It is very cold here! Temperatures dipped down to freezing this past week and are expected to stay well below normal until we leave. They’re now in the 40s during the day in our part of the world, and have dipped below freezing at night, but even colder temperatures are scheduled to arrive later this week. It seems Brett’s and my main activity right now is trying to stay warm. The gas fire is on all day, the radiators come on twice a day now, we keep the heavy drapes drawn over the front door and French doors to keep out drafts, and I cover up with a blanket when I’m on the sofa reading or writing. Still, we just feel cold all the time . . . winter really is coming. I am dreading our weekly trip to Aldi tomorrow because of the cold, and have my fingers crossed on both hands that it doesn’t rain.
Overall we had a good trip down to Bath, but now our focus will be on making the most of our last couple of weeks here in England and wrapping up the things we need to do and get here. A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon is number one on our list of things to accomplish with Bourton-on-the-Water not far behind. We’ve got our fingers crossed we get a couple of dry days so that we can get those trips accomplished. No matter how it goes though we are happy and satisfied with all that we have been able to see and do, and we have loved every minute of our time in the UK. Leaving here is going to be a sadder than usual experience for us.
Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK. Held on the Sunday closest to November 11, the day commemorates “the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts,” and is sort of a combination of the U.S. Memorial and Veterans Day holidays. Bells will be rung today at 11 a.m., the time that WWI ended, but will be muffled and somber. The red poppy is the symbol of remembrance (taken from the poem “In Flanders Field”) and people wear poppies beginning around the first of the month to commemorate those who died in service to the UK. Money donated for the poppies assists veterans in need.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I finished The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn and now am back to reading Code Girls. I have also been going through the little book I bought in Bath, Secret Tokyo. We’ve only been to three of the places in the book, so there will be plenty for us to explore when we go back to Tokyo next year.
- Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen fixing his breakfast, and the church bells just began ringing to call people to the morning service. The peal they’re ringing is especially lovely this morning too, although the bells will be somber later. Patches of blue sky and sunshine are visible outside so it should be a nice albeit very cold day. We may bundle up and go for a walk later if Brett feels up to it (he’s come down with a cold). However, yesterday started out nice and devolved into a wet mess so we have no expectation that things will remain as they are now.
- Watching: The satellite feed to the TV stopped unexpectedly on Thursday night but Brett successfully got it rebooted on Friday so we could watch the next episode of Endeavour last night. We have been thinking all this time that it’s a new season but learned yesterday it has already been shown in the U.S. – I can watch the episodes online at PBS! While the TV was down we discovered we could still access Netflix, a good thing because the new season of The Crown begins next Sunday and we didn’t want to miss it if we couldn’t get the TV signal back.
- Cooking: We came home from Bath to a nearly empty fridge, but stopped by the village shop and picked up a few provisions to get us through until we can get to Aldi tomorrow (weather permitting). Tonight we’re having breakfast for dinner: eggs, sausages, sauteed apples, and scones. Also on the menu this week will be tacos; meatballs in marinara along with roasted Mediterranean vegetables; sweet & sour chicken and vegetable stir fry; breaded cod filets (we love these!) and roasted root vegetables; steak & potato pasties; flatbread pizza; and quiche Lorraine with vegetables of some sort. We discovered a fish and chip stand in Moreton-in-Marsh that gets high ratings, so we’re going to go there for lunch tomorrow before we head to Aldi. We can’t leave England without having fresh fish & chips!
- Happy I accomplished last week: Getting to and from Bath, and having a great time there, was our big accomplishment, especially with the last-minute changes to our train reservations. We also finished up the last bit of the Christmas shopping we wanted to do while we’re here – we’re going to pack all of that up and ship it back to the U.S. this week versus adding too much extra weight to our suitcases. I purchased our tickets to get us out to Gatwick on the 28th, but we still have to arrange for a taxi to get us over to the station that morning because the train departs before the first bus of the day leaves Blockley.
- Looking forward to next week: We haven’t planned anything for this week, and will just take it as it comes. If the weather looks decent one day (i.e. no rain) and we feel OK we’ll head over to Stratford.
- Thinking of good things that happened: The best of all was the meet-up with Chris and Jane while we are in Bath. I’m always wary and a little scared of first-time meetings, but they were a lovely couple and we never ran out of things to talk about. They also showed us a few things in Bath we wouldn’t have known of otherwise and I hope we’re able to get together again someday. After two nights in an uncomfortable bed while we were in Bath, coming back to the supremely comfortable bed in our cottage and getting a good night’s sleep was pure heaven. It’s true what they say: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Meiling messaged us to say she had a great first week at her new job, is very happy there and the company environment appears to be a very good fit for her. She even has a window in her office with a gorgeous view of Manhattan. We’re so proud of that girl!
- Thinking of frugal things we did: We pretty much stayed on budget while we were in Bath, with the only unplanned purchase the Tokyo guidebook I found in the bookstore. One of the items we had planned to purchase we ended up getting for free, and we were able to find better-than-expected prices for the Christmas items we bought (and that’s all I can say about that!). For now, we’re only very slightly above our Daily Spending Average but have no more big purchases left for the rest of the month so that will be coming down and we’ll hopefully end the month with our spending below average.
- Grateful for: About 18 months ago, our Japan Airbnb host, Yasuko, decided not to go ahead with licensing her rentals for Airbnb. Because of that decision, our Airbnb reservation was canceled and we received a large gift certificate from Airbnb to make up for the inconvenience. That certificate made this visit to the UK possible, something we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. We will be forever grateful for how it’s all turned out and for the experiences we’ve been able to have here because of that decision.
- Bonus question: What have been your favorite sweet treats in Britain? We definitely haven’t stuck to a carb-free diet here, but have still tried not to go overboard with the sweets. I don’t think Cadbury makes anything that isn’t delicious, and besides enjoying their drinking chocolate we’ve also tried a few of their new and unusual (to us, anyway) chocolate bars now and again. Cadbury holds a contest every year where customers submit new flavors with the top three being marketed and the winner chosen by the public. We’ve gotten to try two of the three final entries for this year, but the grand prize-winning flavor, Choca-latte, has been impossible to find because it’s been so popular (its creator was just 18 years old!). I do love a Mars bar now and again but also loved the walnut whip I tried from Marks & Spencer. Both Brett and my favorite cake here is coffee and walnut, with lemon drizzle close behind (and I still want to try a slice of a traditional Victoria sponge before we go). As for biscuits (cookies), I have yet to meet a ginger nut or shortbread I didn’t love.
The big effort going forward for both Brett and me will be trying to stay and/or get well. With all the cold weather and damp, I’ve been teetering on the edge of a cold but so far it hasn’t developed into anything serious. Brett hasn’t been so lucky and acquired a sore throat and cough which has now settled into his chest. It seems that we spend an awful lot of our time resting and not doing much these days, but we know in this weather pushing ourselves or getting too wet and cold would probably lead to one or both of us coming down with something miserable – that’s what happened last year and we don’t want a repeat.
We’ve got just 18 more days left in the UK, and we’re focusing now on what we need to do to finish up here and get ready to go back to the U.S. As I mentioned above, we’ll be sending a package back to the U.S. this coming week with things we purchased here for Christmas. It will be expensive, but less than we would pay for overweight luggage.
I hope everyone is staying warm wherever you are, and that you all had a wonderful week full of good things, good food, good books, and good friends, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up!