This is our Christmas newsletter! But before reading it, you might want to get in the holiday spirit- London style. Here are a few suggestions for your consideration:
1. It would be good if you were drinking, and had been everyday: lunch, dinner and dessert for about a month. If you haven’t been indulging as the British do at this time of year, your liver thanks you. But seriously, most social events involve lots and lots of drinking. And since today is Christmas, if you really want to do it right, do as our watch repair man suggested and drink so much that you’re passed out by about noon. Wake up a few hours later, eat and drink more, pass out again. Repeat the next day.
2. Turn down the volume on any bright or loud Christmas decorations. Here, there is a much more natural feel to Christmas décor. In fact, I recently walked past a house which was modestly decorated with lights and reindeer with my English friend. She was surprised to see such a thing and exclaimed, “they must be American.”
3. Eat Christmas Pudding (also known as “pud”). Now, there’s really no American equivalent to Christmas Pudding, which is a cake that is made with lots of dried fruit, prepared anywhere from a month to a year before Christmas, all the while being routinely basted with Sherry, Rum, Brandy or Cognac. To approximate, I’ve provided a recipe that just might work in a pinch. First, get a fruitcake and baste it with Cognac, Brandy or Rum- better yet, all of them! Then get some cream and infuse that as well with Brandy and sugar. Steam your fruitcake for 30 minutes, then pour some Brandy (if you have any left) over your fruitcake and set it on fire before eating it. The finished product should look something like this:
After 2 months in temporary housing, we moved again to a more permanent home. This came with its own set of disruption, as you may remember from my previous post about getting settled.
Then, the kids were in school for the last month of summer term. There were new expectations for dress (uniforms), new food (British school lunch), new sets of expectations for learning (cursive handwriting, spellings and maths) not to mention the change in pronunciation. I know we all speak English, but there are many times when we completely don’t understand what someone is saying.
Eva still loves climbing as much as ever, and we’ve had the privilege of not only climbing play structures and Uncles (thanks Uncle Dan!), but also National Monuments:
Luke has also had a very eventful year. Upon moving to London, he began work at Skype which has been a great experience for him. I think he’s learning a lot from those he works with, not withstanding an education on the London style of dress. It turns out that his Redmond Microsoft office was a bit more…let’s call it casual…than here. For the first time since I’ve known him (excluding our wedding) Luke wore a tie!
He’s also had the opportunity to travel this year for his job, with many trips to Prague. One included a hot air balloon trip with his team, complete with a ceremonial dusting with soil and dousing with champagne on the heads of all balloon goers. These are cultural experiences people!
In addition to the adjustment of working here, moving and adapting…Luke also underwent a major surgery in October to repair a collar bone injury from this childhood. The good news is, we had a world-class specialist in collar-bone injuries perform the surgery and his recovery has been rapid, with his back immediately feeling better hours after surgery. The not so good news is that English medicine is a bit more conservative than in the States, so 24 hours after re-breaking and setting his collar bone, Luke was sent home with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. We were assured that this was a very powerful combination of drugs for post-operative pain, but pushed to get something a bit stronger, to the dismay of the medical team. Though I didn’t hear it, I’m sure there were murmurings of our American-ness.
Luke has been a consistent trooper in this move, working hard all day and arriving home to a sometimes overwhelmed wife with always energetic children. As things settle here and as he recovers, we look forward to a less eventful schedule with lots of trips to the park (pub).
I’ve had an eventful year as well. Events include moving here, entertaining the children for a few months while they were out of school, adapting to life without a vehicle (which by the way has been great!), furnishing our home, etc. I caught myself having a rather surreal thought around October, which was, “Wow, this has been a lot to deal with, I had no idea I could juggle so much.” It turns out this was a bit of foreshadowing on behalf of my brain because after Luke’s surgery, the composure that once got me through all of this change was exchanged for the feeling of being extremely overwhelmed. I can now accurately state that my ability to adapt ends with surgery on someone I love. There were a few moments of emotional meltdown, combined with a bit of encouragement from our doctor to “worry less.” But we’ve made it. Moving, new schools, new food, new house, new friends, shoulder surgery…we’ve got through it and I am feeling quite relieved writing all of this because the hardest parts seem behind us.
There were many encouraging elements to this year for me.
In June, some dear friends visited me in London. We had experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life, including trips to Oxford and Hastings, both in England. It made the pain of missing home a bit less severe to have them here. And now when I walk around London, I feel that it is more my home since not only I but my friends have been here.
We also had a wonderful visit with my brother Dan and his girlfriend Hong this summer. They were the first family members to visit us and it was a welcome respite from the foreign-ness of life.
Finally, but very importantly, I got to meet one of my favourite actors of all time- Nathaniel Parker. If you are not familiar with the name, he is the star of a very good British mystery called Inspector Lynley. I have watched the show for years and never thought I would meet him. But by chance he was performing at an event that I attended. I think I behaved in a rather embarrassing manner, but I got a picture and a kiss on the cheek, and he was lovely and very kind. To meet one of your favourite (fictional) detectives and not even have to be murdered, or a suspect…priceless!
This ends my update. I will leave you with a few pictures of our day today, Christmas 2013. We are enjoying our time here but miss our friends and family very, very much. We hope that you’ve all had a wonderful year and that the next will be full of joy!