Having two bank holidays in May makes this month go by really fast.  I can’t believe it’s half-term already, and the kids had only been in school for 5 weeks this time.  Unfortunately, it will mean that the other half is much longer.  I’m unsure when school actually lets out this year.  If it’s as my husband suspects (July 24th), that will mean 8 weeks after the half-term.  I suspect it may be 1-2 weeks earlier, because they will be doing their Stagecoach performances on July 11th, and the school’s drama club will be presenting theirs the week of July 6th.  Anyhow, having two bank holidays also means that sometimes you can’t get things done in as timely a manner as you’d like, because businesses are closed (i.e., banks, post offices).

On the other hand, it does mean lots of family fun events.  There will be two nearby fetes this Monday and I’d love to see them both, just to get a feel for them.  But, unfortunately, you might not get a very good feel for either if you don’t experience everything – and that takes time.  Ah, decisions, decisions.  It’s too bad that they’re both at the same time and they only last 3-4 hours.   Then, of course, we don’t even know if our daughter has gymnastics practice that day or if they’ll close for the day like last time.  Just as long as they don’t change the time because it is half-term – I wouldn’t want her to miss out on the fun.

We just came back from the circus.  It’s only a small one – John Lawson’s.  One big top tent, no animals, no swinging acrobats.  However, it was a trip worth taking.  For two hours, the talented circus performers amazed us with some athletic displays and stunts.  The kids always find the clowns amusing.  I must admit that when we first saw how small it was, I thought it was meant to be just for kids.  But, the performances were good enough to impress adults.   They have one more night in Newick, then they move on.  So, if they’re in your area, you might want to check them out.  You can find out more at: http://www.johnlawsonscircus.co.uk/

I remember years ago, while watching a sports game, my husband commented on the American habit of jeering and taunting the opposition.  He couldn’t understand it because it was just not done in England.  Of course, this usually occurred only in professional sports.  But, then, you notice how parents and, sometimes, coaches can get riled up in amateur team sports.  These people are all supposed to be role models for our young athletes.

I don’t follow sports much.  But I remember a news story a few months back about how parents here in the UK were becoming extremely competitive (more so than the athletes) and aggressive at tennis matches.  Then, just last week, a talk show host brought up the issue of bad behaviour amongst athletes and their fans at football (soccer) matches.  They noticed this most especially with football, but not cricket or rugby.  It’s very interesting the trend that is developing.

Growing up in the US and having witnessed the taunting, I never thought twice about it.  When my husband suggested that fans applauded good effort on the part of their opponents, I thought it sounded strange.  After all, it’s a competition, isn’t it?  You’re supposed to support your team and want them to win, right?  Why cheer on the opponent?  Well, it has nothing to do with supporting the opposition.  It has to do with showing good sportsmanship.  Giving credit where credit was due.  You see post-game interviews and those who show good sportsmanship will praise their opponents.  If they’ve won, it’s a lot easier for most players to be generous.  But when they’ve lost, I have more respect for the players who say, “They beat us because they were a better team” or “They played better”, rather than “We lost because we didn’t play hard enough.”  It’s as if the latter group was saying they were better but they just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort.  A very arrogant attitude.

One of the ways schools are trying to teach good sportsmanship is by applying the mercy rule.  It’s already been in effect in some areas, but they are trying to widen it.  It basically means that if a team is ahead by so many points, then the game is forfeited.  I’m not sure this is a very good idea as it may teach kids to give up when the going gets tough.  It’s probably best just to let them play it out and everybody shake hands at the end.  I wouldn’t advocate that the winning team let up in their efforts either.  They should just play the “benchwarmers” at that point.  Then, everyone gets a chance to participate.

Though the jeering may have infiltrated British sports, to the dismay of the general public, I don’t believe that cheering for their opponents will ever take in the US.  The mentality is so different.  Society has changed somewhat in the UK, but I do hope that they don’t lose their sense of sportsmanship.  It somehow sets them apart.

Easter break is coming to an end. It’s been nice to not have to rush every morning for school, but at the same time, our normal routine is broken up by having the kids at home. It’s been difficult to drag them off the computers. Though, when they are not on the computer, they’ve been active enough. Too active, sometimes.

Yesterday, they went horseback riding. It was not the first time they’ve been on a horse, though the last time was over two years ago. They’ve been in love with horses since they were babies, but they were not allowed riding lessons until they were eight (due to the local policies of the riding stables.) However, every chance they had of riding ponies at the fairs, etc., they went for it. We even went out on a trail once in Florida, when the younger one was only five. But that was the last time.

