We’re living in a basement apartment for the moment. It’s really not good for my mental health down here. Between flashbacks of our decades-ago crawl-space-sized basement apartment in Toronto and my natural claustrophobia and need for sunshine, I’m finding myself in a low mental place. But I’m trying to look on the bright side. If you look at it from just the right angle, it’s romantic.
And if you look at it from another angle, it’s like living death inside a subterranean coffin.
It helps that we’re getting out and about in the area as much as possible. In the past few days we’ve visited:
Not bad. The kids are on ‘half-term break’ — a very civilized invention that splits each school term into 6 weeks of classes broken up by two-week breaks. Their school year runs in to July, but they have much more vacation time interspersed within the school year. I like it, and it’s especially welcome for us as we were more than ready for a break from adjusting to the new school routine. (I’m also thankful their school doesn’t follow the distressing invention of ‘Saturday school’ — an extra morning of classes on Saturday. Just for kicks, I guess.) Mostly, I needed a break from the morning freak-out about which uniform combination to wear. Having lunch served at school has been a mighty bonus. My youngest has been the most adventuresome with new foods at school, and tells me she eats ‘beans for lunch’ along with a variety of vegetables. Son would live on a diet of french fries (‘chips’ since they are the thick cut kind) and unfortunately the cafeteria line seems to allow that.
As we explore, we’re learning more new phrasing. For example, when buying tickets for the bus, asking for a ’round trip ticket’ will get you the crazy eyeball stare from the bus driver. You want ‘a return’. And god bless the pub chefs who will cheerfully make a ‘cheese toastie’ (grilled cheese sandwich) for any child who looks hungry. A ‘smash’ is a juice concentrate, so don’t be afraid to order your child a ‘apple smash’ if they want it. A ‘chip and pin’ card is what everyone expects you to use if you show a credit card — it is common here to use a debit card and pin for all card purchases, and everyone has these handy portable card machines. Heaven help you if the retail staff can’t figure out how to swipe your card — “It’s so unusual to need to sign, isn’t it?” I’m asked regularly. By unusual, I’m given the impression that they assume my bank has refused to give me a pin and chip card because I am a wicked thief who will likely try to rob them blind … and they really examine that signature … and then ask for more ID … and then reluctantly let me leave with my purchases.
During a moment of homesickness the other day, I was relieved to see an English mother pick up her screaming daughter and drag her from the playground. (Yes, I am a horrible person.) Up to that point I had only seen well-behaved children with mummies who called them darling and pet and poppet and promised them chocolates and biscuits and spun sugar lives of being eternally cosseted. A two-year-old having a full-on tantrum and a mom at her wit’s end picking her up and carrying her off the playground (gently!) was a downright homey sight. Then I discovered an indoor ‘soft play’ area (Chik-fil-A on steroids) where children wet their pants, hit each other, ignored their mothers (come here darling, come here darling, COME HERE DARLING) and mothers sat in shell-shocked groups on comfy chairs drinking coffees. Yes. My tribe. I’ve found you.