Category Archives: life

Our house

It would seem that we’re about to buy a house! Having met up with a few people at Greenbelt who I assumed would have known, I realised the result of blogging less is that news just doesn’t get out. I had been meaning to write this when we found the house, but ah well, better late than never.

We’d been talking about moving for a while- wanting (or needing in my case) to get out of London, to somewhere with more space, a garden, and where achieving these things wasn’t impossibly expensive. We’d decided Reading would make the most sense- reasonably easy commutes, well located, and I knew it a bit from working there.

So in June we went for a day to have a look around. Not to look at houses, just to look. Except there was this one we’d seen that just looked perfect in the photos- right part of town, well looked after. And I loved the garden! Well, it can’t hurt we thought, just to give us an idea, we’re only looking. There’s bound to be a catch. But there wasn’t. We went from room to room getting more and more excited, and just walked out wondering if it was crazy to go for the first house you see..

Three days later we’d had an offer accepted and done a speedy mortgage application! And suddenly had to find out what all these terms meant. Someone should write a dictionary. The last few months have been a blur of solicitors, paperwork and mortgage related jargon. But finally today the deposit has been paid and now we’re just waiting for the mythical exchange of contracts- this is the point at which we realise why everyone complains about solicitors. We’re currently in  some kind of limbo waiting for the sellers solicitors to get their act together.

The strange thing about this happening so quickly is there’s very little time to think about how big a decision it is, and also not much tome to get used to it. Right now it’s just very exciting!

A wedding story. Part 1

Well we did it, we got married!! Its taken me this long to stop and think and be able to put it down here. But if I’m honest, one of the things that’s stopped me writing till now is being unable to find the words.

We really did have the most wonderful day. I’d even go so far as to say it was perfect. Not that everything was exactly ideal, if it was the day would have been a lot longer, the sun would have shone a bit brighter and we’d have had more time to talk to everyone. But everything went perfectly, smoothly, and the whole thing was exactly what we’d hoped for. How can I even hope to describe it? I’ve tried, in more words than I thought, to describe the day from the beginning, as much for me to remember as for the curiosity of whoever’s reading..

The morning itself came cloudy and a bit grey (but brightened up later!). We were certain we wanted to be together the night before, and didn’t even consider not being. We went to sleep saying ‘ooh its tomorrow’ and woke up and whispered ‘we’re getting married today!!’ with little excited squeaks, which was the best start to the day. Then we had a lovely breakfast with four good friends, my two bridesmaids and their other halves, sharing croissants, jam and coffee and gently waking up. It was really nice to be with friends, people we could relax with, which made it feel so natural, even if still a little surreal.

We girls went off to the hairdressers, the boys went to pick up the flowers and then to their hotel. We had a lovely time having our hair done and nattering about this and that! When we got back we did make-up and had a giggle or two, before the photographer arrived, closely followed by my parents. Tea was made, sandwiches were brought out, and all was impressively calm. With a bit of laughter. I was enjoying it all already- thinking about the day ahead, but just loving spending time with the people around me. My dad making tea, mum holding the dress up while it had its photo taken! Then I decided it was time to put my dress on, so I did. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and just thought ‘yes, this is exactly right’. I make me sound so calm, inside I was just bouncing and beaming all at once, but so excited.

We travelled to the church all together in a taxi- I decided I wasn’t going to spend money on a big car that no one but us would see- which was pre-booked and all fine until we got in and the driver turned to me and said ‘where to?’ I nearly said ‘do I look like I have a map on me?!’ A quick consultation with a smart phone and the church postcode was retrieved and we were on our way! Leaving 45 mins I thought would be plenty of time to get into central London- it was, we were there in 25, 20 mins early! So we got to sit and wait and watch all the guests arriving from across the road which was lovely! About 10 mins before the service was due to start we pulled up outside again, extracted me from the car, and then it was nearly time.

I had a brief flutter of butterflies just as we were round the corner from the church, but by the time I was standing outside, I couldn’t think what there was to be nervous about- I knew I was marrying the right person, all our friends and family were there with us, I was looking forward to every bit of the day. Just so exciting, I was just drinking in every last bit of it!

Then I think I decided it was time to go in, so we got ourselves in order, and away we went! My mum first with Benjamin carrying his precious box with our rings in, then Pippa and Jeni, and then it was my turn, with my dad beside me. Not giving me away, just sharing it with me. Everyone at the back turning round and smiling, so much happiness and support in one church was just amazing, and then when we rounded the corner at the back of the aisle and Chris came into view, and I just beamed. Having watched a video of this bit I can see from my face the very moment our eyes met!

