allthingstendingtowardtheeternal

the rambles of a family of five in Australia


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Coming home

Our arrival home was much anticipated. We looked forward to: warmer weather; time with family; getting back into our own home; settling the kids into a new and hopefully more permanent routine; not having to get on a plane with two poppets for a VERY long time.

Thankfully, we didn’t seem to be as jet-lagged this time as we have been in the past, and the children coped really well with new surroundings.

We’ve been in the flat now for about 5 weeks, and although it’s not our preferred mode of living in a permanent way, it has been wonderful to be two minutes’s walk from Woolworths, the park, library and public transport. We are also 10-15 minutes from family (Rob’s) and the office.

A very jet-lagged S, at 9am on Saturday after we arrived on Friday night!

Ditto Mr. E.

It is about 45 minutes from the flat to our house – a trip Rob has done twice a day for the last 5 weeks. He has coordinated trades, deliveries and all the work we have needed to have done – as well as doing quite a bit himself. We are nearly there and plan to move in tomorrow – hurrah!

It is about two hours up the freeway to H’s parents’ house and we have stayed a couple of times. It has been a real blessing to have a little bit of country peace and quiet, some great views and even a trip to the beach in late autumn!

Scooting around after Zorro the cat at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

First time ON THE BEACH! Sand is NOT our friend, but we can subdue it with some judicious spade action.



Nanna’s birthday gift had a real workout.

Ocean Beach at Hawks Nest – a cracking afternoon.

E and S with Great-Grandma. We had a very special visit!

Our first visit to H’s parents’ place coincided with a visit from Great-Grandma, and it was a really wonderful opportunity for the children to get to know and reacquaint with their gret-grandparents. Neither R nor H really has much memory of great-grandparents, and it is a unique thing to see four generations of family together!

E and S with Great-Grandma and Grand-Nan – we think it is amazing that they have two great grandmothers to love and to love them.

 Coming home, and preparing to move back to our house, has prompted lots of reflection about the nature of where our ‘home’ actually is. H feels as though her heart is divided in two – one part in Australia, and one part in Northamptonshire. It is especially sad to realise that it is unlikely we’ll ever move back there, and even if we did, it would be very different. Australia is a great place and we love it very much, but even here there are difficulties, stresses and lots of hard work required. House maintenance and improvements demand a lot of sweat and ingenuity. One of the things we are feeling anew is the sense that we are ‘aliens and strangers’ wherever we are. It doesn’t matter whether we are natives or ex-pats, there are always times when we feel a disconnect between reality and what we long for.
We were content with second-hand and charity-shop furniture and toys in the UK, as well as loans from generous friends. Moving back and getting our things out of storage seems to weigh us down a little with the responsibility for all these ‘things’. Beautiful and useful though a lot of them undoubtedly are.
We know more than ever that our stuff cannot make us happy or more secure, and that it is futile for us to try to make a permanent and secure home here. Stocks fail, banks collapse, property prices tumble, people do not live forever on earth.
We are comforted that this is not all there is and that we have an eternal hope:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Cuddles with Grand-Nan!


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Paris pictures

So, here are some photos of our time in Paris. Clearly it had a civilising and beautifying effect on all of us…!

One of the first things we did while ill, when we were convinced we were HILARIOUS – probably from lack of food, sleep and heightened nausea – was to pose in E’s new Bob the Builder goggles.

Here are our headshots. (Just count yourselves lucky the goggles didn’t come with overalls and workboots, or we might be all trying to wear those too.)

I can’t believe I’m in Paris and they’re making me wear these.
See, I TOLD you I was Bob the Builder.

I laughed myself SICK when R and the kids were doing it, but now it just feels silly.
If I go along with this, maybe she’ll take the kids out somewhere so I can sleep?

A view of the Canal St. Martin, right on our doorstep.

We spent A WEEK staring at this and were still no closer to working out what it was. Still, we kind of liked it!

A view of the mantel mirror in the living room.

The hall – scene of much scooting and shuffling.

Having a chat – plotting their next move.

Look! That’s Paris! Right outside our window!

