Lambs and Daffodils

Wednesday, 20 April 2011
I have never given much thought to spring, coming from Vegas where the lovely warm weather stays for mere weeks before the summer heat (of around 115 F) is upon you. However, living in England is giving me a new found love for this season. This being my first spring in England, I'm experiencing new things I never have before, and thoroughly enjoying them. Watching the buds slowly creep out of the ground and back onto the trees, daffodils grow like wildfire and are everywhere you turn, and of course all of the baby animals, especially the lambs.

Two weekends ago was a particularly lovely one in Southam, where Luke and I spent much of the weekend lounging in the garden. While Ian and Lindsay toiled away with potting plants and officially ending winter's reign over the garden. Knowing my new found love of spring and my obsession with lambs, Lindsay arranged a special treat for us on Sunday. A friend of hers from work, Deanna, has a smallholding and invited us to come up and feed the lambs.

Deanna and one of her chickens

In the warm sunshine surrounded by animals a smallholding is rather appealing to me, but Deanna is quick to point out in the wet winter months it is a lot of work and images of me having one quickly pop out of my head.  Deanna and her husband have a wide range of animals: horses, chickens, sheep and even a donkey named Jenny. Of course my favourite were the lambs, they were so soft I felt like I was cuddling a stuffed toy. A number of them had really big personalities, especially Lamb 24.

Jenny the Donkey

Did you know: That when lambs are born numbers are spray painted on them so the farmer knows which lamb belongs with which ewe. If multiple lambs are born they are all given the same number. For example, our Lamb 24 had a brother and a sister both with 24 spray painted on their sides, but they weren't sociable like she was. 

'Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb... whose fleece was white as snow.'

As soon as we entered the field a number of lambs came bounding over as they knew we were bringing milk. I was shocked to find them so happy to play with us as I was expecting Deanna to have to coax them over. In fact it was quite the opposite, not only were they only too happy to come and play but they wouldn't leave us alone. We could pick them up and hold them without them kicking up a fuss. I was also surprised to see their mothers didn't seem to care in the slightest that we were playing with their lambs. Lamb 24 followed us around the field and kept jumping up at our knees. I think she was almost as sad to see us go as we were, she stood at the gate 'baa-ing' until we were out of sight.

Luke feeding our favourite, Lamb 24

 Lindsay and Deanna called me the 'lamb whisperer'

Lamb 24 didn't want us to leave.

It was a lovely morning and a very rare opportunity that I'm very grateful for. I'll leave you now with a poem by one of the Romantic-era masters, William Wordsworth, an Englishman who with this poem, I believe, captured the essence of an English spring.

Erin x


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

-- William Wordsworth

Ladies in London

Monday, 11 April 2011
'Portobello Road' clip from Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
"Portobello road, Portobello road
Street where the riches of ages are stowed.
Anything and everything a chap can unload
Is sold off the barrow in Portobello road.
You'll find what you want in Portobello road.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks was one of my all time favourite films as a child, and I so wanted to visit Portobello Road. I figured it was a more realistic ambition than visiting the beautiful briny sea or watching animal football. Some twenty years later I got my chance last Monday! Lindsay and I decided to have a girly day in London with our main stop being Portobello Road. Although Portobello Road's Antique Market is mainly done on Saturday, there was certainly plenty to do and see. 

My three favourites being:

  1.  A number of cool vintage shops. Lindsay said they were either like walking into her grandmother's closet or her closet circa 1984.
  2. All of the Mediterranean/vegetarian food restaurants/stalls. I'm a sucker for Mediterranean food, especially if it's vegetarian. Quite a few of the restaurants in the area seemed to cater to this type of eating and with things like halloumi (a cheese from Cyprus) my mouth was watering.
  3. The fresh fruit and vegetable stalls. Yes, there were scarves and rings and all sorts of other trinkets for sale but the fruit and veg stalls are what really caught my eye. Because there were so many of them the prices were unreal. I bought two packs of dates for a pound.
Reaching the end of Portobello Road, Linz and I had discussed earlier in the day having tapas for lunch. Linz had found a tapas restaurant online close to Portobello Road, only problem was now we didn't know where it was. Lindsay was consulting her map when we were approached by a rather eccentrically dressed older woman. We told her what we were after and she offered us to walk with her for she knew where I tapas restaurant would be. She was one of the most remarkable woman I've ever met. Not only had she travelled extensively, on her own as her husband had sadly passed a number of years ago, but she was fluent in French and could speak a little Polish. She had taught herself Polish because one of her all time favourite destinations was Krakow. I could have spoken to her all day so I was sad when we arrived at our destination and bid farewell. I considered inviting her to join us for lunch but without the means to communicate this to Lindsay first, I decided against it. It turns out Linz felt the same way about her and was thinking along the same lines as me, but by this point we were seated and she had disappeared into the crowd. I'll always wish I'd asked her to lunch, I didn't even catch her name but the twenty minutes I spent in her company were very pleasant indeed.

The tapas were lovely, Lindsay and I split four dishes (chicken roulade, beetroot salad, squid fricassee, and cheese & pepper croquettes)  and washed them down with a glass of the house wine. After which we wandered through Whiteleys, England's first department store, upon suggestion from our mystery friend. Whiteleys is no longer a department store but in fact a shopping centre but you can see how grand it must have been in its heyday. While there we popped into Zara's to continue search for a black blazer. I've wanted one for a number of years, but not just any old blazer a really nice fitting tailored one. I absolutely love blazers and there were so many in the store I wanted, not just the black ones, but alas none of them fit me right. My quest continues.

