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Archive for the ‘Liverpool’ Category

cemetery walkIn response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”

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DP’s prompt for today was:  If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

 

The answer to this is so easy for me.  The scenario is truly an expats dream.  The only thing that could make this more appealing is if you included a teleportation device to make the travel between the two places as simple and quick as possible.

Most readers of this blog know that I am an expat living in Liverpool, UK.  I absolutely love the city of Liverpool, as it is just large enough to have a fair representation of the arts and culture that I thrive on.  It is also small enough that I do not feel claustrophobic here, as I have in larger cities like New York or London.  Liverpool is small, but it doesn’t feel small.  It is large (really, it’s not a suburb, which is *just fine* with me!) but not too large.  The climate here is actually pretty mild, though you’ll hear everyone in the UK complain about the weather constantly (I believe it is the national sport).  Liverpool has amazing local bands, great museums, a proud history and the friendliest people I’ve met in the UK yet.  If you asked me what I love most about Liverpool, the answer is immediately going to be the people here.  We also have the best sports team ever.   (Ha ha, made you look! It’s true, though.  Very very true!). I am a train ride away from London, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.  I am a quick easy jet flight from Dublin (though I have yet to make that trip). I’ve had great food here and been to some great pubs.  And really – I’m near the water.  This is what I need.  It might be colder water than I am used to, with a sometimes bitter off shore breeze, but it IS the water, and that soothes my soul.

 

Image of Liverpool's skyline at night.  Attribution Unknown

Image of Liverpool’s skyline at night. Attribution Unknown

 

This is a shot of Bold Street, my favorite street in the city.  It's not where the chain stores or the posh stores are.  Most are locally owned artisan stores, and there are a lot of really good restaurants here.  My favorites: Kashbah, Leaf, The Custom Cupcake Company, and Passage to India.  Photo by Catherine Cavendish.

This is a shot of Bold Street, my favorite street in the city. It’s not where the chain stores or the posh stores are. Most are locally owned artisan stores, and there are a lot of really good restaurants here. My favorites: Kashbah, Leaf, The Custom Cupcake Company, and Passage to India. Photo by Catherine Cavendish.

Part of the city's rejuvenation projects nearly 10 years ago, the Albert Dock was restored and museums, cafes, and attractions were opened.  I love this part of the City almost as much as Bold Street.

Part of the city’s rejuvenation projects nearly 10 years ago, the Albert Dock was restored and museums, cafes, and attractions were opened. I love this part of the City almost as much as Bold Street.

 

This is the city, lit up in the night.  The Mersey River divides New Brighton and Liverpool.  So beautiful.

This is the city, lit up in the night. The Mersey River divides New Brighton and Liverpool. So beautiful.

 

The place I would split time with is unlikely to surprise anyone – my home-region (I will not say home town because we moved when I was young and there are several places within the region I could call home) of Southern California.  Specifically, I was born in Huntington Beach.  What can I say about Huntington Beach? Except that it can be paradise.  It can be crowded – the houses are small and close together and the population is high – but the beauty of the region is impossible to deny.

Yes, this.  Picture by me.

Yes, this. Picture by me.

 

One of my sons, enjoying the beach.  Picture also by me.

One of my sons, enjoying the beach. Picture also by me.

 

The food, oh the food! I can’t actually talk about it because I will drool.  I miss it so much.

There’s a lot to do in So Cal.  Every conceivable kind of beach or water sport, is, of course, obvious.  What few people know is how convenient it is to other types of sport.   Where we moved when I was 12 (and where my Dad and brother still live in Lake Elsinore) there are vineyards and lakes nearby, and a short bit of a drive further will take you to the mountains.  Idyllwild and Big Bear have skiing in the winter.  I used to hike there many weekends with my friend Denise from work. I spent one summer at Idyllwild Institute Fiesta, a leadership camp for girls.

One of my favorite places to hike, ever.

One of my favorite places to hike, ever.