Quite inspiring to have this on the wall opposite your bed. Quite disappointing when you don’t really go anywhere!

Check out the bags under our eyes!

Our first walk outside. IN THE SUNSHINE! This was our closest park.

Is it my imagination or does Suze look too big for this?! 

On the most ill-fated excursion we’ve ever undertaken, just before it all went seriously pear-shaped.

Notre-Dame, I promise we’ll be back.

Watching the world splash by in the rain.


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Suzannah’s first birthday!

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!


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Nous arrivons a Paris!

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!

Some blessings:
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.

Le cafe
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.
Promise. 😉


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We’re leaving on a jetplane (Eurostar actually)

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.

National Trust
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.


Wakefield
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:

Waitrose
Mighty Atoms
Tesco
Ocado online
Boden
John Lewis
Next
Costa Coffee
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??
Thatched cottages
Entire villages built of the same stone
Knowing that Europe is just a short plane flight away
Snow
Icicles hanging from the roof
Eating a roast dinner at Christmas and not feeling silly and too hot
Spring flowers
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
‘B’ roads

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
The beach
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.


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The Cotswolds

Last Tuesday 13 September we headed to the Cotswolds with our good friends: B, G & little Miss P, for a day of sight-seeing. Now that our little Miss S is 4-and-a-bit months old, we are trying to make time for some exploration before the winter weather closes in.

On this trip we drove through Stow-on-the-Wold; had lunch and a wander round Bourton-on-the-Water; drove through Upper and Lower Slaughter and spent the afternoon exploring Hidcote – a National Trust Garden. (Our National Trust membership has already paid for itself, and has motivated us to visit places that might otherwise have been deemed too difficult/expensive or that we just wouldn’t have known about. Kudos also go to our friends B & G, who have given us directions, allowed us to follow them and otherwise expedited and made joyous numerous days out in England.

The ‘water’ in Bourton-on-the-Water, with a small view of E.

E & Miss P loved watching the ducks paddling up and down.

R & H thought it would be lovely to have a house with a view like this! Just not with little ones running around…

The sun emerges – Hallelujah! – just in time for lunch in one of the tea rooms overlooking the water.

Days out with friends are very precious.



Hidcote is in Gloucestershire and is a garden designed by an American in the late 19th century. It is said to be one of the Top 5 English Gardens, because it was the first to incorporate the concept of ‘garden rooms’. We loved the use of hedges to divide the grounds and were always amazed at what was around each corner.
Our first view of the garden at Hidcote.



The lovely flower beds.

E and P mucking around (literally!) The mud in our car at the end of the day had to be seen to be believed. Still, better a fun, muddy day than a clean and miserable one!

A view through one of the ‘hedge doors’ into another garden room.

A cedar keeping watch over the very deep herbaceous borders, full of absolutely gorgeous plants!

The very lovely house.

The Long Border, with the husbands waiting patiently at one end for the wives and children.

A quiet place to sit with a cup of tea – what a good idea!

This sunlit scene came just after a cloudburst that sent us running into the hedges for shelter.

R, E, S and Miss P, relaxing on a bench in the greenhouse.

The Cotswolds are every bit as pretty and worth a look as everyone always says. We are glad we went on a Tuesday out-of-season to escape the worst of the crowds while still benefiting from reasonably pleasant weather. Hidcote is gorgeous – it is amazing how talented gardeners are – we appreciated the skill and vision used in placing the plants God has made in such beautiful and innovative ways.


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a pre-christmas trip to koln (cologne), germany

The best little reindeer in the universe

In December, while H’s Mum was visiting, she and H had a fabulous opportunity. R had offered to look after E so that H and M could visit family in Köln, Germany.

Hot-smoked fish – yummo!

They had 5 days and 4 nights to soak up the sights, catch up with family and revel in some (very) rare mother-daughter time. The plan was to hit as many of the seven Christmas markets as possible during their stay, see the Dom (Cathedral) and spend some time talking, eating and laughing with M’s Uncle and Aunt.

