Annie and Ben are coming to visit over Christmas and New Year’s. WOOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!
Amongst the very few wedding presents that we were able to take with us to London were a pair of beautiful umbrellas from The Bay, thoughtfully given to us by Imelda and David (themselves newlyweds! Hurray!).
This turned out to be a smart move: We quickly discovered that London’s rainy reputation is well-earned. So, I’ve now added to my leaving-the-house bare essentials list of “wallet/cell/keys” (does anyone else rhyme this off in their head before heading out the door??) the London absolute essential of an umbrella.
This is probably the best-quality umbrella I’ve ever owned. It is compact yet sturdy, feels solid in your hand and has never once made me worry that it might flip inside out. Its stripey, bold pattern brightens gloomy days (sometimes I feel like I’m sending a secret signal to other Canadians and glance around to see if anyone appears particularly interested in my umbrella) and puts a spring in my step whenever I use it. Allan, who has never owned an umbrella in his life raves about how much he loves it, and I’ve always secretly loved that we own matching umbrellas.
This evening when we returned home from a fantastic dinner with my Aunt Alyson I reached around the side of my backpack to put my umbrella away when I discovered that it was missing. A frantic search around the flat, back out the door, down the elevator, through the courtyard and out to the front entrance of our building proved fruitless. I was inconsolable.
Allan thinks that the umbrella slipped out of my backpack’s side pocket without me noticing. I can’t help but take the more cynical and pessimistic view that it was opportunistically snatched up as we were walking down a busy street or exiting a Tube station (which, of course, is a bit ridiculous. But a classmate of mine sheepishly admitted that he keeps worrying people are going to kidnap his baby because he’s so darn cute – even though my classmate used to believe people who thought this way were crazy – and I feel the same about my awesome umbrella).
Allan tries to make me feel better by reminding me it’s just an umbrella, there’s nothing to be done about it, and we can buy another one and he’s right, it’s an umbrella for crying out loud. But whenever I used it I thought of: Allan, our wedding, Canada, good friends, home. My days will be a bit damper without it.
Of course, the Brits don’t celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving but we still found many ways to be convivial this past weekend. Saturday found us heading out the door as tourists again, hitting Oxford Street early in the morning to find a jacket for Allan and slippers for me, then wandering over to Chinatown for a bite and groceries before making our way to Leicester Square and then home. Saturday night however, we did something decidedly untouristy: we finally finished settling in. We’d been in our flat about three weeks by that point and despite chipping away at cleaning and unpacking, our living room was still not very functional. The biggest problem was that the floor was completely dominated by parts of an Ikea shelf that we had bought for about £10 and then been unable to assemble because we refused to pay another £8 to buy a wrench to put it together. After asking around for a week to various floormates for a wrench to borrow to no avail, Allan posted a Facebook message to our entire residence and within hours a nice man in another building offered us not one but three tools to put our shelf together.
It’s amazing how little it takes for a house to feel like a home, but it’s a very conspicuous feeling. With the shelf put together we could finally move it into the bedroom, organize our belongings onto it, clean out the rest of the living room and start actually living in that room. We also put up the hooks that we had finally been able to buy after days of them being out of stock and were able to hang up the clutter that had accumulated around the flat. And after three weeks of longing for comfy footwear I slid my feet into my new slippers and suddenly I was home.
On Sunday morning we accompanied our friends Jenn and Stephen and their little one Emma to a beautiful Anglican (very) High Church in London complete with robes, ringing bells, incense, and choral singing in Latin. During the announcement time the priest very solemnly told us that a congregation member had been visiting female prisons in Africa where the women had reported a serious need for clean undergarments and would we be able to donate to the cause? After the service we saw this by the door:
We spent the rest of Sunday eating Thanksgiving dinner with various groups of Canadians, including a residence-wide gathering during which time we were instructed to, groan, share about something we were thankful for. I mumbled something lame about not having to work this year and getting to be a student instead. But when Allan’s turn came up, he stood up and, to much cheering and clapping, announced that we had been married for just over a month. He shared that he was thankful that after months of planning and organizing and dreaming and waiting, that we were finally here and that we were settled.
There were many raised glasses and cries of “Hear hear!” but as Allan grinned and sat down we exchanged a look of understanding of just how deeply that comment went. I distinctly remember a conversation that Allan and I had last summer just a few months after we started dating where I had raised the then-far-fetched idea of studying in London and Allan joked about how awesome it would be if he moved to London and studied too. And for just a brief moment we were both overcome by excitement about that possibility before coming back to the reality of our still-fragile relationship and our firmly-established lives in Canada. That conversation happened just over a year ago but it’s been a long journey from then to here, with months spent figuring out where I would go to school, then getting engaged, Allan applying to school, Allan being accepted to school, sorting out students visas, wrapping up our jobs, planning a wedding, getting married and moving to London. At almost every step of the process there were doubts about whether things would work out as we hoped. It seems too good to be true but we are here, we are married, we are studying and the honey year has begun. We are thankful indeed.
In the last month we: