Author Archives: ShannonRaelynn

About ShannonRaelynn

I am a Canadian writer living in the middle of Nowhere, Alberta, in a house in the country, with my husband, youngest daughter, and an assortment of dogs. I love books! I love to write them and I love to read them.

I am scared.

I am in England right now and the other night as we walked home from dinner a passing glance in a pub window made me stop. A news program was showing scenes of police and ambulances. I knew something bad had happened somewhere in the world.

I avoid the news. Years ago I realized that the news is less a source of information, and more in the business of capturing our attention, to commodify and sell the harrowing and gory details of tragedy. Reading or watching the news leaves me feeling hopeless, helpless, and angry, all emotions I’d rather avoid. It’s not that I don’t care about the troubles of the world. I do feel a strong responsibility to keep myself educated and informed, but I do not feel that consuming large amounts of daily tragedy is the best way. I prefer to find a way to take action, or at the very least, I try to gather information from multiple sources.

Sometimes the news can’t be avoided. Last winter while I was in England, the Charlie Hebdo attack occurred. Here I am again in England, and once again Paris is under attack. Tonight I am supposed to do something that many people in Paris were killed for doing, I am attending a music concert. In two nights I am supposed to do something else people in Paris were killed for doing, going to a soccer game. I’ll be watching the same team, France, who was playing, while outside their stadium a suicide bomber detonated a device. While I am certain there will be increased surveillance and security, and I understand that this is England and not France, I am not mollified. I am terrified.

My immediate thought was “I’m not going.”

I want to stay where it is safe. I want to remain alive. I am not certain I love Frank Turner’s music enough to die for it. I certainly do not love soccer/football enough to risk my life, (even if is a small risk). Many people are saying we need to stand resolute and defiant in the face of terrorism. I think it’s a great sentiment until one is forced to face it. It’s all fine and dandy to say these words across the ocean, in the safety of Canada, but when the decision is staring one in the face, it’s not so easy. I have a gazillion reasons to stay home.

I have one single reason to go.

When the flood of refugees poured out of Syria, I expressed frustration. “If these are truly the good people why did they not stay and fight? Why are they running rather than trying to change their country?”

I think I have my answer. I am faced with only the slightest possibility of coming face to face with murderous terrorists and I want to avoid… I want to run. These people were faced with actual beheadings, amputations, public executions, forced military enslavement, and many other acts of violence. It’s so much easier to ask others to be courageous and brave while we get to sit in safety as smug armchair critics.

In June of next year, I have a trip to France planned to watch three European Championship football games. Tonight I have a concert. In two nights I can watch England versus France, at Wembley Stadium. It is more likely than not, that I will be facing anxiety rather than violence, should I choose to do any or all of these events. I will probably be safe but there are no guarantees. I know rationally that death and violence can come at any time from many directions, not just terrorists. I also know from watching the news that violence is occurring nearby. England could very well have terror cells lurking too.

I have always know the world has evil. Human beings determined to destroy other human beings is my definition of evil. I want us all to work against evil. I want to be strong in the face of evil. I also want to live. I want to keep living the life that I love so much. Most of all, I want to live in a world where people learn to stop fucking harming each other.

Wisdom is out there…

In my last post I explained that I want to use my blog to change the world. Before we can even consider impacting the world we must be able to change ourselves.

The strangest phenomena for me to witness is someone I know struggling with an issue, immersed in pain, completely miserable and doing nothing about it. When I have a problem I cannot solve, when I am lacking, when I can’t accomplish a goal, or when I am experiencing some sort of pain, I want to end this experience.  I also understand I am doing something wrong and something has to change.

I get curious. I start searching.

One thing I know for certain is whatever I am struggling with, someone out there has already has answers, solutions, and experience I am lacking. We enter the world helpless and needing years of nurturing and training simply to survive. If we don’t learn at some point we won’t live. Learning is a necessity. However life isn’t just about keeping my body and brain existing. There is something within humanity that seeks to be more than just an eating, sleeping, reproducing and surviving organism. We create, we connect, we love, and we change. We conquer new vistas, we explore the unknown, and we overcome challenges. We define the impossible and immediately begin to make it possible.

Human evolution is constant. This is a cause for celebration because life is hard. We are at the mercy of many things that can impact, alter, or even end our lives. The world is also filled with opportunities to stabilize and secure our experience, to enhance enjoyment and mitigate problems, to quell and avoid pain, and to even lengthen our lives. Simply stated, I see wisdom as acquired experience, knowledge, and practises that when adopted, generate improvement, and can be duplicated by others.

