In October we will be returning to our home in the United States. This means of course that we have one month left here in England. Yesterday while in Cirencester, the market town nearest our home, I began to feel melancholy. It’s a strange range of emotion: so happy to soon be back home with family and friends and at the same time sad to be leaving the home that we’ve made here.

But time marches on. Now we must box-up and pack-up our life (once again) and head for our new (old) life in America. And even though we are moving back to what is familiar and what is “ours” nothing will be the same. Our lives have changed and our perceptions about life abroad have been shattered. This is all good. I now have an even greater appreciation of our place in the global community.

I imagine that England will always feel like my second home. I have loved (for the most part) my time here. We have been blessed with this experience and I believe that we have become better persons from having lived here. Certainly I have gained a greater appreciation of world events. On a more personal level we have made friends here and have shared times that will last forever in our memories. Of course there have been castles and abbeys and cathedrals aplenty but I think the things that will remain in my heart are the memories of the people: my work mates, our neighbours, the Sweet Shop Ladies, June  the lady who often shares a pew with us at tiny St. Peters Church and Ann & Mike who have given Deb nearly weekly tours of the Costwolds.

For me it’s usually the little things that last: the cup of tea made just right, the Steak & Stilton pies, the (countless) sticky toffee puddings, the fields of rapeseed in spring, driving down some unknown ‘goat road’ looking for someplace that Deb thought was “just around the bend”, learing what “nicked” and “nackered” means and ‘discovering’ the Tesco Super Store after driving past it for a couple of months unbeknownst to both of us that it even existed (inspite of repeated adverts on the telly).

I am also thankful for our visitors that have come to share part of our lives here and I will cherish those memories, too. Not least of which is Anna & Noah at a nearby farm playing with the bunnies, feeding the lambs and milking the goats and splashing in the mud puddles. I will relive that day time and time  again.


Of course we’ve had big moments here, too. We’ve celebrated along with everyone else the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and cheered on the athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 2012 has been a great year for Britain and we have been here to enjoy it as well.

But it’s time to go home (and leave this home). So packing and goodbyes will soon commence. I’m sure that there will a tear (or two) shed but life goes on…

And isn’t it grand?



Ten Things Americans Should Know About England

After living here for 4 months, I am now of course an expert on all things British. Please don’t be intimidated by my vast knowledge of the culture, the geography, the history and the people of this great place; this Great Britain. Just learn from my wisdom.

Here are (in my exalted opinion) the top ten things Americans should know about England:

  1. Brits don’t understand (or care to understand) anything about American baseball. Don’t try to explain it to them, it will only make you crazy (or in English parlance: mad). Really, don’t bother.
  2. No one in England drinks beer from a bottle. They may drink it from a (sometimes less than clean) glass at a dodgy pub but they won’t drink it from a bottle. Only Americans and Barbarians drink beer from bottles.
  3. Left is right. The origin of driving on the left allegedly has something to do with jousting but that sounds like bollocks to me. I think it’s retaliation for our Independence from England – that and the bloody roundabouts. Just remember to stay on the left and yield to the right – you’ll be fine.
  4. “I need to spend a penny.” A quaint expression meaning ‘to use a public toilet’. Never leave the house without 20 or 30 pence in your pocket. Most toilets don’t give change and none take bills even though there have been times I would have gladly paid £5 for much-needed relief.
  5. People are really very friendly. If you’re in London you may not encounter the most welcoming folks but it’s no different from New York. When’s the last time someone in New York held a door for you or smiled at you? Plus the majority of people you’ll encounter in London are likely tourists. If you want friendly, come to the towns and villages. People there are truly nice; proud of their homes; and happy to meet you. Plus a pint is cheaper in a pub in the Cotswolds or Midlands than some posh pub in Central London.
  6. Don’t wear big white tennis shoes. Also don’t wear your favourite team’s jersey or T-shirt unless of course it’s Manchester United or Liverpool (but then you could still be in for a fight). The white tennis shoes and “I love Opryland” T-shirt just makes you a target for ridicule, not to mention pick-pockets.
  7. Brown Sauce. The most popular brand, HP, has a malt vinegar base, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind, and spices. Good on everything, particularly fish and chips.
  8. Garden Centres. Not to be confused with the garden center at your local Home Depot or Lowes. This is not just an area of the parking lot cordoned off for seasonal sales of shrubberies and manure.  These are permanent structures with toys, apparel, garden furniture, giftware, butcher counters, bakeries, wine bars, cafes and playgrounds for the kiddies. Additionally they sell plants, flowers, shrubberies and all other garden necessities.
  9. “You alright?” The equivalent to our “Morning, how are ya?” or “Hi!” No real response is expected here. Just a “Hi” or “Fine, and you?” will suffice. Or “Okay.” It’s one of those mindless greetings that we are all familiar with. No one really wants to know ‘how you are’ or ‘if you are alright’.
  10. Long Live The Queen! Although it’s been bandied-about that the Royalty is outdated or unnecessary; don’t be confused. She’s beloved. She’s an institution. And Elizabeth has NEVER brought dishonor to the Crown. Suggestions that she should step down and let Charles become King are ridiculous and American. Her Diamond Jubilee is receiving more press here than the 2012 London Olympics. Plus two days off work!

