It’s our final Sunday in England. At this same time, four days from now, we’ll be on our way back to Portland once again. We’re flying nonstop from London to San Francisco, where we have a five-hour layover before heading on to Portland. The flight from London to San Francisco is 11 hours, and there’s no chance for an upgrade from our seats in regular economy. Our only saving grace is that the section of the plane we’re in appears to still be mostly empty (unless lots of people suddenly get the urge to fly from London to San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day) so we should have room to spread out a bit and get some sleep. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a very long day; we’ll be up for more than 24 hours.
We’ll be spending Wednesday night at the White Hart Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh. Our train for Gatwick leaves early Thursday morning, long before any bus could get us over there from Blockley, and it’s been impossible finding a taxi to get us over there so early in the morning. This way though we’ll have time to finish our packing on Wednesday morning and clean the cottage, and on Thursday morning we’ll be close enough to walk the short distance to the station. Hopefully, it won’t be below freezing or raining.
You know you’ve been someplace long enough when you can almost immediately see that someone’s got directions or locations for the area wrong! This past week I caught a mistake (or maybe just a bit of a fictional license) in the Inspector Morse book I just finished. In order to interview a witness, Inspector Morse and Sargeant Lewis drive over to the Cotswolds from Oxford through Chipping Norton, which sits on the eastern side of the area, on the A44 road. Dexter wrote they first go to Bourton-on-the-Hil, then up the hill to Moreton-in-Marsh. What??? It’s just the opposite: Moreton-in-Marsh is downhill from Bourton-on-the-Hill on the A44, and you have to go through it first to get to Bourton-on-the-Hill from Chipping Norton! Continuing on, they drive downhill from Moreton-in-Marsh into Broadway on the A34 (which doesn’t exist here). Again, nope! Continuing from Morton-in-Marsh on the A44, you go up and through Bourton-on-the-Hill and then back down the long hill to Broadway, in the opposite direction from Moreton-in-Marsh. I was initially puzzled as I read, thinking I must have it wrong because surely his editor and millions of British readers must know this better than I do, but I pulled up a map to check and make sure I wasn’t going crazy. It was just as I thought though – he had the towns/villages in the wrong order and direction and used a wrong highway number.
The weather remains cold and miserable – the temperature barely went above 40 degrees this week. After getting some blue skies on Monday the rest of the week looked like it was going to snow at any minute, and felt like it too at times although all we got was some rain which began on Friday. It’s even been an effort at times to stay warm inside – we’ve had the fire going, the heat on, and covered up with blankets and still feel cold at times. We’ve had to keep most of the drapes pulled to help block the cold so it’s been fairly dark and dreary inside as well. I’m still on the edge of coming down with a cold and have not been willing to risk going out for anything more than a quick trip to the village market for supplies, and out to dinner on Friday, for fear of getting sick for real before our flight next week. There have thankfully been chores to keep us busy inside (we’ll start packing this afternoon), and both Brett and I are getting a LOT of reading done.
Finally, another reminder that the Afternoon Tea Giveaway is still open, and that entries will be accepted until Midnight PST on Friday. You can enter once a day – the travel tips have been fantastic – thank you!
This morning I am:
- Reading: I finished the fourth Inspector Morse book, Service for All the Dead, but the fifth, The Dead of Jericho, is neither available from the library or Amazon other than as an audiobook, so I may download it and listen while we’re on the plane or I may wait and see if I can find a copy of the book at Powell’s when we’re in Portland. In the meantime, I’m reading The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I, by Barbara Tuchman. One of my reading goals for the next year is to learn more about World War I, both through fiction and non-fiction, and this book is considered one of the greatest war books ever written, covering how the war started and the first disastrous 30 days.
- Listening to: It’s very quiet this morning, maybe the quietest it’s been since we’ve been here. I woke up too late to hear the church bells ring (had trouble falling asleep last night), and since Brett is reading it’s very still. Outside it’s . . . wait for it . . . gray and gloomy, but at least it’s not raining (for now) and the wind isn’t blowing. It will get noisier in a little while when we go upstairs and get started on the packing but for now, this is pure bliss.
- Watching: We binge-watched The Crown last Sunday and Monday – it was quite a change from the first two seasons, but still extremely well-acted and a pleasure to watch. Olivia Colman deserves an Emmy, especially for the episode “Aberfan,” and Helena Bonham Carter is wonderful as Princess Margaret (I love too that she’s now played both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret as well as Bellatrix Lestrade!). We finished the last episode of Endeavour last night – loved how the season wrapped up – and we’ve started a new series, The Brokenwood Mysteries, although we won’t get to finish that. It’s sort of quirky, but pretty good. Since November 1, Christmas ads have been coming fast and furious. Our favorite is the one below from Marks & Spencer – we love to hear the way the actor (Paddy McGuiness) pronounces “panettone.”
