Endings.

I stared at the ceiling in the middle of the night imagining how to write about the sale of our house in Peru. We owned our huge, wonderful, historic house for twenty years, visiting every year. At first, it was our research station, where we arrived the week after school let out and stayed until the week before we all had to be back for fall semester. When we retired, it became the place we went every winter, enjoying the South American summer from Christmas to Easter. We live across the street from the Pacific Ocean, and if there is anything better than that, I don’t know what it is.

We had wonderful neighbors, ate fresh fish from the market, attended festivals, visited archaeological sites and beaches, and generally enjoyed ourselves.

My mind flooded with cliches about time and eras and tides and people and aging. We decided to sell our house now that we are both over 70. Much as we love adventure, we recognize that we are not as sharp as we once were, and the time had arrived to let go of our overseas possessions.

Almost exactly a year ago, we put our house on the market. I knew it would not be a quick sale, not everyone wants a 7,000 sq ft house with a second two-story house in the back yard. It takes a lot of maintenance. As of today, that is someone else’s to consider. The buyer lives locally and exports agricultural products. He seems mildly interested in the place, though it may be just another investment for him. I feared it would take two or three years or more to find a buyer, so I am not questioning the motives of the person who has just made our lives simpler, with minimal haggling and no foot-dragging about payment.

With that, we spent the day packing the odds and ends we did not take on our previous trip in July. There are a lot of them! I somehow thought that I had packed up everything I wanted, and have still managed to pack two suitcases. I’m starting on a third, as Jonathan claims he only needs one of the two suitcases he is allotted.

Monday we head to Lima, then on to the US on Wednesday morning. We can come back and visit any time. We have neighbors who are just furnishing a new apartment for Airbnb, so there is always a place for us. Whether that will happen is anyone’s guess. For now, we look forward to getting home to California and celebrating Christmas there. We’ll have one long, sad look behind on Monday morning, then focus on the future.

Our house in Peru

Thanksgiving 2022

We got home from England in time for Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Top of the list is my new gradddaughter, Aurora Violet Haas Woodhead. We were invited for Thanksgiving dinner at Amanda, Jim, and Aurora’s house–to decrease the need to packs up the relevant baby paraphernalia and come to ours. Lyra was there, too, and their friend Natalie, my sister Paula and her partner Wayne.

Everyone cooked, with the result that no one had to bear the brunt of the dinner. It was an excellent plan. Jim smoked a turkey. He’s done it before, and he’s good at it.

Lyra made biscuits, then held the baby while Amanda cooked vegetables, baked sweet potatoes, and made stuffing with the cornbread and broth that Jonathan made. Jonathan also made his grandmother’s renowned lime jello with chopped and cherries stirred in, a 50s throwback. He made cranberry orange relish for the turkey, too. It goes with turkey, stuffing, and gravy, and is pretty good all by itself.

Photos: Part of the Thanksgiving spread; our dinner group with Natalie behind the camera; pie and cheesecake; Lyra and Aurora; Paula pours the first wine; Aurora in her Autumn outfit.

Paula brought bottles of fabulous wine from her wine cellar, and Natalie brought pumpkin cheesecake with turmeric sour cream and candied ginger on top, straight from the NYT recipe section. Wayne wrangled the folding tables and chairs in his pickup, so that we all had places to sit.

Afterward, everyone helped divvy up the leftovers and clean up. Soon, everyone had a pile of containers to take home, and the kitchen was clean, dishwasher purring. No one had more leftovers that a meal or two. Thanksgiving can be an uncomfortable time when family members and friends gather not knowing that they have different views on everything from football to politics to whether or not pumpkin pie is delicious. Our group was a compatible and companionable one. We agreed it was as happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving as we have had, and a model for collaborating on future occasions. It’s always nice to go home looking forward to the next gathering rather than heaving a sigh of relief that it’s finally over…..