Who can resist the charm of an English pub?

I hope that this helps those of you that are planning travel here, or even better, those of you contemplating “taking the plunge” and actually moving here as we have.

We’re traveling to Paris this weekend and then I have business in Portugal next week. Stay tuned for my Continental wisdom. Rick Steves – watch your back!



Settling In

Family, friends and work associates from the States keep asking the same question. “Are you settling in?” I usually respond, “YES!” Of course we’re settling in – we’ve found our way to church, to the market, to the green grocer and to a few pubs. I can get to work now (most days) without taking the wrong round-about(s).

Deb makes our cottage a home

We initially had some challenges with housing. Our attached cottage (sort of like a townhouse apartment) needed repairs to the plumbing in the cloakroom (laundry), repairs to the shower which was leaking into the lounge (living room), a new bathroom subfloor and tile due to the leaking shower, an electrician to repair lights in the lounge (probably due to the water leaking through and shorting the circuitry), and some general maintenance (burned out lights, exhaust fans not working, etc.). And apparently some shingles had blown off the roof. Deb has handled all the contractors here and for her trouble and inconvenience was able to talk the landlord in to buying us a new bed. Tony (the landlord) and Carole his wife are now good friends with Deb. Carole has given us great recommendations for restaurants, day trips, theatre, museums, etc. And now that the repairs are done this really is a lovely place. So yes – we’re settling in.

Last Sunday we went to Mass at Saint Peter’s RC (Roman Catholic) Church in Cirencester. The RC is a very important distinction here in the United Kingdom; most churches are C of E (Church of England). And when someone mentions The Parish Church they don’t mean your parish – they mean the official Church of the county (or parish) – always C of E! (One more thing to learn.) Anyway at Mass last Sunday the lyrics of the communion hymn were something like “Leave your home; leave your family; follow Me, follow Me…” Deb and I were wiped out by this and we both fought back our tears. And I kept thinking that I followed my job here – not God! But this week a friend told me that God sometimes puts our feet on unfamiliar ground to remind us of what we take for granted. True, so true…

I sometimes dream that Charlise is coming for the weekend or that Anna and Noah are over for breakfast and then I wake up and stumble down the stairs to a quiet house – those are tough mornings. But most days are filled with new things; new adventures; new opportunities. And Deb and I have become even closer – in some ways it’s like we’re newlyweds again. Sharing this experience with my soul mate makes even the quiet mornings bearable.

So perhaps we didn’t leave our home to follow God to England, but as it turns out He was here waiting for us when we arrived.



To Market, To Market…

I love nursery rhymes. I loved them as a kid. I loved reading to my kids. And I love reading them to my grandkids. I’m heading to the market this morning and this keeps banging around in my head…

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

It was only until moving here to England that I’ve realised that so many words used here are from those beloved nursery rhymes. I pass signs on the Carriageway that bring them to mind.


Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain,
He stepped in a puddle,
Right up to his middle,
And never went there again.

And York…

The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had 10,000 men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And Surrey, and Leeds, and of course London (where Pussycat went to visit the Queen…)

Just the other day I was walking along a footpath and came upon a stile (a sort of stump that you use to climb over a fence) and immediately…

 “I saw a crooked man; who walked a crooked mile; he found a crooked six-pence; upon a crooked stile.”

A stile! A crooked stile! A bloody crooked stile!

