Merry Christmas

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow what a year! At the start of the year, we packed everything up and headed over to the UK to start our European adventures.  We had a slight detour on the way over via the US as Adrian had a conference and meetings for work while Janet toured around Disney World.  Unfortunately, tagging along on a work trip is never much fun and Disney World didn’t live up to it’s expectations – it’s a little too kid oriented to be enjoyed alone.

Adrian & Janet TobogganingThe second stop on the trip was in Lake Tahoe for Adrian’s meetings, which got us some exposure to true winter temperatures and lots and lots of snow. While Adrian was busy with his meetings during the days, Janet watched an awful lot of Will and Grace – an addiction that carried on for some time afterwards.

Eventually we made it over to the UK and settled into our temporary hotel home. While having people come and make your bed everyday seems like a nice idea, we very rapidly got sick of just the one room and having to eat out every night. Fortunately, on the first day we’d landed we went into Maidenhead and spoke with a real estate agent. They just happened to have a nice, fully furnished, two-bedroom apartment available immediately, which was exactly what we wanted. It took another week of coordinating money transfers and reference checks between the UK and Australia but we’d found our new home!

Adrian & Janet at the charity ballBefore leaving Australia, Janet had registered with a few teaching agencies and they found her a few bits of supply work but not as much as we’d hoped. Adrian’s job had followed him over from Australia so setting up the home office and trying to understand exactly what he was meant to do became top priority. The first few weeks were fairly stressful, trying to organise things like phone and internet access so we could actually talk to people back home.  We spent a lot of time walking down to the local pub where they had free internet just so we could check email. It meant a fair bit of drinking on the job for Adrian but that’s certainly not unbearable.

In our spare time we started to explore London, with a couple of trips in to the city and a couple of weekends spent exploring Windsor castle. We experienced snow and an earthquake – both so minor that we barely noticed (or didn’t notice in the case of the earthquake). Janet’s employment became more predictable when she found a term contract to start in the April term, but in March it was time to head back to Australia for Katharine’s wedding and to get a visa for Adrian.

Katharine and Steve’s wedding was beautiful and it was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone again. Adrian’s visa application could take up to three months to process but Janet had to head back to the UK to start her new term contract at Waingels College. It was a very lonely week for Janet while Adrian pulled every string he could find and eventually got the head of the British consulate to step in and rush his application through.

Less than a week after being back together in the UK, we set off on a driving holiday up to Scotland, taking in central English and the lakes district on the way.  We made it up to Edinburgh and toured through the castle there before heading back home again.

After trialling a couple of churches, we settled in to St Mary’s in the centre of Maidenhead, which was very welcoming.  We were quickly invited to join a home group and made some good friends. With Janet becoming good friends with Hillary from her school as well, we were starting to actually feel at home in the UK.

Adrian & Janet in the rain at CardiffWe continued our explorations of the UK with day trips to Turville where the Vicar of Dibley was filmed, Cardiff and Bletchley Park, home of the code breakers during WWII. We also got to get all dressed up in our finest when Hilary and Andy invited us to a charity ball. As part of the fundraising they set up roulette tables and after Andy generously bought into the game, we wound up winning big time.  Sadly, since all the money goes to charity you can’t cash your chips in at the end of the night, but we had a great time and got a bottle of champagne for being the biggest winners.

Meanwhile, we’d been fortunate enough to have Australian visitors passing through from time to time.  Adrian’s Aunt Jacinta actually landed at almost the same time as we first arrived in London and we managed to meet up with her and explore the city a couple of times.  The Grasso’s (Fran’s parents) passed through at the start of a tour and we spent a lovely evening with them. Paul and Michelle were our first visitors to stay in our flat and we shared a wonderful three weeks with them, including a driving holiday down to Cornwall. The narrow laneways were an interesting experience for all of us, as the GPS seemed to like taking the back roads more than the motorways. We’ve also had Barbara and Keith pass through so it was great to have a pint with them in the city as well.

Janet’s agencies weren’t doing much to find her a job, so she hit the job sites and lined up a few interviews.  Fortunately, the first interview she went to was at a nice school that desperately wanted a new business teacher. So the other interviews were cancelled and Janet accepted her first permanent job – at The Piggott School.

The Eiffel Tower at nightFor our first anniversary we took our first trip over to continental Europe with a weekend in Paris. Adrian surprised Janet with an upgrade to business class, so we lived the life of luxury in the lounge before the flight and rejoiced in the extra legroom and better service for the whole hour of the flight. We spent the weekend touring around the sights of Paris, exploring the museums and generally enjoying the Parisian lifestyle. Our first anniversary also meant it was finally time to pull the well-travelled top layer of our wedding cake out of the freezer. Thankfully, the British aren’t particularly strict about what comes into the country so we were able to bring it over with us.

With what the English call summer coming around, Janet had plenty of time off school so we went and toured around Italy for two weeks. It was incredibly hot, but it was fantastic to be able to see so much of the country. There are just so many famous places there that it was amazing to actually see them in real life.

We’ve done a few other tours around the place, to Wimbledon, Buckingham Palace, Greenwich and a long weekend in the south of Ireland. We’ve also been discovering the London musical scene with Stomp, The Lord of the Rings, West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz, Flashdance and soon Imagine This and Joseph.

Our christmas treeNow that the Christmas season is upon us, we’ve set up our first real Christmas tree and had a Christmas Tree party to celebrate. Each of the guests brought along a decoration to hang on the tree so now we have a collection of fond memories we can look back on each year as we decorate our tree. We may change our mind when all the needles start to drop, but for now we’re very impressed with having a real tree.  For Christmas day we’ll be in the Swiss Alps.  We’ve found a really good, self-guided 7 day tour, which will actually take us to most of the major sights in Switzerland. While it will be sad to be away from our family at Christmas, it’s very exciting to think that we’ll have a white Christmas, complete with mulled wine and a sleigh ride.

For those that haven’t discovered it already, we’ve been keeping a blog of our adventures at www.thesuttons.name  You can enter your email address there as well and you’ll get an email whenever we post something new. It’s been a great way to help us keep in touch and share our stories and photos with everyone back at home.

So after a very exciting year getting set up in a new life, we’re looking forward to continuing our explorations next year – especially Sandy and Richard’s visit which we’re already starting to book things for.

We wish you all the very best in the New Year and a very Merry Christmas.

Adrian and Janet

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