London month/All Good things

Best month ever! That’s what I usually say at the end of our month-long stays. When people ask what place we liked best in all our travels, we like the place we are right now. This year in London the weather was gorgeous (one day! of rain, only one!), the mudlarking was a lot of fun, we met new people, went to a cocktail party at the Ivy Club, toured the Tower of London, snacked at Harrods, drank tea at Fortnum & Mason.

Were there a lot of other things we could have done? Naturally. This is London, and all world class cities have more on offer than visitors can possibly do and see. Just as we were leaving, I got recommendations for more museums, shows, and places to go than we could get to.

One of our final mudlarks was in Greenwich. Afterward, we strolled by the Cutty Sark sailing ship, then took the river boat service back to Battersea. We could use our Oyster cards, just like on the tube, though it cost a bit more. I’m not sure what route it was, as there are several going up and down the river. A great river tour, no commentary, just views. It took almost an hour and was perfect for us. This service is part of the London transport system, though the boats are all marked “Uber Boats”. This is an easy and fun outing for any London visitor.

L-R: Cutty Sark, London Eye from the river, heading downstream, watching the view.

We had a lovely day at Kew Gardens, walking around outdoors and in one of the giant greenhouses.

We saw the tall buildings that all have nicknames, The Cellphone, The Gherkin, and The Shard.

L-R: The Cell phone, The Gherkin, The Shard

We saw the traditional buildings on our walks, too; (L-R below) St. Paul’s, Big Ben watching over a demonstration near the houses of Parliament. We saluted Nelson on his column in Trafalgar Square and took many photos of Tower Bridge.

Whimsical places and interesting details captured our attention, too. Clockwise from upper left: We saw the stained glass picture window of the Michelin Man, a gorgeous doorway in Chelsea, a long terracotta frieze on the London Atheneum, art with phone boxes in front of the Royal Academy of Arts, wire jungle animals at the Tower of London, and the best office in London. A woman emerged from a tiny house in Green Park and we asked what it was–her office!

We’ve been to London in the past, but I’d venture to say we enjoyed it more this time than ever before merely by living in the city. It was a spectacular visit, and I haven’t even talked about all our mudlarking finds.

It was difficult to leave just as we felt we were settling in, but that’s travel. We left our flat in Kennington just after noon, left Heathrow just after 3 pm, and arrived in San Francisco around midnight (after a stop in Seattle). It was absolutely clear over San Francisco Bay, beautiful and welcoming.

The Victoria & Albert

The Victoria and Albert Museum is England’s attic. This national museum of art and design has the task of encompassing everything that has been designed and made in the UK, going back to ancient times. The V&A does a fabulous job with this impossible task. For some people the collections may be too crowded and overwhelming. For those interested in the encyclopedic view of all things British, it’s a marvel.

There are all kinds of things here, from the national collection of iron work (yes, that is a thing), all the varieties of pottery and glass a mudlark might find on the shore, the Georgian silver tea sets for which England is famous, and millions of other things. We knew we couldn’t see more than a small slice of the museum in a single visit, so we chose pottery and glass, two categories of objects that we have found on our mudlarking trips. The objects are impressive. Among the blue on white ceramics was a plate about 30 inches in diameter (L above). The other object that surprised me was a decorated ceramic wig stand (R above). Imagine finding a small piece of this and trying to work out what it was!

I found out a bit more about the pieces we’ve collected, and admired the whole examples. For example, every mudlark wants to find a face from the neck of a Bartmann jug like the one below (L). Either of the whole slipware plates (below center) is much more extravagantly decorated than the tiny pieces I found, though they are related. The person depicted (center L) appears to be an ancestor of Homer Simpson.