Gingerbread hearts



We arrived in Koln at just after 8:30pm on the Thursday evening – an hour late due to delays out of Heathrow. Although a little nervous about the language barrier (we each had the same three words of German!) we made our way successfully from the airport to the central train station. After some difficulties locating our branch line we made it onto the platform with our bags and thence to Ehrenfeld where we were staying.

The first flight of stairs to our apartment

Our apartment was light, bright and clean. It was also sparsely furnished – which was perfect for all our needs and wants – except in the sleeping department.

 The beds were quite short, the quilts were slightly smaller than the Australian single bed size – so you had to stay curled up in order to be covered – and the single European-size pillow was made of marshmallow. As soon as your head touched the seemingly fluffy pillow contours it would hit the bed as the other side of the pillow inflated to epic proportions. Did we mention the mattresses were about 3cm thick? It sounds a bit grim, but we were on a holiday high and prepared to accept less-than-ideal sleeping conditions on our little jaunt.

Breakfast & coffee heaven

The next morning we were greeted an hour earlier than we had planned for by M’s Uncle and taken on the main street to be introduced to the delights of the Mezernich Bäckerie – a family-run chain of bakeries in Koln that was utterly delightful each morning.

Christmas decorations that dreams are made of…





Onward to Neumarkt station, above which was Engelmarkt (Angel Market) where we bought Christmas decorations, drank gluhwein and ate potato cakes. Heavenly!

Did you know that hot roast chestnuts will stain leather gloves? We didn’t either!

Uncle then took us on a whirlwind tour of the city – he and it were full of buzzing energy that was very exciting – having lunch at a buffet, eating hot roast chestnuts, exploring the Dom, glimpsing the Weinachtmarkt am Kolner Dom (Koln Cathedral Christmas Markets) and entering the Heimat der Heinzel (Home of the Gnomes) in Aldstadt (the Old City) which had its own special charm. Each of the booths was decorated with a variety of carved wooden gnomes grinning and working in various industrious poses.

Light display above the outdoor icerink at Heimat der Heinzel



Uncle left us there to go for his weekly swim (!) while we stuffed ourselves with waffles with kirsch cherries and nutella and explored yet more markets.

M having the first forkful of cherry bliss
A very inadequate rendering of the Dom on my little digital camera


The biggest, most elaborate gingerbread house we’ve ever seen



The following days were stuffed with fabulous food from Mezernich; Aunty C’s amazing lunch that stretched over 4 hours (with a break for a walk to the park to visit Uncle’s bird family!); a traditional Koln meat feast; and many returns to Engelmarkt which we decided was our favourite.

OK, so we disagree about what it was called, but we do agree that it was bigger than our heads.




Uncle with his lovely birds… ! They saw him (and his netto bag) from afar and came running. You’d swear they understood every word!

Breakfast on our last morning: hot Christmas frankfurt in a bun, with mustard and hot Kinderpunsch (fruit juice). Almost the best thing we ate for the whole of our time in Koln!

Monday rolled around far too quickly and we found ourselves at the airport preparing to settle into the lounge before our flight. Owing to a couple of language glitches it took H too long to realise that our flight had been cancelled (eek!) due to bad weather, and that we were being paged to go to the check-in desk. After much frantic scurrying from one official to another, we were loaded into a taxi-van with 4 other passengers and taken to Dusseldorf to try to get a connecting flight to London. This gave us a never-to-be-forgotten trip on the autobahn at speeds of up to 180kph. (And we weren’t even the fastest on the motorway!)

The most exciting thing at Dusseldorf airport!



After reaching Dusseldorf we had to wait another 7 hours to get a flight to Heathrow, getting to experience the wild rumour-mongering of disgruntled passengers; the joys of meal vouchers and having a plane snatched from under our noses by mechanics who couldn’t get the door to close (no joke!) However, we finally landed in London at 11pm and were home in bed by 1am-ish.




Going to Germany was a fabulous experience. Neither of us thought we’d ever get the chance to sit and talk with family in their home, be shown around their city and experience part of their lives. It was an enriching time of blessing and we were loved and spoilt thoroughly during our stay. We didn’t struggle with the language and communicating as much as we had feared. Although neither of us really managed to speak German well our understanding of what others were saying and what we were reading on signs improved enormously and helped us feel involved in things. We loved Koln and would return any time, and recommend it as a fabulous city to walk around (even at -8C!)