We drove two hours north yesterday to visit a factory in Leicester and every sign seemed to trigger another rhyme in my head. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get these nursery rhymes out of my head? And I wondered if my work associate could tell when I was drifting in “nursery rhyme mode”. I can’t seem to stop myself!

Maybe it’s a coping mechanism. There’s so much new here (or old if you will) and trying to absorb it all is a bit overwhelming. New words, new phrases, new places, new foods, new people. So perhaps the nursery rhymes are my comfort zone right now. It brings the familiar to an unfamiliar place. Maybe it’s not madness; it’s just a way of  processing tons (spelled tonnes now) of information.

It has helped with some of the melancholy; I imagine I’m sharing those nursery rhymes with Charlise or Anna or Noah. Or back in time with Tyson or Bess or Blake…

Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy and Bess,
They all went together to seek a bird’s nest.
They found a bird’s nest with five eggs in,
They all took one, and left four in.

And somehow it all feels right.




Oaksey Is Not London

My business cards say London, but I live in Oaksey, Wiltshire. Even my office doesn’t “live” in London. My office is in Swindon which is about an hour west of Heathrow (but Swindon doesn’t have much of a ring to it). Oaksey is about another half hour west of Swindon.

I’ve been to London several times and I love London but I’m truly much happier living out here in The Cotswolds. Because Swindon is to London what St. Charles is to St. Louis and Oaksey is like living in Defiance or Cottleville thirty years ago. So it’s more “my speed”. Quiet country living. Wide open spaces. The occasional sheep. Even so, all of this will still take some getting used to.

Today we had a little setback trying to get to Saint Peters Catholic Church in Cirencester for Mass. The road (the only one that I knew) was closed for repaving. We tried to figure another way around but we were unsuccessful and soon headed back to Oaksey (not necessarily on purpose). I’m sure God has already forgiven us – next week we’ll try again. This afternoon I walked around the village and was able to be with God in a special way – that’s sacrament, too.

Deb and I are learning new things each day – for instance  a trolley is a shopping cart. And the cashiers at the grocer aren’t all handicapped. They’re allowed to sit down to do their job. And you have to go up to the bar to order in most pubs – they’ll allow you to sit at a table but no one’s going to take your order. And a truck is a lorry. And signs that say “Give Way” mean yield. (And you should particularly “give way” when a lorry is speeding up to you on the right!). So much to learn!

Somehow knowing that the road narrows does not calm me down.

I’m very happy that we’ve landed in Oaksey and we will be able to learn at a slower pace out here in The Cotswolds (think boondocks) than if we were plunked in the middle of London. So we’ll keep exploring the countryside and the villages and each day will get easier and we’ll get smarter (or at least Deb will). Plus we can always take the train to London if we need some city life.

In the meantime we’ll just be known as the Americans in the grey VW Golf (so watch out!) Oh, I’m sure we’ll probably embarrass ourselves from time to time. We’ll likely say or do something that the locals will find amusing but that’s okay. We’re heading into our second week now and all is well (almost).

How long before I stop missing sweet Charlise, Anna and Noah kisses and hugs? Probably never (I hope).



Our Life Begins in England

It’s 4:00 a.m. in our new home in Wiltshire, England and we can’t sleep. The moon is bright and shining through  our bedroom window. There are no street lights or traffic noises of any kind out here in our little village of Oaksey. Who knew that peace and quiet could be so alarming? It’s just very quiet.

We arrived in London on Monday night and made our way out here to the Cotswolds yesterday. We’ll have a car later today and will no longer be dependent upon the kindness of Mark (my Director here in the U.K.) but I’m feeling a little ambivalent about assuming TOTAL driving responsibilities. Deb will have to learn to drive on the left side of the road, too. That way we can take turns driving and cursing. Bloody hell!

Almost too quiet (almost)

To do list: learn to drive; unpack; set up a bank account; figure out when to say “cheers” and “keen” and “fancy”; find our way around the local markets; drink tea; go to work (me not Deb – she’s got plenty to do at the house).

It’s a blessing that we have so much to do – less time to miss our family and friends back home. Plus e-mail, Skype, Face-time and Facebook brings us all closer together (at least virtually). Thank you God, for creating people smart enough to make all this technology possible. It makes the “being away” so much easier to bear.

Now, if you could just put a dimmer switch on that bright moon outside our bedroom window…



Packing Boxes, Checklists, and Deadlines, Oh My!

