Query: How long does it take to feel at home in a new country? How about I let you all know when I find out. Because at this point, it’s all just a big crap-tastic festival of newness. This is not to say that London doesn’t have wonderful things to offer – anyone who’s ever been here knows that it does. Fabulous architecture, magnificent art, history galore, incredible shopping, beautiful landscapes …. Yep, it’s great. But it’s not home. Not yet, at least. Two of our recent trips have driven this point … what’s the word I’m looking for … oh, that’s right … HOME.
A few weeks ago we ventured out to the coast for the first time since we moved here. We were headed to Weymouth for a beach volleyball tournament. A charming beach town, Weymouth is steeped in history. Apparently, the hotel where we stayed was originally built for the Duke of Clarence as his summer residence when King George III held the Royal Court in Weymouth. And, as per the hotel’s literature, it overlooks the “golden sands” of Weymouth as well as the “Jurassic Coast”. Huh. The buildings that edge the beach and marina have clearly been there forever, the architecture was lovely and I had the sense that if I just glanced quickly enough over my shoulder, I might catch the old Duke wandering down a side street.
The beaches over here are more than just beaches, however. They are, in fact, FUNTASTIC! Not for the English a simple day of sun and sand. Oh no. We’ve got trampolines on the beach! And Punch & Judy! And a carousel! And cotton candy! And something they refer to as hot dogs but which, most definitely, are NOT hot dogs! The thing I actually found most interesting, though, is the fact that the actual beach is a veritable sardine can of sunbathers. Yes, that’s right, those are two inches of unclaimed sand by my big toe. Family of five? Settle right in! Putting up an odd looking contraption that apparently acts like a wall and blocks you off from the rest of the beach while also blocking everyone else’s view of the water? You bet!
Oh, and that water? It’s freezing. And has no waves. And it’s raining. In July.
I would like to say, though, for the record: It’s not that I disliked Weymouth – on the contrary, I liked it very much – it’s really all about the deep sense of homesickness I’m feeling that makes everything, no matter how charming and quirky, not quite measure up to my sunny Southern California home.
Speaking of which, we headed back there for Byron’s father’s 80th birthday last week. The trip was short but sweet. Five days of packing in all there is to know and love about home. We saw about as much family and friends as I think it’s possible to fit in such a short period of time and it was fabulous. There’s much to be said for being with the people who know you best, who’ve loved you longest and who make you feel blessed just to be in their presence. I think that before we moved I had begun to take for granted that the people in our life just get me. They understand me and know me and our times together are easy. I don’t have that yet here in London. I’m still in that early phase of settling in where the dinners or lunches or outings are replete with getting-to-know-you conversation but aren’t yet at the we-don’t-even-need-to-talk stage.
I think one of my favorite parts of the trip was spending time on the beach in Del Mar. Byron surfed, I frolicked. It’s that perfect time of year when the water is such a nice temperature – a little brisk, but swimmable and so refreshing. We went early in the mornings, before most people were out. The sun was coming up all golden, the sand was soft and just starting to feel warm on our toes, and the ocean was sparkling like it was filled with all these little twinkle lights. Heaven.
But eventually we had to hop back on a plane to London, which was yet another 10 hour festival of fun. Whoever says they don’t mind turbulence is a complete nut-job. It sucks and it makes me cranky. I’m also not a big fan of three-across seating. Big “I’m sorry” to the lady sitting on the aisle in our row but, hey, if you sit there you’re gonna have to get up so the rest of the row can use the bathroom at some point. And, no, staying seated and making a stranger (i.e. moi) CLIMB OVER YOU in the middle of the night is not acceptable. If I’d wanted to put my ass in someone’s face, I can guarantee it’s not yours. But we made it through the flight (and Byron getting bonked on the head by a ridiculously heavy suitcase dropped from the overhead by a ridiculously silly woman and her equally stupid friend – same woman at the end of our row).
Now we’re back in London (cloudy and a bit chilly, but still brilliantly green and beautiful) and I’m looking forward to the time when I can actually call this home and really feel it. I’ll keep you updated on my progress …