Many collections at the museum are now in “visible storage”, a response to criticism that museums display less than 1% of their holdings. Floor to ceiling glass cabinets hold hundreds of plates, cups, teapots, platters, and other things. The finest examples in each category are displayed and labeled, while the remainder have an index number that can be looked up in a notebook at the end of each hall. It’s also possible to make an appointment to visit and see an object first hand, though I imagine the museum asks you to have a reason for doing so. The opportunity for close scrutiny is there, and I took advantage of the many examples of 18th century pottery to reconsider some of my finds. For example, pieces of stoneware that I believe to be German, may well have been made in England. I realized that my finds aren’t large enough to determine place of origin.

Walking on hard museum floors is very tiring and it felt like miles before we decided to stop at the cafe. We stepped into the adjacent room to sit down and I was amazed by the elaborate decoration. It was a wonderful, magical cafe space under a dome decorated with sculpture, tile work, painting, and stained glass. I cannot remember when I’ve had a snack in such an ornate place. It added a lot to my carrot cake and fizzy drink.

In addition to all the exhibits we looked at, there were exhibits for different audiences: Beatrix Potter illustrations (children), African fashion (young people, fashion followers?), and Korean contemporary life (the K-pop/anime generation?). The museum currently makes an effort to focus on something other than upper crust memorabilia–though I admit it, I love the teapots. The exhibit at the V&A had a lot in common with the sales display at Fortnum and Mason (table of tea ware at F & M).

On our way in and out, we passed a few pieces that hint at the huge range of the Victoria and Albert, a sculpture of The Three Graces by Canova, one of the world’s great sculptors, and hanging from the ceiling in the entry, a massive multi-story chandelier by Chihuly, the king of blown glass. There’s truly something for everyone, or for many visits.

Day(s) at the Museum(s)

We’ve been in London before, and enjoy visiting museums. Some, like the British Museum and the Tate Modern, are familiar to us. Others are new to us. We visit for a few hours, stop in the cafe, stroll the shop, and call it a successful visit.

The British Museum’s featured exhibit right now is on Hieroglyphs, featuring the Rosetta Stone. There were lots and lots of inscriptions, and discussion of how hieroglyphs came to be translated by Champollion and Englishman Thomas Young. A torso of a man covered with hieroglyphs reminded me of a young person covered with tattoos.

One of my all time favorite collections at the British Museum is the Lewis Chessmen, on the banner at the top of this post. These Viking era chess pieces were likely carved in Trondheim, Norway, and were on their way to Dublin to be sold or perhaps to be delivered to the wealthy merchant or clergyman who commissioned them, when somehow they were waylaid on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, where they were found buried in a pit lined with stone on the beach. It’s a story of international trade almost 1000 years ago. Jonathan and I have now seen all the chessmen in existence, divided between the National Museum of Scotland and the British Museum. I love the personal expressions on the individual pieces, the glum queen, the bug-eyed king holding his sword, the berserker chewing his shield. They’ve got a lot of personality for little pieces of walrus tusk.

The Tate Modern is the complete opposite of the British Museum. Rather than a purpose-built Victorian edifice in the heart of the city, it occupies a former industrial space, the Bankside Power Station, on the edge of the Thames. The gigantic turbine hall at the center of the building provides a display space for huge works of art. When we visited it was hangings by Cecilia Vicuna, called Brain Forest Quipu. She took the idea of a quipu, strings of knots used for record keeping by the Inca, and ran with it. Groups of trailing white strands hang from the ceiling and pool on the floor.

I also appreciated some whimsical pieces of art, such as the “animal” with an impressive set of horns, the rest of it made of a few boxes and a disassembled chair. I was surprised to find a piece related to mudlarking at the Tate Modern, since most of the art is contemporary looking, as well as contemporary in date.

In the center of a small room is a very large, old-fashioned-looking cabinet with glass doors on the upper shelves and shallow sliding drawers and cabinets below. Every space is filled, and I thought it was an old “cabinet of curiosities” brought in by an artist. It turns out to be a piece commissioned by the museum. The contents of the cabinet are materials collected along the shore of the river in front of the Tate Modern and across the river on the shore in front of the Tate Britain. The cabinet holds bricks, pieces of flint, rope, metal bars, hooks, nails and parts of drains, bottles, pottery, a wide variety of seashells, and many other odds and ends, a cross-section of what is out on the shore of the Thames. It seemed especially put in place for me. We’ve been mudlarking in both places, the beach in front of the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain, too.

