It’s a surprisingly balmy night this evening.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.
Those are two consecutive sentences I didn’t foresee writing.
As it happens, due to lack of internet in my new house, by the time I post this, it WILL be Christmas Eve … It’s all most odd; normally at this time of the year, I’ll be childishly excited about the next few days, but I am definitely lacking that a bit this year. Partly because I’m away from my friends and family and therefore it’s going to be pretty tough – will I ever really forgive myself for missing one of Erin’s first Christmasses? – and partly because it’s hard to feel “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”-festive when it’s 27 degrees outside and you’re contemplating jumping in the nearest river.
Talking of which, that’s something that I ended up doing on Friday… Well, maybe not jumping. More, falling. Definitely falling (although I’d like to think I did it with a degree of grace and style). That’s what happens when you attempt the river-walking in birkenstocks, y’see: I am an idiot and nearly a cautionary tale, but they are pretty much the only shoes I have with me. This will need to be amended. There are too many gorgeous walks and opportunities here to find oneself hamstrung (potentially literally) by a lack of genuinely practical footwear.
I am aware that I haven’t written much about wine of late. I will. I just need to gather my thoughts…
In the meantime, probably the last set of “things learned” of the year…
1) The internet is a wonderful thing – can’t imagine having made this jump to the other side of the world without it. Explorers of old were far braver than I could ever be. The idea of being utterly cut off and isolated from all you know and love is terrifying. Fortunately, I have facebook, skype, twitter, text and the telephone. Home is a long way away, but the internet brings it all a little bit closer.
2) The kindness of strangers can be exceptional – from neighbours to store owners, from patient bank tellers to the lady who I bought 2 kilos of cherries from on Saturday, people have – almost without exception – been kind, patient with my not-quite-understanding-how-things-work-round-here and generally just interested and welcoming.
3) The kindness of friends is amazing – you know who you all are, but I am so grateful to the people I know here who have made the move so much easier to cope with, who have had me to dinner, taken me for drinks, loaned me furniture and generally made sure that I didn’t fall apart at the seams. I am also incredibly grateful to all my friends and family at home for cards, letters, messages, emails and occasional care-parcels, brightening my days and bringing a smile to my face.
4) No-one here is impressed by lemons – for me, the fact that I have a house with a lemon tree in the garden is nothing short of a miracle. Here, of course, they are two a penny. Literally cannot give the lemons away – and there are SO MANY. Time to start making lemon curd, lemon possets, lemon cake…
5) I love that my “commute” is 4 minutes long. After years of driving 45 minutes to and from work (on a good day), it’s so lovely to be home almost as soon as I finish my working day. SO much better – too – for when Erin is here.
6) There is some amazing stuff here called “Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment” and – as far as I can work out – it makes everything better. It is certainly very good on insect bites, but I also think that given a chance it could probably deliver world peace. However, its one disadvantage is that – if you end up more or less washing in it because of the gazillion insect bites you have on your legs – every dog in the neighbourhood will come and lick you. It seems irresistible.
7) Even supermarket shopping is fun in a foreign land. It’s part of why holidays are fun, but even now in Real Life, it’s quite an adventure to potter round the supermarket. Things just ARE different. The seasonal foods are different, the way in which things are served and packaged are different, there’s an almost bewildering array of “dips” here compared with home, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to seeing dog food in the chiller cabinet next to the sausages, but it all adds to the fun!
8) Feta, avocado, poached eggs and salmon are pretty much guaranteed inclusions on any menu around here. Not necessarily together, but sometimes…
9) Having no television is strange, but great. Moving has been the perfect excuse to ditch the TV and be more productive with the time I have. Not sure if I’ve actually been more productive, but have certainly listened to more music and read a lot – and that’s a Good Thing. Currently reading “One Summer: America, 1927” by Bill Bryson, which is fascinating. Recommended most highly.
10) There are so many great wines here… It’s brilliant to have the time to explore, taste, find some hidden gems, find the cheeky bargains, and fall in love with Marlborough wine all over again. Also glad to have been alerted to some handy sources of European wines too, which will be very welcome seasoning…
Today’s stuck-in-head-song – Made up love song #43, Guillemots
Today’s dinner – pumpkin and feta tart with salad
Today’s drinks – G&T
Today’s footwear – birkenstocks