Saturday, January 29, 2011


Next week I will have been working in the UK for a year. A year! I just re-read my posts for that first frightning, estatic week in Inverness. I'm so at home now and I don't feel like a visitor. I'm happy when I get to go home to Brentwood, although Scotland is my love and I love working here. And fortunately, since I've moved here, have only had one bout of home sickness. I'm so fortunate and so grateful and really, really, happy.

Happy best year ever, almost anniversary to me!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Pilgrimage...... :)

This past Sunday there was a posting in the parish's newsletter about a group going to Lourdes. There were 10 places remaining. I called on Monday and captured the last remaining spot. The price was listed in Euros and seemed very reasonable. When I did the math it was even better in pounds.

I've always wanted to go to Lourdes. I think the story is a beautiful one. I thought about walking from there to St. Jean Pied de Port or Roncevalles or from Paris to Lourdes. I hadn't researched it much and I didn't know how I'd fill a week of a trip. It was one of those "I will when the time is right". Apparently that time is now.

I've been to Fatima and was greatly moved. The skepticism going in and the resulting marvel of the holiness that eminates from the area is indescribable. Add my pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostella and I find myself seeking the "internal fire" that ignites beginning when the bookings are done and my feet hit the ground to start the journey.

This one will take us to St. Bernadette's grave, another holy place in the Pyrenees, and then on to Lourdes. A ferry to France, coaches, and a flight home. All new experiences. All familiar ones too. 

As agnostic and athiestistic the United Kingdom is, it is equally fervent about it's Catholicism and Church of Englandism (don't know the proper term). My faith has found a dynamic place to thrive. I am looking forward to traveling with a bunch of Catholics to a place that is dear to all of us.

And as their token, unreserved American, I'm sure I can get a rousing chorus going with "The Wheels on The Bus".  Perhaps  with slightly different rendition: "The wheels on the bus go to Lourdes, go to Lourdes, go to Lourdes, the wheels on the bus go to Lourdes all through France! The people on the bus hope for miracles, hope for miracles......."

Sunday, January 09, 2011

I've Joined A Walking Group

In the States I always had to limit my hikes to walks or find areas that posed little risk or find friends who could hike with me.

With busy Mormon lives, finding women with the inclination or time to hike was a rarity, but a blessing when it happened. Those chickies, when they do hike TAKE IT ON.

Anually, I headed to Washington to hike with my daughter. A most blessed event every year. She hikes alone in the Washington mountains and forests. It scares me to death, but I understand.

And then there's Spain. My safe, familiar, invigorating, faith restoring refuge. But...I don't want to waste all my England experience there. Not that it is a waste, but there's more to see.

My next big hike will most likely be Hadrian's Wall. This will take a week. I've sent an inquiry to my "cousin" to see if she cares to join me. If not....I'll do it myself.

And then there's the walking group I found here. All over the UK and very active in my county (equivalent to "state). Easy to get to by train to join other area's groups. There hikes every weekend, short one on Saturday, long ones on Sunday. There are weekday hikes, should I choose a day off to join.

I now get to see the countryside, the cities, the places I'm timid to go. On foot, with people. Perfect.

My boss, when he hired me here, made me promise to bring my gear. He said this part of the world was designed for me. He's right. So glad he did.

I'm off today to walk to the next town. It's chilly and sunny and a perfect day to "practice".


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Sweet Memories

I was walking in a country park today. I followed an "unofficial" trail up to the top of a hill. I love this time of year when the trees are bare - the true soul of the land is exposed. I could see the rolling hills, the shrubbed "fences" of the countryside, the townhomes (I was still in the city, really), the boggy dampness of the ground.

I could hear the wind coming. Something that I treasure when hiking. You can hear it working up the canyons or hills, making all strong like and finally reaching you, unseen, but ever so tactile. I recalled hiking with my daughter and especially my week in the desert with my husband's cousin. The day looked dreary and cold, but was actually quite warm. The wind was a tickly one and didn't have a bite.

An oak leaf broke off a tree and tumbled willy nilly in the air and across the landscape. I recalled staying at the convent in Federal Way in the fall and walking in their gardens. The only sounds I could hear were the tide swishing on its way to low tide and the fall leaves actually breaking away from their limbs to spiral down in front of me.

I always try to take in the views, the scents and the feeling of the land when I'm out walking in a precious place like this. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be mucking around in Wellies (delightfully pretty ones at that), in England.

On my way back to reality I found a man crouched on a little bridge. He looked a little guilty and I hoped I'd selected a safe way to return. I had. His cat had caught a frog and he was releasing it, hoping it would overcome the shock and survive.

