Friday, 30 January 2015

Reflections on January in England

This morning, we woke to snow on the ground.  It's quite lovely and when you get hardly any snow, you thoroughly enjoy what little does fall, especially when it actually sticks to the ground.  

England is a crazy place in January, weather wise that is.  It keeps us guessing.  The weather changes hourly.  One morning, we’ll wake up to rain.  By the time we leave to walk to school, the sun is shining.  My midmorning the wind is blowing and dark clouds are rolling in.  Noon – we get a hail storm.  By 2:00, the sun is out again and there’s not a cloud in the sky.  Walking home from school, it starts snowing.  The girls get excited, but it’s short lived.  Ten minutes later the snow is done and the sun is trying to peak out again before it dips from the sky for the night.  Crazy, crazy weather. 

The days are very short and the sun seems oddly low in the sky all day long.  We are living much farther north than anywhere we’ve lived before, yet our winter will be milder.  
Latitudes for comparison:
Indianapolis, Indiana – 39.72
Minneapolis, Minnesota – 44.88
East Midlands, UK (area we live in) – 52.83

Even at noon, the sun is very low in the sky here in England.  When it’s rays spread across the countryside, it casts a different light than any I’ve ever seen at midday – a muted light that gives everything a bit of a golden glow.  It’s beautiful.  When the kids returned to school in early January, it is still completely dark when we get up in the morning.  By the end of the month, the sky has a faint glow when we rise – the sun still has awhile before it will be fully above the horizon, but when you wake and look out the window now, you know it’s morning without having to consult a clock. 

There was an earthquake measuring 3.8 not far from here the other night.  The epicenter was in a village about 40 miles from our house.   I was sitting in bed reading emails on my phone when the bed started to shake.  At first, I thought a big truck must have been driving by, but I found that quite odd as it was almost 10:30 at night and we live in a very rural area.  The bed continued to shake for several seconds.  Not a lot, but enough that I could definitely feel it.  I didn't think anything more of it until the next day when I saw the news headlines "3.8 Earthquake Hits the East Midlands."  Yep - that's what I felt.   Snow and an earthquake in January in England - two things that do not happen every year here.

There are so many places we want to visit and explore around England, but the cold, damp weather and the lack of daylight put a damper on our explorations in January.  We spent most weekends near home this month, but that was okay.  Winter is a time to rest and rejuvenate and once the weather is nicer and the days are longer, I suspect we will spend less and less time at home on the weekend.

We did venture out one weekend though.  We drove to the city of Oxford for a visit.  Lots to see and do there, and what a beautiful city.  And we got to visit a little bit of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while we were there.  So fun!  I’ll share our visit to Oxford with you next week. 

I’ve become more comfortable driving around the English countryside in my little Ford Focus.  One day, I even ventured into Nottingham by myself to meet the ladies in the Midlands Better Halves club for lunch (in case you missed my earlier post about this Club, this is a group of ladies from Indiana whose husbands all work at Rolls-Royce).  Why is this a big deal?  Because I am from a country where a yellow line down the middle of the road means two-way traffic and a white line means different lanes of traffic heading in the same direction.  In the UK, ALL lines in the center of the roads are white, regardless of which direction the traffic is suppose to be heading.  How do you know if you are on a one-way street with multiple lanes or on a two-way street?  I haven’t quite figured that out yet, so when I drive into an unfamiliar city where lots of roads are potentially one way, it’s very nerve wracking.  I never know if I’m in the right lane or if I’m heading down a one-way street the wrong direction.  To make things more complicated, cars are allowed to park on either side of the street here.  So you pass cars on your side of the street that are facing backwards.  I should probably study up on the rules of the road here.

While in Nottingham with the ladies from the Club, we dined at a Jamie Oliver restaurant – need to do that at least once while in the UK, right?  The food was good, and as always, it was great to sit and chat with fellow Americans for a couple of hours. 

Eric and I spent a lot of January planning our next few trips.  It’s going to be a busy spring and summer for us and I can’t wait.  Right now, with the dreary weather outside, it’s the anticipation of the travel we get to do while living in Europe that helps me get through each day. 

 Eric made his first trip back to Indiana for work since we've been here.  It was a short trip.  He left Sunday and was back home by 8:30 this morning (Friday).  This was all very odd because we are use to him heading to England from Indiana for work, but not the other way around.  Before heading to the airport to catch his plane back to England, he stopped at CVS to pick up some things to bring back.  He usually brings some kind of sweet treat back when he travels for work.  This time, he showed up with Goldfish crackers and mac and cheese, two things the girls haven't seen in four months.  They were ecstatic!  You would have thought it was Christmas morning with the way they were jumping around. 

The other day, I asked everyone what they missed from home.  Ellie said her family and best friend Sophia from school.  She’s always the sentimental one.  Leah said her bed and our yard.  She loves snuggling up in her bed and running around outside.  Back in Zionsville during the winter, they both would go out and play in the snow, but Leah always stayed out by herself, no matter how cold, long past when Ellie came in.  Eric misses football.  We had to listen to the last Packer’s game over the internet and it is not nearly as enjoyable as watching it live on TV.   

And what do I miss?  I miss our fireplace.  From mid fall to early spring, we have a fire blazing away in the fireplace almost everyday warming up our house.  When it’s cold outside, there is nothing like sitting in front of a hot fire for a few minutes to warm up.  Here, there is a chill in my bones that I just can’t get rid of.  I am always cold and no amount of wool socks and thick sweaters can replicate the bone penetrating heat that emanates from a toasty warm wood fire. 

I also miss the feeling of familiarity.  Shopping at stores I’m familiar with where I know exactly what I can get and where to find it, eating at favorite restaurants where I know I’ll get good food every time, driving down familiar roads, going for walks on my favorite trail in Zionsville.  Even though we’ve lived here for four months now, everything still has an air of unfamiliarity about it.  I wonder if that will ever change.  I suspect not, simply because this move is only for two years and that’s always in the back of my mind.  Knowing that four months has already flown by and we will be going home someday makes me almost keep a bit of a distance from getting too comfortable here.

The photos are from the first weekend in January when Eric jumped in the car one frosty morning and headed over to Ashby Castle to see if he could get some good pictures.  I think he did.  Well, they are all from Ashby castle except for the first two.  Those were taken by yours truly just this morning on a camera phone at Castle Engebretsen.  That should explain the difference in quality.  



  1. Goldfish crackers and mac and cheese - every kids dream! Did you have to get a drivers license over there? I guess people drive in other countries when on vacation, was just wondering if it is different for a longer time period.

    1. Good question! You are allowed to drive with a US license here for 1 year. After that, you need to take a driver's test, written and driving, and get a UK driver's license. We are not looking forward to this. The rules of the road, signs, lines on the roads (as I mention in the post above), even how you operate your car is different here. Lots of Americans fail the first time. Should be fun.