Wisdom is everywhere. It’s in books, and on radios. It’s in blogs and movies, and songs. You can discover it in late night chats around a campfire, or in classes being given by professionals. The internet is largely a storage warehouse for other people’s wisdom (but beware they store their junk there too). When I look I can always find people who have expertise or experience they are willing to share. I look for evidence that they have successfully overcome whatever issue I am struggling with. Once I am certain that they are happier, healthier, and more successful than me, instead of getting envious I get excited. I get curious. I get ready to watch, listen and to learn.

Today, if you can’t find the answers you are looking for you aren’t looking hard enough. The world is at our fingertips, and it is filled with people who are willing to share what they have learned. Too often we allow laziness, mistrust, insecurity and fear to hold us back from evolving. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. People are champions at this behavior, but we are also champions of doing something different, of stepping outside of the box, of climbing to new heights and becoming more than we imagine we can be. To be different we must do different. You can’t just hear advice you have to try it. You need to experiment. If it doesn’t work you try it again. If it still doesn’t work, try something else.

Wisdom is out there, you simply have to seek it.  Are you interested?

Ahem… I am announcing that I want to change the world!

That sounds both pretentious and naively optimistic. Is this feat possible?  Can I change the world?

In the middle of a very intense discussion I was having with one of my best girlfriends, about things we didn’t like in the world, I had an epiphany. It was one of those realizations you feel sheepishly embarrassed you did not have sooner, the kind as glaringly obvious as a moose on a white winter road. This blog, the one you are currently reading, had been abandoned. I left it sitting and starving in the background of my thoughts where it begged continuously for nourishment and attention, demanding to be fed or put to death.

Suddenly, in the middle of agreeing with my girlfriend about everything that was wrong with the world I was struck by the thought “I should be blogging about the thing I am most passionate about”. Yes, I know. For a sharp edge I can be a little dull at times, and ironically what I am most passionate about is learning.

I’m a lusty seeker of wisdom. I’m insatiable when it comes to gathering knowledge. People, places, things, and experiences are all selected, inspected, and dissected for bits of truth, new skills, or information that can challenge and change my life.  I devour an endless stream of books especially memoirs and autobiographies. I am a greedy guzzler of blogs, “how to” manuals and self-help books on everything from writing, finances, relationships, parenting, sexuality, and pretty much anything else related to living better or understanding the human condition.

When I was much younger, I began this quest because I was unhappy in my life. I was dissatisfied. That isn’t how I would describe myself any longer. So why do I continue? There is always room for improvement. Not sure where that bit of wisdom came from, but the remembered voice is an exact match to my Grade 10 math teacher.

My blog began as a vehicle to promote my novel and talk about writing, then I used it to blog about a winter stay in England, and now like it’s creator, this blog is undergoing yet another metamorphosis. I’m turning this space into a place that I can store all the little lessons I have accumulated and learned over the years. I am writing about personal evolution.

I love to learn and I love to grow. I want to make my life a better place to live. Nestled deeply inside this desire is a hope that in making my life a better place to live I might have a small impact on the people and therefore the world around me.

It’s a pretentious idea, but sweet, too, I think. I have no idea if I can change the world, but I know I can change my life. I did it by learning and gathering wisdom other people shared. Little of anything I will write about is original. I will try my best to remember who I got the lesson from, but many of these bits and pieces, were gathered and woven into me so long ago I don’t remember from whence they came.  Most everything I have been taught, came to my teachers by way of another. I can’t always promise to post weekly but with more than 40 odd years of wisdom collected it should take a while to run out of material.

My next post, will be about “getting wise”.

It’s Time To Go

Four and a half months have gone by so fast.

I wanted to take a moment to update my blog before I go. Sadly it’s been weeks since I posted anything, because we have been so busy. Lyric has been a bit behind in her studies so we had to catch up. I have also been helping our host Craig sell his current home and shop for another. Plus we snuck in one last trip to Kingswear and stayed in the cute little coastal village which is just a five minute ferry ride across the river Dart from Dartmouth.

I had hoped to post about my family’s experiences exploring London and Edinburg but I just never got to it. London was a blur! We hit the highlights with the help of the double decker red bus tours. You can get on and off and see just about everything you need to see. Big Ben, Westminster, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, The Globe Theatre, Trafalgar Square… the list goes on and on. We saw “Stomp” In the theatre district, and did a Jack the Ripper walking tour, and had one night in playing cards.