There’s a lot to get done this week. The Week. The one before we leave for England. In my mind this week was going to be much easier. We had mapped out everything very carefully: Housing – check; Rental Car – check; Passports/Visas/International Drivers Licenses – check; Banking – check; Airline tickets – check. But now it’s here. The Week. The  Last One. And all of a sudden it all feels a little overwhelming.

We still have lots to do and taking time to blog isn’t helping get any of it done. But I just needed to clear my head and write a bit. Usually I take a few moments at the beginning of each new year to think about all the possibilities that lie ahead. This year even more so.

We will be living in the United Kingdom and hopefully we will be traveling all over Europe. Certainly we will be making a trip to Paris in April (already booked) and hope to see Rome in the summer or early autumn and perhaps a trip to Munich or Madrid (or both). Of course we will spend lots of time in London and the English countryside as well.

But packing for nearly a year and working out details here before we leave is exhausting. Plus the whole point of moving to England has to do with my job and those responsibilities have increased exponentially because now I am V.P. of Operations for North America and Europe. So this isn’t actually an extended vacation – no matter what some of my staff may think. I will be working and ‘watching them’ from across the pond.

A Pawpaw and his girls

Then there’s the emotional aspect – perhaps being busy with the packing and planning is a good thing. It gives me less time to think about how much I’m going to miss my children and grandchildren. This holiday season has been especially wonderful with Charlise and Anna and Noah around for extended periods of time. Last night while some adults were out partying, Nana Deb and I had a pajama party at our house. Noah scrubbed up and sweet-smelling happily went to his crib. After their baths, the girls and Deb and I watched “Madeline” (a family favorite). Deb made pancakes this morning before Mass and this afternoon we went to the indoor pool/water park. Later the whole family had dinner together which included Deb’s trademark black-eyed peas (there’s some superstitious hokum about needing to eat them for prosperity or good luck in the new year). All in all, it was a great New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day.

Rocking Noah to sleep in my arms last night I had ‘a moment’. And I got choked up today at the pool watching the girls splishing and splashing. But I’m determined to stay positive and not get too sad or overly emotional before we leave for England even though my heart is heavy.

I don’t why but this evening the girls doled extra bedtime kisses. It felt like a gift from heaven. Maybe my granddaughters knew that their Pawpaw needed a little something more tonight (or maybe it was just those damned black-eyed peas).



Cleaning Out Closets

This week we’ve begun cleaning out closets in anticipation of our move to England. We’re desperately trying to organize our lives. And with each closet comes a new discovery or re-discovery perhaps. Some of this has just been grunt-work; pulling stuff out, boxing it up or trashing it and moving on to the next pile. We’ve already given away tons of clothes and household goods but we find some things cannot be so easily tossed aside. I believe that there’s a reason most of that stuff is still with us (and not just because we’ve been too lazy to toss it out).

Our closets seem to me to be like a little microcosm of our 36 years of marriage. There are treasures packed away for sentimental reasons and safekeeping. There are mistakes (regretted purchases, unwanted gifts, ill-fitting clothing) jammed into the dark recesses but not quite forgotten. There are the everyday items that are always needed (and sometimes taken for granted until they don’t work or fit or simply wear out). There are the ‘surprises’ – things long ago forgotten but now given new life and purpose.

I think marriage is like that. We often hold on to our treasured memories and locked them away for safekeeping. And our regrets and disappointments are very likely shoved into the dark recesses of our consciousness. And of course the everyday experiences; probably taken for granted and rarely given the respect and appreciation so rightly deserved. But then there are the ‘surprises’; those special moments when your love is rekindled and you see one another in a new light or experience something about your life-partner for the first time (even after all these years).

So take some time to ‘clean out the closets’ of your marriage. Clear the cobwebs; get rid of the junk; pack up your regrets and let go of them; treasure your golden memories and make some room for the new ones. And don’t forget to appreciate the everyday experiences – the smile; the warm embrace; the shared laughter; the love delivered in so many ways…



Rule, Britannia!

We’re back in the States after a whirlwind two weeks abroad.

  • Week one: meet new employees, new suppliers, review new office/warehouse space, work, work, work…
  • Week two: Find housing for January move, attempt driving on the left, explore Wiltshire/Gloucestershire.

