I got the notice that I received an assignment in London in early August 1999 – I went over a week later and came back in mid-October to finish the move and on Annelise’s second birthday on October 20, we loaded our 27 carry on pieces on to a plane to London. We needed 27 carry on pieces to provide for 6 weeks in temporary housing with a 2 and 4 year old while we waited for the ground shipment of our stuff. I had found a place during my couple of months there in London while Sharon focused on selling our house back in Columbia – so I got a disposable camera, took pictures, got them developed and mailed them to Sharon for review. She got the pictures below as a preview. Although Sharon was Ok in looking at the pictures of the house, she cried when she saw it – I think the rent per month had incorrectly lifted her expectations – it was built right after WW1 and hadn’t had a lot of work since the 1970’s. I would be remiss to note that the key part of being able to do this blog update is the Creative Memories album that Sharon put together.
The house selection was difficult because I was not a high enough management level to receive a full housing allowance which would have allowed us to live in St. John’s Wood near the American School of London where we had planned on the kids going to school. We never were able to complete the Venn diagram –
We settled on a great neighborhood right near my office south of the Thames called Barnes. The outlier on the Venn diagram was that the girls would have to go to the local British primary school – in hindsight that was the best decision made on the move and immediately integrated us into the local community. Alexandra ultimately begin to speak in two different accents clearly defined by who she was speaking to – she spoke American English to Americans and British English to English even in the same conversation. Annelise had some hybrid of British-American-Elmer Fudd accent going on.
One memorable incident was the collapse of a portion of the plaster ceiling – my sister and her son Christian were visiting and Sharon was carrying Christian and almost was hitting my falling ceiling. Had to pull down the entire plaster ceiling and found a suitcase in the wall – filled with newspapers from the 1950’s. No cash or gold.
We took a lot of daytrips in the south of England;
- Windsor Castle
- Dover Cliffs
- Leeds Castle (a long way from Leeds)
- Stourhead & Longleat
Plus all in and around London – we were a 10 minute ride from a tube stop and 40 minutes total to Big Ben. In England, many pubs had playgrounds, so that was usually part of the plan so that girls would suffer through the various hikes and museums and then we would spend the afternoon at the pubs (I mean playgrounds).
We made a lot of trips outside of England as a family (working on separate posts for these):
- Andalucía (south of Spain)
Similar to England, a key was “sharing time” so we located playgrounds in every city to which we went – should have written a book.
Even thought we travelled a lot, and I travelled extensively to the Middle East and India, Sharon and the girls became part of the local community with Sharon being the PTA President at the local school, Alexandra becoming the well-known “large rambunctious American girl” (she much taller than her classmates). Annelise was well known from not liking to walk, especially in the rain – which was a big deal as it was the rainiest 14 months in a couple of hundred years there during our time – and was happy to be pushed around in a stroller with a plastic cover.
A couple of the highlights were Sharon leading the upgrade of the local playground (e.g. garden), the annual community parade, Christmas Pageant, and birthday parties.
Before 9/11, I had started to consider my next assignment and had been looking at Istanbul Turkey or Rotterdam Holland – as such we visited both and on 9/11 we had actually just landed in Izmir Turkey. After 9/11, we decided it would be best to head back to the USA and found a great neighborhood outside Washington DC and moved at the end of 2001. Timing was good as girls were just getting into elementary school and we entered the next phase of life with kids activities. I had to go back to England for three months to finish my assignment and Sharon came back one last time to end on a high note with her 40th birthday party at our favorite restaurant.
(This was written during the Great Shutdown of 2020. My memory isn’t this good, used internet searches to fill in a lot of holes. If there’s huge fat foot below me, it not my fault – that an advertisement I can’t control).