So, when the opportunity presented itself again yesterday, they were both excited. They did not want to be on a lead rein, but when we got there, I think they both became a little nervous. The younger one was obviously nervous – you could see it in her face and she refused to take her hands away from the saddle. The older one finally admitted that she didn’t mind having the escorts take the rein.

We didn’t ride this time, but we were there when they returned. The younger one came back with a big smile that she was trying to suppress, but the older one stayed as solemn as ever. She refused to talk about the ride except that she wanted to go again. The younger one told us that they actually went for a canter! The funny part of this whole thing was that when we looked up the place on the internet, the girls had picked out the horses they wanted. Though we were the last ones to arrive, they managed to get the horses they had picked out on-line. It seemed providential and they both loved their horses.

Horseback riding and all equestrian sports are so essentially British. It seems that wherever we go, we see people on horseback and there are bridle paths practically everywhere that there is a public footpath. As the weather is improving, we are seeing more riders. The girls would love to start riding lessons now, but time and money are the limiting factors. It would not be difficult to find a riding school in any part of England, though. If we are to stay here, I think that horseback riding will become a part of our lives.

Well, it’s the Easter break and though we have not made any plans for holidays, we have already taken two trips to the coast – once to Brighton Beach, and the other to Pagham Beach and Harbour and Bognor Regis. And despite the weather being rather windy and cold when it blew, I found last night that I had a rash on my hands, the only parts of my body that was really exposed. Now, I remember why I cannot tolerate summer very well. I was looking forward to beach trips during the hot summer months, but I fear getting the terrible sun rashes.

Both days were very sunny but it was only warm when the wind wasn’t blowing, and there was quite a lot of wind. I was able to sit and enjoy the day at Brighton, but it was too cold to sit still down at Pagham & Bognor Regis. The kids didn’t mind in the least. At Brighton, they were wading and jumping over waves. The water must have been cold but they only complained about having to walk barefoot over the pebbles. At Pagham and Bognor, we spent the time building sand castles and finding different shells, followed by a casual walk round the harbour. Luckily, it was low tide and we were able to get out pretty far.

Of course, the highlight of their trip is always the amusement arcades. They have not yet learned that it is very difficult to win stuffed animals out of those grab machines. They also love to win prizes in those 2p and 10p slots that push coins down the chute. They are mesmerised by the shoving movements and the various monetary notes put in as prizes, not realising that it is near impossible to ever win those. The possibility is made even more slender by the fact that many of those machines have coins stuck in there, so further coins have difficulty getting down into the right spot. We always have to put a spend limit in those places or we’d be bankrupt. And with the weather improving and being so near to the coast, there are still many other seaside resorts to visit.

It was a glorious day, yesterday. A bit breezy at times, but sunny and bright. The lambs were lazing in the sun early in the day, and frolicking in the afternoon. They were so adorable as they jumped, bucked and kicked as if they were horses at a rodeo trying to dislodge their riders. The weather being fair, we took a walk in a nature trail on the edge of our landlord’s estate.

This area is public and had two small ponds on either side of the path with daffodils growing wild. At the end of the path were tall trees that have not yet bloomed and I could not identify them. They were very tall and when the wind blew through here, it was as loud as a waterfall. The path ended with two gates, one on either side. To the right was a grassy area sloping down towards the A road, with some newly planted trees surrounding by their supports. To the left was another pasture that stretched towards our house.

We chose the left gate as we spotted a stile leading onto more grasslands. The gate had three different locks or fasteners and we laughed at the security. Crossing at a diagonal to the right, we went over the stile and saw another one ahead. We crossed that stile and were following a path at the bottom of a hill. The kids, however, decided to run towards the crest of the hill. “Come on, Daddy,” they called. “You’re supposed to follow us.” My husband called back, “We need to stay close to the edge.” Nevertheless, we followed them up to the top. From there we surveyed the lovely landscape all around us.

Suddenly, we hear a noise and turned around to see a flock of sheep charging at us from the left. “Uh-oh. Run!” my husband yelled. The kids screamed and we were racing down the hill with the sheep chasing. We could not help laughing as we probably looked ridiculous running down the hill with that flock following. (Where were the video cameras?) It might not have been so funny if it was a herd of cows, though those sheep were big enough to run us all down, including my 6’4″ husband.  We crossed over the stile and looked back to see that the flock had stopped some distance away but were still eyeing us. We made our way across the other stile, only to be confronted with another flock – this one even closer! We ran for the gate and as I struggled to undo all three latches, my husband had to divert the flock away from the gate. We didn’t want to be blamed for letting some sheep loose. We managed to get across safely, panting to catch our breath.

That was fun!

I may not know the first thing about horse-racing, but I do know that it is extremely popular in the UK. I also know that my two daughters are horse lovers. So what better than to plan a family outing to see a horse race. There are racecourses a-plenty, and so many that are well-known. But which should we go to?

