Today was a beautiful day in England. Sunny, warm, clear blue skies, a light spring day teasing you, making you eager for the coming of summer. As I sat in the backyard beginning to weed away the winter's brown overgrowth, I took a sip of wine and listened for a moment to the sound of the brook tinkling by and thought, for the first time since I've been here...
"Ah, this is familiar."
I have now been in Nunney a year. A year and two weeks, to be exact, and it's exceeded my expectations and surprised me, as well as challenged me.
This year has been an interesting journey of learning. Of who I am and who England is. But also interesting now to look back after a year and see all the things I've taken in, absorbed and made my own, while still remaining who I am and thinking of what is yet to come.
I now know if I don't want to get harassed I should say "bah-sil" instead of "bay-sil." I know where Cheltenham and Swindon and Plymouth are on the map, though I still tend to confuse Westbury and Weymouth. I've had a shandy and a wiskey mac and mulled wine. I've learned about the curious tradition of British pantomime. I've learned all about the rules of DEFRA in the U.K. and the USDA in the States. I've negotiated the bureaucratic hoops of the National Health Service, HM Revenue and Customs, Mendip Council Tax, and the DVLA (driver's licensing)... I've had to learn to drive again...I never forgot but according to the U.K. 21 years of driving doesn't count. I've weeded and wined and whined...or whinged as they would say here. I learned it actually doesn't rain all the time in England. I've had Santa drive by my house on a fire truck and bet on which rubber duck would win the Easter race down the brook. I know the difference between naff and tatt. Well, actually, I'm not sure I do exactly but I know the gist.
Personally I've gained friends, gained a niece, lost a godmother, gained a few pounds, regained a dog, and am in the process of finally buying a car. I've sat as friends far away have gone through major life trials, unable to physically be there, but reveling in their recovery. Love and laughter, tears and torment.
I think if how lucky I have been that the fates brought me here to this village, instead of where all my grand plans were going to take me. I imagine the isolated year I would have experienced, the sad, poor, lonely soul I would have been in my original little cottage on the estate. It was an exceptionally lovely setting. With friends and visitors and a knowledge of the area it would be an amazing place to live. But my life, my year, my adventure would have been lonely and miserable. How lucky was I to find that place derelict. And then how much luckier still to stumble into this charming, quirky, lively little village full of diverse and interesting personalities. In a way, it's like my own Brigadoon.
I miss my friends in the States, but those of you who matter to me...and whom I matter to...make sure I know that you are still there, even though you're miles away. And I do my best to do the same....though admittedly I do make many telephone calls after a few too many glasses of wine.
But after a year, there's still much to explore. A car will give me the ability see beyond my immediate village walls, beyond the bus rides, beyond where the train will take me. As any 17-year-old will tell you a car means freedom. It means that I can go where I want, see what I want, experience what I want, when I want. That thought is amazingly exciting.
I get closer each day to figuring out what I want to do when I grow up. Someday I'll have to make a decision but until then, I'm enjoying each adventure, each challenge, each curiosity. There's still so much to see, so much to experience, so much to learn, that who knows where the journey will take me.
But still, after a year, I walk Otis down the street, around the corner and still, after a year, I look up in wonderment and think...
...."It's a castle!"