I know everyone enjoyed the Gothic creepiness of Edinburgh. We did a tour of the haunted catacombs, ate at a fabulous restaurant next to the castle, called “The Witchery”, and walked the streets exploring. Then we stopped in York before returning to Warwick. The problem with a great deal of sightseeing is overload. We tried to balance hitting the big sights along with time together relaxing. I sent my family home with a pretty good taste of England but there is still tons to see.

I have barely scratched the surface in the four and a half months. I have seen almost every coast except the far north. I had planned a weekend to Inverness where my ancestors came from, but that will have to wait for the next trip. I have hit the major sights and locals, London, York, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Warwick, and many little towns and villages along the way.

Now it is time to reflect on the past few months, on my experience and the changes within me. I have learned a great deal about myself on this trip. I have always considered myself a country girl from Alberta but I was very comfortable living in an urban environment again. I liked the convenience of having a gym, stores, and top quality cultural activities very close and accessible.

Connecting to the natural world is very important to me and I had plenty of opportunities for that here. We were constantly driving through the beautiful country sides with green rolling hills and sheep and cows everywhere. There are plenty of green spaces and parks. Spring is a long season, and I really enjoyed English spring. Everything is so beautifully landscaped. A walk around the estate is a feast for the eyes and the nose. Everywhere you look there are daffodils, tulips, roses and trees hanging with big blossoms.

We didn’t make loads of new friendships, Lyric especially found it difficult to meet children her own age. The people we did meet, especially Craig’s family and friends, were incredibly warm and welcoming. I can’t wait to return and have a proper visit with Frank and June, and to have another drink with Martin at whatever pub is the new favorite.

Leaving my life behind has helped me develop even more independence and self-reliance than I had before, but it also has taught me the value of my relationships and connections. I have really had to learn to communicate better. Living with someone you have never lived with before can be a challenging experience, and I realized my greatest difficulty is in not speaking up and asking for what I want and need. There are more lessons learned personally than I can catalogue. I knew this was going to be a once in life time experience, and I knew it would change me, but I don’t think I could have guessed how much. I don’t feel like an entirely different person going home, but I am, for certain, not the same.

I am so grateful to so many people, Tania and Stephan for housesitting, Tanya and Real for assisting Tania when things went wrong in the house, and Sara and Jeremy, for helping out too and coming to see us. I am grateful to all of Lyric’s friends for staying connected with her while we were gone. I am grateful to mine as well for staying in touch with me too while I was away, Suzanne, Tanya, Janet, Sandy, John, Cecile and Monique. I didn’t experience homesickness the way I expected and I think it is because my friends didn’t seem so far away.

I am very grateful to Denis for all his support. You are an incredible husband. Thank you so much for allowing me to go adventuring. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I love that we now have the shared the experience of living abroad.

Lyric, my babe, I will never, ever forget what a great little trooper and adventurer you turned out to be. So many children your age would have had such a difficult time and you were astounding. It was a big request to make and you agreed and I will never forget your sacrifice so we could have this experience. I know it was hard leaving your friends, family, home and pooches, but you were a willing spirit, and you kept an open mind. I know not everything here was a brilliant experience but you handled it all graciously, sweetly, and with an open heart and an open mind. You were as much a Viking adventurer as your dad, and your ancestors. I am very proud of you and I am very, very grateful to have had you with me.

Finally, I have to say thank you to Craig. You have changed my life. I will never ever look at the world quite the same way again. I will return home, as you said, with a new found appreciation for all the differences. Your patience, guidance, and hospitality were beautiful gifts. You let two forces of chaos into your house, and with the warmest hospitality, let us take over, and make your home our home. I am certain that is why I never had homesickness.

You know England so well you were the best tour guide anyone could ask for. It was worth sitting through Saturday soccer games just to have the benefit of your expertise. Seriously though, thank you so much for some of the coolest experiences. This is by no means a complete list but some of my favorite moments were getting all dressed up to go to the theatre to see “Momma Mia”, shopping for the ingredients and then enjoying our picnic at Dartmouth, sitting amongst 83,000 people watching England vs Lithuania, and our weekly visits to the Punchbowl Pub to have a drink with Martin. I especially loved helping you house shop… it was like being on House Hunters International. Like you I will also say York is one of my favorite cities. My first sight of York Minster was awesome. I will never forget that moment. Last but not least, I enjoyed every trip to London. I know why it is one of the greatest cities on the planet. I walked around with my mouth hanging open.