 

Or, if you go a bit further south east, you can go to the Mojave desert and Ocotillo (where my great grandmother lived, and I spent some formative parts of my life).  I grew up with the sands of this place between my toes.  I learned what it was to cover my skin with the scalding sand in order to protect it from the sun, much more likely to burn it in the end.  My family grew up here.  My brother and his family still go here to ride their bikes and their sand rails and their buggies.

 

Ocotillo

 

Nearly every possible climate in the world is in Southern California (yeah, maybe not the rainy wet climate of Liverpool or Seattle).  Southern California is roughly the size of the entire UK, I’d say.  Don’t quote me on that, I haven’t done the actual measurements.

So Cal is where my family still live.  I miss them incredibly. The lot of the Expat is that no matter how they love their new home, how much they adore the people they meet, they will always miss those who are left behind.  So Cal still holds everything I was made from.

So yes, please.  Let me split my time between the two.  And get me that teleporter, ASAP.

 

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So, we moved house.

There is a long story about moving out of the old house, and frankly that story is not yet finished, so I won’t tell it here, just yet.  But we are in a new house, which is much smaller, more modern, and much more warm.  We are happy and cozy, here.  The house is not yet in order, as we’ve had to compact our lives from a house about 3 times as large into this one, so no pictures of this house are ready.  But we also love our new neighborhood, which is not all that far from our old one, but may as well be miles away.

I got to talk to my Daddy today.  I miss him so much, and lately the ache of Mom’s loss is greater.  I know it is hard for him to talk to me on the phone for long periods of time.  He’s constantly on my mind.

The boys and I went for a walk today, as DH had gone to a Manchester United vs. Arsenal game.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day, with sun shining through the yellow and gold leaves, and a brisk cold breeze.  Here are a few snapshots I took along the way.

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I have been in the UK for a bit over a year now.  While I do love it here, I still miss home sometimes.  The recent losses in my life have made living here even more difficult.  Some days I struggle to find the positive.  

On that note, it’s also not generally in my nature to be depressed, or angry, or pessimistic (ok, so maybe a little pessimistic).  I try to keep things light. I don’t want to be a sourpuss, with bitchy resting face.  So I sat down and decided to think of some really positive things that I am enjoying in my life RIGHT THIS SECOND.  And, at each subsequent second during the typing of this blog post. 

1. England is GORGEOUS.  I’m serious.  It is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been.  And every part of it that I’ve been to is beautiful – even the closer quarters of the city of London.  But I’ve been many places in the north of England, I’ve been to Scotland, and I’ve been to Wales.  I’ve been blown away by the scenery.  I’ve been on the school run and actually gasped at the way the clouds seem close enough to touch, or the sun shines on the bottom of them and makes the sky light up in oranges, reds, and yellows.  Everything is green.  Everything is gorgeous.

 

In Aber Falls, North Wales

In Aber Falls, North Wales

 

Aber Falls, North Wales

Aber Falls, North Wales

2.  I am in a constant state of amusement and/or befuddlement at the way modern life is lived here.  This really is fun – trying to figure out why people still iron everything (because the washers and dryers are so tiny that they leave major creases and wrinkles in the clothing).  Or, why there are two buttons to flush a toilet.  It doesn’t matter which you choose, one of them won’t work, and the best option is to always push both buttons down at the same time.  The good thing is that there are almost never flush handles, so all of you sick, disgusting people who flush the toilet with your shoes would be out of luck (you know who you are!). 

3.  Everything is a Monty Python sketch.  Ok, not everything, but enough to make me widen my eyes in wonder and then laugh.  I thought the whole “It’s only a Flesh Wound” sketch from Holy Grail was a gross exaggeration. Then I watched a stoic British man break his leg, brush off all offers of assistance, sit on the side of the gymnasium watching us finish our workout, then walk to the parking lot with us, and insisted on carrying his own bag! It was only after he got home that he realized he might need to get to the A&E. So, there you have it.  Monty Python is true. TRUE!

