Monday, 6 June 2011

End of Lent & Easter

After our weekend in Bristol, David resumed his crazy work schedule and I began preparing in earnest for my family's visit and Easter. The weeks flew by, as work was busy and the evenings were filled with spring cleaning (for me) and research (for David). Needing a break and an excuse to enjoy the spring sunshine we managed an afternoon away in the fens one weekend. We walked to Fen Ditton, picnicking on the way (cocktail sausages & boiled quail eggs ftw), shared a jug of Pimms at The Plough, and spent time searching for broken bits of pottery & stone facades in a plowed field. We also found a ditch that ran off from the river, and as we walked along it the rustling noises alerted us to the presence of wildlife. We were expecting birds but after no few moments of watching discovered that the noises were being made by water rats (water voles to be more accurate)! We had a nice Wind in the Willows moment and stayed to watch them for a bit, then went home and googled pictures of them to confirm that they are much cuter than regular rats.

delicious picnic lunch
old graves at St Mary's, Fen Ditton
The overall grind of work meant a busier end to Lent than I like, with little time left for meditation. We found an escape to this predicament by attending a penitential service at Our Lady and the English Martyrs. This year I am learning the benefit of actually scheduling time for retreats. By pencilling in time for contemplation and by going out of the house on a retreat it is harder to become distracted. It was a peaceful evening and I could approach Easter with a proper spirit.
After the calm, the storm. Or, if not quite a storm, a last bit of flurry of work and then suddenly it was Maundy Thursday and we were at Mass. Meanwhile my family were somewhere in the air over North America. That night I broke one of our house rules and took the 'phone into the bedroom and left the ringer on. 7:30am and the phone rang: "I kept waiting but I couldn't contain myself any longer. WE'RE IN LONDON! Bus is leaving in 20 minutes". A long few hours later my family arrived. Mum unloaded plunderous treats from Canada, namely cheezies and BBQ sauce. Then Dave & I dragged dad off to the Good Friday service while the others napped. In the evening we took them to their first (of many) English pub dinners at the Mitre, followed by The Hobbit. Jet lag claimed them all by intermission and only dad remained to catch the last acts of the play, which he mostly slept through.

On Holy Saturday I took everyone into town to go exploring/shopping. We had a great time and in the evening we had our traditional Easter weekend dinner of pseudo-Mennonite food. There was no Easter Vigil at our church this year as, for some reason, neither Queens nor Caius wanted us to light a fire in the courtyard. On Sunday we went to the Easter service at Fisher House: Queens and then enjoyed a warm, sunny walk around Cambridge and back home. Mum and I spent the afternoon making Easter dinner. It was so great to have a mum-cooked meal this holiday! I had purchased a free range turkey from the butchers and it was definitely the best turkey we've ever had. I had also tried my hand at making paska in my bread machine. The result wasn't as good as regular paska but it went down well with the boys at any rate. We were joined by our friend Mike, who had flown into Cambridge that day from Colorado. I was impressed that he managed to fight off jetlag long enough to have supper with us. He came bearing butterfinger chocolate bars and American BBQ sauce, making me one happy lady. It was such a lovely Easter, and it was so great to be together as a family for it. 

first taste of Cornish pasties
Easter Sunday on the Cam
On Monday I took my family to London for their first tourist excursion. We spent the majority of the day at the London Zoo. I was worried it would fall short compared to the San Diego Zoo but it most certainly held its own. For one thing, they have a recreated coral reef in their aquarium section. It was so beautiful. The second amazing bit was that in several parts in the Zoo you can actually go into the animal enclosures. I had read an article a few months back about monkeys at the Zoo stealing people's sun glasses, and I'd just assumed that this was from tourists standing too close to the bars. But I soon learned that it's because you can get within petting (more accurately, biting) distance of the monkeys! It was the same with birds and butterflies. It was amazing to be able to walk with the animals, and in John's case, talk with the animals. We also managed to catch the show at the steam clock, and being England we got our lunch from a fish & chip stand in the Zoo. It was such an awesome experience. 

After the hours we spent at the Zoo we decided to cancel any other attractions. We had a lovely walk across Regent's Park and then took the tube down to Westminster where we got out and shared our first looks at Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. It was crazy busy around the Abbey, as the Royal Wedding was taking place that Friday, but we prowled around the gates of parliament and mum got all teary-eyed and exuded a lot of "I'm in a foreign country with my family and it's AMAZING". Up until a year or so ago I don't think we ever thought we'd stand by Westminster, looking at Big Ben and the Thames as a family, so it was certainly an incredible moment.

Regents Park

The Thames
Big Ben
I spent the rest of that week working, while my family made a trip to Ely and another back down to London. On their trip to London they saw All's Well that Ends Well at Shakespeare's Globe, and I am convinced that there is some sort of magic in the air around the Globe because they actually enjoyed the play! Dad likes Shakespeare, but in my experience mum & John don't normally find his plays very thrilling. They also went to Abbey Road and the Royal British Museum in order to see the Rosetta Stone. Then on Thursday they headed out to Histon to pick up the rental car and learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road. Mum only had until the following morning to learn a new car and a new way to drive, because Friday morning we took off on our grand adventure. 

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