I'm a big fan of appreciating irony wherever it crops up in my life. It makes me laugh and keeps me at least slightly sane. It's a good thing since there seem to be just endless opportunities to recognize it. The latest instance being how it seems like I complained for eons of the claustrophobia of my very small hometown back in America and how a trip to the grocery store inevitably involves at least three to five conversations in the produce aisle, by the frozen foods, and again at check-out with very likely a friend, your former therapist, your kid's teacher, just to cite a few real life examples. It can be exhausting. But in other ways, efficient, as sometimes you see the person you've been meaning to call but never get around to it.
Quite to the other extreme, in my newly adopted English town, I couldn't throw a head of lettuce in the supermarket and hit anyone I know. And it's not for lack of trying. I'm outgoing, I talk to people in public places, and I smile a lot. But after three months of living here, I still don't know a soul. When we lived in Italy, and as I wrote about then, Italians can also be very difficult to get to know, but there the shopkeepers became my 'friends' and daily social outlet. But Italy has many more small shops where people can buy everything they need without ever going to the supermarket.
Here there is a cheese/wine shop, and the supermarket, which is where I must go for the majority of my shopping because the other shops, ie, the fishmonger and the hardware store, are so ridiculously overpriced as to be laughable that anyone would actually shop there unless the world were ending.
The last couple of months of 2013 have seen us deeply involved in trying to get settled in our newly adopted small Surrey town on the Hampshire border, homeschooling (or home educating as they call it here) and working. That is my excuse for not enough hours in the day to blog and I think it's a good one! Though with typical New Year's fervor, I am resolving to keep picking up the ball and running with it in 2014.
The big storms here right before Christmas left us without power for 24 hours on Christmas Eve, but we were grateful and lucky to have it come back on sooner rather than later, as there were thousands of others who went much longer without it. My dear friend Annabelle was visiting from New York and we had rented a car for her stay which turned out to be more than a blessing, with not even trains running due to both the power cut and holiday schedule. Once all the fallen trees and flooded patches were dodged and she was safely plucked from the airport, we were able to reach other areas with power, which meant a nice Christmas Eve dinner at a warm and cozy pub!
Our Surrey town is picture postcard beautiful, with gentle rolling hills, a winding, narrow, 7 mile drive through stunning countryside to the nearest motorway, and fast (if expensive) train links to London in less than an hour. I feel a bit like we've landed on the moon however, with so much tweed, pearls, and Land Rovers abounding, it is a far cry from our Bohemian Midwestern town from whence we came. The shop windows here feature fox hunting fashions in abundance as well as everything you need for your next polo match just down the road at Cowdray or Ascot. But the boy's father lives not far from here as the crow flies, so it has seemed like a good place to start and surprisingly affordable compared to London.
Home educating has really mushroomed here in the last few years so we are finding many options and groups to join for the boy, which include rock climbing, ice skating, and small study groups focusing on British history, science, and art. All in addition to the two soccer teams he already plays with. However, it still takes time to find new friends and there are definitely challenges afoot when the boy can't see a new friend every day, like at school, distances must be navigated and traveled, still involving a parent at this stage. Which is all to say, we are by no means out of the woods, no pun intended, when it comes to deeply missing friends back home and the ease of small town living for a burgeoning teenager. Nearby London has much to offer to counter some of this, and we continue to take advantage of it at every opportunity.
As for me, I still can barely get used to the fact that I am not 'uni-parenting' my child for the first time in nearly 7 years. Now, he goes to his Dad's every Thursday through Sunday and I find myself with barely conceivable swaths of time to catch up on work, write, and get up to London to explore. This time has also given me the opportunity to reflect on the past several years of single parenting. In this spirit, I am just completing an e-book that I will be publishing on Amazon very soon. Watch for the upcoming Down and Dirty Survival Guide for Newly Single Parents: 21 Life Hacking Tips. It will soon be available here and on Amazon. Stay tuned for more updates and Happy 2014!
writer-director-actress, author, improviser, mother, traveler, digital nomad