4.  Roller Derby.  Yes, Roller Derby.  My lovely friend Rachael inspired me to try out with her, and we did it together, and then a bunch of other things happened.  But I am still skating 8 months later, and hope to actually bout soon.  I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey.  I will blog more about derby later.  It’s enough that it needs its own post. 

Those are a few of my favorite things, or at least things that I find amusing and enigmatic about the United Kingdom.  There will be more, I promise.  I’m off to skate now!

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As those of you who know me – well, know – I have three lovely boys.  They’re wonderfully average boys.  They are neither brilliant nor miserable. They are rambunctious, but empathetic and loving.  And, to date, I have not had any idea or reason to think they will become either astronauts nor axe murderers.  I’m the type of mom to consider this success.

I did have a lot of worries about them adjusting to school in the UK, but I was also VERY excited to give them the chance to do so.  In the U.S., the schools (and their quality) are very much dependent upon the area where you live.  Schools have different curriculum standards state by state, and even local communities can adapt or change curriculum standards.  There is national testing, but it is not necessarily a good indicator of what one is good at, only what one has memorized.  So, comparing this to the UK educational system left me wondering exactly where and how the boys would fit in.  The short answer for my younger two:  Quite well.

The youngest is top of his class in Math and in Reading.  He’s been moved from year 3 to year 4 for spelling.  He has issues with sitting still and being as quietly attentive as the other students do.  I think that the U.S. teachers are a bit more permissive when it comes to those types of outbursts.  The middle child is top of his class in Math and in Science.  He is a bit behind in spelling and in writing (they all have miserable penmanship).

DS2 and DS3 before starting the first day of school

My oldest son is the child I was most worried about.  For those new to this blog, he has Autism Spectrum Disorder.  He has classic Kanner’s autism, which means he’s not a prodigy or secretly brilliant or a miniature Einstein.  He has difficulties with dyspraxia, coordination, fine motor skills, social environments, auditory processing, and abstract concepts.  Being unfamiliar with how children with special needs are educated in the U.K. (but VERY familiar with the educational battles of the U.S.), I was really concerned.  I felt it was a chance to let him grow and experience new environments, but worried that we were making the wrong choice, that it might be too much for him.

I’m happy to report that every.single.one of those fears was unfounded.  I’ve had meetings with the educational boards from two different boroughs (counties) and have not experienced a single bit of red tape.  They seem concerned most, and foremost, with making sure that DS1 has the right supports to receive the best education possible FOR HIM.  Not the least expensive, not the most expensive, not the least they can get away with.  The best ones FOR HIM.  They also engage him in the process, asking him what is most difficult for him, what is easiest, where his interests lie, etc.  He’s thriving in this environment.

His intake was done quickly.  His intake testing was done quickly.  He’s had all of his reading levels, math levels, science levels, etc. evaluated and mapped. He continues to excel at memorization (spelling win!) and struggle with abstract analysis (reading comprehension).  They have such a clear pulse on his strengths and weaknesses, and they work with me as much as I want them to.

The stress of finding a school that was RIGHT for each of them, figuring out a way to get them to and from school, and hoping against hope we were making the right choices for them – suddenly those stressors seem so very much worth it.  I’m not saying one is better than the other.  But, in this case, one seems better FOR US.  I wouldn’t have found this type of school environment anywhere in the U.S., without paying a large portion of our salary in tuition fees.

This blog has languished in recent months.  This is because my OWN schooling, the schooling I’ve been doing for the betterment of – whatever that is – is in its last gasping death throes.  I have one week – exactly one week – left.  I’m hoping to be able to have more time documenting our transitions in the coming months.  In the meantime, here are some more pictures of my  handsome children on the first day of school, mostly because they are absolutely gorgeous. Said without bias, I swear!

