Lines composed in a Marriott a few miles from Tintern Abbey

I wrote this over the weekend but have just now gotten around to posting it… 



I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity

— William Wordsworth

             Here we are, American expatriates living in London, living the adventure, and I post for you my thoughts on mittens and chicken nuggets.  Where, you ask, are the castles?  Wherefore the museums and cathedrals?  The Tower of London?  And those double decker busses?  Where the hell is the adventure, the romance of our life here in London?

            Well, guys, it tends to be just like a life anywhere else.  School runs, swimming lessons, playgrounds, and laundry.  We change poopy diapers here in London pretty much the same way we did back home.  We just pay more for the clean ones.

            However, knowing that we would be here only for two years has given us incentive to see things.  Lots of things.  Our neighbors say to us “You know, we’ve actually never been to Brighton.”  And that’s fine for them, because Brighton will always be there, and, as far as they can tell, they will always be here, a short train ride away.  Not so for us.  We know we will only once be strangers in this particular strange land with two tiny people.  So, we take day trips.  We have what we call “adventures.” 

            We load the boys into the car, we drive places.  An hour in, Zachary starts complaining and Benjamin falls asleep.  Your typical day trip with children.  Most Americans are pretty familiar with this.  But, at the end of our day trips, there are castles.  There are historic estate homes where they filmed Jane Austen adaptations.  And, oftentimes, there are moats.

              Some weekends, we don’t take trips.  We take the boys to Covent Garden where they listen to string quartets or go to the newly reopened Transport Museum.  Or, we catch a bus down the road, take a quick trip, and end up at the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum.  In nice weather, we head up to the Peter Pan themed Princess Diana Memorial Garden in Kensington Gardens.

            “What shall we do this weekend?” I ask J.

            “I want to go to a castle,” Zachary opines.  Right.  Just what every three-year-old expects to do on Saturday morning.

            And now, we’re leaving.  In a few months, we will pack up.  I will not miss the noise.  I will not miss the pollution.  I will not miss the cold and unfriendly mothers at my son’s school.  And I sure as shootin’ won’t miss the rain.  I might, however, miss the castles.

            We will go to L.A.  There, the beach and the La Brea Tar Pits will be part of the boys’ everyday life.  Whereas once we visited monastic ruins in Scotland as a short vacation or the Royal Pavilion in Brighton as a day trip, now we will decide on a Saturday morning to throw on some flip flops and head to the beach.  Life will be very different.

            J and I are away for a few days.  We have left the boys with their visiting grandparents and headed out to Wales.  This morning, we tooled around Tintern Abbey, just as William Wordsworth did before us.  And, as we climbed around the rather impressive ruins, I realized this would probably be our last visit to a place like this.  Already, we are busy thinking about the next place, the next move.  Life will be very different.

            But we will still be doing school runs.  We will still be doing laundry.  We will still be changing poopy diapers.  Life will be very much the same.

I picked up an extra post card today for you, a blog friend.  The first person to post a comment asking for it will get a Tintern Abbey postcard, signed by me, in the mail.

22 responses to “Lines composed in a Marriott a few miles from Tintern Abbey

  1. HA! HA! I had to get my ME! up and now I can comment properly.

    Yes, life day to day is the same while you live it, day to day. But later on you can look back and not only be glad you were motivated but that you followed through and saw wondrous things. it will seem amazing, later, IME.

    I bet you won’t miss the Unfortunate Things but yeah, the cool stuff.

    Using My Words

  2. and hopefully friendly mommies in LA….

  3. wales. i’ve always wanted to go to wales.

    have a marvelous time.

  4. Pingback: Another Day Ruined » Lines composed in a Marriott a few miles from Tintern Abbey

  5. Oh yes, the basic things in life will be the same everywhere but it saddens me that you couldn’t make more positive experiences in London. Enjoy the last few days in exile … 😉

  6. You didn’t by chance pick up a half-dozen of those postcards? I didn’t think so. Shoot!

    In L.A. you also get The Getty Museum which surpasses… I don’t know, it surpasses something… and Griffith Park, etc. But you are right, it will probably often be the beach which is wonderful. I have to say I am glad to be past the poopy diaper stage!

    Enjoy Wales, it sounds lovely and I look forward to more posts be they of chicken nuggets and mittens, or beaches and castles.

  7. Well, shoot! I missed the postcard, but that’s OK. 😉

    I’m glad you’re taking some time away with J.

    And? I’m so excited you’ll be within driving distance of me in a short while that I can barely stand it. 😀

  8. It’s nice to have time with just your husband – good for you. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. See you soon. Kellan

  9. what a lovely holiday and here’s to making the most of the moments we have – to see and drink as much in as possible.

  10. America will be glad to have you back. But what an adventure to have in your life. And how cool that your children will someday be able to say, “Well when I lived in England…”

  11. Sometimes I wish we hadn’t come here (Germany) yet, because the Little Mister is too young to appreciate all the cool things we see and do here, and he’ll be only 2-1/2 when we leave. But I guess he’ll still be able to say, “I was born in Germany”…

  12. Oh I love (visiting) LA!

  13. Sounds brilliant. I think I’d prefer London to LA. My sis lives out in SoCal, though.

  14. I’d love to see Kensington Gardens. Someday.

    LA holds castles of a different distinction for you.

    How long will you live in SoCal?

  15. This was an incredibly wonderful post. I really felt like I was offered a truthful glimpse into the life of a modern-day adventurer, warts and all. This might sound strange, but I am excited for your children when they grow up and reflect on how this experience influenced them.

  16. Lovely post–reminds me to enjoy more of what surrounds me–

    Maybe someday, when someone asks me, “Hey, just where is the “Alamo,” anyway?”

    This San Antonio, Texan, will actually be able to give them directions! 🙂

  17. Your mini-adventures sound great! Whenever we think of moving out-of-state or even out of the country, I remind myself to not romanticize it too much. The day to day things will still occur, but the scenery may make it all worth-while!

  18. It’s like living in/near NYC – no one from there has ever been to the top of the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty – except when entertaining visitors.

    I hope your trip to Wales was great!

  19. I can relate. I’m from Malaysia and now living in Hong Kong. And friends tell me the same thing. That I can get to taste all the good Chinese food, visit Disneyland, blah, blah, blah. But like you said, life is the same everywhere. We still lead an ordinary life like everyone else.

  20. Yes, precisely. My friends seemed to think I was on some kind of extended European adventure with boys and booze and day trips of all sorts. Instead there was school and family dinners and the occasionally trip to a 500-year-old abbey.

    Oh, and the pubs.

    I wonder if you’ll miss it when you’re in LA.

  21. we LOVED Tintern Abbey when we were there this summer. MQ loved it, too. The river there, the Wye… used to be named something else and is the namesake of my family. 🙂