An old fashioned English ramble

One of the most popular recreational activities in England is, surprisingly enough, walking. English people are really into walking. Or rambling, as it’s called here. See also: healthy walks. In America, we call it hiking. There is often gear involved-hills or mountains, special shoes (or at least tennis shoes), maybe a backpack and a water bottle, all that stuff. Sometimes you see the extra stuff here too, but there are some differences in walking/rambling in the two nations. And I’ve found that plain old rambling is far more popular with regular, non-athletic types in England, just as much as with the gym-goers. It’s for families, older folk, children, everyone. And that’s just nice. A national past time.

I remember the first time I went for a walk with Jon and his family. We were in Derbyshire on holiday and in preparation I put on my yoga pants and tennis shoes and a workout t-shirt with a hoodie. I looked like I was heading for the gym, and I was ready to rock this ramble! I also looked like a complete idiot next to the rest of the Norris family-I’m pretty sure Jon was wearing chucks, he and his dad were both wearing jeans, and maybe there were some rainproof jackets involved or something. Anyway, I learned my lesson. English rambling is way more laid back than what I’d previously thought. It’s essentially a very refined, very English way of enjoying the beautiful country that exists here.

In England and Wales, walkers have the right of “pass and repass” which means that the public is allowed access to footpaths and routes that cross both public and private land. It makes for interesting walks, that’s for sure-farmland and countryside abounds, complete with free roaming cattle, sheep, and horses. This country is perfect for rambling-hilly and green, dotted with picturesque villages here and there. And there’s nothing better than taking a long walk that ends at a quaint country pub with a roaring fireplace, a lazy dog or two, and good draft beer on tap. I mean that.

Even though Jon and I live in the city, I like to take advantage of any opportunities to get my ramble on. Jon’s parents are good at humo(u)ring me, and inviting us along to go for walks with them on occasion. And while I still haven’t got a good hang of how to dress-in part due to my hesitation to by hiking boots, which, sorry, no one looks cool in-I love a good wander, and now think I know how to do it without looking like a total noob.

In October Jon and I went for a walk with his mom and the dogs on the South Downs. It was a beautiful brisk autumnal day, bright and sunny, and I couldn’t help but take a bunch of pictures. I hope that we’ll be taking some snowy walks this winter (fingers crossed for enough snow to make a winter wonderland!)

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Christmas is coming to Brighton!

There’s an ice rink set up in front of the Pavilion, which I very, very badly want to explore. Jon is not interested (probably a little PTSD from his Korean ice skating experience) (extra side note: I just tried to find pictures of said Korea ice skating experience and I can’t find any anywhere! I think I’ve been sabotaged by mister Norris…)

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The cliffs of Saltdean

Today I expanded the horizons of how much I have seen of the English coast, and it was all pretty lovely. First, (and non-horizon-expanding, really) Jon and I took a long walk along the seafront this morning, taking advantage of the beautiful sunshine and not too chilly temperatures that we seem to be having this mid-November. It was another one of those days where everyone in Brighton was out! The sunshine just does that to people-all the kids, dogs, and athletes, running amuck, soaking up that Vitamin D. While we were out and about, Jon’s parents called and asked if we wanted to hang out, and, of course, we said yes (okay, I’m pretty sure they weren’t like “hey Jon, you guys wanna hang out with us today?” but you know what I mean). So at 2 o’clock we piled into a car full of dogs and people and decided to head east out of Brighton, where I’ve never been before.

It was gorgeous! These are the chalk cliffs that run along the coast of East Sussex. We parked the car in Saltdean and walked up to Rottingdean. Over there it was far less busy than what I’m used to right along the sea in Brighton, near us. There’s less beach, fewer people, and more water- and I loved the cliffs. I still haven’t managed to see the white cliffs of Dover that I’ve heard so much about, but I imagine in my mind that these are pretty close! (Plus I’ve heard that you can’t really see much of the Dover cliffs unless you’re actually out to sea).


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Getting back to routine

I haven’t managed to get back into much of a routine, so to speak, in the few days since I finished the course. I wasn’t sure if I’d be heading back to work this week at my old school since I hadn’t heard back from my boss by the weekend, so Monday I was lazy and bummed around the house. Tuesday morning I got a call from the school, asking me to come in and teach in the afternoon. Woo, paid work! But then after the lessons were over, my boss told me that actually, there wasn’t steady work for me right now, but they’d call me if anything  came up. Bummer. So last night I was back to the drawing board….until this morning, when I had another email from the school asking me to cover/substitute for the rest of the week. In sum, it’s been a bit of an employment rollercoaster. Some paid work is better than none though, so I’ll take it. Obviously.