Whiteleys Department Store

Disappoint search for blazers at Whiteleys over and done with, we made our way to Kensington Gardens. One thing I love about London is all the green space in the form of the Royal Parks. If I had to choose a favourite royal park, it might just be Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park (which runs directly into Kensington Gardens). On nice days I love to just walk through the Royal Parks, I did this with my mother in October and Amy when she came to visit in March. The parks are usually just so peaceful. I say usually because this time I had a stalker in the form of a very persistent squirrel. He followed me halfway through Kensington Gardens. If I stopped he became motionless in the hopes to make me believe he wasn't in fact stalking me. I nicknamed him Ninja Squirrel and couldn't quite figure out his fascination with me until I remembered the dates I had bought earlier in the day. I refused to give him one, namely because I had no idea what effect they might have on his little tummy. But after being followed for no less than fifteen minutes I felt his persistence should be rewarded, well that and the fact that he was sitting on my boot and it was the only thing I could think of to make him move. He got exactly one date and after he decided that I wasn't going to give him any more, he scampered off so quickly one would have thought his tail was on fire.

Our day out ended in Covent Garden. We arrived just as the shops were about to close, with just enough time to go into a couple. Our main aim in coming to Covent Garden was to have dinner before catching our train home. We stopped at Le Pain Quotidien, which I would go back to again in a heart beat. The food was all fresh and the prices were very reasonable, especially for London. I stuffed myself on an Italian platter made up of cheeses, cured meats, and tapenades. Delicious!

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day out, and once Luke and I move to Milton Keynes an easier experience to repeat!


Lions and Tigers and Randy Elephants? OH MY

Saturday, 9 April 2011
April 3rd was Mother’s Day here in England, and to celebrate Luke and I took Lindsay (mum), Ian (stepdad), and Bob (granddad) to West Midlands Safari Park. It was a great day out, full of a LOT of laughs. On the drive up I was ridiculed for my fear of camels that developed on my last visit to the Safari Park, but when a 9’ animal comes and sticks his head in the window of the car (for which his head takes up the entire width of the window I think it is entirely justified. Lindsay was trying to feed a baby camel (which was still 6’ tall) when a larger camel decided it wanted the food. Instead of feeding the animal to get rid of it, Lindsay panicked and hid her head on my shoulder which of course made the camel stick it’s head only further inside the vehicle. Ian and Luke were crying with laughter in the front seats as I confronted my fears and tried to help Lindsay get the camel out. In her hurry to close the window on it she actually trapped the poor thing’s muzzle in the window! Luke continued laughing into a curious camel popped his head into his window which made Luke jump and stall the car. We all went away with a new found desire to stay away from camels, except for Ian who just found the whole experience hilarious.

One of the smaller of the scary camels!

Baby Gazelle/Deer animals, so cute!

Ian feeding one of cute little deer.

It wasn’t just the camels who gave us some laughs. We were able to watch a rather clever African Wild Dog makes it’s bid for freedom by trying to run directly into the Lion’s den.  It took the ranger several minutes of chasing it around in her Landrover to finally get the AWD back on it’s turf. I thought the African Wild Dogs really cute in a scruffy “I could kill you if I wanted to” sort of way, although I was alone in the car of thinking so. In the Lion’s den we were able to witness some of the youngsters playing a game of hide and seek amongst the bushes. I was reminded of Simba and Nala, the playful cubs of The Lion King fame, they really do play like that. Adorable! Not all big cat fights were just friendly playing. Two White Tigers got into a bit of a tiff after the female was surprise attacked from behind by the male. I can confidently say the male because he was twice the size of her. She didn’t like the surprise very much and gave him a swipe which of course turned into a bit of a skirmish.

An African Wild Dog

Young male lion starting hide and go seek.

It wasn’t all lovers’ spats, for the grand finale of our safari we met two very amorous elephants. This was my second time at West Midlands Safari Park, my second time seeing the elephants, and my second time witnessing them getting it on. Considering that last time I came it was in summer and now it is spring I can only assume that these are just two very randy elephants. I couldn’t believe I was watching these elephants a second time around and can now with confidence make a nature programme describing elephant courtship habits, David Attenbourgh watch out!  I’ll spare the full details of the events, after all a picture is worth a thousand words.

Elephant Courtship, notice the male elephant's spare trunk!


Where'd You Go? -- A Quick Recap

Friday, 8 April 2011
They say “time flies when you’re having fun”, well that is the understatement of the century. It’s hard for me to believe it is already April, it seems like just yesterday I was back in Vegas trying to arrange a wedding for early January. Now three months on I’m once again in the middle of wedding prep, this time for a wedding reception being arranged by Luke’s mum to celebrate with family and friends who were unable to attend our Vegas festivities at such short notice. Happily, my mum and Dan will be able to join the English lot in the festivities and will be around for a few days before continuing their European adventures in Amsterdam. Lucky sods! Also joining the ‘roast beefs’ will be Domi from France and Luke and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It was Domi who introduced us, she was my host mother and Luke’s boss, because of this she calls herself the marraine (godmother) of our relationship. Unfortunately Yann, my petit-frère, won’t be able to join her but as Domi says, that just means they’ll both have to come out and visit again. I am really looking forward to the reception and it is so close now!

Since I last wrote there has been an American invasion in the form of my friend Amy, who I’ve known since we were wee tots of nine. It was great to catch up with her and show her my new home.  Luke, Amy, and I spent two days in London, courtesy of Amy’s mom and the rest of the time she stayed with us in Worcester. Amy and I had a couple of lovely day trips as well. One to Stratford, Shakespeare’s birthplace, where we walked along the river and I introduced her to Pimm’s (a typically English summer drink). Another was to Birmingham’s Bull Ring for some much needed retail therapy. Amy will be back this summer with her family, so if things go as planned we’ll get the opportunity to pop into London and see her again.

Tower Bridge after our boat cruise on the River Thames

Jetlag - 1, Amy - 0

Cherry Blossoms in Stratford

Erin x
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