On Tuesday, our little Suzy turned 1! We think having your first birthday in Paris, with an afternoon tea of croissants, eclairs et flan aux cerises is probably enough to spoil you for any further celebrations. It is a blessing in disguise then, that Suzy definitely won’t remember it. We have enjoyed getting to know Suzy and experiencing all the love that little girls have to offer. We loved: Her crazy mohawk and are just a little bit sad that her hair is now, to all intents and purposes, pretty conformist. The way she shuffles around on her bottom to get places, and how brilliant her little abdominals are. Her cheeky little face peeping round the corner just before she decides to embark upon an all-out riot of mischief. Her little smiles and throaty chuckles. She doesn’t ‘laugh’ as such but when she’s enjoying herself it is just lovely. We are looking forward to introducing Suzy to all our friends and family in Aus. That is, once we survive our flight and recover from the jet-lag! Bonne anniversaire ma petite Cheri!
We are in Paris, hurrah!
We caught the Eurostar from St. Pancras International last Thursday and it was quite painless compared to the pfaffing that seems to go along with flying anywhere these days. It helped that S seems to be an accomplished flirt and that all admin duties were being handled by men. Our apartement is in the 10th arrondissement, very close to Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est and within 30 metres of the Canal St. Martin – a lovely place to amble slowly along.
Amble? You ask? Why amble? Well, because although so far this sounds like a lovely family bit of R&R, we have had a vomiting bug since last Monday (yes folks, we’re heading into the second week!) and ambling is about the fastest we feel we can manage. So no, we’ve not really done any sightseeing or taken any photos or anything you might recognise as quintessentially French. We have, however, spent a lot of time in our apartement resting; some time ambling along the waterside; sitting in one or another of the parks in this neighborhood, watching E burn off some of his slowly returning joie de vivre, and shopping for basic food supplies in the local franprix – where the staff kindly assure H that her French is excellent. It’s not, but flattery makes her return, so they are getting something for nothing!
Le Pain (The bread)
R was astonished that although H had been talking it up for nearly 8 years, she hadn’t exaggerated about how good it was or how unlike every horrible “French stick” you’ve ever choked down in Australia it actually was.
Since being able to be out and about in public, it has been lovely to drop casually into any of the numerous cafes that line the streets near our apartment and have a coffee. Coffee here is uniformly excellent, if pricey. R concedes that if he lived in France he would drink coffee too! Our usual order is: Deux cafes; ou un cafe et une chocolate chaud, un jus d’orange (pour E) et une tartine avec confiture. It’s lovely to have a holiday ritual, and in the absence of sightseeing it is nice to be doing something social as a family.
Les Francais (The French)
Once again we are bemused by how those “arrogant French” rumours get started. We have experienced nothing but charm and courtesy, and H realised yet again how civility seems to be the defining characteristic of French life. One example. As we staggered home on Friday afternoon with the buggy and an unhappily walking E, four venerable Ladies emerged from an inner courtyard and sashayed very slowly – even more slowly than us! – along the footpath. One turned her head slightly, saw us, shooed the others to one side and exhorted us “Allez-y, ma belles!” It might surprise you to learn that we aren’t customarily addressed as “lovely ones” even by those who love us best, so it was a feel-good moment and an example of superb manners on the part of those who have certainly earned the right to keep younger generations waiting.
The weather. Blue skies, short showers, puffy white clouds, sunshine;heavy showers.
Thank you to all who have prayed for us. Sorry there are no photos here but we thought the update was worth the lack of pretty pictures. And you don’t really want pictures of our trip so far.
Our son, E, our firstborn, turned 3 today.
Because we are in temporary accommodation, with all we own boxed and on pallets ready to send to Australia, and a very limited amount of luggage space, we have had to have a minimalist birthday for him. Surprisingly, (or not really) he didn’t seem to notice.
He received three little Thomas the Tank Engine trains which magnetically link together – just the size to play with on a plane tray table! – from Mummy, Daddy and Suze.