So thank you very much Craig, for making a home for me in England, that I can return to again and again, and I can’t wait for you to come back to Canada so we can continue to show you how great life in the colonies can be!

Warwick Castle, Stonehenge and Driving

It’s late Monday morning and for the first time in a little over two weeks, I have a moment to myself. The house is quiet and Lyric is still asleep. My husband Denis along with Sara and Jeremy (my daughter and her husband) left back to Canada on Saturday. Sunday was busy and so this is the first chance I get to reflect back on playing UK tour guide for my family.

It was great to see familiar faces after being lost in a country filled with unfamiliar ones. Sara and Jeremy came a few days ahead of Denis which was smart because they had jet lag to contend with. Denis arrived from Africa, working in almost the time zone as England so we didn’t give him any time to adjust. He landed and hit the ground running.

On the way from the airport Craig drove to Warwick via Oxford so we could stop at a small village called Great Tew.

Denis Checking out the thatched roofs in Great Tew

Denis Checking out the thatched roofs in Great Tew

Having a drink in an honest-to-God English pub, has long been a bucket list item for Denis, and Craig enjoyed buying it for him. The two of them had huge smiles as they walked up to the bar scoped out their selections, placed their orders, and waited to clink glasses and drink deeply. It was a great old pub, with low ceilings, a crackling fireplace, and plenty of ales to choose from but I was suffering from a cold and wasn’t charmed. I tried to not let my fever and runny nose get in the way of their fun.

After a quick pint we picked up the kids and explored Warwick Castle. I’ve seen a few castles now and I have to say the most impressive is Warwick so far. It is massive and the signs of what must have been obscene wealth are still visible.

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We did the dungeon tour so in addition to getting some scary thrills we got a small taste of the history behind the castle. Stories of plague and torture, war and famine were delivered by great actors, who dragged us all into the fun. Lyric stood accused of being a 42 year-old French man in disguise. She denied all charges and she hammed it up by delivering her responses in an authentic French accent. Denis sat in a torture chair as an actor explained to us how the various implements would be used… on him. I got put behind a back lit curtain and had my head bashed in, by a nurse demonstrating how some of the castles occupants would be eliminated. It was a wet and cold day but it was a fun first activity for us to do together.

Our next activity began with picking up a rental car. We had decided to make the nearly three hour drive south of Warwick to the Salisbury Plains home of Stonehenge. Denis drove and I navigated. Upon reflection I am relieved to say the driving could have been worse but it was still a bit stressful for both Denis and I. He was driving a standard, sitting in the opposite side of the vehicle than he was used to, driving on the wrong side of roads he had never seen before. I was negotiating Google maps, an atlas, as well as reading the signs and directing Denis as to the lanes he needed to be in. He is a skilled driver and I am very good at navigating. However Denis would drive faster than my Google maps could catch up. Other times he made executive decisions to turn off instead of circling the roundabouts, resulting in 17 mile extension to our trip of not so scenic motorway. I compounded the stress by pointing for him to turn in directions, instead of telling him which direction to turn. This was not smart considering he needed to keep his eyes on the road. Even worse sometimes my brain and my finger were disjointed and I would point one direction and speak the other.

The sudden bursts of snarling and snapping from the front seat probably made the ride a little stressful for the passengers but they could escape into sleep or Iphones. Denis and I were firmly trapped in our seats. Jeremy did a short stint but he and Sara were prohibited from doing more because of the size of our vehicles and their age. I refrained from driving as well because of the manual transmission. It’s been twenty one years since I drove standard, and I believe England isn’t the place for me to refresh those dusty old skills.

Stonehenge was not as big or as impressive as I thought it would be, but somehow I wasn’t disappointed.

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Erecting those stones after hauling them from Wales, which is 40 plus miles away, and was done thousands of years ago, remains an impressive feat. They make such a stark mark in the middle of the rolling windy plains, surrounded by sheep. For thousands of years people marked the spot Stonehenge rests on, as special and significant.

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Although the meaning of Stonehenge is lost, Stonehenge was a bucket list item for me and I am happy to report it continues to be a place that people travel to, and so it retains significance. That being said, on a cold and windy day, it’s not a place one wants to linger.
We drove on to the nearby smaller Avebury Henge. A town was built among these stones, which used to be the site of human sacrifice. It is strange to learn the dark story behind so many picturesque spots.

