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Updated: Apr 1

Ah well, we couldn't get through the year without a mishap, could we? I mentioned in my last post that I slipped in the mud while hiking in Wales and sprained my left wrist. Two weeks later, still in pain, it seemed time for an x-ray. As the wife of a British citizen and holding an official spouse visa, I'm covered by the National Health Service (NHS). I filled out an online form requesting an appointment with my GP, but they quickly wrote back, "we don't deal with injuries, call 111."

Calling 111 gets you a triage nurse who asks your symptoms and tells you what to do next. They referred me to the ER (or A&E, "Accidents and Emergencies") here. OK then!

The next morning we appeared at the hospital in nearby Banbury, and within the hour I was x-rayed and in front of a disapproving doctor who announced a fracture of my major wrist bone, and scowled at me for waiting two weeks to seek treatment. However he was very professional and in no time the nurses had applied a temporary cast, and I had an appointment the next morning (on a Saturday) at the hospital's "Fracture Clinic."

Here I got another x-ray and saw an orthopedic specialist. He said "5-6 weeks in cast." A new, longer-term cast was then applied by some friendly and experienced nurses, and a one-week follow-up visit scheduled.

I could not have expected any better care back home. I note some minor differences: 1.) the hospital seemed a bit worn and dated, not sleek and modern like Boston hospitals (thought it didn't seem to detract from the quality of care); 2.) there's no online portal where I can see my records, test results, etc.; but 3.) the treatment didn't cost me a cent. No co-pays, no deductibles, no premiums.

I'm very grateful to have this good medical care.

We also had an interesting comparison to make recently with veterinary care. Both our dogs were sick for most of February with GI trouble (sparing you the details). During one of our trips to the vet in Bicester, they noted Gingersnap's heart murmur and suggested an EKG. She's had one before, but they thought it might be getting worse. So we went ahead with the procedure and like many older dogs her size, they found her heart is weakening. The vet prescribed the heart drug Vetmedin, which could add several years to her life.

But unlike the NHS, we have found veterinary care in Oxfordshire to be at least as expensive as in Boston, if not more so. It's not a complaint - we accept the expense in return for our dogs' wonderful companionship. And we are happy they are healthy and eager to join all our adventures.

Meanwhile, spring is putting out feelers in England. It continues to rain daily, and I'm not sure when that mud is ever going to dry up enough to walk in the fields and hills again. Maybe there is a miraculous week of drying-out coming? For now, I will adjust to living "one-armed" and enjoy any signs of better days to come, including our landlords' glorious cherry tree, now in full bloom.

The next few weeks may be mundane as we work, heal, and wait for spring. But I will be back, hopefully, with reports of our continued adventures. Stay well, Dear Readers.

🫖 🇬🇧 💂‍♀️

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We had a week off for spring break, and decided to head to Wales for some scenery and hiking. We knew the weather in March wouldn't be best, but we can't sit at home waiting for sunny days, can we? So we set off with the dogs for 3 nights at the coast (Amroth) and 5 more in central Wales.

Wales is a separate country from England (separated by the black-dashed line on the above map), but part of the United Kingdom. Every label and sign we saw was in two languages: Welsh and English. Otherwise it might have been difficult to tell that we had left England.

There were however more hills and mountains than I'm accustomed to seeing in our part of England. The scenery everywhere was fantastic. We also really enjoyed the two charming cottages we found through AirBnB. Both featured wood stoves with plenty of firewood, and those kept us warm during the cool March weather.

During the planning, I was impressed to learn that Wales boasts several long-distance hiking paths, including:

  • The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path (186 miles)

  • Offa's Dyke (177 miles)

  • Glyndwr's Way (135 miles) this website has details

We aimed to walk a little bit of all three trails. (I loved the quaint names and histories I read up on.) But did I mention the weather has been super rainy in the UK this spring? 😆☔️ So even though we had rain gear and were blessed with some clear days during our visit, a serious hiking enemy remained: MUD.

British trails enjoy rights-of-way through towns, beaches, forests, fields, and farms. When hiking in rural areas, we've found ourselves quite often following paths through pastures. If you don't mind muddy boots, that's not a problem. But on our first day of walking the spectacular coastal trail, a steep and muddy section proved so slippery I could not make it down the hill without falling. Luckily I only suffered a sprained wrist, but that somewhat curtailed our activities for the rest of the week.

We still managed to continue with our walks on short sections of Offa's Dyke and Glendwr's Way, and those brief tastes made me hope to come back someday and experience more of them. Here are some images of our walks (and other scenes that charmed us):

Meanwhile we learned that southern Wales served as an entry point for long-ago invaders of England, and thus there are MANY castles built to defend the incumbent nobility and royalty. We went inside just one - the imposing Pembroke Castle. I find these remnants of medieval times fascinating, and seeing all of them in the UK could be a full-time job. I may be getting to that point of "seen one, seen 'em all," but there are one or two left on our list.

Now that we are home from Wales (i.e. back in Oxfordshire), we must buckle down for the last seven weeks of our spring semester teaching jobs. We hope to take a few short excursions on our days off, and be out walking in the sunshine soon.

PS - I really enjoy reading your comments, but this blog platform doesn't identify the commentators. You can remain anonymous, or type in your name at the end of your comment! Thank you for being my audience, and for letting me relive our sabbatical experiences as I write them down.

🏰 ☔️ 🌷

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Updated: Mar 4

My sister Kathy and her family (Chris and Matteo) were kind enough to fly from Seattle to visit us in England over their February vacation week. That's an 11-hour flight and we really appreciated their long journey to see us!

We love our place in Oxfordshire, but worry it can get a little boring for visitors, especially a young 'un like Matteo (age 15). So, we spent the first three nights in the Notting Hill area of London. (Hopefully dear readers, you have seen the wonderful 1999 movie "Notting Hill" with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts?) We enjoyed this neighborhood and had a great time showing our guests around. Sadly I didn't get any pictures of the famous Portobello Road open-air market. I walked it a few times with great interest, but it was so rainy (and crowded!) it didn't make for good photography. But here are some photo highlights of our times in Notting Hill (and yes that's our niece Mia who joined us one day):

Lest you think all we did was eat and drink, here are some of the other things we enjoyed in London:

The musical "Just For One Day" about Live Aid was great. So were our two Indian dinners at Dishoom and Trishna. No new photos, but we did not leave out Buckingham Palace, Fortnum & Mason, nor Mr. Fogg's! We enjoyed being able to share some of our favorite London places with the visitors.

After London, we brought them home to Somerton, Oxfordshire, where they stayed in the guest suite and experienced our quiet, rural life! Still, we tried to keep them busy. They played both bridge and pickleball at the local clubs; visited Blenheim Palace; took an evening walk around Oxford University; and strolled through three Costwold towns. During our Cotswold tour we indulged in afternoon tea in Stow-on-the-Wold. Matteo's expression is priceless, don't you agree?

So thank you dear visitors for the opportunity to enjoy England with you! We look forward to future guests and we're keeping notes on all the best places to take them.

Next up: spending Robin's spring break in Wales. But will the rain ever end?

💂‍♀️ 🇬🇧 🫖 ☔️

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