Our favourite public artwork in the world!










Our ‘let’s spread out all our goodies and gloat’ table


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snapshots from sydney

Bathers Pavilion at Balmoral

Family & friends have been amazingly generous with their time to us – both in organising our accommodation and catering for our needs prior to our arrival, and in inviting us to share in their lives while we’re in Aus.

We’ve had raucous family dinners gathered over Thai takeaway; cultured breakfast picnics at Balmoral; homely meals with extended family; barbecues in the middle of torrential rain showers; candlelit conviviality soaked in wine, and coffees & lunches in various parks and shopping centres as the mood has taken us.

E, torn between the lure of friends and the lure of Dad…

E has been showered with summer clothes and toys to occupy him while here and has taken to them with joy and delight. He has LOVED spending time with various small (and not-so-small) male relatives and being initiated into the mysteries of toys far above his age range. He has taken to wearing a pair of ‘sunnies’ whenever he is outside, and particularly fancies himself in them when driving in the car.



E, R and cousins



 He struggled quite a bit with the weather in the first few days after our arrival, and was quick to ask us to ‘turn heater off’. Sadly, that wasn’t possible, but his solution has been to upend cups of water over himself when really suffering from the heat – which is fine with us as long as no one hands him a cup of juice.

E and R enjoying the beach view

He loved going to Balmoral – begged to be allowed onto the sand – and even though it was a cool day he ran into the water, plonked himself down just where the waves were breaking and shouted joyfully ‘me swimming, me swimming.’ It was less joyful when we pulled him out 30 minutes later, blue and shivering, and tried to carry him up the beach as he kicked and shouted ‘more water! more swimming!’

E and cousin on the beach

He has demonstrated a significant prejudice against grass – he doesn’t like the feel of it on his bare skin – so is wearing socks and shoes everywhere. He has even succumbed to the English practice of socks with sandals, such is the delicacy of his little white feet without protection from the sun and from chafing in his shoes. Rob thinks he derives his princess-ish-ness from Hailey…she is inclined to agree!

E and R meet Billy at Balmoral – a famous local personality


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snow, ice and sunshine



A view of our neighbours’ house after 8 inches of snow

 The sights, sounds and scents of Australia have come as a surprise to we three travellers. Eight months away has been longer than we realised.
It is around 40 degrees hotter here in Aus than it was in the UK a week before we left (minus 12C). We have spent the last month trundling around outside in snow and over ice so all this bright Australian sunshine feels like a movie set.

Our front garden – several inches closer to the windows than usual

Winter in England has been very wintry indeed – a great experience for our first Christmas away from Aus. We have been used to central heating, seven layers of clothing inside the house, putting hats, gloves, duffle coats and snow boots on in order to leave the house. We’ve had icicles more than a foot long hanging from the guttering (which was also full of ice!) and snow nearly 8 inches deep on the ground.

R’s car – on a good morning!

Arriving in Aus was like walking into a sauna – good, but strangely discomfiting at the same time. E has been able to wander around barefoot for the first time in 6 months or more, and is having a wee bit of trouble adjusting to the feel of grass on his feet (he’s not a fan!) We have discarded all our layers – something we didn’t do even in the English summer – and are all contemplating the purchase of shorts (never necessary in the UK, for us at least.)

A view from our driveway to the field and beech trees next door

We are all a bit bamboozled by the light here – which has a spectrum of colour and brightness here – unlike the UK where it is both muted and crystalline at the same time. The shades of green and all the flowers here are in contrast to the varied (and oddly beautiful) shades of brown, grey and white that are the English winter colour palette. We are loving the raucous bird songs and vibrant flashes of colour of all the birds and flowers here, as well as the assault of eucalyptus and lemon scents that waft through the air as we walk.

E exploring in gum boots – the boys didn’t get very far. This was obviously a warm day – no duffle coats!

