Notes from the basement

19 Oct

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:


Sudeley Castle

Hailes Abbey



and Gloucester

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.


11 Responses to “Notes from the basement”

  1. ambermccann October 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Find that tribe and wiggle your way in. You will find a place of belonging…I’m quite convinced.

  2. A H October 19, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Love to you all. Love the view from your flowered cup/bowl. You are smart to get a new perspective.

    Moving is the pits, We know. But I am excited for all the lovely people who get to share your kindness. You have always be so welcoming and fun. I am sure you won’t be lacking in friends. (Hugs from the Eastern Shore, MD)

    • Monique October 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      Hugs back to you! You could write your own book about moving with children, I know … I’m a terrible correspondent, but don’t give up on me — keep in touch.

  3. Cynthia October 19, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Monique, I love you & your posts! Sounds like you’re having a wonderful half-term break (I think the schedule is civilized, too) and you’re doing a superb job of entertaining your children while you sneak some education in there (can’t avoid it at castles, right?). Remember, the basement flat is *temporary*. Hang in there! Enjoy the sunshine & gorgeous flowers while they’re available!

  4. Kym Porter October 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Our rule for new arrivals is 6 months — in the first six months you experience great highs, low lows, some great family bonding and some of the worst in-fighting of your family life. You can’t make any real decisions about how you or anyone else feels for 6 months, because it swings too much. After 6, you settled in.

    • Monique October 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Six months? Six MONTHS? God help me & pass the wine. But, okay, good to hear from the BTDT experts.

  5. Sarah November 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    I may have to stop interjecting because I’m annoying myself just thinking what I want to say. Or perhaps I should learn how to censor? Be more positive? I don’t know!!

    Laughed out loud at the tribe comment. Love it.

    A counselor at Menwith says 18 months, just so you know. She said given an extra six months to decided if they liked it here, most said they would have extended – but most had already negotiated their transfers by then. Anyway, I guess that is basically a positive thing. Just keep telling yourself you love, love, love it! That’s what I do, and so far it’s stuck, stuck, stuck! 🙂 Also, caution on the squashes (and the popular kids drinks in squirty bottles whose name eludes me at the moment) – lots of them contain aspartame. I am a huge fan of orange soda and was delighted in the Fanta here using REAL fruit juice – YUM! Until a visiting friend just pointed out there is aspartame in my beloved Fanta also. BOOOOOO!!! We stick to “lemonade” or J2O. I may delude myself with those also, as I’ve never checked the ingredients! Please, keep me in the dark if you find out what I hope isn’t true.

    • Monique November 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

      OK, first I hope you won’t stop interjecting because I love hearing from you (& I learn so much!). Second, your comment sent me running to the fridge and — darn it!! — both the apple ‘fruit shoots’ and the lemon squash in there have aspartame. Gah! I hadn’t noticed. Thank goodness for local Bensons — — Third, I just can’t bear the idea that it will take 18 months to adjust. Even 6 months seems like too long. I thought I’d be all settled in a month or two — HAHAHAHAHAhahahahaaaaaaagasp snort snort gasp


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