Winter & the Festive Season

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Gloucester Cathedral in the chilly, morning sun is something else. Incredibly photogenic!

It’s that time of year again when there’s a Christmas tree in every front window, lights on all the houses and the temperatures a balmy 12 degrees Celsius…wait, what?!

After a cold start to December (I’m talking temperatures dipping below zero, which is quite cold in these parts), we are now experiencing another mild lead up to Christmas. In fact, that crazy temp I just mentioned is the forecast for Christmas Day. What the what? I could get away with wearing a light jacket! In fact, I HAVE gone out for a walk in a light jacket recently. Just ridiculous.

I needed a heavier jacket on this walk, though.

Pete and I have enjoyed doing the usual festive things during December. We have been hosting some geocaching events at pubs (continuing a series of these events from last winter), getting our shopping done early (I am DONE…well, I might get a few extra things…heh heh) and generally just chilling out after busy days at work.

I usually get terribly homesick this time of year, but I have been doing better this time around. True, there are things I definitely miss (Stanley Park, gah!), but we are creating our own little traditions in this neck of the woods. Pete finally “gets” why I love driving around in search of insanely decked out houses. We will be attending a Christmas Day geocaching event for the third year running (hosted by my mother-in-law). Oh, and we finally got a new Christmas tree and some nerdy ornaments. Behold!

I think Deadpool needs a Santa beard. Maybe next year.

We also definitely bought a Lego set (the Winter Toy Shop, pictured next to the tree) and we’re hoping to get a few more of these sets in the future. Oh boy, that could get out of control and fast!

Oh 2016, you were definitely rough at times (that’s an understatement!), but overall this year was pretty good to me on a personal level. As always, though, I look forward to ushering in another year in the hope that it will be even better. Optimism ahoy!

Happy Holidays / Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah / Joyous Kwanzaa

…and a happy new year, you filthy animals.

One Year Later

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All right, so the subject of this entry isn’t entirely accurate–I’ve been here for just over a year now, by one month and a few weeks!–but I had a little bit of fun compiling a list of what I’ve learned and adapted to during my time in the UK. There were more than a few things this Canucklehead had to wrap her head around and get used to!

Learning the currency: Even though I had been to the UK four times previously, I never did feel confident when rifling through my change. I’m old school in that I use cash when paying for, well, most things. I’m one of those “exact change” nuts (although I won’t dig around for it if there’s a line/queue behind me! PET PEEVE). From the tuppence to the heaviness of the £1.00 coin, I often found myself with a pouch overflowing with change and would feel my face grow hot as I stood at the check out and fumbled around for the right coin. Once I figured out “which size is which denomination”, it got easier. It makes more sense than Canadian money–where the dime/10 cent coin is smaller than the nickel/5 cent coin. But, seriously, a two pence coin? And it’s just as big as the 50p coin? What is up with you, tuppence?!

Stores closing early: This took a lot of getting used to. Before moving to England, I left a retail job back in Canada; we were open until 9pm every day. This included Sundays. On Sundays in England, and most of Europe for that matter, you will be lucky to find much open. If stores are open on that day, they will most definitely be closing down before 5pm or 6pm. But, yes, even on weekdays there are quite a few places that will shut down at 5:30pm. I actually like it, even though it still throws me off a year later. I always found staying open until 9pm to be kind of pointless. The people who are in the store at that time are most likely just there for the lack of anything else to do. Nine times out of ten they would walk out without buying anything. So, as a former employee in the wonderful world of retail and other customer service-type jobs, I support these early closings! Go on home and enjoy your evening, O Lovely Workers.

Cars actually stopping at pedestrian crossings: I grew up in an area with terrible drivers. I would witness a “close call” on the road every time I took my usual route to work. It was awful. Now, that doesn’t suggest there aren’t bad drivers here (people speeding on curvy, narrow country lanes, for example–yikes!), but if there’s a marked pedestrian crosswalk, people WILL stop for you. What? Courtesy to those walking and/or cycling? I’m not used to that! That said, if someone fails to stop, I’ll give them my best angry glare and mentally shake my fist.

Starbucks employees asking if I want whipped cream on my drink: I thought that just came standard with a frappuccino? And…who would say “no”?! Even if you have an allergy, you probably wouldn’t be ordering one o’ those anyway. This question equally amuses and confuses me every time.

Being close to ALL THE OLD THINGS: Stonehenge? It’s over there yonder *points in a random direction* Beautiful estates like Hanbury Hall? Yeah, those are close by. I’ve seen cathedrals, castles, monasteries and all those famous sights in London. It’s a little surreal that I live in a place I used to romanticize (thank you Hollywood and British period dramas!). I definitely feel lucky that I live in an area where it’s easy to get to places like Bath, Oxford and, yes, good ol’ London. Not too shabby at all!

Calling dinner “tea”: I don’t understand and it confuses the heck out of me. Of course, there is “tea time”, but there were these commercials on TV and the tagline was “chips for tea” and that really threw me off. When is tea just “tea” and when does it allude to “dinner/supper”–and why? Can anyone clarify this for me??

Tax included in prices: Being from Canada, it has become the norm to turn into a human calculator when figuring out how much tax will be tacked onto the items you plan on purchasing. The key is to overestimate so, when the price ends up being lower, you’re pleasantly surprised! However, in this country I may have done a happy dance upon learning that I no longer have to use the “thinky part” of my brain. If something is priced at £5.99, it will be £5.99! Huzzah! My basic math is going out the window for sure–oh well!

The wildlife: Even though I’m originally from a large urban center, it wouldn’t be all that strange to see wild animals roaming about, from small (raccoons and skunks) to medium (coyotes) to, well, large and dangerous (cougars and bears). I remember approaching a loop trail around a lake and there was a sign that said “Warning. Cougar in area” (keep your jokes to yourself, I’m talking about the animal here…). The types of wildlife in this area? Birds, foxes, mice and rabbits. I’ve seen plenty of those! I like knowing that when I’m out for a walk in the woods and I hear a branch snap that there’s no way it’ll be anything harmful. Not needing a bear bell when out in the middle of nowhere is a plus, too! I’ve traded deadly animals for cute ones like badgers and hedgehogs. Awesome.

Beauty in the landscape: I live on the edge of the Cotswolds, an area known for its rolling green hills, chocolate box villages and market towns. I used to live near Vancouver, known for its ocean views, mountains and glass buildings. One might say, “There’s no way you can compete with the beauty of the mountains and the ocean”, but I beg to differ. This is a lovely country (the parts I’ve seen of it, anyway) and there are plenty of natural wonders to take in–if you’re into the sort of thing! Being a former student of literature, I can see why so many famous poets and novelists came from this area of the world–it’s pretty easy to get inspired! Now that I’ve experienced all four seasons in England, I have to say that I’ve loved watching the landscape change as I passed by it on the bus. I love being close to farms and walking through fields of sheep. And, even though I hate climbing uphill, I have loved those epic “views from the top”.

I guess the final thing I could comment on is the amount of times people give me the “Where are you from?” question. A lot of people assume I’m American and quickly apologize when I correct them (aww, c’mon, not all Americans are bad!). I’ve even met someone at a geocaching event who once lived in the city I just left (and not too far away from my neighbourhood at that!).

I get plenty of people saying, “Why would you come HERE if you’re from Canada? Why would you even leave?!” Well, I think I listed a few reasons above as to why I came here and, well, the rest basically detail my reasons for staying. There is plenty this country has to offer and I look forward to seeing more of it and the areas beyond.

Oh, Brit-folk. Sometimes you’re way too hard on yourselves.