We went to see a current exhibit, Winslow Homer: Force of Nature at the National Gallery, and also to see some old favorites (mostly J. M. W. Turner). I realized during our visit that my affection for paintings of these artists and other traditional painters of the western canon (Goya, Gainsborough), goes back to my elementary school experience. I attended a crowded Catholic school, with 55 students in each classroom, and not a teacher’s aide in sight. Each of us had a black and white patterned composition notebook for a periodic class called Picture Study. We received a postcard-sized reproduction of a famous painting and pasted it on a clean page. The nun or teacher then dictated a couple of sentences about the picture that I remember laboriously copying below. There must have been a quiz, because there always was. Winslow Homer’s, The Gulf Stream, was one of the featured paintings in the Tate Britain exhibit, but nearby hangs a smaller work, Fog Warning, and I recognized it from my picture study of long ago.

From the Homer exhibit we went to see the J. M. W. Turner paintings. Iconic Turner paintings show the rising or setting sun over a crowded seashore, with huge sailing vessels at anchor or lumbering slowly out to sea. Again, one of these, The Fighting Temeraire, was in the picture study book of my childhood. It is remarkable to recall these paintings so clearly, and moving to see the real thing.

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Fighting Temeraire 1839 Oil on canvas, 90.7 x 121.6 cm Turner Bequest, 1856 NG524 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG524

There were Turners at the Tate Britain, too, where there is a curious juxtaposition of a room full of dark and somber maroon and black paintings by Mark Rothko adjacent to the Turners. Rothko admired Turner and donated the series in hopes it would be hung as it is today, near the works he admired. They have nothing in common beyond the feelings of one artist for the work of another.

What struck us most strongly at the Tate Britain is the 2022 commission by sculptor Hew Lock, The Procession. It looks like a frozen parade, spilling out of rooms and down the main hallway. On closer examination, it is not a Mardi Gras celebration, but an elaborate allegory of colonialism and related themes. So many hints are embedded in the pieces that there are guides to indicate the numerous veiled references. (Jonathan’s comment was that conserving such an extensive group of objects would be an epic curatorial challenge.)

We’re going to keep visiting, though there are many, many museums here. If you include all the “house” museums, preserved homes, studios, and offices from the past, there are over 100. I’d have to be staying longer than one month!

Glorious Regent’s Park

November has arrived and the temperature is going down, which is why I was surprised and pleased to wake up to a day of bright sun, and temperature heading up toward 60o. Binoculars at the ready, we rode the Tube to Regent’s Park and spent a lot of the day walking along the lake, and visiting the gardens.

We saw a variety of birds along the lake, tall gray herons with a few shaggy black and white feathers creating their decorative cape, and coots that let out little croaks before diving under the surface, then bobbing back up like submerged balloons.

People-watching was every bit as interesting as bird-watching. Getting on and off the Tube, we passed a man wearing a Zoot Suit complete with widely-spaced chalk stripes, broad lapels, colorful tie, and spats on his shoes. The elevator doors opened onto another man wearing a conservative business suit; what caught my eye were the long, waxed points on his mustache. He looked like a young Salvador Dali on his way to the office! On our walk, we heard at least eight different languages, Arabic, French, German, Swedish, and several we didn’t recognize. Jonathan offered to take a photo for a family who turned out to be Flemish-speaking Belgians.

On a lovely sunny day like today, every park bench and every table in the cafe was full. We managed to snag a table for a coffee break. After we were seated, I noticed that everyone outdoors except us was facing the sun, soaking up a few more rays before winter rains begin. (As longtime visitors to tropical zones, we always sit in the shade, or at least facing away from the sun. )

Every sunny bench was occupied, and no one wanted the shady spots.