Life! Live it!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Things I've Learned

In addition to learning a new application for my job in a whole new area of an industry I've lived and breathed for 30 years, I've had the most fortunate opportunity to learn things in my new country. Now this list would be much larger and much more complicated if it were not an English speaking country, but you'd be surprised the differences I learn every single day. Here are some of the more notable "learning experiences".

Currency: British Sterling Pound - Pennies, 2 pence, 5 p, 10 p, 20 p, 50 p, 1 pound and 2 pound coins. Bills are 5, 10 and 20 pound increments. A pound was roughly equivalent in $1.50 this past year.
A quid is a pound. 5 quid = 5 pounds. A tuppence is 2 pence.

Weight: Stones. A stone = 14 pounds. 15 pounds would be stated as 1 stone, 1 pound.  Drop a stone and you're a whole lot lighter!

Temperature is stated in centigrade instead of farenheit.

A hob is a stovetop.

Clothes clips are clothespins.

I wear a size 6 shoe here which equates to anything between 7.5 and 8.5 in US.

Teaspoons and tablespoons are measurements in recipes here and they are the teaspoons and tablespoons that you put on the table. Most English recipes offer recipes in American, English and Metric measurements.

Mustard is yellow and it is HOT. A little dab will do you!

The most popular washing up liquid (dishwashing liquid) is Fairy.

Most washers and tumble dryers are one unit that does both. If your appliance is in the kitchen, like most flats (apartments) offer, a single load will take about 3 hours to do. To dry the clothes the appliance needs to both suck out the moisture, dry it a bit, suck it out, dry it a bit etc. No heat and outside vent for the apartment dweller.

Phone numbers in the country, outside your area start with 0 and they look like this: 01234 123 123 or 01234 123123.

Everyone pays an annual "TV license". This lets the BBC channels run commercial free. If you don't buy "cable" you can buy a Freeview box and get 40 some channels instead of five. There are additional adult channels that are available after midnight. Yes, they are HBO quality adult channels - for FREE.

Fruit and Vegetable stores and stands abound! Fresh, ripe and ready to eat. Yum!

England uses miles for distance and litres for petrol.

McDonalds offers Flurries with Cadbury and popular seasaonal candies like Cadbury Eggs and Terry's chocolate oranges. 

Cadbury eggs are available the first of January. By the end of the month, Mini Eggs will be in abundance. Cadbury makes dozens of kinds of chocolate/candy. All is absolutely fabulous. It is made differently from the US Cadbury version and much, much, much better.

Brown eggs are the only ones I've seen and they are date stamped right on the egg.

Electric "over blankets" are hard to come by and very expensive. Underblankets are readily available and inexpensive. Be prepared to tie the strings under the mattress to secure it. Most people will look at you and ask why you're seeking an electric option anyway and then ask what's wrong with your hot water bottle.

Hot water bottles are available everywhere. Many offer "designer" type covers. Seriously.

I have yet to locate a top sheet. Every linen set comes with a duvet cover. The sets are: fitted sheet, duvet cover and pillow cases. Duvets are wonderful - a bed is made in 10 seconds flat.

Face cloths are rare in all of Europe.

If you plan to use the loo in a public place, changes are you'll drop a few pence for the honour. And the location will be clean.

England adds a few letters and now then: Colour, behaviour, honour, whilst, etc.

A voucher is a coupon. And advert is an ad.

Aubergines are eggplants and courgettes are zucchinis.  I can carry a "large" pumpkin in one hand without the aid of the other.

I can buy Koala Yummies again!

I drink whiskey, but you'd call it Scotch.

Most country land in the UK gives walkers the right of way. You're free to walk on it, in it, and through it. You are expected to close the gates.

In the summer, in Scotland, it is still partially light at 11:00 pm and the sun starts to rise again around 3:00 am. In the Winter in England it is dark as pitch at 4:30 pm.

Porridge is as common on the breakfast table as roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, Marmite, and beans (as in pork and beans). One stirs porridge with a spurtle.

Cream tea is 1) a scone, 2) filled with clotted cream, 3) served with jam and 4) a cup of tea. It is heaven.

It is NOT cool to NOT take your shopping bags with you to the store. You get all kinds of perks for having them and charges if you don't.

Cookies are biscuits and McVitie's Digestives are The Bomb!

Cell phones are called Mobiles - and that they are.

Electric kettles adorn every house. Tea is most popular, drip coffee isn't so much. Instant coffee comes in many different brands, types and takes up most of the isle.

Choices exist, but you won't have to pick from 12 of each kind. One or two maybe.

Z is pronounced "zed", not "zee".

You get to pick your own electric and telephone companies, even in an apartment building. An apartment is called a flat.

And best of all, I've learned that England and Scotland are a lovely place to be!