On the 29th of May I arrived at Gatwick airport. My plane had been delayed but the weather was beautiful in England. Apparently it had been vicious and cold and rainy for the past week so I was certainly blessed to have such warm and sunny weather as I struggled with my luggage up and down steps on the way from the airport to Leatherhead where Jenny and Taka live.
The change from Dorking Deepdene to Dorking was the most challenging of course. Dorking Deepdene is just a platform with really high steps leading down. A youth offered to helped me, but I didn't want him to break his back. I just took my time, one step at a time. Then I had to lug all my stuff down the road to Dorking.
Finally in Leatherhead I found a phone booth and struggled with pounds and phone cards to call home to let them know I had arrived in England safely. Then I needed to contact Jenny to come collect me at the station. I lost so much in the phone booth I was ready to kick it.
Jenny looked really great. Only her stomach sticks out because she is expecting later this year ^_^.
Considering the amount of luggage I had brought we couldn't take the short route to her place, which was incredibly steep so she lead me through the level park and the shopping center which had a bit of an incline. I asked if we could take a break mid-way there because I really hadn't anticipated pulling my luggage quite this far. It worked out perfectly, though because Jenny also wanted a break and incidentally we both were walking at about the same pace (which meant I wasn't racing ahead giving her no concern for taking it easy and all).
After a long wait at an interesting crosswalk we finally came to St. John's where she works and lives in a flat in the girl's residence halls at the Fairfield House. There was a beautiful weeping willow tree in the courtyard which later was trimmed to its trunk this week.
I moved into their living room and soon Jenny was going to take me to their new house by B@ttitudes. They bought a fixer-uper that they were presently fixing-up. They had torn off the wall-paper and out the carpets so it needed to be plastered, painted and to have new floors installed among other things. Their paint had arrived at the school office so one of the first bits of business would be to transport the paint back to the flat. Jenny and I found a wheel-barrow to borrow and we had quite an adventure for only a few stairs and a small narrow ramp on the way.
Then Jenny took me to see their new place. The whole place looked like it needed a lot of work but Jenny had such a positive attitude about it and was so excited to show me the kitchen area, the baby room and the garden outside. Jenny's joy can be infectious ^_~ Next we went shopping at Sainsbury's where Jenny showed me the difference between crumpets and muffins as well as the cheap-item shelf.
Later at B@ttitudes I met her friend Naomi who I instantly liked. And there were many children's books to read. And there was tea to drink. B@ttitudes is a cooperation among churches to provide a charity shop that everyone can use with facilities for children's activities. It is really a nice place and I wish we had more inter-denominational communities like this back in the states.
When Taka returned from work that evening we went to eat at a pub which was only a drive away but I was too jet-lagged to time the ride. The pub wasn't a smoke-free pub but it had a non-smoking section so we headed for that. It seems that on July 1st all pubs and public places like train station platforms even will become smoke-free. I noticed signs posted everywhere. I am looking forward to this even though it will come at the end of this trip.
Jenny and I had Salmon cakes. And then we all shared a dessert. Dessert wasn't something I got to enjoy when I was little and my family ate out. That and soft drinks were forbidden, so I don't know much about ordering desserts. Jenny recommended that I try the desserts at Wagamama some day.
Wedesnday ... I think we went to hear bell-ringing. Jenny is a bell-ringer, but lately hasn't been going because of the steps and the exercise involved (not a good kind of exercise if you have a baby inside). I got to see the bells in the bell tower and see a demonstration of how they ring the bells during their practice time. It seems they don't play a melody but a pattern like 1-2-3-4-5 then 1-3-4-5-2 then 1-4-5-2-3, and so on. Anyways it was really cool to see and hear.
Thursday night there was a special four course dinner from Taka's group at the church. Before going, Jenny and I went to the Swan Shopping Center to buy some bits to take to the dinner (like wine and such). We went to Sainsbury's and Boots (where I bought my Miffy umbrella) and also I tried to find an outlet convertor since the one I brought from the states was for Europe and not the UK (sure that lady at RadioShack said it was for the UK but she was wrong - imagine my surprise when I tried to plug it in and wondered why the prongs weren't compatiable).