At the front of the church we nervously whispered hello and ‘you look lovely’ and so on, and then relaxed when Sue leaned over and said ‘you can hold hands you know!’ And then it began. The service was taken by Richard, and the sermon preached by James, Chris’ university chaplain, with Sue, the minister at Hinde Street, opening and closing and doing the official bit! The readings were given, and prayers written and read, by those we care about, and the whole thing just felt so personal to us, which we weren’t the only ones to appreciate. Instead of the ‘who gives this woman/man’ line, each set of parents made a promise to support us both in our marriage, symbolising our choice to marry each other, and our parents support of that.

Standing opposite Chris saying our vows, with Richard prompting us, just felt so relaxed that my only fear was taking it too lightly! We had a whole church watching, but right then, we could have been the only people there. After the ‘I know proclaim that they are husband and wife’ bit, Richard gave me a hug and shook Chris’ hand. We had a lovely and thoughtful sermon from James. The hymns were just right and were sung with gusto! And the whole service went by far too quickly, as weddings tend to. Before we knew it we were signing the register and having photos taken, and on our way out! At the back of the church madness descended as everyone wanted to say congratulations, and there was much hugging and hand shaking and merriment, until the ever-efficient ushers began herding encouraging people towards the big red Routemaster buses and we made our way to our own car- our chance to have some us time in the middle of the day. We settled in, smiled for a few more photos as the photographer tried to get some from the front passenger seat, and then we were off. Waving at everyone and grinning manically.

This was when I told Chris the taxi driver didn’t know where he was going and that I’d arrived 20 mins early, which he countered with telling me they’d left the rings behind the first time they left the hotel.. alls well that ends well!

Old year, new year

Yes I’ve been fairly rubbish at updating, yes lots of things have happened. And yes, right now, as much as there is more to life, I can’t help focussing on the fact that three weeks from tomorrow we will be getting married.

This is one year where I’m not looking back thinking about the things I want to change. I’m not sitting on the verge of the new year thinking what I will do differently or hoping to say goodbye to the bad parts of this year. That’s not to say there haven’t been down times and uncertainties, but that there isn’t anything I would wish away or want to forget.

I’m not very good at new years resolutions. To me, the idea of promising myself I will eat healthier, exercise more, pray more regularly or achieve everything I haven’t so far is both a recipe for letting myself down and something which doesn’t need to coincide with New Year. If I was going to be able to do any of those things I would, whether its January 1st or any other time of year! For me, the significance of the date is more to do with being able to look back at everything I’ve done, and look forward to what is to come. I like the idea of the origin of January coming from the god Janus, who looks both backward and forward, embracing the past and the future.

So tonight I will be looking at the past year and giving thanks. To the people who have shared it, to friends and family, new and old. At new life coming and those which have ended, at celebrations of great events and the mundane everyday-ness of normal life. To all of you, you know who you are, thank you. For being part of it all. And I will be looking forward to what will come. New adventures, a new family, and who knows what else? And right now, the wedding is the big thing on the horizon. Understandably, it is probably the biggest thing I have done in my life so far. And I’m so excited 😀

Anyway, before I get too carried away, I wish you all a very happy new year, for this evening and for the year to come. May it bring you all you need, that you will be able to look back at it this time next year with joy and thankfulness.

With thanks for 2010, and looking forward to everything 2011 will bring.

Lakeland adventures

Two weeks ago we went on holiday, for a little break in the Lake District. I love this part of the country, the hills where I cut my hill walking teeth, the most beautiful lakes and pretty slate-built villages nestling amongst them. The way the Lakes seems to have its own language, with pikes and dales, tarns and gills. The hills here are unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere, and even the sunlight seems to have a different quality about it, bathing the landscape in a soft glow which makes me happy just to be a part of it.

Well for this week, that had to be enough, because on day two I woke up with an evil cold which turned out to be something more like flu in disguise. We had a really lovely walk on the first day, climbing Helvellyn via striding edge in the mist and some wind, and losing our way slightly at the start, Chris’ introduction to this ridge was not ideal but we had a great day anyway! Scrambling is fun! However, that was all I was to manage, the day after I could barely walk from the car to the nearest cafe! So the holiday turned into more of a sedate affair, resting in the mornings and then taking trips out in the car, walking to the nearest tea shop, having some nice cake and then going home again. I felt like I’d just aged 60 years! But we still got to wander around some of the nicest little towns, and rest and relaxation was enforced. And even though that was now two weeks ago, I’m only just getting over the thing, which proves that I wasn’t just being a wimp!

In other news, the wedding plans continue apace- about 3 months to go now. We had a fun hour one evening this week looking over the liturgy for the service, working out where the hymns and readings will go and looking at the vows. We’ve known pretty much from the start what hymns we would like to sing, and sorted the readings fairly easily, so we’ve not thought about the service in that much detail. Reading through the declarations and vows made it real in another way. I can’t wait to say them for real.

