Borough Market, Whitstable, a Vineyard. The question of context.

Right now I’m in transition. We don’t know exactly when I’ll head back, but it will probably be in about a month. C. will hopefully follow a few months later. With a ton of things to get done but no definitive deadlines I’m a bit at loose ends.

The visa process (for C.) is another uncertainty. The website seems to be a wonderful source of misinformation, so any time I want to get completely freaked out, I can always go there an find ten reasons why our plans will get messed up.

We’re working with someone at C.’s work though, and fortunately after a brief call to the guy today, I feel so much better. And grateful that we’re not alone in the process.

But back to the Things to Do Before Leaving the UK List. Borough Market was at the top.

I also went to a Sussex vineyard (thanks Groupon!), the Yayoi Kusama show at Tate Modern, and to a new seaside town for me—Whitstable—for a walk and to see some short plays.

St. Paul’s from Tate Modern lawn on an unseasonably warm day.

Borough Market loaf. This is bigger than my head. Sad day for the gluten-free visitor.

Nut bread? C’mon. You’re killing me here.

No kitchen should be without goose fat.

Gorgeous views as one’s walking around the markets.

Uber brownies! I would like a badge for not getting one for C. and sneaking a bite with a handful of gluten-ease pills.

Yes!

A bit wilted but still pretty.

Figs.

Still life.

Being a sort of tourist for a year and a half is starting to feel weird.  I’m not quite as excited about the amazing historical thing I’m touring or which fantastic garden or cultural site I visit. Instead I’d like to just have a normal day where I get dressed, go to work, and do something tangible, whether it’s frustrating, exhausting, or productive, and then come home to a place that feels like home. Wanting this makes me feel guilty and dull.

Sometimes there’s the sense of killing time, which can happen anywhere.

Spring in Whitstable.

Whitstable castle, built in 1700’s.

Sun!

Coast.

Last weekend, C.’s two pals and I walked around the town of Hastings after doing the vineyard thing. I expected a big site for the Battle of Hastings (1066! English language changed forever!), but I was told that there’s a town called Battle where they do reenactments, and that’s where the official marker is. Instead there were just some signs basically describing what happened in 1066, who the Normans were, etc.

What was funny was that at the tasting our guide razzed on the French for a while until this lone woman with a classic French accent said “Excuse me Monsieur, but I am French and I do not agree,” about the quality of French wine, and the rest of the afternoon went on in this manner. She was joking and so was he, sort of, but sort of not.

I can’t remember where, but I heard someone say, weeks before, that the closer you get to Hastings the more they hate the French. Well, I wonder if this French woman knew that the wine tasting she was going to was in Hastings.

One of the guide’s jokes about the French even worked the Americans in. (The American in the story was loud.)  Two for one special!

After the tasting we had a walk along the coast and then a nice meal at Pomegranate (killer risotto). Then mini-golf which was fun but freezing.  We chose “Pirate Golf” which involved various water-spirting holes.  It was after dark by the sea. I had clothes for weather about twenty degrees warmer.

“Is getting wet…avoidable?” I asked the ticket guy, in what I thought would be the least likely manner to invite a snarky remark.

“Well you can look at see where the cement is wet and then not stand there,” he replied.

Sheesh.

But back to my point about the outing. I loved being in the vineyard on such a warm sunny day and learning about how they grow their grapes. (The guide was especially interesting and is retired, having previously spent decades working in the lost luggage room at Gatwick airport. I’d say the guy deserves a few free bottles.)

So while I certainly can’t complain about the day, I started getting into a funk during mini-golf which was weird with skulls lighting up and saying pirate-ey things to us about how poor our shots were.

There was this sense of frivolity without the context of work so I kind of felt like it wasn’t deserved or appropriate or something.

Wine in the making.

I know that most people my age would kill to have so few obligations, and so in that regard, I am fortunate. But all told, I would say the hardest thing about being an expat or a trailing spouse is not knowing how long you’re staying or what you’re doing to do next. The problem of context.

Without a clear role and a sense of rootedness and community, context kind of drops out. “Fun” things can feel strange.

And of course there’s a bit too much time for rumination in the middle of a transition. I’m wondering when exploration becomes indulgent. When it is wise? How do we know which “games” are childish and which are childlike?

When is it necessary to leave behind the pursuit of exhilaration, of newness, and fully accept the quotidian, as that too brings a type of joy?  I’m guessing there’s no right answer to any of it.

Hastings coast, dusk.

Advertisements

First Visit to the US

Being back in the US after being gone a year and a half was intense. I was fortunate to get to do so much and see so many friends all at once, coast to coast and all points in between. The AWP conference in Chicago offered a nice meeting point for some Richmond (VA) connections.

I also had a job to do. I needed to scope out possibilities for our recently discussed move back. We’re still gathering information, but we’re headed in the NYC direction. C.’s on his way to finalizing some things on his end for his office transfer. I’ve started looking for work, albeit with a bit of wariness. Hopefully this search will be a bit less frustrating as I won’t have to learn so many new tricks as a relatively old dog.

Snowy Nova Scotia (?) from the plane on a bright sunny day

Only 18 seats taken on our flight over! The benefits of flying on a Tuesday afternoon. Everyone had a whole row to him or herself--ahhh....

