It took a few weeks, but I finally managed to unload the minivan. Not that it wasn’t useful, I had decided that when my kids were all out of diapers my minivan days were D-O-N-E. So my husband, the great guy that he is, hooked me up with a really lovely (as they say here in the UK) barely used, Mercedes wagon.
It isn’t easy driving here in the UK. First you are on the WRONG side of the street and then to top it off, you are on the WRONG side of the car. Parking is a nightmare, so they allow people to park all over the place, going in any direction they feel like parking. If you are going North and see a spot going South, you just cut across the lane line and park. The fact that your car is going a different direction is irrelevant. Do you know how many times you drive down a street and begin to panic that you are on a one-way going the wrong direction? The opening in the street after everyone has jockeyed for position, is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
When I came home with just my tire flat, I thought I was doing an ok job. My girlfriends here have all whacked up their cars. One of my friends even parked her SUV on top of a MiniCooper, got out and went inside for cocktails, not realizing that she was on top of another car.
“Wait a minute Wendy” my husband said.
“You said a flat tire.”
“What happened to the bumper?”
“The bumper that came off….huuuuh! Look at the scratch.”
‘Whooooh” I gave a good whistle.
“That’s pretty serious” I replied.
“Well, I did hit a curb…….and, I don’t know what to tell you, the curb must have jumped out and taken off the bumper.”
It wasn’t pretty. In less than one month I had managed to dislodge the bumper, pop the tire, and scratch the company car. Maybe I would look into the train. It might be a better idea.
Settling into our little niche in the UK I have to say life is great, different, and great. We are renting a furnished house walking distance from the train and walking distance from town. Yesterday my husband and I got up, make a cup of coffee and walked into town where they had a farmer’s market set up. Everything here is fresh. The vegetables are grown at the farms and sold at market. The creme/cheese/butter comes from the farm as well. When they say expiration date 9/16/11, you aren’t keeping it on the 17th because it won’t be any good. Every Sunday we cook pasta for dinner so we bought olives, cheese, salami, fresh baked bread, truffle oil, and a balsamic glaze made with figs. A big adjustment for us is the beef…you really can’t eat it and enjoy it. Pork, lamb, and chicken are good.
The hardest living adjustment besides driving on the wrong side of the road, is the garbage. Everything here is recycled. I think it took me longer to get through the trash than to cook. You have to separate the paper and cans into one barrel. Food goes into a compost barrel and then all you have left are mainly plastics and those go into trash. My family of six that used to put out 3 barrels a week (on a good week) now puts out ONE BARREL every TWO WEEKS. For me that is more of an accomplishment than getting an advanced degree. I get it. It is good for the environment and looking back, we were pigs. Our neighbors from Germany used to put out one barrel a week and we used to laugh about it. Looking back, I guess the joke was on us.
Today I decided that I needed to take control and was not going to drive a minivan. Not that minivans are a bad thing, I drove one for years. I just made a promise to myself that after the kids reached 8, I was done with the minivan and moving on. Lucky for me we were staying across the street from Mercedes World which is very cool. They offer driving classes and instruction and even teach kids as young as 8 to drive, which I think isn’t necessarily the best idea. I can see it now, Carter in the US age 9 driving down the street in our Saab as I am driving up the street in my car.
“Hey I sware that little kid looked like Carter.” Hmmmm….
He has enough ways to get himself in trouble. Anyway, they have this racing circle that is watered and the cars zoom in going top speed and start doing 360′s in the middle of the track. Then they go on from there into some serious 4 wheel drive country. So my goal is to buy a used car and get the driving lessons thrown in because you never know when I will be in the middle of the forest needing technical expertise right?
From there we went to my friend’s Sara’s home who lives in a division called St George’s Hill. Oh my gosh you can see why the Beatles lived there. It was beyond anything I have seen in the US. I saw bricks, coffered ceilings, and wainscot. My husband was seeing electric bills. A gated community, it was acres of homes that exceeded 8,000 square feet. She had a barbecue for us to introduce the kids to friends before the start of school. Thank goodness because I don’t think I have had anything to eat in 3 days. I met some nice friends, exchanged stories and drank plenty of wine. The kids were funny as they listened to stories about vacations to Egypt, Peru, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. I could see in their eyes that this was entirely different for many reasons and a part of me wondered how they would feel going back home to their regular vacations, and routine days.