Changing perspectives

The newest piece of news is that I have been offered a permanent job with Natural England! Each time I’ve thought I might blog this something has changed, either in real terms or at least in our thinking about it, which has complicated things. I applied for two jobs, one where I am now (East region) which I would do from Cambridge still, and one in the South East where I would work from Reading, and in the end the one we have gone for isn’t the one we started off thinking we wanted. Funny how perspectives change.

I was offered the South East job before Christmas, told them I’d think about it, and then interviewed for the other one. Having really disliked the second interview, to the extent that I wasn’t sure I wanted that job anymore, we began re-evaluating our previous assumptions, looking at the logistics again. It’s interesting when something happens that changes your perspective, you see all the possibilities which you were blind to before. When we’d thought about it previously, we had pre-conceived ideas of what would be the best, and therefore saw all the problems with the other. This one small change allowed us to look more carefully a second time, and see that the South East was possible, indeed in some ways preferable.

What was to start with awkward and annoying (that the first interview was for the job I didn’t think I wanted, so I had to wait for the second interview) was actually quite fortunate. When I returned to work I found out I hadn’t been offered the other job anyway, which was fine, I didn’t want it by then. But if I had been told that beforehand, then the South East would have felt like a second best, even if we later saw the positives in it. Or, if I’d been offered both, then we might have stuck with the East region, and not have seen what we had missed. As it is, I’ve never been less upset by being turned down for a job, I’m looking forward to starting the new one and having some new challenges (my current job has stagnated a bit of late) and to moving into a nicer, larger flat with a spare room for visitors! Not so much looking forward to the actual moving bit though!

I don’t start till early March, so I can finish my current contract, and so we have time to find a new place, pack up everything and move across London. At least this time we’re only going down the road in comparison to the last move! One of the big advantages to this move is that we will stay in London and therefore keep the connection to our church which we have begun to feel at home in, and also where we will be getting married (in fact, we’ll end up closer to the reception venue after we’ve moved, which is handy!). This opens up all sorts of cans of worms in terms about wanting to stay versus wanting to leave, how long we need to stay, when and how we want to move away etc etc. But as I keep being told, we can only worry about so much at a time. This doesn’t stop me worrying, but I can at least try!

PS Responses to comments on the previous post will follow, lots more to think about there!

Not just a wedding blog

So I haven’t mentioned anything wedding related so far. I could say it was out of an effort to not turn this blog into a wedding blog. Or that there isn’t anything to report, or that there is but I’m trying to keep it quiet. But none of the above are true, although I am planning to manage the first!

In the… *counts on fingers* nearly 4 months (am I meant to remember that?) that we’ve been engaged the plans have come on apace. We had a good many ideas before the question popping- not the big stuff (as the wedding industry might have you believe) but the bits that to us were important enough that we just ‘knew’- the hymns we wanted, who we wanted to do the service, helpful-type people who we wanted to ‘do stuff’, which traditions to keep and which to ditch (none of the ’honour and obey’ or me being ‘given away’ in that sense), and more or less when (I’ve always wanted a winter wedding, and thankfully Chris doesn’t think this is too crackers to go along with it!).

But once we knew it was actually happening, all the so far unknowns had to become known, and we had the fun task of deciding on the ‘big things’. We made the difficult decision to get married in our church in London, which was far from both our families (mine in particular), but is the first place which has been properly ours, rather than mine or his. The first place we have lived together also has special significance. So now we have the church, and the reception venue booked, which means we have a date (January 2011) and an idea of what the day is going to be like. I now also have a dress, which I have duly begun teasing Chris about with images of meringues and pink and purple stripes! So, in short, by Christmas we had enough sorted to sit back and relax for a bit, knowing that we still have plenty of time to make the difficult decisions like how to cut the list of hymns down to a reasonable number, and what flowers to have (never ask a botanist to choose flowers, very bad idea!).

However, the best comedy moment over Christmas was Chris, when asked how the planning was going by someone at my parents Church, confessing “Well, it’s all kind of on hold at the moment…” Unfortunately we have no idea who this poor person was to explain that that’s not quite what he meant! Oops..

Our first Christmas

Several times over the last couple of weeks I’ve said to myself, ‘I must blog that’ but somehow never quite got around to it. Apparently life is quite busy at the moment. So, even if this isn’t a full on update on everything from the last month(s) that I’ve been away, I thought I had to start somewhere.

A lot of the business the last few weeks seems to have been Christmas related. When you have two families to buy for, who are further away and not so prompt with their requests, you have to start planning early. And then there’s the problem of trying to find something for each other (easier said than done!) and manage to shop separately so there’s some element of surprise. We ended up going our separate ways around department stores, and Chris doing some secretive shopping after work. And thats before we even get around to wrapping or writing Christmas cards!

