Three Months in England
We moved to England just over three months ago. Andria, the boys, Me, and our basset hound Charlie. Charlie had the easiest move, if you ask me. Some guy picked him up one day, he took a nap, then woke up in England. Not that our trip was terribly difficult, but it sure involved standing in line a lot.
We currently live in a small town in The Southwest called Twyford. It is just south of Winchester, which is slightly north of Portugal. Well, that’s the way my colleagues in London see it, anyway. It’s true, I have a long commute, but I can rationalize it, just watch.
The Good Bits
We’re country folk, really. Our family prefers a field with mud and cows over a bustling sidewalk (ahem: “pavement”). The village of Twyford is next to a slightly-huge National Forest, and is full of my favorite new thing: Footpaths.
The boys are attending Twyford School. This is a Public School, which is confusingly what Americans would call a Private School. It’s pretty amazing. They are learning all about Cricket and Kings. And probably math(s).
One of the main reasons to put down roots in Twyford was that we already knew some people there. Our good friends from when we lived in London before (eek, 9 years ago?) have lived in Twyford a few years, have kids the same age (more or less) and could vouch for the place. They actually put us up for the first … wait for it … 6 weeks! This is a long time for two families of 4 people to live under one roof. There were 4 kids under the age of 7 all sharing one trampoline. It was pretty cute, actually.
Plus, they provided a bit of a leg-up in terms of finding a house, getting the kids into a good school, and giving us a foothold into the local social scene. We’ve been to a few dinner parties and countless post-school-dropoff coffees. If we had been in any other village or town, I don’t believe we’d be quite as well established.
The Less Good Bits
I ride my beach cruiser (yep) to the local train station (Shawford, which nobody has ever heard of) and catch a train to Winchester. I can elect to stay on that train to London, or get off and wait 10 minutes for a Fast Train. Doing so gets me to London 10 minutes sooner. So, why not. I’ll tell you why not, because the Fast Train is full of people. So full, that you’re not getting a seat. That means standing, or better yet, sitting by the door, next to the toilet. Classy.
But there is a solution: payment. That is, purchasing a first-class ticket. I bought what is called a Gold Card, presumably due to its cost (ok, all annual passes are called that). Because of this, I’m able to get a seat on any train. This means I don’t have to plan my life around a train schedule, I can just leave when I’m ready and get the next train. This is how I like it.
Once I arrive in London (at Waterloo station), I need to make my way halfway across London to the office, near Victoria Station. Occasionally, if I go in late, after 9am or so, I can transfer from a Slow Train to Victoria, which is convenient. In order to make my way to Victoria, I can (1) Tube (2) Bus (3) Walk or (4) Cycle. I walked for a few weeks, then acquired a key to a “Boris Bike.” Riding these is a bit like renting a small tank: it moves slowly, but is quite reliable, it is very heavy, and puts you at risk of death constantly. Well, that’s what people tell me, at least.
By the time I reach the office, 1.5 hours have elapsed. Please note: my previous commute from Danville to SF was 1.1 hour, and to Mt View was from 1–2 hours, depending on traffic. I feel this is a (slight) improvement. See? I’m rationalizing all over the place.
My time at work is really good, of course. I do have to “stay late” quite a bit, due to the Bloody Americans waking up and expecting to be able to talk. As happened last time I worked in the UK, I’m realizing how hard it is to coordinate with people in 8-hour-difference timezones. Like, really hard.
By the time I get home from work (more trains), I’m generally able to see the kids and bathe/bed them. Sometimes, though, I don’t get home until after they’ve gone to bed. These evenings are less-fun.
Getting Out There
The biggest draw, of course, is the improved ability to travel. We just spent a week in Zurich, then a long weekend in Lichtenstien. This was amazing, and required relatively little travel time, compared to a European Tour from the US. In a few weeks, we’re going to drive around Germany, France, etc. This should be fine.
Staying in Touch
One of the toughest bits, of course, we miss our family and friends in The States. I have found I am a lot more reliant on Various Social Networks to keep up with people. I suppose BookFace isn’t totally useless, after all.
I’m taking a lot of pictures, but not doing a good job of sharing them. I’ll attempt to rectify that. Ideas welcome.
The Verdict So Far
We like it. We’re staying. For a while, at least. The (intentionally-vague) party line is “for at least a couple years.” We recognize that we are here at the nicest part of the year, and we might feel less optimistic in the Winter when the rains come. That’s fine. We can handle it.