Saturday, September 17, 2011

UK Tour - 20th - 28th August

From St Margaret's Bay, we drove north, to our old neighborhood in Berkshire - did a drive-by of our home in Chamberlain Gardens and had a nostalgic moment before heading to the lovely home of our treasured friends, the Chapmans. BOTH of the gorgeous Chapman girlies are our Godchildren - what a treat!

On the Saturday, we loved catching up with the Bickersteths, for an (as ever) delicious lunch, full of fun and wonderful, soul-enriching conversation, followed by a lovely afternoon (and trip to the park!) with our precious friends, the Phillips.

Sunday was the date for our Berkshire picnic - no joke, I had invited most of the county! Thankfully, not everyone we had invited showed up, otherwise it would have been a real squeeze! What a joy to catch up with so many wonderful friends and introduce Daniel to everyone. We LOVED it.

Monday and Tuesday, I took on my alter-ego as international ROCKKKKKK sensation; Mrs 'Rock Chick' Nic Gilchrist! The Freeway boys (shout OUT!) had been hard at work during the months preceding our trip, rockording the music for our SECOND album (which is going to ROCCKKKK your World! Oh yes! THIS one is DEFINITELY better than 'Contraflow' - our first album - it might even be ready by Christmas, so start putting it on your Christmas list!), so all that remained was for me to add my voice to the mix! We skillfully combined a challenging rockording itinerary with giggles and fun, such that I absolutely LOVED these days. Hard work, but a great reminder of how fantastic (even if i do say so myself!) our music & lyrics are and how much FUN I have with these crazy ROCCKKKKKK boys!

While I was making sweet music, Ed spent Monday with his 'MUG' (Mad Uncle Guib) and Robert (his almost-as-mad son), watching England wrap up a 4 - 0 series win! What fun!

Wednesday and Thursday were precious days with the Chapmans - Ed got to play some golf and Caroline and I were released from child-care duties for a few hours to indulge in some retail therapy and morning tea + cake! WONDERFUL. Oh we are SO blessed to have friends that we can totally be ourselves with and relax and chat and just 'be' together. We love you!

It was while staying with the Chapmans that Daniel took his first steps! SO exciting! It would still be a few weeks before he would choose walking over crawling, but it was SUCH fun to know that he COULD WALK!!!

Friday we headed back to Winchester to do some washing (!) and re-packing before the drive down to the south coast to CAMP with Daniel's 3 Godparents (+ the lovely Emily & William!) in Ewelease! Although Jen and I had a sinking feeling as the boys put up tents in lashing rain, once that cloud had passed we had uninterrupted sunshine for the rest of the weekend. It was SUCH fun. Glorious views, lovely cliff walks, scrummy pub meals, warm campfires, Chinese lanterns, wine, toasted marsh-mallows, almond croissants, SOOOOO much laughter and deep, challenging and encouraging conversations. My idea of a PERFECT weekend! Amazingly, the children actually slept pretty well (although Daniel snuggled in my sleeping bag for most of both nights), which made the whole experience MUCH more enjoyable!

UK Tour - 8th-19th August

Thankfully, Daniel and I were both well by the time our original August itinerary really kicked in. Our first stop? A lovely, restful few days with our precious friends, the Millers. The gorgeous Annabel (their eldest) is one of our God-daughters. What an absolute blessing and joy it is to be able to feel completely at ease with friends you haven't seen for a couple of years - we just picked up where we'd left off and remembered anew how blessed we are with the friends we have.

From there, we headed south again to Brentwood where we spent the best part of a week with the much-loved Grandpa G and Aunty Frim! It was the first time I had been back to Mitre House since Jane died and the tangible absence of her exuberant presence was heartbreaking. She will ALWAYS be missed. Ed's Dad is retiring next September and will be moving out of the house when he leaves. It may well be that we won't get to be there again, so we spent some time labeling and sorting Ed's things ready for the move.

On Saturday 13th, we attended the wedding of Ed's old friend, Ollie Brown. The Brown family have been very close friends for over 30 years, so it was lovely we could all be there together.

On the Sunday we all drove down to St Margaret's bay on the south coast, near Dover, to Granville Hope, the home that Jane poured her love into and which is such a haven, overlooking the channel. While we were there, Ed's grandmother and great-aunt also came to stay nearby, so we got to spend some very special time altogether. I think the highlight of the week was a trip on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch mini railway- SUCH fun! Daniel was absolutely in his element - as was his grandfather!!! It was also VERY special to spend a day with Ruth & Andrew Miller (the parents of our special friends we'd seen the week before). Dear Ruth, our thoughts and prayers are with you and the whole family.