 

 

 

 

 

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A variety of reasons (or excuses) have been made for not posting more recently.  Firstly, the last time I posted about a house as if we’d already signed and moved in, it fell out from under our feet.  I didn’t want to jinx the whole process yet again.  Secondly, life is just hectic right now – I am still working, I am still a full time student, and yet I’m also moving internationally, helping my children adjust, attempting to work with ALL THE BUREAUCRACIES, and trying to find a school for the boys, which is much more difficult than it sounds.

But I can safely report that we are in our home.  OUR HOME.  It is lovely and provincial and so very much what we need.  Our home is not a modernized, easily-heated McMansion in the suburbs.  It is also not a dilapidated, falling-apart, impossible to heat behemoth.  It is a modernized 150 year old farmhouse that sits on a lovely piece of property and feels a bit like heaven to me.  There is a distinct personality to this property- the mixture of an impoverished gentry feel that was given an injection of new money and modernized in ways that are alternately delightful or perplexing.  We’re nowhere near finished moving in, and everything is still a little chaotic for my liking.

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See? He’s nothing stunning.  Just a farmhouse remodeled, that includes the former barn, and has a walk-through annex (which is a fantastic, humongous laundry room, by the way). What is really fabulous about this house is the outside. This is the view from my front garden.  It is also the view from my kitchen windows, which wrap all the way around the room.

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This is the backyard shortly after sunrise.  That statuary is one of the perplexing bits, but is also a piece of the personality of this house.

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This house is not in downtown Liverpool but is really only about 20 minutes outside the city center.  We are in walking distance of a family pub that serves good food.  We walk to the postbox.  When I start running again, I will have plenty of hills to challenge me (save me!).  I love it here.  I mean, I really love it here.

The following is a photodump of other things we’ve done in the house, or bits of the house we love, or bits we find perplexing.
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I know I owe a post on the house.  And of the adventure retrieving the car.  I just can’t 1) Jinx the house by posting about it or 2) Actually relive the experience of getting the car.  I want to wait on the restaurant review of Kasbah, for a time I can return and get good pictures.  I’ve never done a restaurant review for the blog before – I’m not sure how to go about it.  Should I inform the owner or get permission? I’m just unsure of the protocol, being a complete novice.

So this post will be about our trip to Southport to see Rachael and Ross (yes, they are, and yes, we’ve heard the jokes already).  Rachael writes the lovely blog Tales from the Village and is one of my favorite people in the whole world.  And I think she rather likes this guy she’s with.  See?

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DH (this morning it was the worst of the interpretations of the acronym) managed to leave our lovely bottles of alcoholic housewarming presents on the counter *and* to put us an hour or more behind schedule (I hate, hate, hate being late). I subsequently almost got us hit by a bus by trying to turn into oncoming traffic – it was my first time driving the car  – but we managed to make the trip relatively unscathed. They have a lovely old Victorian home just block from the seaside.

Rachael and Ross served us a delicious lunch of burritos (I had two!) and ooh, a fresh avocado or two were in the mix somewhere.  It was scrumptious, and one of the things I already miss. I *will* get a dwarf avocado tree.  Someday.

It also happened to be the day of the Southport Air Show, which I hadn’t known in advance but which turned out to be a nice way to spend the day.  We walked down to the shore and took pictures of the planes, Ross actually squeed when he saw the Lancaster. That would be this one:

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We saw the Lancaster, its escorts (a Spitfire and a Hawker, I think), and a few biplanes.

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I was IN LOVE with this wing-walker, and got a lot of amazing shots.
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DS1 was impressed (ok, bored) by the show, but he absolutely loved Ross’s aviator helmet getup.
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All of the lovely children played well together, and there were only a few injuries of note. We count this as a win.  Our three boys, their three boys, and one pre-teen daughter made things VERY interesting, to say the least. Not bad in a house full of wired children!

Rachael and I snuck off to the quiet little attic room and had a long chat without children, save for the ones who occasionally snuck up to check on where their moms were.  That’s a safety check, don’t you know?

I can’t wait to go see them again. ❤

***Edited for gross spelling errors and typos.  Also, not editing for the ingrained habit of double spacing after a period.  It would take me all day long.

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