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Monday, September 28, 2015

London Life 3

Life got a bit busy quickly and I haven't kept pace with it via the blog. Time to get an update on how things are going on this side of the pond. 
We've had loads of company! For the first four weeks of our being here, we had visitors from Stockholm in church. It was such a treat to see those familiar faces and be in worship with them. A couple of them stayed with us for a few days and it was a joy to get caught up.
We took Tanner back to the vet because his eye was getting worse, not better. They put some weird orange liquid into the eye and it ran out of his nose a neon green color. They think it's a blocked tear duct and gave us some different drops. It's not great. I wish it would just heal.
My cousin and his wife arrived into town last week. They live down the street from us in Desert Hot Springs so it was really fun to see them again. This is their first visit to London so it's been fun watching this world unfold before them. In a stroke of luck, we've had a high pressure system hanging out over London and the sunshine and warmth have been welcome companions after some pretty rainy days.
So what's new? I joined a beginners running club and am curious if I will end up liking running or not. It's a tried and true program and the bonus is getting to see London while out working on my pace. We are mainly running through Regent's Park right now which means loads of beauty surrounding me. We ran past the rose garden last week. Keeps me going especially when it is raining, as it has been the last two outings. (Photos taken on sunny days, not rainy running days!)Always feels good to get done!
We took the tour of Buckingham Palace which was great because it's only open during August and September. No photographs allowed inside but it was a real treat seeing the state rooms and learning about what it takes to put together a big dinner with dignitaries. The grounds, are of course, stunning. 
We've spent some time wandering around, getting our bearings. Friends took me to Carnaby Street which I loved and can't wait to see at Christmas. My cousin's wife landed 4 tickets to Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch and it was something else. The Barbican theater is also a very cool place. It was a memorable and fantastic night.

We found our way to Abbey Road studios and the famed crosswalk. We signed the wall in front of the studio...I quoted a favorite song of The Beatles. Maybe that will still come true one day!
We took the tube to Baker street and found the famed Sherlock Holmes address. The bobby was in good form, guarding the door. 
We finally made it down to Westminster and went to Evensong. It's just so sublime in Westminster Abbey. Rode the number 11 bus down Whitehall Ave, past 10 Downing Street arriving at Trafalgar Square. From there we walked to Covent Garden and grabbed some delicious pub grub. While beer drinkers lined the streets on a beautiful Friday evening, we had the dining room to ourselves. The food was great.

Sharing our new city with family and friends has been a real delight. We are feeling very comfortable with our neighborhood and the bus and tube stops. Tanner enjoys our jaunts over to Primrose Hill and I'm loving online grocery shopping!
The beautiful sunshine and warmth has been a bonus. The day is already longer than Sweden's by now by a long shot. It will be interesting to see how the autumn falls around us as we head toward the European time change at the end of October. Already it doesn't feel as intense as the darkness of Stockholm. If only a high pressure system would just stay in place forever. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tanner's First Visit to the Vet in London

A couple of weeks ago Tanner's left eye began looking a little dodgy. We thought it was a sty that might clear up but the opposite happened and it got worse. So we had to figure out where a good vet would be. Fortunately some folks from church who live close to us made a good recommendation for the Royal Veterinarian Hospital, not too far from where we live. Unfortunately, it was the rainiest day we've had to date in London so dragging the dog out and taking a bus while trying to find a new place was not the easiest thing. Fortunately we were very happy with the reception area of the hospital and everyone was just lovely.
When I made the appointment they requested that we get our records from the Swedish vet. I had to laugh when I read the comments. Tanner is a very lively dog but nice anyway. He can need help being restrained! It was a Swedish and polite way of saying that Tanner is a complete psycho dog when he's here but clearly a sweetheart most of the time!
The new vet and senior vet student were both fantastic. Tanner was OK...a little unsure but overall a good boy. The initial diagnosis is conjunctivitis so I hope the drops they gave us will help. It's looking a bit better but slower healing than I wanted. There are so many new things he's being exposed to that I wonder if there's a plant in our back yard that is aggravating it. He was supposed to wear the cone of shame to prevent him from scratching at it, but it's hard to make him wear it. I suppose we should be more vigilant about it. we left the office, it was chucking down buckets of rain. We waited for the bus for a long time but when it finally arrived it was packed and there was no way we were going to try to squeeze into that crowd with a 42 kilo wet dog! So we decided to start walking and hope to catch a different bus or hail a cab. We were highly unsuccessful getting a cab but we eventually found a bus. Fortunately it was not too crowded and we had a fairly calm ride home. We were happy to discover that our rain coats from LLBean kept even this horrible rain out so we feel duly prepared for anything London will throw at us!
Tanner does our garden and enjoys being outside so much. I truly hope there isn't something out there that is causing him trouble.
Tanner has found a new throne upon which to rest when indoors. He doesn't behave any differently and still has his usual energy so hopefully this too shall pass without facing a more difficult diagnosis.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Enjoying A Bank Holiday

Monday was a bank holiday here in London so we took advantage of an invitation to join a family in visiting the Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre. Always good to get out and see another part of this vast and interesting city. The views of the London Eye and Parliament were quite spectacular from our vantage point. Unfortunately it was pouring buckets of water but I guess that's standard for the August bank holiday.
The exhibition was by Carsten Höller, a Belgian artist who has lived in Stockholm. It was entitled Decision and we had some trouble deciding if we understood what he was trying to do! Definitely modern and ethereal, we enjoyed goofing around and interacting with the various exhibits. A nod to Sweden could be seen in the upside down white and red polka dotted mushrooms that graced one of the rooms. We've seen the real thing in Stockholm! The highlight was the manner in which we exited the museum...via a giant slide! Our screams could be heard for miles around and a good time was had by all on the way down.
Southbank Centre is a fun spot with loads of food vendors serving up delicious delights. My pork sandwich was one of the tastiest things I've ever had. I had a good chat with the curry guy as well who was fascinated by the fact that we'd left sunny California for rainy London. There is more to life than weather...says the girl who is rather weather-affected!
Later that day we joined a family who we knew from Stockholm and now live about a 15 minute walk from us here in London! It was a joy to be in their home, get caught up on each other's lives, hear about their life in London, and re-connect with ease. It was as if very little time had passed since we'd last seen them and that is a real gift.
It had quit raining by the time we were walking home in the evening. We had enjoyed a full day in the company of good friends. What more could you ask for on a holiday?