For the dinner we first drove to Rita's place for appetizers (Taka was driving). Then to Mary's home for the main course. Mary had just come back from studying in Nottingham and visiting Blackpool I think. She is going to be ordained at the church soon from what I picked up from conversation. It was also recently her birthday so everyone contributed to get her a card, Martha wrote her a poem and Taka carved her a box. Everyone seemed very close and sweet during the presentation of her gifts. Then we went to the dessert stop at Martha's home (?) which isn't too far from Jenny and Taka's place. The dessert was so delicious but there wasn't any milk! Finally coffee and tea was served at the last stop, which was decorated with records, rock and pop culture icons. There were like six different stringed instruments in that room - a guitar, an electric guitar, a bass, a mandolin, etc.
Friday I went to feed bread to ducks at the stream with Jenny but we couldn't find any swans, which is what Leatherhead is famous for. We walked all around the lake, the stream and the park only to find a sign that told a sad tale of how some yobs had recently played a prank on the resident swans. The swans hurt their wings and couldn't protect their babies so the officials of the city moved all the swans to a safe sanctuary. Poor swans ...
Back at the fixer-uper Jenny and I walked to the local B & Q to buy some paintbrushes and rollers. I tried my first mini milk ice cream while we waited for rubbish collectors to come clear away the crumbly carpet from the upstairs guest bedroom. We had some lunch of sandwiches from a nearby newstand in the garden and I walked into a spider's web. I shrieked. There is just something unsettling about walking into a spider's web and wondering if the little critter is stuck in my hair. And of course I felt bad for destroying its home. Usually I don't mind spiders crawling on me (because when you work in preschool and go outside with nature this happens often) but walking into a spider web is a different story because I am the invader.
That evening Jenny explained fairtrade to me and gave me many catalogs to research. Places like Sainsbury's and Tesco have fairtrade produce like bananas and tomatoes. There are also stores that specialize in fairtrade products. There are also general recycle shops that encourage fairtrade as well. For example there is Oxfam. I went to my first Oxfam in Leatherhead, but I didn't buy anything.
Also that evening Jenny and I made flapjacks using a recipe from Jamie Oliver. Flapjacks are not pancakes, though. Flapjacks are like oatmeal bars made with golden syrup so they are extremely sweet. We didn't have a large enough pan/tray so we tried to stuff tin foil on one side, but in the end the flapjacks still came out quite thin and crispy. Jenny split them three-ways but they were too sweet so I saved most of my flapjack allotment to enjoy the next day.
Saturday we painted the baby's room and I wore scruffy pants that got little dots of Milk and Honey paint all over them. The paint wasn't the kind that cracked or was bad for one's health. So there were positives and negatives. The negative being that we covered the edges with masking tape and then the tape wanted to peel the new paint off when we tried to remove the tape. We put on two coats of paint, but Taka and I used too much paint for the first coat probably. Jenny seemed to enjoy it though and again was superiorly positive the whole time.
That evening we went to eat delicious curry. First we got poppodums to dip into various sauces, some spicy, some sweet. Then I ordered a Kashmiri that had fruit like bananas, strawberries and lychee nuts in it and the nan bread had coconut inside. It was so much that I was having a hard time finishing everything. Jenny suggested I make a decision to finish either the nan or the curry. Since the curry had chicken Jenny suggested to finish that because it shouldn't be reheated. Chicken is suspcious in the UK and shouldn't be trusted to reheat a second time.
Sunday morning we went to church. After the tea/coffee was served and talking with the people I met on Thursday night we went for lunch at a cafe. I ordered steak and kidney pie. I thought it would have kidney beans, but it was real kidney ... Then we went to see how a lock worked. A lock is part of the a canal and how boats can get from one level to the next. It isn't a quick process, but the dogs who ride these river boats seem happy. Then we drove to Hampton Court, where I rolled in the grass and took time to smell the roses. We wanted to visit the hedge maze but it was already closed. So we ventured out of the Hampton court to a nearby park to find young deers sitting quietly in the grass.
By the time we walked back to the car park all the ice cream trucks had gone home. Earlier I thought I could wait to get a cone, but now I'll really HAVE to wait. They seem so special because they have a flake stuck in the side. What a great concept for the flake bar! I remember eating a flake bar eight years ago and then trying to take one home as a souvenior but it had all flaked into pieces by the time I got it home. But in an ice cream cone I think a flake bar has a chance.
Incidentally almost every day I ate crumpets for breakfast with marmite and bagel sandwiches with different types of cheeses for lunch.