Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Lazy Summer Days

School is officially out for the summer. For me, at least. Crumpet still has another two weeks left, which has actually given me some time to spend alone with Cupcake and get a few things done around the house. More importantly, it has given me time to have regular afternoon naps. I would feel guilty, but coming off of one of the most emotionally and physically draining terms of my career, I am allowing myself that small luxury. Especially since on my first full day off (my birthday, no less) I sprained my ankle in a rather dramatic and clumsy fashion.

As I said, it has been an intense few months. On top of that, I am starting a year-long course in international education this month, which should be interesting but also time-consuming. I'm looking forward to being a student again, but I'm also hoping that my head is still on straight by this time next year.

We do have a couple of mini-breaks planned for the summer, starting with an escape to Hampshire, where we will stay in one of these:

I am planning a technological detox during the week we're there; let's hope I succeed.

After our yurting adventure, I am taking Crumpet on a special overnight trip to Paris on the Eurostar. We'll eat croissants and crepes, see the Eiffel Tower, check out the gargoyles on Notre Dame, and hopefully have enough sunshine and warmth to enjoy a splash in one of the pools at the Paris Plages on the banks of the Seine.

This summer, I'm not setting myself any major goals. What gets done gets done, and what doesn't will have to wait. The life of a teacher is never dull, and I don't think I actually relaxed once this past year. I will more than make up for it this summer.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Philosophical Musings of My 5-Year-Old

If you couldn't tell from my last few posts, I've been feeling a little down lately. I blame the post-holiday blues and lack of sleep as a result of two jet-lagged children keeping me up past midnight on a work night.

I guess my mood has been visibly obvious because on the flight back from America Crumpet asked me, "Are you sad to be leaving America?"

"A little," I admitted. "I always get a little sad when we have to leave."

"Because you miss your family?"

"Yes," I confirmed, trying to swallow the lump that was building in my throat.

"Then why did you move to England?" she then asked pointedly.

Sidestepping the complexities of such a question, I answered simply, "Well, that's just the way that it worked out when Daddy and I decided we wanted to get married."

"So you have to move countries when you get married?" she asked, her voice showing the slightest hint of panic.

"No, not always," I reassured her. "If you fall in love with someone who lives close to you, you might stay there. But Daddy and I already lived in different countries when we met and realised we loved each other, so we had to decide together where to live, and we chose England."

Hoping that I wouldn't have to go further into the technicalities, I was relieved when the conversation switched to more immediate five-year-old concerns. "Oh my God!" she sighed.

"What? What's the matter?"

"Three boys want to marry me!" And so the drama of raising girls increases.

Monday, 21 April 2014

To Repatriate, or Not to Repatriate?: Part 2

In my last post, I revealed a major crush I have developed. Yes, I have become deeply infatuated with a 1930s-era house in my hometown. I have had visions of turning it into a historic B&B, even going so far as to mentally furnish it with local antiques and dreaming up a marketing campaign. I think the jet lag I am still fighting is causing delusions of grandeur.

Those delusions may be nothing more than a pipe dream, but on a more serious note, we have started to seriously entertain the idea of moving back to the States for a year, most likely in the next 3 or 4 years. When I left North Carolina, I was one year shy of being vested in the state's retirement system. I was 26 at the time and didn't really give it much thought, but if I go back and teach in a public school for just one more year, I will get the state's contribution (as well as mine) to my retirement. A year isn't a huge commitment, but it is a significant enough amount of time to give Crumpet and Cupcake (and The Other Half) the experience of living in America, which is very different from just a two-week visit. And despite the bad press North Carolina has received over the past several months regarding teacher pay (a quick Google search will tell you that NC is ranked 46 out of 50 in terms of average salaries), a year is doable financially if we plan ahead.

Several things are contingent on this plan, including whether or not my current school still offers a sabbatical, which would give us more security in terms of moving back to the U.K. Another thing to consider is whether or not the local school will save Crumpet and Cupcake's places for them for that year. Given the competitive nature of school admissions here, I don't want to assume this is the case, but I would hate to uproot them for a year only to have them have to resettle into another new school and make new friends upon our return. A further consideration is how we go through the immigration and visa process with The Other Half and whether or not he would be entitled to work. I've been through that the other way around, but I wouldn't even know where to begin going Stateside. This will require extensive investigation. There are other minor details to consider once we start really setting the wheels into motion. It's a good thing I have a Type-A personality; lists and action plans are my speciality.

In a perfect world, we would have a house in both countries and would spend the school year in one and the holidays in the other. Unfortunately, my lottery wins while I was in the States amounted to about $12, so I don't see that happening any time soon.