I saw an ad today for the Royal Ascot in June. The image of a socialite at the Ascot is what Americans often see and it is what we associate with British horse-racing. However, if you watch the regular horse races, that is not the case. The Epsom Downs racecourse is another very famous racecourse, which hosts several prestigious races in the year. The advantage is that you can watch this for free.

We’ll have to decide which event to attend, for the kids would love to see a horse race in person. Unfortunately, we will not be able to see the Grand National as it is this weekend and we have other commitments. Having seen National Velvet, we definitely want to be able to see this race at some point in the future.

Well, the summer fun-fairs have just started to kick off. This weekend we attended the year’s first fun-fair in the local town of Uckfield, East Sussex. I’ve been told that, normally, fun-fairs and fetes start around Easter, so this was a little early. Compared to the US, where fun-fairs usually start around the Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May), this is exceptionally early.

(It’s funny that people disparage the British weather, when it actually is milder than many parts of the US where I’ve lived. This explains why fun-fairs and other summertime activities start earlier and end much later than they do in the US. Summer events in the US are usually held between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day (first Monday in September), but here it happens between the middle of March and ends sometime in October.)

There were other differences in the way the fairs are managed. In the US, you will see ride operators going around to manually check that everyone is properly strapped in before they begin the machines. Here, they relied solely on the machine working properly and did a visual inspection to be sure everyone has their straps on. The fair was set up in the park and as usual, litter was all over the place. In the US, they provided extra waste bins, but they filled up so quickly, and no one was emptying them, so litter was everywhere but for a different reason. Here, the only waste bins you’d find were the ones lining the perimeter of the park, and people just can’t be bothered to walk that distance.

The other frustration was that the fair operators did not provide any toilet facilities. They served food and drink but offered nothing for excretion. We were forced to go to the adjoining supermarket (Tesco’s), but for whatever reason, this supermarket decided to close their restrooms every night starting at 7pm. Since it was after 7pm, we then had to walk further to McDonald’s, always a reliable standby for emergency services. As expected, the kids then wanted to eat at the old Mickey-D. It was a bad business plan for the fair operators not to provide any toilets because now they lost out on the food custom.

The kids had a blast.  Ticket prices were very low (6 GBP per person, though we were charged 5 GBP), compared to how much we used to pay in the US ($15).  We realised that as we got older, our stomachs could not handle all the dizzying rides like they used to.

I’ll be seeing how all the other fairs and fetes are run before making any other comparisons. I’m looking forward to it.

There are a few libraries in the UK that contain the entire collection of all UK-published books, whether they are still in print or not.  The British Library is one of them.

My husband had come across a reference to a book in his readings and he decided to check out the reference.  He could not find it in any of the local libraries.  He tried to find it on the internet, to see if it was available for purchase.  Unfortunately, only a couple were available, for several hundred dollars, so that was out of the question.

He decided to ask at a  local library and they managed to track it down at the British Library.  It cost us 2 GBP to have it retrieved, but that was preferable to buying a copy.  This fee does vary from library to library, so if we decide to check out any other rarities, we may choose another branch.  I am considering it since I have been trying to hunt down a certain book for quite a while now.

It seems I’ve done more walking in the past two months in England than I did all of last year in the US. At this rate, there is no way I could possibly get fat. Not that I want to. But I find it amazing that they are complaining about the rise in obesity in England. How could anyone get fat?

There may be different reasons for obesity. But if one does not have a medical condition that predisposes one to it, there should be no excuses for being fat. With the lack of good parking spaces and the abundance of public transport, walking is a way of life over here. My mother-in-law walks everywhere, and if she needs to go further, she will ride her bike.

I will admit that for the first time in my adult life, I actually have time to walk for “pleasure”. That is, I am not doing it as part of a routine for school or work or other necessary part of daily living. I have taken a few pleasure walks in the past, but they were few and far between. Sometimes, they were part of an “exercise” routine to stay fit. But now, we are finding places to explore. It is an easy, inexpensive form of exercise and it allows you to slow down and enjoy your surroundings. I need to take advantage of the opportunities while they last.

Of course, walking can be a chore at times. Like, when I was climbing the uphill streets of Brighton today on our way to and fro the JobCentre Plus. It was quite steep and I was moving at a snail’s pace, huffing and puffing. These hilly walks are exhausting but I can feel my muscles getting tighter in the legs. It’s the best cure for cellulite. Walking can also be a pain when your kids get tired after a few steps and start crying, “I want a carry.”

Going back to the old country and getting back to basics. At least it’s a healthier lifestyle. Barring any medical problems, I should never get fat.