Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Can We Go Back To England?

Yes, I said it.  I'm actually still saying it. 

Our life was simpler over there.  No pressure, no commitments, and no time frame.  We were on a five month vacation.  I could focus on myself. I was running 3 miles 4 times a week, eating better (I cooked more), and didn't worry about the house cleaning and day to day stuff of life.  Even Kim will comment on missing England.  When we talk about going back, Jack says, "I'll go, but not for 5 months, right?"  Evie misses it too, she liked the time we spent together as a family, don't do nearly as much of that now, too many other things to do. 

Why is that exactly?  Why can't our day to day life be more relaxed, more at ease?  I would really like to know the answer to that question.  Do we need to say no to more things so that we can focus on the things that matter?  Do we not get too involved in other things and relationships so that we can spend more time with our loved ones?  How do we have a bit of England here at home?

I do want to go back.  I want to visit our friends.  I don't need to see the sights...been there, done that.  I just want to have a bit of that calm, easy going feeling I had while there. 

My blog is now done.  I think I have been putting off finishing it because I wanted to hang on to England a little bit longer.  Our final tie is cut, it is all a memory.  It is a happy, wonderful, meaningful memory I will cherish forever!


Who Pushed Play?

When we left for England in February, it was as if someone had pushed pause and our life was on hold.  The minute we walked through our front door, someone pushed play!  Life started coming at us faster than we could duck to get out of it's way!  I had to register the kids for school, they wanted to see their friends, I had to go to Georgia to get the dog, to Reidei's to get the cat and bird, and as if that wasn't enough, the cable box was broken. 

The first day back, I got in the van - now I hadn't driven in 5 months, so it was very strange to get behind the wheel.  I drove into Cary to get a new cable box, priorities, we hadn't seen any of our shows in months!  I got so lost I had to call my friend Allison, crying, to have her help me find this darn place.  Of course, ten minutes before, I was sitting right in front of it.  Got the new box, went home, hooked it up, and Voila! TV! 

We took off for Georgia two days later to get Cody and bring him home.  It was good to see my Dad and spend a few days with him too. Got back home, and John came home for a "visit", he still wasn't finished over there.  There was unpacking to do, appointments to be made, schools to register for, more unpacking to do, band camp (no comments please), cheerleading, the start of middle school for Jack, high school for Kim, and 3rd grade for Evie.  I got a job...didn't keep it long...2 weeks I think.  Found a better job, had a class to take in Greensboro that was all day Mondays, and agreed to teach Religious Education at our church.  School started, homework started, cheerleading started, marching band started, and the nervous breakdown was on its way.

Where was that darn pause button!


Well, to say it has been a long time since my last post is an understatement.  We have been back in the states for 10 months...that is hard to believe.

The last few weeks of our time in England were spent packing, selling things on ebay, and taking in a few last minute sights.  We went to Winchester, England on our last day.  Winchester is a small town about 15 minutes from Basingstoke.  What a treasure we found, too bad we waited so long to find it.  Winchester is the birth place of...wait for it...Jane Austin!  Another favorite author of mine.  The Winchester Cathedral has a lovely display about Ms. Austin. I had no idea that she never had a portrait made and no one really knows what she looked like.  In the Portrait Gallery in London, there is a small drawing of Jane Austen that her sister is said to have drawn of her, but no one knows for sure.  We spent the day touring around, having lunch in an outdoor cafe, and doing a bit of shopping.

The next day was our flight home to the US.  Our friends, the McDermotts helped carry the luggage to the airport.  We arrived at the airport on time, unpacked the car, looked at the departure list, and found out that our flight was canceled!  In normal circumstances this really wouldn't have been a problem, but we sold our furniture, packed everything up, and we were ready to go home.  I really thought Jack was going to have a breakdown in the terminal.  We spent about an hour trying to get another flight, but of course, there were no direct flights, and most of the other ones were already full.  I looked at my son, looked at the ticket agent, and said to her, "I don't care where you send me, just get me on the east coast of the states today!"   I was prepared to rent a car if I had the way...did I mention, John wasn't coming home with us?  He was staying another month to finish up what he needed to do.  I was on my own.  The determination  to get home really set in when Jack said, "If I have to stay another day in England, I'm going to get a British accent!"  (as if that were some disease or something!)  The agent finally got us on a Virgin Atlantic flight to Newark.  Side note:  If you ever have to fly across the Altlantic, Virgin is the way to go.