We lucked out that the New York office needed C. to come in in early Feb., so I tagged along and visited possible places for us to live when we move.  In between studying train lines, doing a million Google distance searches to train stations and rejoicing in my reunion with Kombucha tea, I managed to score a free ticket to the David Letterman show.

I got in trouble for this actually. We were in line but technically inside the Ed Sullivan Theater. "No Photography!" the girl said and pointed to the sign.

It was sweeps week, so there were all sorts of antics like going to a new savory pie shop in the neighborhood. The big guest was Denzel Washington. I spent the entirety of the show (fourth row, dead center!) terrified that my loaner phone would go off. I felt like I’d turned it off but my phone in London took me forever to get used to. I sometimes thought it would be off but it wasn’t. And the loaner phone was new and unfamiliar. Thankfully nothing happened and Dave didn’t make fun of me on live television. With an unfortunate haircut. Whew.  I sat next to a woman from Wisconsin who was traveling alone in business and we clapped loudly as we were instructed to do, and avoided making the “Whoooo!” sound. (Seriously, no “Whooing!” allowed. Just enthusiastic clapping and cheering. There were about ten interns standing in front of us before the show providing examples of good clapping.)

In our New York hotel home virtually scouting out commuter towns. My dogs were barking after hours of pounding the no-so-metaphorical pavement.

The High Line, NYC. Old railway tracks now outdoor gallery, hang out zone, and architecture tour.

Great, even on a cold day in Feb.

Can't wait to go back in summertime.

C. and I want to live outside the city as he’s always done, so we’ve been researching Jersey. A friend of a friend took me on a driving tour of towns around New Brunswick, and then I took a bunch of trips out with C. and without, meeting real estate agents. (They all seem to rent through agents there, I don’t know why.)  One agent was so hyper that she flew to one appointment while I waited in the office and then the other agent had to leave. They locked me in for about 45 minutes which was not fun! Needless to say we’re not going with them. The next two agents we met were much nicer.

One apartment in a nearby Jersey town has a view of Manhattan from the living room window.

Gorgeous light in this one but a teeny kitchen, creaky floors and someone above.

Our new North Jersey main street...?

A lot of attic apartments in big Victorians. Have lived in a bunch of these over the years.

Neither C. nor I are excited about small apartment living, but we hope to be able to get a little house in Jersey after a while. I’m freaking out about the closets more than anything.  We’ve finally got the standing wardrobe situation here down to a manageable system, and most things have homes.  Going back to two tiny closets for the whole place is going to be a challenge. Plus tiny kitchen.

C. then went back to London for two weeks while I continued on my way, heading to California for a week to see my dear friend M. and her family, thanks to a crazy cheap CHI>SFO ticket.

But first I went to the Chicago ‘burbs to see my most excellent pal Chris and her crew of two kids and senior kitty, who, I’m sure, was fully sick of me by the time I left:

Gene! Love affair spanning 10+ years.

Getting to meet my friend’s 15 mo. old daughter, N., was a highlight of the trip and I already can’t wait to see her again. I’d met Chris’ son when he was 9 months old but now he’s 2 and a half and calls me “Taro.”  He’s really fun and outgoing. When I arrived I got out the little toys I’d been gathering for a few months, and we first tried out some glow sticks. These were too fun. When you bent them, they turned from clear to bright neon, and you could snap them together to make huge multi-colored hoops that we spun on our arms in the dark. We danced like maniacs to music on their porch with the new toys. I gave Gene a pink glow-stick necklace and he trudged around with it on for a while. I am the cat whisperer.

Then to my friend’s in CA.  I’d never been to Monterey Bay. Insanely gorgeous.

Point Lobos, Monterey Bay. One of those places in California that doesn't quite seem real, it's so perfectly beautiful.

When not to take a photo, that is the question.

My friend from IL, B., also happened to be in CA, so we did a little thrift shopping in Monterey. I found a killer Nikita camo jacket for four bucks. B & I used to thrift shop hard in Chicago and other spots way back in the eighties, so it was kinda funny to find ourselves rummaging around again so many years later.

C. and I met up again in Chicago and he roamed the streets while I conferenced.

Downtown Chicago. C. took this.

After another stop at Chris’ where C. got to hang with the kids (and read Dr. Seuss to them in a very stiff accent, which was hilarious), we had a week to kill since we didn’t need to scout towns in Jersey again.  We spent a few days in Galena, IL, a cool little town near the Mississippi preserved, nearly, from the 1800’s steamboat days. Off season, it was cheap and we practically had the place to ourselves.

Then off to central IL to visit relatives. Hadn’t seen some in over five years so it was great to get down there!  Got to meet my uncle’s new dog Bruiser and C. took part in one of his favorite pastimes: target shooting. I think he and my uncle will get along just fine.

So, what’s the verdict then?  All my friends had the same question for C.: Are you excited? Meaning the prospect of moving to the US and working in NY. At first his answer was uncertain, but as we traveled around he seemed to get a bit used to the idea. He’s threatening to do a BPRB version of his own called Dull Gray Long Underwear from our new New Jersey haunt.

I’ll leave you, for now, with C.’s Zoolander imitation.

Is there more to life than being really, really ridiculously good-looking?

%d bloggers like this: