Wednesday, 27 June 2007


We have been in England for 100 days. Emily has been keeping a toll. It is a big day for us in a small way but much bigger for England itself. Today, Gordon Brown became the new Prime Minister. Change is good and I am very interested to see how this man leads his country.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Rain stops play

Wimbledon is due to start today, but play has been delayed because of the rain. It has been wet for a week. So much for the long range weather forecast which said lower than average rainfall for the summer and higher than average temperatures!

Still, we can't really complain. Last week was hectic, so many boxes and so little room, but it was a good week. A former student from Yokohama, Mrs. Kurita, was in England on a driving holiday with her husband and they popped in to see me. The weather was not great, but we had a short walk around our small, quite pretty town of East Grinstead. It was wonderful to see her and she deserves a big thank you, as she brought some Japanese treats for us all.

On Thursday, which is the volunteer day at Standen, we lopped branches from trees overhanging one of the walkways and we put down 100 metres of irrigation pipe. This meant climbing under a 10 foot hedge, not very dignified, with rear ends poking out of the foilage, but incredibly rewarding!!

We are now planning our own short summer break, to Croatia. It looks beautiful, rustic and relatively unspoiled. More on that later.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Good and chattels

The boxes arrived bright and early yesterday. Having no real space for everything, only the girls' desks were assembled and some of their books and toys unpacked. Everything else is now in the garage. Today I set up a book shelf. Not a screwdriver to be seen in the house, so it all got put together with a sommelier's knife and a spanner which acted as a hammer. Women can be so resourceful!
The accumulation of yet more things is causing much angst. I crave a more streamlined existance. Work has started to clear space for the things we need and want to keep and to separate the things we do not need/want into charity piles and things for the rubbish tip. A few bits have gone to an online auction site, but there seems to be a lull in online trading at present. Wanting a more simple life comes with age. We in fact need much less than we all have to live well. If any of you have any ideas about how you streamline and downsize, please pass them on.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Home Sweet Home

When we first got to England in March, we decided that this house, which belongs to John, is not ideal for all five of us, so we would sell and move. A fresh start for everyone, closer to Guildford where John works and somewhere we could make our mark on. Now, almost three months later, the girls are settled in school and have started Girl Guides. John's body clock has morphed and he is up and out the door just after 7 am some days. I have 'found' a gardening activity I love, and Adam comes to us at weekends to make the family complete. All the while we kept in mind that we would not be here too long. Well, nothing in life remains the same, and after much thought we have decided to take the house off the market and to stay put. The children are pleased. Hannah is due to go up to high school in September and had her heart set on the local school. Emily was simply relieved. Too many moves. Adam too was pleased and wisely suggested we fix the shower if we are staying! (Definately!) John and I set too in the garden. Until now it was all maintenance, and keeping it in control, but not any longer! We let go. Grand plans are afoot and we celebrated by cutting back some of the shrubs that needed to go. It is going to keep us all busy getting the place to the standard that we want. The worrying thing is that on Monday, 74 boxes arrive from Hong Kong..... They all have to go into the garage, as there is no room in the house. There are going to be a lot of trips to the tip and the charity shops......

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Show Time

The South of England Show was held at Ardingly last weekend and the whole family went. It was a hot, sunny day, and what an event; it is the largest agricultural show in England. We watched some of the events in the arena, the highlight being the local hunts with their hounds. Fox hunting is now banned in England, but other forms of non blood hunts are still held. The riders looked stuning in their scarlet coats, and the hounds (200 in the arena at one time) showed how they respond to the call of the horn. It is a wealthy sport, and feelings run high about it, but it is part of the rural English tradition and is worth seeing.
If you click on the photo you can see a larger version.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Buckets, brushes and shovels.

Thursday was the first of the volunteer days at Standen. While realistic enough to think that the job would not mean strolling through the grounds with a basket over the arm snipping the heads off roses, the day was an eye opener. First up was to clear a flower bed near the restaurant for dahlia bulbs to be planted. We hear that thousands have to go in...which means the volunteers will do it..... I loved being able to ask 'is this a weed?' and being told exactly what plant it was. Hop (for making beer) was in abundance and until that day, I did not know that it is a vine! Not all weeds were removed, some were left to add colour or texture and to keep a natural look to the garden.

The next job was to clean out the kidney shaped pool in the bamboo garden. It was built to swim in during the Victorian era. Lined with concrete, no pump, no chemicals to clean the water and with an island in the middle of it, (no longer there, but to be replaced) covered with arum lillies, it was quite primitive. Kids in those days were a robust lot. Can you imagine a modern child swimming in brown water? Most of the water had been pumped out to try to discover a leak. The slimey mud at the bottom had to be removed and the pool swept clean. So those of us with Wellington boots climbed in and shovelled out dozens of bucket loads of muck. The chemical free water was a happy spot for frogs and newts (the Great Crested Newt shown here) and a variety of insects. These we caught and released into the ornamental pond. I was covered in mud from head to toe and physically worn out by the end. But I can say, I cannot remember a more cheerful and satisfying job, ever.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

England Swings like a Pendulum Do

The first words of a song about England and things quintessentially English......nothing to do with the wilder side of life!!

We have been to London. Twice. The first day we did an open double-decker bus tour to get a feel for the city. Despite asking for it, we had no Japanese commentary, so grandmother S just enjoyed the sights. We got off at the Tower of London. There is a brilliant tour there, led by ruffled Beafeaters, which we did not do this time. We ate our obento on the steps near the pier and then went down the Thames to Greenwich to the Royal Observatory. The weather was great and the river trip lovely. We saw the burnt out ruins of the Cutty Sark, a historic tea clipper that was recently severely damaged by fire while undergoing repairs. You can see the news in the link. Greenwich is a lovely town with great views of the river and city from the hill, but the highlight is undoubtedly the Meridian Line. Here are the girls straddling it with their grandmother.

The second trip was en route to take granny to Heathrow. The girls had a day off school.....something we do not make a habit of. We went to the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus, where resident Japanese and Japanophiles can get their fix of food, books, manga etc. Prices are exhorbitant. Hannah paid FOUR POUNDS for a Bleach manga...which retails at about 400 yen in Japan. She actually paid 970 yen...and the clever thing had a good idea to put up a sign on the notice board there asking if people want to trade or sell old copies. She will do better that way.

After the shopping we had lunch in Green Park and walked to Buckingham Palace. Too late to see the Changing of the Guard, but it was a first for all of us to see the palace. Then a quick trip to Harrods. What a place. The food halls have the loveliest pillars, tiles and cornices. I just love the interior there. Emily and Hannah both splurged and bought one Godiva chocolate each. We then took granny to Heathrow and said our goodbyes.

We hope she comes back soon, but we are gearing up for another visitor next week. Hope they keep on coming.