Monday, 24 March 2008

I don't think we are in Kansas anymore, Toto

You can tell you are not in Brisbane anymore when…

- you go for a walk on Saturday morning to buy a newspaper from Tesco’s and there are 8 different newspapers to choose from

- the newspaper you choose features a CD on ‘The Great Poets’ and the previous week a different newspaper had one with ‘Great Poets of the 20th Century’

- on the way home again, it snows.

The forecast for Easter tells us that there is going to be snow up and down the country. Perhaps this explains why yesterday there were 482 000 people flew out of Britain (as part of a total of 2 000 000 leaving over the Easter weekend). There wasn’t enough snow this morning to gather on the ground but some of the flakes were quite large and the wind was bitterly cold.

Because we are going to be spending this first weekend of the Easter break at home (largely for financial reasons) this email will deal with more of our everyday life. During the week we have evolved a routine which involves everyone getting up, showered and dressed by 7:30am. Wayne either drives to school for an 8am start and the boys catch a bus to Sheredes at 8:03am or, if Meg is having the car, she drops Wayne at Hailey Hall prior to 8am and then heads back to drop the boys at school around 8:15am. The boys finish school at 3:15pm on Mondays to Thursdays and 3pm on Fridays, while the students leave Hailey Hall at 2:30pm on Fridays and 3:30pm the remainder of the week. However, every afternoon Wayne has staff meetings which can finish by 4pm but sometimes go as late as 6:30pm (depending on what sort of day it has been, and what sort of training etc. might be taking place).

If you Google our house you will see that we back onto the Marriott Hotel and a group of industrial offices, however the fenceline has trees and hedges so that it feels like we are looking out on to a small patch of woodland. If Meg is at home during the day she opens the curtains onto the backyard and watches ‘the nature channel’, as she calls it. This frequently features a grey squirrel (that we have named ‘Larry’) who frolics through the branches of the trees. Soon we plan to dig a hole under the fence so that hedgehogs can come under to visit us. Meg has even bought cat food to put out for them. The beautiful sunny weather that we have had (even today, in between patches of snow and rain there are bursts of glorious sunshine) light up the back garden and the crocuses and daffodils which grow in clumps among the grass. Birdlife includes pigeons, sparrows, thrushes, robins, tits, and the odd Canadian Goose. These geese can be seen, along with the ducks, up at the canal which runs between the western side of the housing complex and the A10 (the major road which runs near where we live).

Hailey Hall is a small group of buildings surrounded by woods and parklands. The school has a main oval and a hard court area, plus a swimming pool, greenhouse and various sheds and other facilities. There is a river which runs through it on which live 24 ducks that have just started to pair off and nest in various parts of the school. There are squirrels amongst the trees, as well as badgers, hedgehogs and stoats (or weasels, Wayne hasn’t got close enough to be sure) in the woodland which lies on the northern border of the school property. Wayne’s favourite time of the week is Wednesday morning when he does outside playground duty around the river and the oval. Very few students are out there (they are mostly inside eating breakfast) and he loves watching the ducks and other birdlife, or laughing at the squirrels as they run around the base of the trees. It is a very peaceful surrounding for what can be a quite tempestuous place inside.

Just a minute or so north of Sheredes, and a few minutes drive south of Hailey Hall is the town centre of Hoddesdon. Our afternoons often involve Meg meeting the boys there after school at the Hoddesdon library and Wayne walks down after his staff meeting has finished. Some of Quinn’s friends regularly meet under the clock tower at the northern end of the mall, but generally we take the opportunity to use the internet. We only received a home phone line on Thursday this week (thanks to Meg’s persistence in calling British Telecom over and over again) and the internet is due to be available at home next Thursday. Hoddesdon also has a Post Office, various bank branches, clothes shops, numerous pubs, and branches of most of the major supermarket chains. It also has cafes and takeaway stores, but we have rapidly discovered (much to Wayne’s dismay) that pizza is not worth purchasing. It is not that the pizza tastes particularly bad, but that it is hideously expensive. One large takeaway pizza (without discount vouchers) costs £15 (the equivalent of $37.50 in Australia) so pizza has largely disappeared from our diet.

Hoddesdon has a significant history, although much of what made it up has gone. The clock tower that Quinn’s friends meet under dates back to 1835 although the bell within it came from the chapel which originally stood on the site and dates back to the 16th Century. Sadly, there is a hideous 1970’s tower block which dominates the town. However, Rawdon House (which has housed offices since 1975) dates back to 1622 and was a nunnery at the turn of the 20th Century. Even the Anglican church is a relatively recent one, only dating back to 1864.

We hope you all have a happy Easter

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