Monthly Archives: August 2012

On being a Tourist

It’s amazing how much you take for granted when you live somewhere. Dev spent most of his life here in England, and I lived here for several years, but there’s so much you just don’t do or see because it’s just there and you can “see it anytime”. The trouble is, you don’t. We went back to York yesterday – not by train this time:) – because there was so much to see and do, we just couldn’t do it justice. And yet, it’s so close to where we both lived. It is a spectacular city, one of the most impressive walled cities in the world, filled with history you can’t even imagine being from a country as young as Canada. The city was Roman until 400 AD, and there is evidence of this everywhere, along with the following Viking reign, then Anglo-Saxon, and Norman…and so on. You can actually dig up artifacts at Dig, a kid friendly excavation site turned museum with hands on archeology adventures (including a real Roman skeleton found in York). And just opened this year is The Sweet Story, a museum of the origin of chocolate and other confectionary in York – the birth place of the Terry’s chocolate orange – with treats all the way round! We learned there that there are 4 million kitkats made in York per DAY! I didn’t even know the kitkat originated in York until yesterday! We also went to York Castle, a museum which features a Victorian street where you can see what York was like during that era. Just walking around the 2000 year old city walls is amazing enough. You could spend a week there. And you can even get your youngest kids to appreciate it. If you tell them there’s a sweet shop there!

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For more on trip visit to York, check out my article at http://www.whattravelwriterssay.com/yorkuk.html

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Trains and Stuff

We are currently, as I write this, on an old-fashioned steam train to York. The Scarborough Spa Express. This sounded like a really romantic idea. Let’s take the steam train to York – its not too expensive, and it’s only an hour and a half. Seemed like such a fun thing to do.
We’ve been on it for about an hour now. It’s just a train, really. Only slower.
I’m kind of done. I want the van. We’ll be there soon, says Dev. But then we have to go back on it too. And its only about a half hour car journey.

Clearly, I am the child among us. Nobody else is complaining. Or maybe it’s because I’m such a control freak. I want to control the journey, along with everything else.

You learn a lot about yourself when you’re travelling. Choo-choo!

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Culture and Education?

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Just having a bit of a think about the educational side of things today – taking stock of what the girls have learned from their new “teachers” (us), and their new surroundings so far.
So, on the up side, they have all got a new library card for the UK, and they have all borrowed books. I chose some of them, and those are the ones that remain unopened, but I feel sure that they will be hugely educational when they do actually decide to open them, so it’s all good.
They also have been given a couple of great lift the flap books (I know, they sound too young, but they’re not) – one is a children’s atlas and the other is a math book. They have delved into those already, so that’s good. Although when I asked one of them to choose a European country they might like to research, the response was Jamaica, so we still need a little work there…
Oh, and we had a bit of down time tonight so we played a very educational family game of Bananagram and some sort of shape game that I didn’t do very well at…
Those, I would consider to be the most directly educational things we’ve done to date, but naturally, there has been lots of learning happening in between. Some of it is perhaps of a questionable nature, but all learning is good, right?
Let’s start with what the youngest one managed to sort out today: breakfast is breakfast, dinner is lunch, tea is supper, and supper is bedtime snack. Done. Very confusing for the past two weeks apparently, but now fully understood.
She has also learned from her super-shopper auntie’s expert tuition that Primark is the best place to buy shoes, because it won’t take up all of your pounds, and you may even be able to buy two pairs and still have money left for ice-cream.
Speaking of ice-cream, we have all learned that hearing the sound of an ice-cream man from a distance, and then not having one come up your street is a tragedy of epic proportions and can ruin your entire day.
And still in keeping with that theme, our middle daughter has learned that a person can eat a lot more chocolate, ice-cream, cakes, and sweets (aka candy) before actually throwing up than she ever thought possible. Mmm, not sure I can find a positive spin there…moving on!
Our oldest daughter has been very busy making up a fabulous game based on “3 movies, 5 books, and a previously invented game” with her cousin. They are full of imagination and adventure, and are absolute kindred spirits, so lots of learning there, I’m sure.
The biggest and most disturbing learning for me happened while we were at the caravan. As all Brits will no doubt be aware, there are things called “amusements” at seaside resorts, caravan parks, etc. I would argue – in a court of law if necessary – that these establishments are very poorly named indeed. They are not one bit amusing. Well, that’s a lie, because I used to find them marginally amusing before I let my child with a slightly obsessive/addictive personality go there. I have to tell you, if you have one of these children, and they are previously unfamiliar with “amusements”, DO NOT GO IN. Because when you put your 30p in, the teddy does not come out. And all your 2p’s actually disappear into oblivion instead of pushing out more 2p’s and the plastic car. And, if you could just have ONE MORE TURN, you would be able to get that monkey into the claw and you would be a WINNER!!
No, not amusing. Not amusing at all. A child’s introduction to gambling hell. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere, but until we figure it out, we need to just step away from the amusements.