He was given a tractor and milk tanker from his best friends on Wakefield. It was clear on opening this that all his past, present and future wishes had been fulfilled!
He received two ecards from his grandparents and Grand-Nan – which he loved, despite (or more probably because of) the fact that they involved interaction which drove us a little batty!
He had lovely cards from various friends, a tiny store-bought cake with Lightning McQueen (Car de Tween!) topped with 3 pre-used candles (from Daddy’s birthday in January); and afternoon tea with Nannie and Sydney. He was even serenaded by his tired and slightly cranky parents with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ just before bedtime.
Sometimes it is so easy to think that everything has to be perfect; that there should be a wide selection of gifts/a big party/perfect moods in all present etc etc etc but the truth is that we love him, he brings joy to us each and every day, he is Suze’s favourite person in the whole world and he himself is a little person who has the child-like ability to enjoy the good things about each day.
Living here in the flat he is out of his comfort zone, longing to go home to Wakefield and yet he still revelled in his gifts and cards, ate every mouthful of food he could get his fork into and went to bed cuddling Shanksie, and his new tractor and milk tanker.
Happy Birthday Son – we love you!
Our time in England is drawing to a close and we are having to say our goodbyes, store up great memories, note down addresses of all our friends, and pack our lives into two suitcases and one duffel bag – ready for a long flight back to Australia, by way of a week-long jaunt to Paris in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary.
Our move to England was only ever short-term, but we have surprised ourselves by how much we have enjoyed the recreational side of our life here and by the strength of the friends we’ve found. (Okay, maybe just R was surprised, H always knew she would love it!)
We have loved:
Wolverton Evangelical Church
Going on a recommendation from Andrew Davies we attended WEC on our second Sunday in England. We’ve never been anywhere else since. It has been our spiritual home-from-home. A place of good fellowship, spiritual refreshment and encouraging, excellent Bible teaching. H, E and S will particularly miss attending the Ladies Bible Study on Monday mornings and Mums and Tots on Tuesday afternoons. Both were highlights of our week and a great encouragement in the practical and spiritual work of motherhood. E has made good friends in the creche on Sunday mornings and we are sad to think of all those he will miss when we leave.
H post-it noted about 75% of the properties in our NT booklet, spent hours on the web researching and plotted ways of ‘going past’ properties on the way to other places. We have been given tours by friends, acted upon recommendations, taken other friends around houses and gardens, and returned to our favourite haunts over and over again. E had his first icecream cone at Waddesdon; we’ve had proper picnics (with rugs and everything); and spent hours marvelling at soaring architecture, glorious gardens and stunning scenery. Of all the things we love to do in our ‘spare’ time, the National Trust would top the list, and we will miss it dreadfully once back in Aus.
Living on Wakefield has been a privilege. Despite the fact that the Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain doesn’t even have a section on Northamptonshire, we have really enjoyed living in this county and exploring all that it has to offer. Wakefield is an amazing place – it has a sense of community unlike anywhere else we’ve lived and has a special place in our hearts. We are not sure if we’ll ever get over having lived here. Particular highlights have included glimpses into farm life – tractors have made an indelible impression on E; watching the seasons change the colours in the fields and woods; getting a sense of the English social and sporting calendar; living somewhere that is intimately connected to land, weather and seasons. We hope that the friends we’ve made will last our lifetime, and maybe that we will be able to host English visitors in Australia one day.
Suzannah’s birth. Having a baby in a country other than Australia was something we were a bit wary of, but it was a generally positive and encouraging experience, with a beautiful baby girl to be thankful for and to love. She has an English birth certificate and has given us an excuse to return ‘x’ years’ hence ”to help her discover the country of her birth”!
A short list of some of the things we will miss:
Thinking that 25C is a heatwave
Not worrying about spiders, bugs and cockroaches – because there aren’t any to speak of.
Living in a country that has so many nooks and crannies in which literary characters had their beginnings
Supermarket sandwiches – E’s food life may never be the same without them
Having the washing machine in the kitchen – why do we not do this in Australia??