- Cooking: We’ve started the great fridge clean-out for the next three days. It shouldn’t be very hard this time because we only picked up a few supplies from the village market to get us through instead of going to Aldi one last time. We’re having steak and potato pasties one more time for dinner tonight along with some steamed broccoli; bacon and onion quiche tomorrow with more broccoli; and chicken & lentil soup with cheese, crackers, and fruit on Tuesday evening. In between, we’ll finish up all the other odds and ends. We plan to get fish and chips once more for our dinner on Wednesday evening after we get over to Moreton-in-Marsh (it’s just across the street from the hotel) and grab something from the Tesco Express as well for a quick breakfast on the train in the morning.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: This past week has been all about staying warm, which mostly meant sitting in front of the fireplace wrapped up in a blanket! I did get a few things sorted for the upcoming packing and kept up with the cleaning and laundry, but that’s about it. I took the big step of finally dumping Facebook this week, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. It was a very difficult decision though and took several weeks to get up the nerve to do it. I’ve been on FB for over 10 years and it’s been a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but I could no longer support the platform and some of the recent decisions regarding advertising and such. I am staying with Messenger though as it’s been the best way to communicate directly with family and friends as we travel, and the girls want to continue to use it.
- Looking forward to next week: Although we are not looking forward to our upcoming travel day, we are ready to get it over with!
- Thinking of good things that happened: Our Friday night dinner at the village cafe was absolutely wonderful, a great way to finish our time in Blockley and also have an early Thanksgiving celebration of a sort. The three-course meal included an appetizer, main course, and dessert and we also each had a specialty gin & tonic, our last ones for this visit to the UK. Last Monday we went for a long walk through the village to check out how fall is progressing. In spite of the sunshine, it was very cold, and at one point a big dark cloud came over us but thankfully didn’t drop any rain before moving on. We set out on our walk thinking it would be nothing but a nostalgic look at familiar places but once again we found a couple of new things, like the old British School, established in 1835, which sits at the backside of the old Ebeneezer Baptist Church.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: By booking early for a Portland Airbnb experience in January, a gift for WenYu and YaYu, I saved 20% off the already low price for activity! This coming week is going to be a challenge for our budget because travel days can be costly, but we’ve got a plan and we’re sticking to it! We get a meal and a snack on the plane (the chicken breast we got on the flight we took with the same airline last year was perfectly cooked and delicious – I’m hoping for a repeat), and we’ll bring along our own water and some other snacks. We will have to eat during our layover at the San Francisco airport and are probably going to want coffee as well, but we should be able to keep that affordable. Even with the expense of dining out on Friday, by skipping a last trip to Aldi this past week (where we would have most likely bought too much and would have also had to pay the bus fare) and only buying a few things from the village store instead, we’re under $33/day for the month.
- Grateful for: Did we get to see and do everything we wanted or planned on this visit? No, but we did visit some pretty wonderful places, experience everyday life in a British village, and take some beautiful country walks. Brett and I are beyond thankful for all the wonderful experiences we have been able to enjoy here in the UK, and for the friendly and helpful people we’ve met along the way. We’ve dedicated ourselves to making a return visit someday to learn and experience more.
- Bonus question: Are you making goals yet for the new year? I’m getting started on them if nothing else. I have made some reading goals for next year, including finishing at least 52 books once again. I want to read and learn more about WWI, but I also want to finish the Inspector Morse series and re-read all of the Harry Potter books next year. All of that should keep me busy with other books thrown into the mix as well. Another goal, since I’m now off of Facebook, is to get more involved with the blog’s Instagram account (I know Instagram is owned by Facebook but at least I don’t have to deal with ads, politics, etc.). Of course, the BIG goal for Brett and me is to come up with a firm decision about the direction we plan to take next year, whether that’s continuing to travel or settling down somewhere. We’ll have a decision before we leave Japan in April.
What a time we’ve had though! I’ve found myself occasionally near tears when I think about leaving or about the things we’ve seen and done since we’ve been here. England, and most especially Blockley, now tops our list of favorite places, and we can’t wait to come back again.
I’m honestly a little sad that we’ll miss Thanksgiving next week because it’s my favorite holiday of the year – no gifts, just family, friends, and good food (and leftovers!). Brett and I have much to be thankful for once again this year, too many things to name, but most especially our and our family’s continuing good health, the opportunities and blessings all of us have been given this year, and for all of you who read this blog every week and comment now and again. I hope those celebrating will have a great Thanksgiving, however and with whomever you spend the day.
See you on the other side (of the pond) next week!