s left of work.
Before we know it, it’s nearly 11. Weary from, well, not very much, we give hugs and kisses and well wishes and head off to bed.
December 15, 2010
I woke up and ran down the same path, crossing the canal and shuffling across the frozen bits. Next to me, the frozen branches clicked as the wind rustled them. Ducks waddled across the canal, looking ungainly on the ice.
Back at the house, I showered and joined Joshua in the bedroom, packing. Ruth and Paul returned from a visit at the doctor’s office, and I pulled out some of the jewelry and gifts that we had purchased in India and Nepal. Ruth agreed that the embroidered shawl that I had chosen for Lesley was just the thing, and I gave her the stories on each little item: I bought the shoes in Delhi, but they were hand-made in Rajastahn… Oh, that’s the Buddhist mandala that I bought outside of the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala… That’s one of my favorites – I bought that in this little alley filled with a thousand of these glittering, multi-colored beads in Kathmandu…
Downstairs, Ruth put soup on the ‘Hob,’ and Joshua and I flicked through the last of our photos while Ruth and Paul flitted about the house, working hard on this and that.
With the soup warmed and bread toasted, we sat on the floor of the dining room and ate. Ruth has a quick, goofy sense of humor, and the two of us have a fun time ribbing one another. She teases me, I tease her, and when she teases herself a bit too meanly, I swat her on the shoulder and tell her to ‘shush.’ Both Joshua and I have absolutely demanded that they come and make an extended visit to the farm. We’ve promised to give Paul the space and freedom to start up all sorts of projects, and I’ve told Ruth that she’s more than welcome to come and join me in the kitchen if she can bear to relinquish the reigns. She sighs and says that she thinks that she might be able to manage it, but only if it’s my kitchen.
Just before two, Paul and Joshua load our bags into the trunk, and the four of us drive down to the Long Buckby train station. Up on the platform, we give hugs, and the train sweeps in. Joshua and I board, stow our bags, and wave good-bye.
The train ride from Long Buckby to Tottenham Hale takes about an hour. Pulling out the computer, we finished our grand slide show. From 13,000 photos, we’ve narrowed it down to 1,000. It’s a surprisingly comprehensive record of our six months of traveling, and it takes a little over an hour to play out.
At Tottenham Hale, we put our packs on and walked through the station. On the other side, we caught another train headed for Ely. The train was filled with commuters, and we ended up standing near the doors, drooping from under the weight of our packs.
After about 30 minutes, we arrived at the Sawbridgeworth station. It’s funny, but although I’ve been to Sawbridgeworth a number of times, I don’t think I’ve ever been on this side of town. Grandma Vivienne had recommended that we hail a taxi, but we’re cheap and stubborn, and we decided to walk.
Following signs for the town center, we clomped up dark side streets and into town. Eventually, we came across territory we recognized, and after a bit, we were walking down the quiet lane to Grandma Vivienne’s flat.
Grandma Vivienne has lovely straight, silver hair and the softest skin. For as long as I can remember, she’s been the image of aging gracefully, and after a cold walk with heavy packs, she’s a welcome sight. We come in, take off our shoes, and sit down for a cup of tea (or four).
Looking up at the familiar posters, paintings, and knick-knacks, we felt as though we had come full-circle. This is where we came first, and now, we are nearing the end. We told Grandma Vivienne about our highlights and low lights, and she told me about reading the blog. It’s nice to have fans 🙂
For dinner, we ate soup and stir-fry, and afterward, we drowsily cleared away the dishes and drank more tea. Just before 10, I complained that the jet-lag was finally hitting me and called off to bed.