After our pause for coffee, and a very good, tiny red velvet cake, we continued on to the gardens on the southeast corner of the park, where works of contemporary sculpture were placed during the Frieze art fair. The pieces will be in Regents Park for another ten days, and we were able to stroll around and look at all of them. I like to see what is being offered for sale, since I don’t follow contemporary art. My favorite was a set of “chairs” that looked like their hair was on fire:

Many of the sculptures were attractive or intriguing, a few puzzling. The captions weren’t terribly helpful, mostly full of art-speak about deep connections and universal truths.

The park is huge, we could easily go back again and again. In the summer, there are pedal boats, one of my new favorite activities. If you start your walk at the far north end of the park, you can walk up Primrose Hill, where people go to look out over the city. So many lovely places, so little time.

Plymouth

We were invited to visit friends in Plymouth and went down on the train from Paddington. The forecast was for rain all weekend “it’s October in England for god’s sake!” so we went with raincoats, sweaters, and boots. Fortunately, we didn’t need them.

From the train, we went to visit the Dartington Trust Gardens, a beautiful property. We strolled the path to a high point where an early work by Henry Moore is positioned overlooking the grounds. The area below is called The Tiltyards, and as the path winds toward them we stopped at the whispering circle. This walled perfect half-circle allows a person to stand in the center and hear their own voice amplified. We ambled past a number of buildings, studios for artist residencies, and rental rooms for visitors. Dartington also produces fine crystal. After we returned to London, I discovered that my favorite glass in our rental house is Dartington.

We had a splendid dinner at Everest Spice in Plymouth, then fell into bed. The view from the apartment out over Plymouth Harbor is mesmerizing, night or day. Ferries to France and Spain leave from the wharf just below the hill. The overnight ferry leaves after dark and lights up the bay before it sails.

In the morning, we walked across Plymouth Hoe*, a broad green area above the shore. With a lighthouse and fluttering flags, it is the picture of an English port city; it is the banner photo for this post. We wound down past the Lido, a handsome swimming facility that made me regret that the season had ended. We strolled the cobbled streets and admired the buildings in the neighborhood near the harbor called the Barbican**, cobbled streets and historic buildings.

Our friends’ apartment has a terrace with views each direction, over the city and over the harbor. It would be easy to sit by the window or on the terrace all day. I imagine watching the weather change, or a storm roll in over the Atlantic.

After our stroll in the Barbican, we drove out of town to have lunch at the Royal Oaks, in Maevy, on the edge of Dartmoor, the vast national park of grasslands and forest. There are open grasslands, bog areas, and woodlands. On a bright autumn afternoon, it was not nearly as threatening as in The Hound of the Baskervilles. A pub lunch is always fun. I was a bit concerned that my glass of cider would make me want to take a nap rather than continue on our exploration, but it was a very small glass.

We continued on to Buckland Abbey, an extensive group of buildings and gardens that began as a Cistercian monastery in the 1200s and continued until Henry VIII took over the church and began the destruction of all English monasteries in 1536. The monks ran a profitable farm, managed other property and held markets and fairs, and the king sold the property to Sir Richard Grenville, a member of his court. In 1580, the Grenville family sold the property to men acting for Sir Francis Drake (who Grenville despised). Though Drake only lived in the house for 15 years, his descendants lived at Buckland until the 1930s. Buckland Abbey was donated to the National Trust and has been open to visitors since 1951. The grounds are perhaps best known for the enormous Tithe Barn built by the monks to house the agricultural goods and livestock paid to them by their tenants and members of their congregation. It is a cavernous space for something built before 1530.

(Clockwise from top: Buildings at Buckland, exterior of the Tithe Barn, garden at Buckland.