Monday night my fellow graduates and I went out for a celebratory dinner and a few drinks, as we were unable to do last Friday night due to exhaustion/prior plans. The five intrepid teachers made our way to Archipelagos, this amazing little Greek restaurant that is actually right down the street from my house, and the food was delicious. The owner was so friendly and helpful, and I can’t wait to take Jon there-we love Greek food, and this place is bomb.

Archipelagaos Brighton

Afterwards I showed the guys around my favorite tiny pub, The Bee’s Mouth, which is weird and macabre enough to warrant repeated visits. It was a nice little night out (especially for a Monday), and  especially knowing that I probably won’t see any of these people again-or if I do, it won’t be for a long time, since everyone is leaving Brighton or wasn’t from around here in the first place. That’s the thing with ESL teachers….they travel a lot. So it’s nice to enjoy the camaraderie, while the gettin’s good. And It’s nice to go through an intensive experience like CELTA with nice folks. I wonder where everyone will be in a year from now?

Now I’m back to worrying about the next step. Making money, saving money, paying debts, finding a good/steady job….it never ends, does it? I thought I’d be relieved upon finishing this nonsense, but now I can’t stop thinking that this was sort of a benchmark requirement in the UK-most teachers have a CELTA, although many don’t have an MA like I do, but someday, probably sooner rather than later, I’ll have to do the DELTA (diploma version of CELTA, and done over 9 months’ time usually) if I want to move on up in this business. A bit soon to start thinking about that, but that’s where my head is. Bleh.

Chilly walks by the sea (with a red cup in hand)

Yesterday I took a little mid-day break from CELTA-ing to go for a seaside walk with Jon. It was brisk and pretty chilly, but we managed to time it just right, as a dark, cloudy front was creeping up behind us the whole walk home. Gotta get the vitamin D while you can!

We also hit up Starbucks on our way for a special deal that got us buy one/get one free to kick off the red cup season. I don’t know what it is, but I drink so much more Starbucks here than I ever did in Ohio….maybe it’s just a taste of home, and the fact that the CEO stopped building them on every corner and instead decided to focus on quality and fair trading (okay, I know there are issues here…). Oh, and I hate Costa and Coffee Republic and Cafe Nero, the English coffee chains. Of course I love and support all the tiny coffee shops in Brighton-I’m a Small Batch girl all the way-but I’m not saying no to two for the price of one, feel me? Anyway, to cut this coffee monologue short, it turns out that the winter flavors for coffee in English Starbucks are different-no peppermint mocha! So a gingerbread latte it was for me, and a praline mocha for the mister. And neither of our names were spelled right. This happens to Jon all the time, but choosing the more convoluted spelling of Ashley, just off the cuff? Weird.

We walked down along Adelaide Crescent and then back towards our place, sipping our coffees and enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous blue skies. Really-it was a beautiful day. Until the sun set at 4:30, which, hello, is still so early. I don’t think I’ll be getting used to that anytime soon. My body still thinks that if it’s getting dark at 4:30, it must be December, and that’s just not true over here. Hopefully I’ll adjust at some point. Probably not.

There were an intrepid few other walkers among us on the seafront. The whole vibe down there shifts so much when the season changes. All the students and families and seasonal travelers are gone, and only a few people go on the actual beach. No more laying around boozing on the rocky shores in the sunshine….

Most of the buskers are gone too. You see the more hard-core athletes, the dog walkers and the families with children on scooters (oh how I hate scooters!) and ladies like this one, ignoring the wintery temperatures and practicing her hula hooping skills barefoot, in cut off jeans and a tank top.

Rock on, hula lady. You be careful out there! I hope you don’t catch pneumonia.

And just a special shout-out to this guy, who has been extra supportive over these past three weeks while I’ve suffered through CELTA. My emotions have been on edge and I’ve had a steady stream of work, leaving all housework and most of the cooking/survival type things to fall completely on him. I am completely not carrying my weight at chez Sheets-Norris.  And he hasn’t complained one bit! What a trooper. Only one more week!