It is one month and one week ago we realised we weren’t going to fly to our new life in California on time, because the kids’ visas had been inexplicably denied. And a week of camping in our dusty, empty Walthamstow home, a week of cursing the Christmas closure of all the best takeaway pizza places, later that we finally took to the skies to begin a new chapter in Los Angeles.
A month we have now been here, camping in another hilltop home, slowly accruing furniture and new ways of life. This weekend our shipment of things arrives from its eight week ocean odyssey. I can’t think of what I have missed beyond EVERYTHING in my kitchen. I can’t wait to bake and make and fill my jars with flours and luxuriate in the use of more than one saucepan. Can’t wait to invite people for lunches and suppers. It’s been weeks we’ve had no television, and I’ve read so many books, but I am looking forward to vegetating in front of it again…if we ever buy a sofa.
A month’s worth of observations on our new home town. The biggest is how much there is of everything. There is often too much. I feel guilty at the supermarket, as though I’m condoning the colossal waste implicit in shopping there. Each Whole Foods - and I am never more than ten minutes from one - has enormous fish and meat counters boasting multiple octopus and massive crab legs, twenty different kinds of bacon, every cut of meat known to man, salmon marinated and smoked a hundred ways. A sushi bar, a taco bar, a deli. But these shops are never very full, so much must go to waste. Is it a sort of entitlement just having it there to gawp at?
Nowhere is full and there are never crowds or queues, which is relaxing and disconcerting all at once. I’m so used to being in a rush and a line and jostling for space. The traffic hasn’t ruined our lives yet, as we have the luxury of mostly travelling outside rush hour. The anxious parking panic that riddles driving in London with anxiety for me is gone here, there’s always space and it’s often free. Although I can potter to a few local places on foot, I miss having a neighbourhood where everyone walks everywhere and you therefore see and know each other. I miss the corner shop where I could grab a forgotten bulb of garlic on the school run. We are walking the 15 minutes to school and back here, but barely seeing a soul beyond gardeners and bees. So many magical and sweet smelling trees though!
School has been the most amazing change, having spent years unhappy with their London school and watching especially Pablo come out miserable and crushed each day. They are very in love with their new school. There seems in the culture here a much greater appreciation of the experience of childhood. School wants the children to enjoy learning, and there are so many wonderful resources. We have already had, despite a week-long teacher’s strike, an amazing school play by Pablo’s class about Harriet Tubman, with brilliant costumes and a set made of freedom quilt squares the children designed themselves. Indy and Pablo both starting after school Rock Band club living out their School of Rock dreams, and culminating in a performance at a Hollywood club next term. The club is sponsored by actual Slash. Glowing reports of doing actual experiments in an actual science lab once a week, as well as weekly art and music which was so depressingly missing in the UK. No uniform and so much time outdoors is another upside, whereas nightly homework for Pablo is a big downer. Parents take a massive interest in school and their children generally, with constant fund raisers and volunteering, as well as so many incredible sounding camps involving nature hikes, art… School starts and finishes an hour earlier so it doesn’t feel like I never see them anymore, which is another dream come true.
Of course we miss London very much, especially our lovely family and friends, Friday after school whines over wine and pizza whilst the kids go wild. Feeling grateful so far that so many have already booked to come and visit. We have space and will soon have the crockery to be able to feed you! Our new community has been so very welcoming, friends both new and old, and we have been invited to parties and suppers and fed and introduced to so many great people and places. When our bed was inexplicably delivered to the wrong street by a dopey FedEx driver, the elderly couple upon whose lawn it was dumped drove it over and insisted I not help at all as they lugged it into the house. We took them flowers the next afternoon and were greeted at the door by Mary with a parrot sat on her shoulder, which made the children very happy. A week later during a torrential downpour Mary appeared on our doorstep in a big glistening mac with flashlights and a radio as the power had gone out. So very sweet and thoughtful.
Weather has been half dreamy and half nightmarish, with a couple of weeks so far of absolutely torrential rain. Rain so hard it runs like rivers down the streets, filling our boots as we run for the car, and thunder so violent the house shook. A few spectacular rainbows glimpsed have been a treat but we are secretly hoping for more dry days. Of course we know the rain is desperately needed here so we can’t be too vocal in complaint, though “this NEVER happens here” does prompt an eye roll or a hard stare. Warm days we can spend sledding down sand dunes or gazing at the sunset over the ocean. Lovely beach parties into the evening, big new parks to explore. Secretly can’t wait for it to be “too hot” for a bit.