We visited the main building at the Abbey, where memorabilia from the Grenvilles and Sir Francis Drake are on display, along with a painting recently cleaned, restored, and attributed to Rembrandt. After our visit we returned to Plymouth by another route that let us see more of the countryside. We passed through the tiny and picturesque town of Milton Combe. Back at the apartment, we had a delicious dinner with our hosts and two of their friends, and discussed everything from the new Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak) to where to go on safari in South Africa. It was a lively evening.

We left the next day to return to London. The advantages of the train are many, avoiding traffic, the congestion charge, and where to park. Our train came in to Paddington Station and I took a moment to say hello to Paddington Bear. We arrived back at our townhouse in Kennington without any trouble.

* What is a Hoe? An ancient Anglo-Saxon word for an open area in a town that includes a gentle ridge.

**A barbican is a fortified gateway. In Plymouth, the Barbican is a neighborhood by the harbor that somehow avoided being flattened by the bombing that destroyed most of Plymouth during WWII.

Mudlarking Finds New & Old

This month you will see a lot of my mudlarking finds. I am thrilled to be able to poke around in the Thames gravel, and with Jonathan’s sharp eyes on the alert, we brought home a big collection of little pieces. We haven’t found any treasure (technically, in the UK, that would be gold) or gems, or anything that isn’t broken. What we do have are pieces of stone, clay, and metal from the ancient past to very recent times. This time I’ll show you the newest and the oldest.

20th century:

Truly recent items are garbage (chip packets, plastic bags), though I did pick up a tiny green house from a Monopoly game.

The button is the most recent item we’ve found. It’s a bit decorative, but ordinary, made of plastic.

The other fragment may not look like much, but it comes from the first half of the 20th century. At that time, some glass items were colored with a bit of uranium to create a yellow-green color. Glass made this way is also fluorescent. The piece I picked up seems to be part of a candy dish or other decorative bowl, with a fluted edge and a bit of red coloring below. I’ve found pieces of fluorescent glass elsewhere, and am slowly collecting enough for a necklace.

The Ancient Past:

The shores of the Thames are covered with bricks, rock, and lumps of flint. The flint forms as nodules in limestone, and is a very fine grained form of silica, the same material that is called chert in the US. Flint nodules were the raw material for stone tools in ancient times, as it chips into sharp flakes and was used to make sharp-edged cutting tools. The oldest flint tools in the UK date to the Mesolithic Period, 9600-4000 BC. These were very small chipped tools called microliths. Over time, larger and more elaborate tools were created, and some of these have been recovered along the Thames.

The large quantity of flint found along the Thames is mostly lumps that were used as ballast in ships. The rock was dumped along the shore when ships arrived to create room for cargo. Among all that flint is a small number of artifacts have been found that were made from flint long before it became ballast. Some of the pieces we’ve picked up look like tools but are probably chipped by erosion rather than intentionally shaped. Still, a few pieces look a bit like scrapers.

Next time I’ll look at some of the things I’ve found that date between these two extremes.

Mudlarks!

We got our Oyster cards for riding the Tube (subway) with the help of a particularly nice agent at the Kennington station just around the corner from our house. With that, we were ready for one of my principal goals of this visit: to go mudlarking, beachcombing along the Thames at low tide. I checked the tides and chose a spot. When low tide is early and late, we’ll visit museums and parks, but this week it’s just right for a leisurely visit during the day.

We rode the tube for a few stops and decided to walk across London Bridge. It was a gorgeous day and we could see that on a rare sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-October, everyone with a Foreshore Permit seemed to be out. We climbed down a set of stairs to the river’s edge.