The children and I arrived in Newark about 8:00 that night.  We went through customs, got ALL of the luggage, 2 carts worth out of baggage claim, and pushed our way through the termninal.  We had to take the shuttle to another terminal to get the hotel shuttle, John had made a hotel reservation for us.  We went to get on the shuttle and couldn't get the luggage carts through the doors!  I was so afraid the kids and I would get seperated that I made them get on first.  I then told them if I didn't get on, to go to the next stop, get off, and wait for me there!  After pushing and pulling the carts through the doors, holding up the shuttle, and having 3 very nice people help me, we made it onto the shuttle.  Getting off was just as complicated and just as ugly.

We arrived at the hotel, the desk clerk was nice enough to store the big bags so we didn't have to try to get them upstairs.  We went to our room, ordered dinner, and then the kids fell asleep.  It was about 10:00 by now and we were all exhausted.  I'm getting tired just reliving it!  I had to wake the kids up to eat, then we all fell asleep.

The four o'clock alarm rang at, you guessed it, 4 o'clock.  We got up, dressed, back on the hotel shuttle and back to the airport.  All the luggage was dropped at the curb...was more than happy to give that tip, we checked in, boarded, and 60 minutes later, landed at RDU.  HOME SWEET HOME!

We made it down to the baggage claim, I looked out the doors to see the North Carolina sky, and saw my crazy sister, sitting in the pickup area, jumping up and down, and waving her arms.  What a wonderful, glorious sight!  She even had a starbucks moch waiting for me in the car!  I love her!  We were home.  The neighbors greeted us with signs and flowers.  The kids were happy, I was happy, and life was back to normal...or was it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tate Modern and Shakespears Globe

To finish the torturing of my middle child, we ventured out on Sunday to the Tate Modern.  The goal was to finish our romp through Britain's most famous works of art.  We saw a couple Picasso's, a Monet, looked all over for a Dali (never actually found it), and saw a big pile of gravel that had a gallery all to itself.  That had us scratching our heads.  Modern art really is quite different from the classics.  I have to admit that I didn't find it quite as interesting as the masterpieces we saw at the National Gallery. 

After leaving the Tate, a half a block down the street was Shakespear's Globe Theater.  If you know me very well, you know that I am a huge fan of Wills.  I won't pretend to have read every play, but I do have my favorites and I'm quite loyal to them.  Now, this Globe is not the original, it burnt down back in the 1600's after a special effects person fired a cannon out of the attic of the theater during a play.  One of the sparks from the explosion ignited the thatched roof and within 2 hours the theater was gone.  Luckily no one was injured, although one man's trousers did catch on fire.  A fellow theater patron who was partaking in a pint kindly dumped his beer on the man trousers and, all's well that ends well.

The children enjoyed going to The Globe so much that they want to go back and see a play.  We're going to try to make that happen, though time is running short.

It was another rainy day in London, really ready to go home to the sun!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Michaelangelo, Monet, and Van Gogh Oh My!

Yes, I did it.  I took my kids to the National Gallery and forced culture down their throats! 

I received three very different reactions.  Kimberly was in awe and loved looking around at the artwork.  Evie didn't complain but didn't want to spend a lot of time looking around.  Jack was miserable.  Let me try to explain how miserable he was.  On a recent episode of Dr. Who, The Dr. and Amy Pond travel back in time to visit Vincent Van Gogh.  In this episode, are several of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, three of which are at the National Gallery.  Though Jack is a huge fan of Dr. Who, when we entered the Van Gogh exhibit, he was not impressed.  So, after hitting the highlights, as I like to call it, we had our tea and hit the road.  Needless to say, Jack was less than thrilled when we walked about a half a block and took a left into the National Portrait Gallery. 