To Repatriate, or Not to Repatriate?: Part 1

When I first moved to the U.K., people often asked me how I liked it and what I missed about America. Within a couple of years, that question had changed to, "So, do you think you'll ever move back?" I've honestly never known how to answer this question since there are so many issues involved in such a decision, and I have finally [almost] wrapped my mind around the fact that England is home. And I've never really given any thought to moving back to my hometown, figuring that if we did repatriate it would be to somewhere like Asheville or Charlotte -- where there are far more career opportunities, not to mention cultural pursuits -- or even further afield to the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and where the culture revolves around two of The Other Half's favourite recreational pastimes: beer and bicycles.

But our recent trip back to North Carolina gave me pause for the first time, and it came in the form of this:

The house you see above is located in the historic district of my hometown. It has five bedrooms (six if you count the playroom) and four and a half bathrooms over three floors. There are also two screened-in porches, a deck, a sunroom, and a full basement. The interior is in perfect condition, having undergone extensive renovation within the past fifteen years, so it would require little to no work upon moving in. It is currently on the market for the equivalent of about £175,000 (based on today's exchange rate).

I'm not joking. And this is considered a relatively high-priced house; there are many more modest homes for half that price.

To put this into perspective for my fellow Yanks, the only thing you can find in our part of London for that price is a one-bedroom flat, and there aren't many of those on the market for less than £200,000 (about $336,000). Even outside of London, you do not get much more bang for your buck these days.

Of course, if the price of a home were the only factor to consider, the decision would be simple and we'd be on the plane tomorrow. But life is never that simple. Even though housing is much more affordable in southern America than it is in southern England, our monthly outgoings would probably be much higher. For one, there's the cost of health insurance and anything else medically-related (doctor visits, prescription medication, etc.). We would also have to have two cars in America, unless we lived and worked in a city centre with good public transport and shops within relatively close walking distance (and affordable cities like that are few and far between, I dare say). And, of course, there's the job situation, which I won't go into right now.

There are other things I would miss about living in the U.K. if we migrated back across the pond. For one, I like living in one of the world's greatest cities and all of the cultural opportunities that come with it. I also like being so close to Europe and having the possibility of taking a day trip to Paris or a summer holiday in the Mediterranean. (The fact that work, expenses, and said cost of living means I have only actually done either of those things once is beside the point.) Also, despite its flaws, I do believe the U.K. education system is better overall than in the U.S., but that also depends on where you live in both cases.

And those are just some of the practicalities; I haven't even touched on the emotional aspects of each "home." For the first time, I really feel torn between two continents.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Wide Open Spaces

See, I promised I'd be back!

In my last post, I alluded to the fact that I had just recently been in my hometown. We actually arrived back in London early this morning, and, immediately after disembarking from the plane, I was hit for the first real time since moving here almost 8 years ago with a real sense of claustrophobia. Having just spent two weeks in North Carolina, including a few days in the sprawling countryside outside Mt Airy (a.k.a., Mayberry), I can think of no other word to describe the way I felt this morning as we drove home from Heathrow other than "smushed."

Space is one of the things I miss dearly about the U.S. I miss being able to get to the middle of nowhere within ten minutes. I miss driving for miles without passing a soul. I miss a backyard. (The fact that outdoor space here in the U.K. is referred to as a "garden" should give you some clue as to the average size of such space.) I just miss space.

So while I battle the homesickness I always suffer from when I return from one of our visits, I will conjure up pictures like this in my mind:

View of the Yadkin Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains from our cabin deck


Just two days ago, I was sitting with a good friend at a McDonald's in my hometown, and I was reminded of how long it has been since I have posted anything on my blog. Not counting my last post around Christmas, in which I ironically (and maybe somewhat tipsily) promised to post more, it has been about a year since I have shared anything meaningful.

I don't really have an excuse for my hiatus. I haven't really even consciously thought of the blog. The fact is, since I went back to work after maternity leave last February, my feet have barely touched the ground. Every holiday, I have these grand plans to get myself organized (mentally and physically), to devote some real time to my writing (be it this blog or the other projects brewing in my head or left unfinished on my desktop), etc., etc. But, inevitably, when the holidays finally arrive I find myself with little motivation to sit down and write, and that's sort of a scary thought. To be honest, I have even contemplated retiring my blog, but in the end I've reminded myself that my purpose was never to chronicle every detail of my life but, instead, highlight some of the more interesting moments and quirky anecdotes from our Anglo-American life. The fact that I actually have readers who care to keep up with these stories is a bonus.

So if you're a regular reader and have been wondering where I've been, I'm sorry. I'll try to pop in a little more often from now on.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Emerging From My Cave

It certainly does feel like I am emerging from a cave. I have been so neglectful of anything writing-related this year that I am embarrassed to even talk [write] about it. That's not to say that there haven't been enough blog-worthy events this year, but full-time teaching and mommy-ing have taken precedence.

I do hope to be better in the New Year, but I hesitate to make a resolution because, well, you know...