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.

Groombridge Gardens

A few weeks ago we visited Groombridge Gardens, near Tunbridge Wells. This place is fantastic. They have traditional English Gardens, Japanese Gardens, tons of squawky peacocks, and a raptor centre. Not to mention an “Enchanted” forest offering plenty of hiking options.

Despite a bit of a shower, we enjoyed the day.

Coupla Parks & a Priory

After almost a year here, I’ve learned two things:  in England, the weather can rotate through all four seasons in one day, so you’d better bring layers galore, and two, the countryside does bring a little bit a heaven to go with the little bit of hell you might have to endure with the weather, etc.  I can’t drive on the motorway yet so haven’t been able to go to the gajillion nearby gardens I’ve been dying to visit, but today, I’m afraid for C., he was cornered.

Now that the house is pretty much done, C. and I can have time together on weekends to do things as he’s not so busy with DIY, which = significantly less fantasizing about fleeing to South Carolina.  Last weekend we got to go see the X-Men movie (great, definitely worth paying the $ to see in the theater), and we visited a Priory close by.

Today we went to Groombridge Gardens in Tunbridge Wells (pics in separate post).   Last week I walked through two parks in London–Regent Park & Green Park–on my way back to Victoria Station.  It’s been a nice, green week despite the rain.  Or, maybe because of it.

Regent Park, Queen Mary’s Gardens

Green Park, London

Aylesford Priory, Kent

Aylesford Priory is just about a half hour from us, and it’s a great opportunity to see a thirteenth century site with some gorgeous grounds.  If you’re into quiet contemplative places, they have spots for folks to find a little peace, quiet and solitude.  Aylesford Priory was also a resting place for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, which is about a 45 minute car ride away.


Friar. And me.

Capstone Park (Kent) Pics and Some Freaking Chicken Soup for the Whatever Soul

(27 May:  I’d made this post back in March and then decided it was cheesy.  But since I’ve been so horrible about not posting this May, I’m posting this one…plus, it’s Capstone Park.  Very pretty.)

We recently went to Capstone Park, a nearby country park, and in honor of the first week of spring I’m posting pics as well as some of the contrasting winter’s snowfall at Capstone.   Humor me if you will, too, as I’m including a few quotes that might be inspirational, or just maybe something to chew on.  It’s easy to become mired sometimes, going about the day.   Especially for those of us clicking away at the screen, looking for work and whatnot.  Here’s to a brighter page, and thanks for letting me get a little Hallmark on y’all.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

— Michael Jordan

Three Rules of Work: 
Out of clutter find simplicity; 
From discord find harmony; 
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

— Albert Einstein

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

The self is not something that one finds. It’s something one creates.
— Thomas Szasz


“If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, then walk.
If you can’t walk, then crawl.
But whatever you do, keep moving.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

— Stephen King

It is good to love as many things as one can,

for therein lies true strength.

–Vincent VanGogh

Signs of spring–Riverside Country Park

I’m not getting too excited after last August’s mitten-wearing in the house, but it just might be getting a little bit warmer some days, and I have seen some traditional signs of spring–daffodils, crocus, and fresh growth on the boxwoods.

Near Riverside Country Park, on the path along the Medway Estuary, more signs:

Not particular to spring, but I like this little logo for some reason. I think it's just exciting to think of the Anglo Saxons hanging out on my block.

Near Horrid Hill. Origin of name not certain.

C. thought it would be entertaining to tell me that the ruins of the boat above were probably from the Romans.   When would that have been, honey?  Like the thirteenth century or something?   Gosh, history is so hard.

 

Didn’t see any flowers at Riverside on this walk, but I had caught some snowdrops a few weeks ago:

Vavasseurs Wood, Knockholt (Kent)

There was also a huge redwood tree in this area.  I’m told that Charles Darwin had a house near Knockholt and that there were all sorts of imported species of flora to find.  Will have to go back to look.

For now, it’s Riverside and Capstone Parks.   Pics from Capstone soon when I can catch it on a day with a bit of sun.

 

The Goods Shed, Canterbury

The other weekend, after a long and frustrating morning changing our Sunday plans eight billion times before noon, C. and I decided to go to the Dockyards Art Show in Chatham.

Even though it’s 15 pounds for a year, we’re on a bit of a spending moratorium right now.  So, we bailed on that, and decided to go to Tunbridge Wells, which is supposed to be pretty.

But it was a really cold, crappy day, so I wasn’t that thrilled about walking around outside.

I’m a sun-worshipping American, OK?   C. would call almost every day either “quite mild” or “quite pleasant.”  The closest I’ve ever heard him come to a weather complaint was that it was…wait, I can’t think of anything.  Even on the most bitter days, or once when he had to walk five miles back in the snow when the train stopped, there was no complaint.

Warning, warning Will Robinson–you have married a charming android.

So, we get on the highway, or, as they say here, the motorway, and about 3/4 of the way there we changed our minds again and decided to go to The Goods Shed, a food market and restaurant I’d seen online.

We’d make it about an hour before they closed.  I was psyched.  A few pretty views along the way, sheep, etc. and we arrived.

So nice.

Yes.

We got some local honey to help with springtime allergies, some nettle tea, and had a few bites of a spicy falafel patty.

The solution to all life’s problems?

I love you, beautiful Goods Shed peeps.

We then walked towards the town center

and met C.’s friend, on a whim, at Café Boho. That was nice.  I had some Thai sweet potato soup with cilantro, which I am definitely going to try and make at home.  (Sorry–camera battery ran out–no more pics!)

And then we talked to C.’s pal about living in Canterbury, still not sure where we’re going to live, and added it to our list of places to research.  The tourists in summer would be bad, but so many great little restaurants and cafés.

(Note–looked it up later and it’s off list due to $$$.)

The trip really did cheer me up.   I’ll definitely head back to The Goods Shed.  Even though it wouldn’t pay that well, I kind of wish I could work there just to be in such a beautiful place for a while.  Maybe a few summer hours…?

Mystery Veg

Took this at a small market in Canterbury today.

What are these?

A type of parsnip?

 

WE HAVE A WINNER!!   They’re moolis.  And if you want to listen to them (in their human band form), go here:

http://moolimusic.com/

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