We are not loving the jet-lag and the heat is a shock, but we are very blessed to have travelled so safely and swiftly with our bright and active little boy. He didn’t sleep much on the plane and is showing signs of jet-lag in his desired sleep times, but has been tantrum-free for the whole trip so far and accepted the space limitations on the plane with a good grace and composure.

E in snow-boots – life will never be the same! He can run down an icy road wearing these.

We look forward to seeing family and friends and catching up on each other’s lives over the next three weeks. Phone calls could prove tricky but email and facebook (and this blog) will be good contact points.

Making headway through a restorative babycino after a cold morning in Stony Stratford.


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northern road trip (part 2)

View of Keswick High Street
The lovely flowers – H was very taken with the red stems.

The real purpose of our Northern Road Trip was for R to oversee the bookshop component of the Keswick Convention 2010. The convention runs annually for three weeks each summer here and is a chance for Christians of all ages and stages to come away for one week or three, hear some great teaching and spend time together. However, we weren’t there to attend Convention – just to make sure R’s side of things was organised.

R & E reading up on all the things there were to do

This meant that H & E had quite a lot of free time to explore in the mornings, before meeting up with R in the afternoons for trips further afield. The first morning after our arrival was wet, wet, wet.

The Greta river, from the park, as E & H negotiated the walk into town

There’s a reason the Lake District has so many lakes, and that reason is the rain. It was fantastic. One of the things we find it difficult to get used to, living here, is the abundance of rain. It is a real blessing to have it fall so freely, and we are becoming accustomed to the English way of getting on with planned activities outdoors, regardless of showers or torrential rain-dumps. The rain was quite heavy, so attired in what we believed to be good wet-weather gear, H & E set forth to walk into Keswick and explore the town. Our first stop on reaching the town centre was one of the many Hiking and Camping Clothing stores with which the town abounds, to purchase a waterproof jacket with hood for H, and wellies for E (with pirates on them.) Thus arrayed, with the raincover on the pram, we were finally prepared for the weather!

Can you spot the pirate on E’s wellies?
E’s favourite piece of equipment at the park

We discovered three excellent parks within 5 minutes’ walk of our hotel, and E discovered that a mac is a real deterrent to sliding down a slide…whereas it was no deterrent when stealing another little boy’s football…sigh.

E engaged in non-theft-related park activities…

E, H and R discovered that the transformed train platform/conservatory was an excellent place to eat egg sandwiches and watch hapless cyclists in the wet. We tried Kendal Mint Cake and visited Cars of the Stars Motor Museum (which was an interesting but not essential part of our trip.)

It was definitely more impressive, size-wise, in the flesh.

No more words necessary, I think.

We bought second-hand books from street vendors in the market place and spent lots of time just wandering – awed by the mountains that rose up around the town and were alternately wreathed in grey cloud or dazzled by brief interludes of sunshine.

Ahh, the mountains.

We walked across croquet lawns and wiped egg sandwich off window panes. We tried black pudding and bread fried in lard (accidentally, and only the once) and E decided once and for all that grapefruit is just not his thing.

We discovered that we all have a thing for drystone walls

In the afternoons we drove through the fells (a local word for mountains) on narrow, steep winding tracks surrounded by slopes littered with fallen boulders and gazed down into gorgeous lakes -or glimpsed them afar off, glittering like mirrors – with familiar names: Windermere, Buttermere, Coniston Water, Derwent Water, Grasmere, Rydal Water, Thirlmere and Ullswater.

This isn’t a lake, but it is pretty.

All the drives we took were impossibly scenic – even on the grey days we were there and it is a testament to the beauty of the landscape that we have such lovely memories.

The path where H temporarily misplaced the only key to our hotel room.

We drove past Dove Cottage (William Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere) but E’s schedule prevented us from doing more than sighing hopelessly and quoting a few lines of I wandered lonely as a cloud (as you can imagine R of course knew all the words.)

View of Derwent Water

We would definitely return to Cumbria and the Lake District and would highly recommend it to anyone as a great place to visit.

In the great “Boat trip vs Afternoon tea’ debate, guess which activity won out?