So, at the suggestion of a wonderful friend, I have decided to reinstate my blog. It also seemed like an opportune time, as we are shortly to embark on an adventure - returning to England after an absence of five years. That may not seem like such a long time, but our eldest, Sam, was only eight the last time we were there, still sweet, after a fashion, with a little boy's long skinny neck and big ears. He is now nearly fourteen, big and hairy and taller than his father. Juliette was a pretty little six year old who acted as bridesmaid at her aunt's wedding, ruining her beautiful silk dress in a slug throwing contest, at the reception afterward. She is now a tween who worships Bella Swan and whose jewelery choice for her birthday was a skull ring. Lydia was a four year old who looked like, and wanted to be, a fairy. She is now ten and wants to be a farmer/opera singer/ vet/ baker/actress depending on the day. As for Rupert and me, we are both wrinklier and more grey haired, but I won't go into that...
By all accounts, England will have changed as well. The England we are visiting sounds as though it is a quite different place than the one we last saw. The England we remember was an England before the financial crash – an England that had a Woolworths on every High street and, on the posher ones, a Whittards as well, where one might be able to buy Wedgewood china. But now all these things have gone – and I wonder what parents use to threaten their teenagers with, now that they can't threaten them with the prospect of ending up behind the counter at Woolworths?
I have to say that I have slightly mixed feelings about going to England for Christmas.
When I let myself think about it, I can't help but feel terribly excited. We have been making plans over facebook, my sisters and I, as to what we will do; who's going to cook the turkey and the salmon, the roast and creamed potatoes, the bread sauce and stuffing and mango salad (one of my sister's husbands, a Frenchman, has offered to provide snails, but I think Rupert and I are the only ones who are really keen) the puddings and the Yule log. We have plans to get together and make peppermint creams and marzipan fruit, just as we did when we were kids; to alienate all their neighbours with carol singing (actually, my sisters don't know about that plan yet - it was hatched with my niece when she came over in August). I know that the holiday will be wonderful - just seeing my parents, my sisters, Rupert's parents and sister - all the relatives and friends, will be lovely, let alone having the chance to do some sight seeing in London and visit some of our old haunts.
But I have so much to do in the meantime, that the thought of going frankly scares me - six concerts, my pupil's concert, kids choir concert, a Christmas party to organize, people to see before we go, packing and Christmas shopping. There are two more weeks to go of teaching - but only two weeks to accomplish the education of Juliette whom I am homeschooling at the moment and is in grade seven and off to High school next year. Then there is the school concert for Lydia, her ballet concert and extra rehearsals. Maybe it's a good thing that Sam is so anti social – all we have to worry about with him his is Futsal and Kung Fu and podiatry visits...
I am also concerned about leaving the animals - our three chickens, Madras, Tikka and Cinnamon, the three cats, one which is a manic depressive and has just been diagnosed with kidney failure and therefore needs even more special treatment than usual, and, last but not at all least, our fat old Labrador, Guinness. I know they will all be looked after well, but I also know that they will miss us and my Guilt knows no bounds.
|Last trip to England with cousins.|
And on a lesser, stranger note, this is the first year I have become officially Australian - I'm not talking about passports or unimportant things like that, as we got our citizenship a few years ago - I'm talking about the fact that this is the first time that I have sniffed jasmine blossom in the air, felt the sticky warmth of summer and thought: "Ooh, it's nearly Christmas!" After twelve years in Australia, this will be our first cold Christmas; our first Christmas in twelve years without mangoes, without a post-Christmas-dinner swim in the pool, without our own extravagantly colourful Christmas decorations. For my Aussie kids, this will be their first Christmas ever in England, their first real experience of COLD. Twelve years ago, I had to make a special effort to make our Christmas "Christmassy" in the heat. This year I am again going to have to make a special effort to make it seem Christmassy for children who have never had a cold Christmas. Still, I am sure that when surrounded by family and friends, hypothermia, satsumas, chilblains and real Cadbury's chocolate, we will hardly notice the difference.