When our daughter first heard we were considering moving from the US to England, she just couldn’t stop laughing. She thought it was a joke. Nevertheless, we are here and the things that are different are not necessarily what we anticipated…

The World of Daniel

sent 27 November 2004

As English life continues for us, we have settled into some routines. One of them seems to be fun play dates for Daniel several times a week right after school. Daniel is Mr. Popular at school. He landed in a very tight knit classroom where many of the children have been together in school since Nursery or Reception (English equivalent of American Kindergarten). Rather than excluding him, however, many of the kids find him very interesting and all of the Mom’s have gone out of their way to make both me and Daniel feel welcome. Last week, he had 3 after school play dates where the other child’s mother picked him up after school and I retrieved him from their house around 6 pm after he has been fed a “proper tea”. One Mom who I have become friendly with gave me the scoop early on so that this would not seem strange to me. It is standard procedure that if you have a young child over after school, you feed him/her supper. I still have not quite figured out the difference between afternoon tea and a “proper tea”. It is wreaking havoc with our dinner hour, but Daniel loves all the play time and has built himself a very nice network of friends.

Other activities for Daniel include Saturday morning football and Sunday morning Rugby. The football (soccer for you Yankees) is completely run by volunteer parents at a local park. Each parent pays 10 pounds per year towards equipment like goals, cones, and pinneys. Kids come to the park on Saturday morning and scrimmage with other kids from their year group (translation “school grade”) with a parent refereeing. No coaching. No screaming parents on the sidelines. While the kids play football, parents hang around and chat and can purchase tea or coffee from the clubhouse/shack. It is all very civilized.

Rugby is a bit more intense. It is at the Twickenham Rugby Ground. For Daniel’s age, they split them into groups and they rotate through stations that are manned by coaches. There is no tackling yet. They play flag rugby where the kids wear a cloth belt with a flag attached to each hip by Velcro. To tackle someone you have to grab and rip off his flag. Everyone is a bit more serious about the rugby. I think this is because (1) the kids will be bashing into each other and should learn how to do it properly, and (2) Twickenham is known as the rugby area of London. Older kids are on official teams and play real matches, but Daniel’s age group just does drills and then scrimmaging.

As a treat, we went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium Theater 2 weeks ago. Daniel had never been to a large theater like that and he was absolutely enthralled. He was on the edge of his booster seat for the entire performance. At some points he laughed out loud, and at others he clapped along with the rest of the audience. He even hissed at the child catcher. During the show, the car actually flies thanks to a very large mechanical arm that allows it to move in a variety of directions, including over the first few rows of the audience. Daniel thinks that the car really flew. I can’t bear to tell him the truth and have sworn Nico to silence. At intermission, Matt and I did not have any cash so we couldn’t buy a snack for the kids, but Daniel happened to have brought his pocket money and bought himself an ice cream cup. The rest of us watched with drool dripping off our chins as he ate each spoonful. We will never go to the theater without cash again. Now, Daniel walks around the house singing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and pretending to be the child catcher. I have banned the show CD from the kitchen because I can’t bear to hear it any more. He now listens to it in his room or in the play room.

Finally, this past Thursday was American Thanksgiving. I went to Daniel’s class on Friday with 2 pumpkin pies and a Thanksgiving craft to do with the children. After I spoke very briefly about the history of Thanksgiving, Daniel told everyone what we usually eat and who comes to our house for dinner. Then the children made turkeys by tracing their hands and decorating the cut outs with a beak and feet. Finally, they wrote what they were thankful for on the turkey’s feathers. The kids loved the activity and Daniel seemed very proud to be an expert. The biggest hit of the event was Daniel’s wagon, which I used to transport the pies to his school. Apparently, they don’t have wagons here. So during playtime, right after our activity, he proudly stood next to his wagon and regaled everyone with stories about his wagon, starting with “My Grandma and Grandpa gave me this wagon for my birthday.” I think he had a great day!

So, that is the news for Daniel’s life. He is having a ball and really seems to like England. He has settled in very nicely. I will update on Nicholas and Samantha soon.

These are emails from a recent ex-pat to St Margarets, Stephanie Grefsheim. They are presented as they were originally sent to her friends and family in Rockville, Maryland, USA (except for the occasional translation of some very American terms).