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Monday, December 19, 2011

Guardsmen on Parade

Everything about life in London is delightfully new to us* so it is no surprise that even last minute Christmas errands have been a treat this year. The lights and decorations of Oxford and Regent Streets are spectacular and even our own little square nearby has lights strung throughout. Navigating the crowds on foot while bands play in the streets makes parking garages seem a world away.  A few weekends ago I went out by myself and happened upon streets closed to vehicles and stores practically throwing parties - live music, endless champagne, coffee, mulled wine and trays piled with mince pies to entice shoppers and ensure everyone's blood sugar remained appropriately high. Now that I think about it though, it is a wonder any shopping got done.  It felt more like a street fair. And speaking of those mince pies and mulled wine,  I promise future discourse on what we're eating here (and admittedly a few things we've heard about but not tried, too) this season.  Meanwhile, know that Philadelphia Cream Cheese is heavy in "advert" rotation.  It is true.     

Anyhow, this week Baby Sister and I had reason to be shopping near Buckingham Palace.  We quite literally stumbled upon a Changing of the Guard complete with the arrival of dignitaries in carriages! In their full length grey winter coats and tall, furry hats, the Coldstream Guards never looked more breathtaking (or more like some of the scariest characters in the Wizard of Oz. And here I am not talking about the flying monkeys). Assuming you can stand around for a bit to appreciate it (and I usually can), life in London is always a spectacle.  I so often feel like I'm in a movie.  Here were countless tourists who likely planned this as part of their visit to London and Baby Sister and I just happened upon it on our day's errands.

I was reminded of our summertime adventure near Buckingham Palace.  While touring the Guards Museum, the smalls and I bought a Coldstream Guard hat for our dress up collection.  Brothers wanted to wear it right away and it quickly became obvious that we would make good use of 2 hats.  So we bought another at our next museum stop along with 2 pairs of guardsman pajamas. Big fans of uniforms, Brothers soon had the uniforms on over their clothes and topped with their new hats.  Lines of people waiting for palace tours and queueing for a look through the gates were more than thrilled to see my little guardsmen go trooping by.  Brothers stayed not just in costume, but in character, through the playground at St. James' Park, passing the palace and under Wellington Arch.  Giggly and grateful tourists posed next to them for countless photographs all along the way.  At Hyde Park Corner we happily got tangled up in a pre-Olympic delegation tour of Hyde Park.  Opting for a bus ride instead of continuing to march through the park, we waited on Park Lane.  Here, I thought, the boys might lose their theatrical momentum and be ready to be boys in t-shirts and shorts.  

Not my boys.  They stood at attention and saluted every city bus, tour bus, cab, and police car that drove by until we boarded ours.  The bus drivers were particularly funny in returning their salutes and they were mentioned by more than a few bus tour guides.  Never once did they drop their stoic visages to let on just how much fun they were having.  I, on the other hand, have never laughed so loud for so long.  

Mothering our small people isn't for the meek or shy.  I wouldn't have it any other way. 

*Christmas here is new to us except that we've kept our nearly decade-long tradition of getting and sharing a stomach bug in time for the holidays.  I am embarrassed to admit the 10 year thing is not an exaggeration.  Whole branches of our family must think we lack creativity in coming up with excuses for why we can't visit on Christmas Day.  I do have a fond memory, though of taking Biggest Brother to the movies and ice skating on Christmas while the Mister and well enough smalls went to a gift exchange.  

The Mister reminded me that this time last year after declaring "air, ship, or storage" for every single item we own, watching most of it get loaded onto a shipping container, bidding a tearful goodbye to our beloved house and setting up household in a rental house with rental furniture, we did indeed NOT get a stomach bug. He's right, but I think I was too busy last Christmas to notice.  I certainly forgot to appreciate a year without it. 

Should your family ever be felled by a stomach bug in London, prepare your children for the lack of their recovery favorites because Jello, Gatorade, and saltines are not readily available here.  They may actually be for sale in the American aisle of Selfridges but I am trying not to find out so as not to have to choose between saving for college and soothing little tummies.  But if I get it next, I will promptly send the Mister out to find all of that and more. Meanwhile, we are managing on 7-up, cream crackers and iced lollies.  

Maybe if I wasn't so addled by dual roles of Christmas elf and nursemaid I could figure out what happened with this entry's spacing.  Meanwhile, we're sending you well (yes, pun fully intended) wishes for Christmas.  This is NOT your card - yet - but don't go watching your mailbox for it.  I dashed a few packages in the mail in between patients last week but that's all that made it out so far and even they were late. 

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