Monday, August 31, 2015

A New Start

Yesterday, Sunday, 30 August, Doug and I officially began our ministry as interim ministers of the American International Church in London. It was a great day for us, and we hope the church too, as we stepped into this new and exciting role.
Saturday was a funny day for us as we anticipated our first Sunday. It has been 8 months since we last led a worship service so we were both filled with some nervous excitement that we had not felt in years! It was good to start to feel this rhythm again, of preparing for Sunday and getting ready to enter into worship with a church community that we would now be journeying with over the next several months.
New to us in this setting is commuting to church via public transportation. The bus route was quiet and easy and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Our associate and a host of volunteers had things well in hand and it was a delight to watch the moving pieces of a church community working together towards readying the church for a morning of worship. 
We were both thankful that we had attended church the previous week and also for the lovely gathering that the council held for us on the previous Thursday. These two events had allowed us to begin to meet people, put names and faces together and give us a sense of belonging early on in the process. 
An added bonus to our first Sunday at AIC was that two families who had worshipped at Immanuel in Stockholm were present with us. One, a couple from Germany, who happened to be in town for business and came a bit early to participate in our first service, and the other a family who had relocated to London about a year and a half ago, who actually live near us in London! What fun to see those familiar faces in the congregation.
It was good to worship together, to hear Doug preach, to lead in prayer, and to be so warmly welcomed. The ministry feels exciting to us and we remain humbled and blessed to be a part of this community for however long this season lasts.
After church, a group ventured over to a local Italian restaurant, and we enjoyed some warm conversation and laughter.
It feels genuinely good to be plugging into a church again. There were some feelings of adjustment as we started anew and yet, there is a deep familiarity with our roles as pastors that feels good to awaken. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

London Life (2)

It's been almost a week since my last post. And a few days since we've seen as much sunshine as in this photo! That's the back of our house from our lovely garden. Tanner definitely loves it.

The posting was delayed in part due to the fact that whilst attempting to improve our internet quality at home, I managed to completely screw up the router so now it doesn't work at all. That means data only through our phones at home and therefore, not much time on the computer! A new router is coming tomorrow with brand new service starting in early September so hopefully our sluggish internet issues will be a thing of the past!

Life continues to move forward.
We have a bank account after 5 trips to the bank! (applause)
We have applied and interviewed for our National Insurance Cards! (applause)
We have successfully navigated the public transportation system in various directions! (applause)
Well, you get the picture. Lots of applause and patting ourselves on the back.

We attended the worship service at the American International church on Sunday and the welcome was warm and embracing. This week Doug will preach and it marks our first official Sunday as pastors of the church. We've been busy with meeting folks, getting our office set up (sharing a room, but not desks!), and gaining familiarity with the staff and environment of the church. Tonight we're having dinner with the chair of the church and the chair of the search committee. Tomorrow night is a dinner at a council member's home for council and their spouses. Looking forward to continuing to put names and faces together and starting this great journey of ministry together.

Tanner continues to adjust well although he is aging a bit. We've been up to The Heath, as Hampstead Heath is affectionately named and are dazzled by the beautiful wide open space so close to our home. The views of the city are also quite spectacular. Tanner loves running wild up there and of course, managed to find a bit of a mud hole last week! He does wear himself out however, not fully understanding when to give it a rest. Once home, he pretty much collapses!

No shows on the schedule this week but we continue to list the entertaining things we are interested in doing. There is no shortage. We ventured through Camden market last Saturday. CRAZY CROWDED. Camden is quite interesting with a sub-culture all of its own. Gigantic signs and sculptures adorn many of the buildings and various and sundry items are for sale. Doug and I thought we might pick up some new clergy attire at this stall. 

The neighborhood pub is quite nice, with a large outdoor seating area. We enjoyed an English cider and a Belgian beer along with chips and malt vinegar one evening. 

We've had loads of sunshine and even some very hot weather along with our fair share of rain. Got caught in the rain again...bought a couple of cheap pocket umbrellas and hopefully one of these days we will learn! I've got good clothing and shoes for the climate, but one must remember to wear them or bring them along in order for them to be any good!

Tanner continues to enjoy riding the bus or the tube with us. He's always happy to join the fun, no matter where we are heading. And he is sleeping just fine in the guest bed, except overnight, when he hogs the king size bed downstairs that he shares (begrudgingly) with us. 

Some simple observations thus far:
English cheddar cheese is awesome.
Having a good hair day is overrated in a wet climate.
The tube and the busses become saunas on wet, warmish days. The transition from a dry desert climate to a wet, humid, urban island climate means damp is the new normal. Takes some adjusting for sure.
The British really do have a crazy and wonderful sense of humor. And they love their quiz shows! Which is good for us because we like humor and quiz shows!
Doug thinks my attempts at a British accent are horrible and that is why he is the only one who is hearing them thus far.
Obviously, we are loving it!