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Stunning Shores and Dirty Drawers

I sometimes forget how stunningly beautiful the East Coast of England can be. Flamborough is a place that Dev and his family have been coming to since he was a little kid. This is the place they had their summer vacations; swimming, rock-pooling, frog-catching, flying kites, and hiking the coastline. And it has continued to be a favourite place in adulthood. Now both his siblings share a caravan (static trailer for the North Americans among us) with his mum, and so the next generation of Clayton kids enjoys the pleasure of “going to the van”.

We have been here for the past few days, and it has actually been sunny and warm for the most part. Not hot like it is on PEI right now, but warm enough for the kids to enjoy the beaches and get some colour – very pleasant, and not at all sweaty! It has been great for our kids to play here with their cousins. Darragh is especially impressed by the rocky coves and caves. Liah is enjoying them as well, but she did quietly and very diplomatically remark today, “Its funny how people from England think this is sand” (referring to the courser, pebbly sand that is typical in the local bays).

One thing all the girls have commented on, though, that mars the beauty of the place a little bit, is the garbage. There are a lot of people in England, and so naturally, the amount of waste that ends up on the ground is a little different from PEI where we probably have about 10 square miles per person! The first day we walked the trail down to the bay, Darragh said we should bring a bag next time and collect garbage on our way down. Yesterday we walked down to another bay, and she commented again – as well as the traditional trash, there were a few scattered old socks and even a couple of pairs of men’s underwear molded to the lovely limestone rocks! Then Liah suggested we come down and clean up because “it is our responsibility since we live on the Earth; I learned that in school. If we were aliens, we wouldn’t have to clean up”. Yes, Liah, a very good point.
So, today we will arm ourselves with some garbage bags, and we will combine our walk to the shore with a bit of cleaning up. Because our kids have given us an environmental education here, and what would we be teaching them if we just left it because it’s “someone else’s garbage”?

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Olympic Fever!

I am not a fan of big crowds. They make me feel claustrophobic and anxious. Thats why I said I wouldn’t go anywhere near London during the Olympics. In fact, we made sure we flew into Manchester just to avoid London.
But, like everyone in England right now, we were bitten by the Olympic bug. Watching it on tv, and listening to the excitement of the commentators as the Brits continue to surpass all medal expectations has been an experience in itself. So much so, that a solo trip for Dev down to London to watch the triathlon became a three adult, four kid excursion which included me.
We started out at 5am, and were in Hyde Park by 10, ready for the start of the swim. We drove (and when I say we, obviously I don’t actually mean me) as far as Swiss Cottage on the outskirts of the city, then took the tube from there to Bond Street, and walked to the park. Easy Peasy.
There were 80,000 people in Hyde Park, and the atmosphere was amazing. And I coped quite well with the crowds, relatively speaking. I only counted the kids every 10 seconds, and I was hardly neurotic at all most of the time.
After the start, we headed into the BT Live area and watched the rest on the big screens. Again, a great atmosphere – very exciting when the Brownlee boys crossed the finish line. Of course, we were rooting for the Canadians too, but there’s certainly something about watching two Brits win medals while surrounded by thousands of other Brits!
At the end of the day, I’m glad I went, but I think Darragh said it best on our way home: Well, it was a good experience, but I think next time I’d rather watch it on tv with popcorn!

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Driving in England

Not that much fun.
Our new van is fantastic, but I don’t actually want to drive it. I’d far rather go with the whole Driving Miss Daisy thing and just let Dev chauffeur me around.
Here are my problems:
Firstly, the roads are very narrow and they are usually lined with cars, sometimes on both sides. This is because people don’t have driveways. And this is because most of the houses are of the pre-car era. And because there are a lot of terrace houses, there is really no room in between for driveways. It makes you realize how young Canada is in comparison. With big giant roads that are, relatively speaking, ridiculously easy to navigate (on PEI at least). We are spoiled, and that, evidently, has made me incompetent.
OK, so before anyone condemns me for not wanting to drive just because the roads are narrow, let’s talk about the motorways – eight lanes of traffic whizzing along, dodging with surprising dexterity from lane to lane. This is scary for the PEI driver, and I think I can safely speak for most of them when I say that. Too fast, too busy, and too terrifying.
Then, to add to that, theres the fact that we drive on the other side of the road. The right side is now the wrong side, and the left side is the right side. Who wouldn’t be confused by that??
And the kicker? Our new van is NOT an automatic, and I haven’t driven a standard in at least 15 years. AND, the gears are on the left, which is where my door usually is. The one I use to escape from the scary automobile.
Now, before anyone goes away thinking I’m completely pathetic, I did drive it today. It was brief, but I did it. I reversed. I did a hill start. I turned corners onto the correct side of the road. I did not hit any cars or any pedestrians. All in all, I think it was a huge success.
My point is, I don’t WANT to do it.
But I will.
If I absolutely have to.

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