We did a quick walk among these stones and returned to Warwick.

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Next installment will be about our days in London.

Better, Worse or Different? Grocery Shopping in the UK

Christmas grocery shopping is a challenging task at the best of times. Imagine what it is like when you can’t find or recognize any of your usual ingredients. I have recovered and after a month and a half and I am getting pretty comfortable grocery shopping in the UK. So far I have visited three different grocery stores:

The Co-operative is a small neighborhood grocery chain not much bigger than a 7-11 but it is much better stocked and better priced.

Sainsbury’s has small local grocers and large stores which offer a wider grocery selection and housewares, clothing, pharmacy, and of course a very large alcohol section.

ASDA is a larger grocer which is very similar to our Superstores/Extra Foods retailers back home.

Pricing, Sizing and Packaging

One feature that I like about UK grocery shopping is many items are priced in round numbers making it easier to track what you spend. The English Pound is worth fairly close to two Canadian dollars. When I examine my grocery budget here versus at home, I am spending about the same amount per week.

In direct price comparison £1 pound for three bell peppers is cheaper than $3.49 for three bell peppers. That is a savings of almost $1.50 on the same item. Canada stores are 50¢ cents cheaper on a 5lb bag of potatoes. My pancake mix is $7.99 for 4.53 kg which makes about 240 pancakes at about 3¢ each. My UK family size package is 400g and it makes about 24 pancakes at a cost of 16¢ each. On the surface, costs seem to be pretty comparable. The difference is that at home my cupboards and pantry and deep freeze are full. Here they are too, but these cupboards and fridges are much smaller.

Fridge and freezer. The fridge is about the same size as the one in my camper. I was shocked but I have adjusted.

Fridge and freezer. The fridge is about the same size as the one in my camper. I was shocked but I have adjusted.

The UK grocers I have visited don’t have bulk pricing. You can buy 2 rolls of paper towel for £2 two pounds or you can buy 4 for £4. There is no price break for buying in large lots. That is weird to me. Weirder yet, smaller lots are sometimes cheaper for the same brand! For example I saw 2 paper towel rolls for £1 pound and fifty pence but the 4 pack of the same brand was £4, same number of sheets per roll and everything!

Everything comes in smaller sizes and portions here. I love the teeny little bags of potato chips of 130 calories each. Slivers of cheese, different pates, dairy creams in various fat contents all come in tiny little containers which result in less waste. However sometimes the small sizing is a pain when you are buy items you use in larger amounts.

This is big container of flour.

This is a big container of flour.

Another example, I usually buy my chocolate chips at Costco in a 2.4 kg bag. Here my only option was a 100g size.

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I bought four packages just to make one batch of cookies.

Brands and Product Competition

When I entered the grocery store it was comforting to see familiar brands like Cheerios, Oreo, Dairy Milk, Old El Paso, Philly cream cheese, and Doritos. It is frustrating when my brand or a particular flavor of a brand doesn’t exist. Lyric wishes for more than the two flavours of Doritos but I couldn’t care less because the potato chips (crisps) more than make up for it. Have you ever heard of Prawn Cocktail or Worcestershire?

Lyric was not feeling well for a few days and when she is sick she wants Lipton chicken noodle soup. The closest I could get was Cup-A-Soup which had nothing for flavour or noodles. It took a bit but I finally found Campbell’s mushroom soup but saltine/soup crackers don’t exist here at all.

Overall, within each product you are buying I find Canada has more variety in brand selection and sizing.  This does not apply to some categories of products. When it comes to baked beans, breakfast sausages, gravy flavouring and toilet bowl cleaning, the UK has Canada beat. Seriously! Toilet bowl cleaners have a full aisle.

So Better, Worse or Just Different?

Worse

The health food craze has not hit here quite like it has back at home. There are gluten free sections but  products like quinoa, kale chips, coconut oil, and agave nectar are not on regular store shelves. They also lack things I would define as basics. White vinegar is a scavenger hunt item still on my list. They have fifteen types of malt vinegar and a gazillion balsamic but no plain white. I think this is because there is so much focus on the pre-made and prepackaged food. Why make it yourself when you can buy it? This is not surprising because they have been “civilized” for longer. The UK had take-away food before Canada was even a country. There is a London fish and chip shop that has been going since 1860.

Better

I have always wanted a herb garden windowsill and here I do.

