So the last week and a half was spent without internet. That’s why there wasn’t a blog last week. Also, losing internet for two eventful weeks might make for a long blog. First things first: new house. Jodi and I have moved to Norwood in South London for more space and a real kitchen. We will be here until we finish our positions at IHQ in July. We could pretty easily fit 3 of our old flats into the bottom floor alone. The commute isn’t as convenient but it’s worth the extra effort. Before we moved, we would take an Overground train to the Tube in Whitechapel, which run every 7 minutes and 3 minutes, respectively. Now we have to bus to a National Rail train which leaves every 15-30 minutes and transports Londoners at about 241% capacity. At least, the normal train does. Jodi and I have decided to not have our faces shoved into strangers armpits every morning and take the train an hour earlier, even if it means waking up at 5 am.
On Thursday we went to Trafalgar Square for the Christmas tree lighting which was, frankly, underwhelming. Maybe I’ve been to Disneyland during Christmas too many times. The tree is interesting because it’s a gift from Norway, which has been a tradition since WWII. Apparently the first tree was given to the UK as like a thank-you-for-helping-us-during-the-war-here’s-a-tree. And they keep doing it. Touching.
Saturday was easily the most interesting day of the last fourteen- we planned to do all the things in a matter of only a few hours. The first stop was Denmark Hill to meet up with Alexa. Uneventful. We came, we saw, we gathered, we moved on to Stepney City Farm. Stepney City Farm is exactly what you pictured in your head when you first read the phrase 19 words ago. 19 if “Stepney” counts as first. Literal literary humor. Wut. ANYWAY, Stepney City Farm is a farm in the city. We weren’t really sure what to expect but the Stepney Salvation Army, who was hosting the event at the farm, is known for being lively and exciting so we were optimistic. And rightly so. The people from Stepney were incredibly warm and cheerful, despite the near freezing weather and curious smells emanating from nearby pens. Our job was to lead the crowd from one area to the next and play carols with a brass band as they watched different parts of the nativity unfold right in front of them. The crowd was led by a toddler dressed as a star and carried on her dad’s shoulders. Adorable.
The first few stops were not terribly exciting but it was fun running around the pens and trying to beat the crowds to the next location. The last are was just outside a donkey pen but since we couldn’t fit with the crowd, they decided to put us IN the donkey pen. Now, I’ve never been particularly afraid of animals (much less donkeys) but just before leading us through the barrier, one of the men nearby said, “Watch out for the donkeys- they kick.” Awesome. Bucking donkeys. The last thing I need for Christmas is a brass mouthpiece being kicked through my teeth by an irate beast in a country that I’m not sure cares about my insurance coverage. We started playing “As with Gladness” and the first verse progressed without any issues. The donkeys had come over to investigate but I figured they were used to people being around so they wouldn’t pry too much. We started the second verse and I felt something touch me. I could see all of the band members in my peripheral vision and there was only one other creature in the pen. I pretended to play as I turned and sure enough, the larger of the two donkeys was uncomfortably close to us. I turned back around but before I could find my place I heard a terrible noise behind me that sounded a bit like an exasperated child that is too cranky to verbalize why he is making the excruciating sound he feels so obliged to exude. It wasn’t a tantrum. I’m sure from outside the fence it was a cute sight: Christmas carols played by a band and a donkey walking up to them so he could sing along. From my perspective, it was a battle cry. He was ready to show this braying bunch of brass players whose territory they were invading. I may have had a panic attack. I may have involuntarily cried a little. I don’t know what emotion I was feeling but I suddenly was the child incapable of understandable communication.
The song ended eventually. We moved on to the stable. The STABLE. That’s where it lives. It already hated me for being near the outermost sanctum of its realm and they wanted me to trespass in its domicile?! Not only that, the entire crowd came into their fenced off field so they could join in the final carols around the donkey house. I was worried. No; I was petrified. A child was going to be bitten, kicked, trampled, and there was nothing we could do. Still they marched. Still they dredged every closer to their impending death. But it didn’t come. The donkeys were fine. We played 3 songs and all the donkeys did was play with the children and shake their long devilish heads innocently. Taunters. They knew that I knew what they were thinking. “Get the baritone player”. But again, nothing really happened. We finished the last song and started dispersing and my heart started beating an its average pace again. As we were leaving the pen, however, the smaller donkey escaped. Turns out donkeys are all about companionship. I learned this quickly because as soon as the larger, eviler donkey noticed his friend was gone, he decided it was a good time to start kicking things. My favorite part, in the most sarcastic sense possible, was that Alexa and I were standing right behind him. Naturally, we screamed out of sheer panic. While my being kicked in the face by a rampant donkey makes for a good story, it didn’t happen. I saw every muscle on his back tense up as he prepared for the kick but he never followed through. He simply ran around the perimeter of the fence for a while until he was safely reunited with his counterbeast. And I was several large paces away from both of them.
The new house, complete with little English car… which isn’t ours, by the way.
The Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square.
Stepney City Farm
Pulling his stupid innocent face again…