Here is where they house the portraits of England's most famous citizens, past and present.  We started off in the Tudor Gallery, my favorite, and then proceeded to the Queen Victoria exhibit, Evie's favorite monarch.  We then found the Pop Culture area to see Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Joan Collins (?).  We also ran into a bust of Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, and a huge painting of Lord Chamberlain.  Jack did not enjoy this either and the fun quickly ran out.  We hopped back on the underground and made our way back to the train station to catch our train back to Basingstoke.  Of course we had poor timing and hit the station at rush hour.  There was not a seat to be had on the train so the 4 of us ended up standing for about 40 minutes of our 60 minute ride. 

Jack's mood continued to deteriorate and my headache began to throb.  The clincher came when we got on the bus and it didn't leave right away.  I tried to tell Jack that these things run on a schedule and the driver couldn't leave the stop until it was time to go.  He saw no reason for this, we were on the bus and the bus needed to go.  When we finally got to our stop, Jack complained to me during the short walk back to the house which seemed to take FOREVER!  He finished by stating that for the next 2 weeks, we were not going anywhere! 

Wonder how he will react when we go to the Tate Museum of Modern Art!


Monday, June 6, 2011

I Went to Oxford

Yes, I did go to Oxford, on a cold and rainy day.  What's that?  Well you did ask if I had gone to Oxford, you didn't specify in what context I went to Oxford!

It is easy to picture in your mind a beautiful old college campus with statues and buildings dating back to the 15th century.  You would be partly right.  Oxford is a collection of colleges.  Each has their own governing board and specialization.  We were only able to visit one,  Christ's Church College. 

Excerpt from their website:  Christ Church is a unique institution, one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford and the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Oxford. It has a world famous Cathedral Choir; scholarly collections of books and art; and is enjoyed by many people as visitors or guests at conferences and Summer schools. 

Christ Church has a fascinating history and many distinguished people have studied here including John Locke, Robert Hooke, John Wesley, Robert Peel, William Gladstone, W.H. Auden, David Dimbleby, Rowan Williams, Richard Curtis and Howard Goodall.

The dining hall at Christ's Church was also available to tour.  It was used as the basis for the dining hall in the Harry Potter movies and some of the scenes were actually filmed there.
One of the most famous graduates was Charles Dodgson, also know as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland.  Alice is based on one of the daughters of the dean of the college.  One of the stained glass windows in the dining hall has pictures form Alice in Wonderland embedded in the corners.

I'd love to go back when the weather is a bit nicer to walk around the town and see more of it's beautiful sites...maybe next time.


Walk Like an Egyptian

We finally made it to the British Museum last week!  It was a great day to spend in a museum, rainy!

We spent over 3 hours inside and only saw a portion of what is there.  I'll just mention the highlights for ya...The descriptions are taken from the British Museum website!

1. The Rosetta Stone - A valuable key to the decipherment of hieroglyphs, the inscription on the Rosetta Stone is a decree passed by a council of priests. It is one of a series that affirm the royal cult of the 13-year-old Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation.

2.  Mummies - yuck (this description was not taken from the website, it is my own opinion on the process of mummification)

3. Sculptures from the Parthenon - The Parthenon was built as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. It was the centrepiece of an ambitious building programme on the Acropolis of Athens. The temple’s great size and lavish use of white marble was intended to show off the city’s power and wealth at the height of its empire.

4. Easter Island Statues - Easter Island is famous for its stone statues of human figures, known as moai.

5. Samauri Armor - From Japan  Momoyama period, late 16th century

At the end of our visit to the museum, we headed over to Trafalgar to meet up with Ken and Pauline who were visiting.  Ken, Pauline, and I headed to the National Gallery and John took the kids to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.  Guess who got the better deal on that one?