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The store I shop at has potted growing herbs. It’s wonderful to make bruschetta with fresh basil in the middle of winter. I also love the focus on socially conscious products. There is a wide selection of clearly labelled fair trade products. Greater standardized packaging makes for more efficient recycling. All cardboard, hard plastic containers, cans and glass are recyclable. Plastic wraps are not. Another big plus is that they sell alcohol in all stores. No separate stop at a different store required to buy a bottle of wine or vodka, or a case of beer.

 

The Verdict

The sale of alcohol in grocery stores won it right off the bat but the biggest positive of grocery shopping in the UK I haven’t even mentioned yet. Online selection and home delivery is the greatest invention in food since the arrival of the grocery store! I do not miss pushing a loaded shopping cart, in minus 25, through snow packed parking lots, as fast as possible, so my lettuce does not freeze. Instead I click my mouse and sit back and wait for the delivery person to knock at my door and carry it into the kitchen for me.

Better, Worse, or Just Different?

It hard not to judge and compare. I’ve never lived anywhere other than Alberta, Canada and one of my greatest curiosities about living abroad was whether I would like the experience. Would I find it better, worse, or just different? I used to be a bit of a travelphobe, and I also had been conditioned to believe Canada is the greatest country on earth. When I left on this extended trip I had no expectations in place. I left with an open mind and a question of whether I my unchallenged belief about Canada would still hold up by the end of my trip.

Living somewhere is different than vacationing. You stand a greater chance of getting up close and personal with a culture, then when you are simply hitting a destination’s high spots. I didn’t expect to experience huge amounts of cultural shock in England because Canada, after all, is a former colony. We are close allies and we share a queen. Next to the American’s I’d say no other country means as much to Canada as the United Kingdom.

I was right. No huge amounts of culture shock but there are differences to be sure. Some are better, some are worse, and others are just different.

The holidays in the UK

My first Christmas away from Canada and all my family and friends was very surreal. I had barely recovered from jet lag when I had to get into the spirit and celebrate Christmas. My family has taken to celebrate solstice but as we were all scattered to the winds this Christmas, Lyric and I decided that when in Rome) we would do as the Romans do (or in this case, the English).

Christmas in the U.K. is a much more subdued and secular affair than Christmas in Canada. It is similarly commercial. The stores (shops) are crazy but religion/Christianity is not as highlighted. There are carols playing in the stores, and simple light displays in town centers and main streets. There are no garishly, over-the-top, crazily decorated houses. Not a one. A single string of outside lights is about all you’ll see. If the living room curtain is open when you pass by you might get a peek at a tastefully decorated tree. No blinking musical lights and not a single mechanical singing lawn ornament anywhere.

Christmas Eve is a non-event. In our family Christmas Eve is just as important, and in some parts of our family even more important than Christmas Day. Mass is attended, gifts are opened. Company arrives. Christmas Eve is England was simply just the day before Christmas. All the stores were closed earlier than I expected. By 5:30 everything was shut down. Strangely, though, some pubs are open on Christmas day. They have shortened hours, but they are open. A quick trip off to the pub is not an uncommon event, especially for the men. I guess that is a similarity to Canada. Men have their Christmas traditions and they are seldom about the cooking and the preparations, and more about the socializing and relaxing.

The Boxing Day shopping frenzy is present here and the newspapers and radios were buzzing with talk about the sales. I never made it to any but I find the January prices on clothing to be super affordable. I’m finding great deals when I am out and about.

New Year’s Eve is all about the pub you wish to visit. We stayed in and watched the English version of the countdown, called the Jools Annual Hootenanny, done by Jools Holland. It was a great show and filled with tons of great English performers. At the end there are fireworks and Auld Lang Syne is sung just like at home. Out in the neighborhood plenty of fireworks were set off from backyards.

Overall we had a nice Christmas. It was lacking in people and snow but it was similar enough to get into the Christmas spirit. It was strange not cross-country skiing or sledding during the holidays but after stuffing one’s self with food, it was very cool to be able to talk a long walk outside and work off some turkey.

As far as whether Christmas is better worse or just different in the UK than in Canada I think I’d have to say celebrating in your own home, with your own traditions, and your own family and friends is always going to be better but you’ll never really appreciate it if you never try anything different. Lyric and I found out it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be and it was fun to experience and discuss what we do differently.

Next posting- Better,Worse or Different- Grocrery shopping in the UK