At low tide, there is a broad, gravelly margin along the water, full of rocks and things that have been discarded in the water. Fortunately for us, there was almost no plastic waste like we often see on beaches. The gravel includes a lot of flint fragments and nodules. Some of this was brought in as ballast in ships, and dumped in the river to make space for cargo. Rock isn’t used for ballast today, but tons of it still wash up and down the river. There is a lot of glass, not as tumbled as on the seashore, though neither of us could resist picking up a few larger pieces. There was a lot of bone, and I picked up bone awls made from deer as well as domesticated animals, a knucklebone (often used like dice in the past), metal bits, and a lot of glazed pottery. Erosion uncovers new items all the time, and when you realize that people have been living along this stretch of the Thames in a crowded city for two thousand years, you can understand where all the waterside junk comes from. One man’s trash, as they say, is another man’s treasure, and I happily collected my treasure of the day. Perhaps my most interesting find was a small piece of clay pipe that had an initial on either side of the heel (the part that kept the pipe from tipping over). W on one side, I on the other.

Seeing London from the riverside is a beautiful, alternate view of the city, dominated by bridges and tall buildings. We went by The Shard, a relatively recent addition to the London skyline, as we walked across London Bridge, quicker than riding the tube, and with more gorgeous views.

Returned home, washed hands thoroughly–the Thames may not be a completely clean river–and admired my loot. I’m looking forward to more tomorrow.

There’s one tiny inconvenience to mudlarking. Everything is on the ground. After about two hours, either my knees hurt, or my back does, or both. By this point, the tide is usually coming in, and I’m amenable to being chased away. We get home, have a bite of lunch and then I lie down to rest my back and read for a while. Do I ever fall asleep? Maybe.

London!

This is our first big adventure since settling in California, and it is a LONG, LONG, way from Eureka to London. We drove to San Francisco to squeeze in an eye appointment for me, and we knew that we could park for a month at the El Rancho motel. (Bad and good news though: the hotel will close in the next year and the property be redeveloped as housing.)

Townhouse = Stairs

We flew Delta to Heathrow via Salt Lake City, and our travel went as smoothly as it could have. We arrived at 1:40 pm and had to wait a while for our prearranged ride to the city. More good news, our phone chips work and I could check with the taxi company. About a half hour late the driver showed up, and off we went. We arrived at our rental townhouse in Kennington, on the south side of the river, at 4 pm, both exhausted.

Tiny sink

Our home for the month is compact. There is a extra bedroom and bath on the third floor that we decided not to use. The upstairs bathroom is a bit larger, but the extra stairs make it less attractive.

The bath attached to our bedroom is similar to the kind you find on a cruise ship. Everything is there, but close together. The sink is the smallest we’ve ever seen, the bowl is 8 x 10 inches, smaller than a sheet of printer paper. It makes us laugh, as we always thought the powder room at our house in Wheaton had the smallest sink we’d ever seen.

The kitchen is made for cooking, with a large range, all the cookware Jonathan needs, and a full-size fridge. It also has the dining table (photo is at the top of this post). Heat and hot water work very well, and the house gets nice light from windows over the street in the living room, and kitchen windows over the back garden. We hear a few birds in the trees, but haven’t seen any. Our first morning, I looked out the garden window and watched a fox prowling on the lawn. It’s definitely a city dweller, as there’s is not much in the way of woods for quite a distance.

A quick check on the phone and we found a nearby store where we could get something for dinner and breakfast. I love that it is “National Crumpet Week”. The neighborhood appears to have a bit of everyone, meticulously maintained gardens, houses with new paintwork, and some DIY works in progress. Most is town houses and apartments, including a couple of big council estates (subsidized housing).

On the way to the closest large grocery store, we cross Pasley Park, where a pair of boulders have been turned into birds. We’ve seen a few live birds, too, the dramatically colored black and white magpies, and rose-ringed parakeets (much larger than pet budgies) that escaped from a cage somewhere. Robins chirp in the bushes. Last night’s sunset was spectacular. All this in the middle of the city.

Despite the comfortable surroundings, we didn’t sleep well the first couple of nights, no surprise considering the 8 hour time difference between London and Eureka. Coffee fixes many things, and before long, we were ready to explore.

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