Now that we’re home, and recovering from jet-lag and the time change, I’m trying to mentally digest all that we experienced. I have to admit it’s all a bit overwhelming. It feels a little like the reverse of walking through a dream – you know that you’re dreaming but it all seems so real. In this case, you know that it’s real but it all feels so dream-like. But it’s a good dream so far (although I’m sure we’ll have our share of nightmares, too).

Adding to the surreal nature of it all is the fact that, our favorite baseball team, the St. Louis Cardinals, are now in the World Series and our favorite football (the real kind) team, the Green Bay Packers, are now 7-0! All we saw on T.V. for two weeks was soccer (football) and the Rugby World Cup with a sprinkling of Cricket now and again. That’ll take some getting used to.

Aside from “televised American sports withdrawal” and missing our grandkids desperately(oh and their parents, too) our time in England was great. We found a place to live. I really like my work associates. The area that we’ll living in is steeped in history and is really very lovely. And we found some great pubs and fun places to shop. Not to mention a countless number of places to visit/tour upon our return.

Just a stone’s throw away

The people that we encountered were very friendly and hospitable. The food was excellent. And the housing (although initially disappointing) proved to be very nice. We will be moving to Cotswold Park an area of nature preserves, trails, lakes, bike paths and parks which is set on the border of Gloucestershire/Wiltshire. Because we were looking for a furnished house/apartment our options were limited. This area is about a 20-30 minute commute to work and a 20 minute drive to Cirencester which is a lovely town with much history AND a Catholic church. We will also be just a ten minute drive from Cricklade, which is a 9th Century Saxon village. Our new home will be completely furnished and equipped (dishes, glassware, linens, appliances). We just need to decide what else to bring – bicycles, personal items, clothes, etc.

I’m convinced that our time in England will be fine – not just fine – fabulous!

I’ve always loved English history and now is my chance to be completely immersed in a new place. I hope to make the most of it. Why just last week Wootton-Bassett a town not far from where we’ll be living was named Royal Wootton-Bassett by decry of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II because of the way the community has honored the fallen British military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were parades and honors and Princess Anne was there to join in the celebration. This is the first time a town has been so designated since 1909.

It was all so very British!



Moving Across The Pond

One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do is live abroad. I recently got my chance and have decided to take it. This coming January, Deb and I will be moving to Swindon, Wiltshire, U.K. for one year. I’ll be assisting with setting up my company’s new division in England. But in addition to working and living in England, we will be traveling all over Europe with my new job responsibilities. In between business meetings and touring retail developments, there should be plenty of time for castles, cathedrals, museums and the occasionl glass of wine. That’s the good news.

This will be our mantra

The bad news is that our children and grandchildren will be living in the United States. After serving six years abroad in the Air Force our son Tyson is returning stateside whilst (I’ll probably be using that word a lot in England) we’ll be living in Europe. And our grandbabies won’t be nearby (something we’ve grown accustomed to) – not to mention our daughter, son-in-law and our younger son, as well as our parents, siblings, cousins, friends, etc. If I focus on the negatives I start to question my decision. But then I remember that it’s only a year. And it’s a year in Europe!

So we will adjust, even if we shed a few tears along the way. We pray that God continues to bless our family and keep us together (even though we are apart). And as we have for the last 36+ years – Deb and I will carry one another on this journey. There has been so much racing through our heads since we made the decision to live abroad for a year : “Big things” like leaving family and friends (especially Charlise and Anna and Noah). “Little things” like not getting to watch our favorite TV shows in England. And “other things” like learning how to drive on the “wrong side” of the road.

In the meantime, we need to close up our house here and begin the search for our new home in England. Our goal is to immerse ourselves in the culture and community. We hope to live in a town or village that is primarily English – not some enclave for expatriots. We will be traveling to Swindon this fall to begin our search for housing. Fortunately, my work associate, Mark is British and has offered to help us with that task. Deb and I have lots to do and much to discover and explore. My HR Director is assisting with much of the mundane stuff – work visas, cost of living adjustments, cultural integration, etc, etc. That frees us up to do more important things like figure out where to get our hair cut and take our dry-cleaning and to look for good restaurants and pubs.

We will strive to really make England our home in 2012. Of course we hope to have lots of visitors. And we expect to make some new friends along the way, too.  Please keep us in your prayers. As always, I will share whatever and whenever I can.