Today, I successfully drove from Reading to Oxford in our new-to-us black Ford Galaxy. True, it was along narrow back roads with minimal traffic with Seth navigating from the passenger seat, but it’s a start. I may live to drive another day on the left-hand side of the road.
We have been in Oxford now for two weeks, after a four-week blitz tour of the Continent, hopping from Brussels to Paris, to the south of France and finally to Vienna. The Continent was blistering hot. We ate copious amounts of baguettes and pain au chocolat and soft cheese. We walked the dusty, crowded streets of Paris and climbed up in the cool hills of Austria. We leaned on the good graces of friends and family. It all felt like an incredible dream. There is more to write about this time.
But when we stepped off the plane in London, it felt like coming home. There was a cool, spitting rain. The kids were delighted to see signage in English. We rolled our bags through the wet streets past Buckingham Palace all the way to Trafalgar Square. I couldn’t hold back my thrill.
We are in temporary housing in southern Oxford until our permanent rental becomes available. We eat scones and jam for breakfast and eggs fried in great slabs of butter for lunch. We have books and clothes spilling out everywhere, large suitcases stacked in the main room and laundry drying from a rack in the kitchen. Life cannot continue in this way, but we are hovering in this in-between space, where calories don’t seem to count and messes don’t matter. We loll out of the house in the afternoon to hike or explore the city centre. I am learning that Oxford is a place you can know in a day and spend a lifetime uncovering. Here is where Tolkien lived. This is the home of T.H. Lawrence. On this spot Richard the Lionheart was born.
On Wednesday we hiked from Winchcombe in the Cotswolds up to Belas Knap, an ancient burial mound with inset graves perfectly preserved in stone. Asher stood on top doing martial arts, nonplussed by the history under his feet. It seemed fitting. All of England is a playground upon which to tramp about.
Today is Preston’s 14th birthday. We celebrated in full yesterday by spending the afternoon at Blenheim Palace, strolling the massive grounds and rolling about on the perfectly manicured lawn. We will never be mistaken for proper British royalty, but England seems to suit us.
Our church congregation has been incredibly welcoming. We’ve had friends store and transport our baggage, invite us to dinner, and shuttle us around to shop for cars and wellies. The older boys spent their first week at a youth camp in Nottingham and came away with loads of stories and jolly Scottish acquaintances. Next week they are doing another church camp. This one involves tent camping and hiking.
Each day brings new surprises, new discoveries. Yet in so many ways, it already feels we’ve been here forever.