Monday, September 29, 2014

Reflections on the School Run

When we lived in New York, our school run looked like this:

(This is actually a photo of our moving truck outside our apartment, the day we left). While in New York we had to wake the children by 6:30 am, and they had to be out of the house by 7:20 to make the school bus three long avenue blocks away. No matter how much I prepared: making their lunches the night before, setting out bowls and cups and cereal boxes, having their uniforms all laid out... we were always late! The morning would start out slow and sleepy and then by 7:22 we were all rushing [ie panicking], shouting, children begging to take a cab to school, us saying absolutely not [although sometimes we caved and spent $20 on a cab--oh, New York life!) before my husband hustled everyone out the door on his way to work and they sprinted from Madison Avenue and 91st Street to Third Avenue and 90th. (Which doesn't sound that far, but trust me, it is.)

Now my school run looks like this:

It's a seven minute walk down the high street of my village, past sheep fields and a little post office shop, and then up a little lane to the school. I'ts very pleasant, and my children don't have to be at school until the luxuriously late hour of 9 am.

And yet. You know what's coming, don't you? We're still late. We still rush, panic, shout, scream. Children don't demand a cab, but rather the car--which I always say no to, because parking is horrendous. But every day as I chivvy them up the street, huffing and puffing as I push the stroller, realising my five-year-old has not brushed her hair and my ten-year-old has not brushed his teeth, and I forgot to sign a note/bring gym uniform/pack a snack/all of the above, I think: how can this be? How can the school run be an hour and a half later than in New York, and much shorter, and yet I am still rushing?

I've come to this rather obvious conclusion: It's either the nature of school runs or the nature of me.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crab Fair

In my upcoming book, Rainy Day Sisters, one of the main character goes to the Egremont Crab Fair. That's crab apples, not crustaceans, but I must confess when I wrote about the Crab Fair, I hadn't actually been to one. My children had, and I asked my friend who goes every year for details, but when the Crab Fair rolled around this year and my son asked (begged) if we could go, I said yes. I wanted to experience this for myself!

Sadly, we missed the Parade of the Apple Cart and the Queen of the Crab Fair, but we did see some races (and took part in the wheelbarrow race, which is racing someone in an actual wheelbarrow rather than having to walk on your hands while someone holds your legs!)

and had some delightful Crab Fair food (i.e., hot, sugary donuts--who doesn't love those?!) And my son got separated from me, which is par for the course at these events. Fortunately I found him again.
Overall, it was a fun afternoon and definitely something I'd do again, if just to enjoy the beautiful view (and sugary donuts).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beach Life

I've never actually been much of a beach person. I don't like all the sand and salt in my hair and on my skin, and the closest beach to where I grew up, the one everyone went to, was the Jersey Shore. Enough said.

So living close to the beach wasn't actually a huge draw for me when we moved to the Cumbrian coast. But in the three years I've lived here, I've come to appreciate the many and sometimes subtle delights of the English northern seaside. Here, a hundred miles north of Blackpool, there are no boardwalks or fun fairs.

The beach where we live is its own attraction--at low tide, a quarter mile of smooth, wet sand and another quarter mile of water that doesn't go past your knees. There are tide pools that warm up in the sun and provide some good wading for small children (and crabbing opportunities for older children)

And most importantly, there is a café that sells some very good ice cream.

Something I love about British beaches--and British beachgoers--is that the weather is not a consideration. Of course, everyone flocks to the beach when it is a sunny, warm day like today, but I've seen children building sandcastles in February, or taking an early spring dip on a chilly day in May. My own children have done it, although not always willingly!

I love our beach on a sunny, still day, but in the rain and wind it still has its own admittedly chilly beauty. Living here has certainly taught me the importance of dressing appropriately for the weather.

So, yes, we are far from ferris wheels and boardwalks, but in living here I have become a bit more of a beach person.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


What's a one-time New Yorker doing in a tiny village on the remote Cumbrian coast?

There are time when I wonder how on earth I ended up here, and other times when I feel like I've finally found my home.

Three years ago my husband accepted a position as school chaplain and vicar to the village church, and we, with our four children, left our life on Manhattan's Upper East Side to live in a 200-year-old vicarage in a village with a population of 1,800 on the edge of the Lake District in Cumbria, one of England's least populated counties. We moved from this:

to this:

We now have five children between the ages of 1 and 16 as well as a Golden Retriever and while we're  still considered 'off comers' (i.e., non-natives) and most likely will be for another 30 years, we are learning to live a village life: a life of community and support, of smallness and joy, of being unsettled when someone you don't know stops you on the street to say they heard you had a bad night with the baby, and of being immensely thankful when you develop pneumonia and people you don't know drop meals off at your house. Of living in a place where a seven-year-old can walk home from school by himself, and the school run involves walking through sheep fields. Of being part of a community that is so tight-knit it can feel exclusive, and other times you feel like you're right in the middle of things. There are days when I wonder why I'm here, and yet deep down I know I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.

Welcome to A Village Life!