It’s been a while…. and I promised to entertain you, or at least take up your valuable time occasionally. My adoring fans have even been asking for more from me (well, okay two people asked if I had given up), so I decided to do a quick run-down of our life at the moment.
The school year started again in September. I have two kids at a primary school (ages 3 through 11) to which it takes 45 minutes for us to travel each morning. We don’t have a car, so the kids and I leave the house by 8. We usually walk past the bus stop and try to determine if its worth it to wait for the bus. Twice this week the bus has whizzed by, too full to stop and pick us up. Twice. So after wasting 5 to 7 minutes waiting for a bus that doesn’t always arrive – or stop – we walk the mile to the tube station. We ride the tube 1 stop and battle the crowds up the stairs to get out. Inextricably its upstairs to get ON the tube and then again upstairs to get OFF the tube.
This is how it will sound in 50 or 60 years: “when I was a kid we had to walk upstairs in both directions when we rode the tube. And we didn’t complain. Kids these days…”
After the tube we walk about another half a mile down the hill to the school. In the afternoons its reversed, except that we usually DO catch the bus home. Thats when we have to battle all the boys from one of the local secondary schools to get on and find a seat. They’ve seen us around enough that some of them recognize us and stay out of my way. I went through a period where I used my umbrella to hold them back so my kids and I could get on the bus together – and I wasn’t particularly gentle. (Yes, I ALWAYS carry an umbrella, and its usually wet).
My other child is in secondary school (ages 11 to 18) which is like middle school and high school mixed together. At that age children are expected to navigate to school themselves. There are no school busses in London, so its public transport for everyone. And I’m perfectly calm every morning as my little child goes off alone to battle the crowds to get to school. I lie. The school is about a 30 minute commute by bus in a different direction from the rest of us.
My sainted husband walks to work (when he’s home). It takes him about 15 minutes if he’s slow. How did he wind up with the shortest, easiest commute?
When I am not traveling to and from school (three hours a day), I am managing the household. Gone are the days I can get everything I need from the little store in the kibbutz. I now have to cook every meal for my family, and wash the dishes afterwards. I have to know where my children are, what they are doing, and who they are with. No more can I just let them go and say “I’ll meet you in the dining room at 6:30 for dinner!” Just a wistful memory is the time when my mother-in-law did my laundry every day: wash, dry and fold. Oh how I pine for the days even in Chicago when I at least had a washer that could hold a whole load of laundry and actually dry said load.
Our current washer/dryer – a magical one-machine combo – holds about 5 Kilos. That’s a little over 11 pounds. Currently I run a load of wash every day. Then I sort through it to take out those things that our dryer – which gets over hot – will melt (which includes all of the school uniforms for three children 5 days a week), then I run the dryer for an hour. THEN, seeing as it’s still wet, I haul it all upstairs to the drying rack in my bedroom. Its been raining so much here this month that I discovered the clothes were getting mildew-y on the drying rack. So I got out the fan and now run the fan all day aimed at the drying rack full of clothes. All told, a load of laundry (well, a small load – as I’ve said its about 5 kilos) takes all day. My room is decorated in clean, damp laundry draped all over every available surface, several layers thick.
I have discovered that I can order groceries to be delivered to my door (IF I spend more than £60), but, you will be not at all surprised to learn, the produce is usually bruised and/or rotten. So I only order the packaged stuff. Which means I have to lug fresh fruit and vegetables for 5 people (we eat a lot of fresh stuff) on the bus a few times a week. Its me and the old ladies with our two wheeled grocery carts, fighting the mothers with strollers and the occasional wheelchair for space. I usually loose.
There are no Monday holidays here (except 2 or three in the summer which are called bank holidays. As near as I can tell they were invented because the weather is so terrible here most of the winter that people would just skip work all together if they weren’t given a few extra days in the summer when the weather has a chance of being decent. Its light out, even if its still raining). So people wait for the “half term break” (one week), or the “term break” (two weeks) to travel. We are no different.
This past half-term break we went to the New Forest (which is neither new nor a forest) to ride horses and trek around. It poured rain the whole time we were there, so our trekking was severely limited (one short walk during which is rained AND night fell), but since our rides were already paid for we did those…in the pouring rain. I did my first canter across open heathland, terrified the whole way that the horse would slip in the mud and we would go down and I would wind up with my leg pinned under the horse. Fortunately the worst that happened is we all wound up with a rash on our foreheads and under our chins from the nasty, wet riding helmets.
Our plan for the coming term break is to explore a little bit of Italy for 10 days. Rome is a 2 1/2 hour flight for us! So while all you New Englanders can make it to Florida, or you Mid-westerners can get to New England, we can be in Rome, or Barcelona, or Stockholm, or Nice. Nice!
On the horizon we are expecting the annual nativity plays in the primary school. Yes, every class does a play on the birth of Jesus every year here in the British state schools. Last year, I learned that they are teaching the children that King Herod was a tyrant who killed babies. In Israel I learned King Herod was a great planner who rebuilt Jerusalem and King David’s temple. I also learned in England that it was the Jews who killed Jesus, while in Israel I learned it was the Romans (and their lackies) that killed Jesus. I guess there are three sides to every story and all, but I still haven’t figured out where the reindeer come in.
And on a side note, I am now reading Harry Potter to the children…again. It makes so much more sense now that I live here – there really IS a night bus, and I’ve eaten treacle tart, and my kids all have to earn house points at school. No Quidditch, though.
More adventures to come!