UK tour - The first few weeks

Ed's Grandfather's family funeral on the 11th July and the thanksgiving service that afternoon (attended by about 500 people) was a very emotional, but incredibly special day. All the grandchildren took part doing readings and prayers and Dunmar's 3 son's all gave tribute to different aspects of their Father's life. Ed and I couldn't help but feel incredibly proud of the family we are a part of - the wonderful legacy that Dunmar has left. I only hope we can live a life that emulates his example - full of fun, faith-filled, prioritizing family and friends! (Honestly, I didn't plan that!).

The weeks following the funeral were a great chance for Daniel to really get to know his grandparents.

We also got to know Ffion
(my brother's daughter, who we had not yet met apart from on Skype!) and we were around for granny's 94th (hey! hey!) birthday!

Sadly, Daniel also encountered his first English germs and his immune system needed to learn to fight some 'real' viruses - not these weedy Californian varieties! My blood sugar went out of control and I felt pretty rough too... So it was lovely to be based at my parents in Winchester with a fairly clear diary!

I managed to squeeze in a day with my eldest God-daughter and close friend, the Gorgeous Mrs Clay, which was a real treat. The long overdue first meeting with Daniel was a complete joy to behold!

We also had a day with our good friends, the Bonds - their oldest son, Sam, is one of our Godsons. Daniel absolutely LOVED hanging out with some older boys while we revelled in the joy of catching up with old friends.

Another real treat was the day that we decided to surprise everyone by turning up at HBC (Holiday Bible Club), the children's summer activity week run by our old church,

that Ed and I used to help at before we left. It was SO much fun to see the look of surprise on everyone's faces as we strolled in and a real joy to catch up with so many special people.

Sadly, a really nasty chest infection (which actually required a trip to A & E) meant that Daniel was not well enough to attend Ed's cousin, the stunning Katy Stileman's 21st birthday celebration on the 4th August. The same bug prevented us flying to Geneva to attend the Swiss marrage celebrations for another of Ed's cousins, the lovely MRS (how exciting!) Alex Cardwell. Ed went along solo to both of these events while I stayed home with a poorly Mr Beauto.
Apologies for the blog (and email!) silence over the past few months - we decided to prioritise real face-to-face time with friends and family in the UK over e-communication! But, we are now back in LA (I can't quite bring myself to call it 'home' - that tells you where I am emotionally!) and so it is time for us to fill you in on what we've been up to!

Firstly, THANK YOU to all those of you who prayed for our journey home - it was surprisingly easy! Our original plan was to leave Cornwall early on Thursday morning, drive up to Oxshott to return Ed's grandfather's car (which we borrowed for the duration of our stay - VERY generous! THANK YOU!!!) and then take a taxi straight to Heathrow to catch our flight... that would have been an epically AWFUL day... thankfully, we realised this ahead of time and drove up to Winchester on Wednesday night while Belter slept and then headed to Oxshott after a lovely family morning together.

Once on the flight, Daniel entertained everyone by walking laps of the plane for a few hours. When I say 'everyone', I think MOST people were entertained, but there were a few people who clearly did NOT like babies, or appreciate chubby little (perhaps not entirely clean) fingers using their legs as a balancing aid! Oh well, they just had to live with it! The funniest thing was that Daniel was very taken with tattooed arms - there were a few highly decorated limbs on display - and, even though these limbs were attached to young men who I would not want to meet in a dark alley, Daniel beamed at them and they melted as he exclaimed with delight while tracing the patterns on their skin! Hilarious!

After feeding him, our meals arrived (SERIOUSLY good food in business class!) and we strapped him into his child seat. He protested for about half an hour before falling asleep... and folks, at the risk of sounding like a gloating parent, he STAYED asleep right up until about an hour before we landed! BRILLIANT! All the passengers around us kept congratulating us on having THE most wonderful baby in the universe (which, of course, he is!)

We arrived (gulp)... home (there, i've said it) at about 8pm, fed, bathed and gave him his milk. He fell asleep. We thought, we've got away with it, he thinks it's night time! All was peaceful in the Gilchrist house until about 2am, when Daniel decided it was time to start our day. Although we tried to persuade him otherwise, it soon became clear that our son had had enough sleep. So, the day began!

We thought we'd go and do our food shop, but could NOT find a 24 hour supermarket anywhere (I admit, more than one grumbling comment about how it would be easy to find a 24 hour Tesco's in the UK passed my lips!). In the end we found milk and bananas in a 7-11 (ironically, at 3 in the morning!) before heading to IHOP for breakfast (oh yes, THEY stay open 24 hours!). This was a bad idea (although fun) and Ed and I both fought back the urge to vomit afterwards. Quality cuisine it is not. Welcome back to the USA digestive system!

Yesterday was spent in a haze of unpacking, loads of washing, sorting through post and rapidly child-proofing our apartment for a now WALKING toddler!

Daniel woke at 1.30am thismorning but his wonderful Daddy managed to persuade him back to sleep and our day began at the more reasonable hour of 5am. Hopefully it won't take our son TOO long to get over his jet-lag!