Entire villages built of the same stone
Knowing that Europe is just a short plane flight away
Icicles hanging from the roof
Eating a roast dinner at Christmas and not feeling silly and too hot
Four distinct seasons
Formal gardens that have matured in scope and planting for 200-500 years
Being able to visit friends 50 metres’ walk away (or less)
Hedges on the side of the road
An even shorter list of some of the things we are looking forward to:
Straight roads and highways
Friendly customer service everywhere
Seeing our families and friends and (re)introducing the children
We were going to talk about the weather, but Australia’s summer being what it was, we’ll pass over the weather in silence.
The smell of eucalyptus
Wide open spaces
England, we have loved you – thank you for having us.
Australia, we have always loved you – we look forward to staying with you soon.
|Suze & E ‘building’ in the playroom/spare bedroom. A sun-filled, warm, happy family space that we have loved living in.|
|Panoramic view of the (mostly packed up) playroom with disembodied bust of E in the centre.|
|A last spring view of Dairy Cottage|
|Buds forming in the trees|
|Glorious magnolia in Nannie & Sydney’s garden|
|The poppets with their UK grandparents (our unexpected second family.)|
|Suze, loving the garden.|
|Love and a tractor|
|All four up to mischief|
|The best place on a sunny afternoon.|
|The glory of a cloudless afternoon.|
|E longs for a shed to call his own, complete with tractor.|
|A good way to keep Suze from eating dirt. E calls her ‘Noah in the ark’.|
|The brightest flower in our garden.|
|E, goofing around on an afternoon walk. Our little boy sure can run.|
|Look at me, Mum, I can run!|
|… and RUUUUUNNN…….|
|Watching E go for his run gives a great view of Suze’s pearly whites!|
|Some spring fun in the leaves left over from last autumn.|
|Waterproof trousers are perfect for our little bottom-shuffling girl.|
|Ewan showing Suze the ropes on his big blue car.|
|Car mania runs in our family, but where could it all come from?|
|Spring flowers from lovely friends|
|We love our English traditions!|
|Afternoon cups of tea with Lydia|
|Neither of our kids is camera-shy.|
|Riding in the land train at Stowe – nearly 12 months’ worth of wishes fulfilled in 15 minutes. Gold!|
|The gardeners in the family strolling ahead to inspect the daffodils.|
|Just right for a picnic!|
|Pushing two poppets on the swings requires a high degree of co-ordination on the part of their mummy.|
|But when it all comes together, it’s worth it!|
|Suze in sun hat and waterproof trousers at Waddesdon – a perfect day for a picnic with Uncle ‘Terry’.|
|Uncle ‘Terry’ – adored by E!|
|R and E playing in the trees.|
|Our little man is growing up, and this will be his last spring in England. He is now a ”Grown-Up Boy” who really looks forward to being ”A Big Man like My Dad”.|
|Mr E, brumming on his little red car, on the way to the Farm Shop. (One of his favourite activities.)|
|Molehills, photo especially for the lovely Samara.|
|The joy of the snow, and a digger, and some warm dry snow boots.|
|Little Red Riding Hood|
|H is aware that sometimes she mocks one of her sisters for having a nose that may or may not resemble a koala’s. This photo is intended to show contrite recognition that a koala nose is obviously a family trait. (Goofy hair is mine alone!)|
|Sibling motocross may or may not be on the cards…|
|A panoramic shot of our kitchen – H’s new camera has some unexpected functions.|
|Our long haired lout, stirring the custard for our icecream|
|Damson puree, destined to be united with custard in a luscious icecream…|
|…et voila! Glace a la prune de Damas|
|Miss Suze eating bread while we tinker about with ice cream.|
|E joyfully hoarding all the remaining snow.|
|Just about the last pile of snow on Wakefield.|
|Learning to play together, a successful morning.|
|Heading to a park playdate in Stony Stratford, with the lovely Miss P.|
|Suze’s first go in a swing|
|Preparing for a haircut.|
|Newly shorn, and arranging the first spring flowers. Winter is officially over!|