Full photo set for October is here. Though it is incomplete. My mission for this week is to catch up, both on photos and posts.
It’s been a lovely month since I last posted. London is a fun town – always busy. Highlights from the past month include, surprisingly, the British Library (their Treasures room, full of old manuscripts, documents, and musical scores is fascinating!), and less surprisingly, the Cutty Sark (very well-conceived, and fun). I’ve also enjoyed my solo trips to the Tate and the National Gallery. I have to say that looking at art is a whole lot nicer without having the kids drag me away after 2 whole seconds of looking at a painting.
It was the fall half-term break last week. The school year here goes longer (until the end of July), but there are more frequent, longer breaks throughout. The year is divided into three terms, and there are week-long breaks in the middle and the end of each (though the break in December at the end of the first term, just like at home, is two weeks) School is going well for the kids so far. The pacing is different, and they actually assign a fair amount of homework, which is a switch from the way they do things at home. I like it, both because I know what they’re working on, and because it keeps things fresh in their minds.
Everybody’s been busy with their activities. The kids have some after-school stuff (Drama for Zebula, Dance for Vorlon, piano for both). And Zebula auditioned for, and got a part in, the chorus of a musical version of Treasure Island put on by the local youth theatre group with which she takes Drama. I’ve started rehearsals with a choir (we have a show on December 8! Come hear us!), and a neighbourhood singing group. Dr. Thingo has been making contacts with people here, and being all creative and designing stuff. Including this, which is my new favourite thing:
The highlight of the past few weeks for me has been a walk in the Surrey countryside last weekend. Dr. Thingo found out about this book, which we bought, and we decided to try out one of the walks. All the walks, as the title says, are close to London, meaning about 1 to 1.5 hours away by train. They encourage you to use the train to get there and back, mostly because the large majority of the walks are from one train station to another, cross-country, and it would be impractical to drive there (though one could drive to the first station, do the walk, and then take the train back to the first station and drive home). The walks in the book we have are all between 12 and 22 km, but apparently the second volume has shorter ones. They’re updated every couple of years, which is important, because the walks take you away from the roads, and into the countryside. It’s important that landmarks be current, especially for people like me with lousy senses of direction. All the walks take into account a stop for lunch in a town or village, and for tea later on, if you feel like it. There’s a walk for every week of the year, plus an extra, and different routes are recommended for different seasons, depending on terrain and views and whatnot.
We decided on a shortish (14 km) one in Surrey. The walk took us through woods and across farmers’ fields. I was surprised that there were so many public paths across what were clearly private farms. This, I found out later, is because there are rights-of-way that are hundreds of years old. We were walking through fields where sheep, or horses, or cows were grazing. It seemed so foreign to me – I’m pretty sure there’s no way Ontario farmers would let people traipse through their fields in direct contact with their livestock or crops, let alone provide and maintain gates and stiles to permit them to do so. On the other hand, I’ve never lived in the country, so maybe it’s true there too! I should look into it, because it was a great way to spend the day.
The word of the day was ‘stile’.
There are fences around all the fields. Some have gates, but most have stiles, which are just crossed wooden steps that help you get over the fences but which, presumably, the horses and sheep don’t know what to do with.
We stopped for lunch in a village called Chiddingfold about a third of the way through. It rained a little on the second leg of the walk (hey, it’s England in the fall. You get all the weathers in any given day), but on the whole it was absolutely lovely. I was so stoked by it all that I said, while we were having coffee at the end of the trek, that I wanted to do another one the following weekend. The kids weren’t terribly impressed, but aren’t against going sometime later. I was just pleasantly surprised that 14 km went by without any complaining at all! The promise of castles and ocean views for future walks seems to be a good incentive. One of the walks even has a dip in the Channel built in, but I guess we’ll wait until the summer for that one.
We took a whirlwind trip to Liverpool and Manchester during the break too, and I’ll talk about that in my next post.