Christmas this year is feeling very different than it has done before, for many reasons, but due mainly, I think, to the fact of us living together now. Last year was the first year we were together at Christmas, but we were also many hundreds of miles away in the African sun, so it was anything but a ‘normal’ Christmas. This year, we’re going to my parents, then to Chris’, with all the usual Christmas stuff, but together. And there’s the little things, like putting up our joint Christmas cards in our flat, rather than having to divide them between us like we did last year! Yesterday we bought our first Christmas tree! Not a big deal in some ways (Chris helpfully pointed out that in commitment terms it’s not really that permanent..) but in others, it feels like a milestone, that this place we live, while not being what we would like, is home, and more importantly, its ours. One slight issue is that we might have got a wee bit carried away with the size of tree, and it currently appears to be swallowing a bookcase, part of the coffee table and obscuring the TV.. hoorah for Christmas!

The other change to Christmas this year has been thinking about Advent from the point of view of a preacher, and challenging myself to see it differently. There are many aspects of Advent I find particularly meaningful and inspirational, but I can’t preach about these every year! Making myself think about new perspectives on familiar themes is one of the interesting and enjoyable aspects of Local Preaching, and Advent is a season so rich with potential that the whole process is quite exciting. The service I’m working on is this Sunday coming, Advent 3. I might share some thoughts with you once I’ve got them in place.

Engagement!

Continuing the theme of exciting news, Chris and I have got engaged!!! Its been about two weeks now so we’re just about getting used to the idea, and using the ‘e’ word which for the first few days just sounded a little odd.

We went for a weeks holiday to Chris’ parents house in France, and spent the time reading a lot, eating and drinking a fair bit, and doing some walking too. One of these walks Chris took me up a hill (well, kind of a hill, he wasn’t impressed when I said it was more like a bump) and popped the question! Cue lots of grinning and ‘ooh wow is this real’ type comments. Amusing reactions from both sets of parents, finding out we’ve been the subject of at least one sweepstake, and lots of friends squeaking down the phone. As well as a few ‘its about time too’ responses. You know who you are.

Anyway, we’re now fully into the wedding planning stage, where not an evening goes by without thinking about something. Ideas are being discussed, hymns suggested (although we already have a pretty good idea, the problem is going to be keeping the list from getting too long!), and budgets agreed. All in all, an enjoyable and slightly surreal experience. Its another of those events when you step back every now and then and think ‘blimey, is this actually happening?’ When it feels like playing at being a grown-up, like you did when you were in school. But when do you ever not feel that way? I don’t think you do.

Some of you will have known all this already, for which I apologise. But if this blog is about my life and everything, then big events just need to be recorded!

Inertia

Last weekend I was on a course in Yorkshire for the weekend, learning how to identify grasses, being geeky about botany and generally enjoying the outdoors. It was fun, which was no surprise. I always enjoy these courses, the people are friendly, and I love the challenge of learning new things. Spending time with a group of like-minded people, even if I don’t know them to start with, is refreshing, inspiring and strengthening. It reminds me there are other people struggling with the same things I am, working towards the same aims. And also that those that have made it aren’t super-human geniuses but ordinary people like me. I always return feeling like I can get there, and that all these things are possible.

However, when it comes to actually going, to packing my things and leaving home for a few days, I always wish I wasn’t going. It suddenly feels like the worst thing in the world, which this time was a bit harder because instead of just leaving my own flat I was leaving *our* flat, and Chris, for the weekend. Its something that I wish I didn’t have to do, and I’d rather be doing anything else.

But then, if I know its going to be really good when I get there, why is this? I guess its the fear of the unknown. Even if its not a big fear, and its not a big unknown, its still something I can’t anticipate and there’s a part of me which wants to stay with what I know.

Human nature. Its a funny beast.

News

All sorts of other stuff has happened since I last posted, I’ll maybe get around to that some other time. Right now, I have a sermon to write, but I’ve been meaning to post this for about a week..

I’ve spent a fair amount of time hanging about in London since I finished work, partly for the purpose of finding us somewhere to live.. which we now have 😀 😀 😀 After much slogging round the streets of north London wearing myself and the soles of my shoes down, we’ve managed to get ourselves a rather nice little flat in Tufnell Park, in Camden. It would have to be the first one I looked at as well wouldn’t it?! But that aside, its very exciting. Its a lot more spacious than most for the same price range, due to it being an ex-council flat in a not very inspiring large block, but the area is nice, quiet and green, and very close to Hampstead Heath. There were estate agent photos, but I think its been taken off now, but we’ll get some once we’re settled.

Now begins the manic-ness of organising and trying to ship me and all my stuff down the country.. so far we have a van and a merry (or at least willing) group of helpers. This Sunday is my last service in Shrewsbury, so once the sermon-writing is out of the way, the packing shall begin in earnest.

Excitement, madness, occasional panics about practicalities, and just wanting it all to be done, but definately excitement still. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve said ‘one day..’ I don’t think its going to sink in properly till we’re there together surrounded by boxes and realise neither of us is leaving to go home..