All This shall give you experience

These last few weeks have been pretty uneventful and although I have a renewed motivation to write on my blog, there isn’t much to write about.  A lot of people have reached out to me lately and made sure I was okay when they heard news of the divorce.  Chris and I kept it pretty quite (on purpose) while it was still going through the courts.  We didn’t want to deal with the gossip or the questions that we weren’t quite ready to address either.  I started letting a few friends and family know last summer but we never officially announced it anywhere so when I put a picture on Facebook and mentioned the divorce, it elicited some kind and loving reactions that helped to heal my heart – thank you.

Ha!  Look at me saying “we”!  Funny, that’s one of the hardest things to change.  After being  a “we” for so long and now I’m just me.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity (see I called it an opportunity) to play the piano at a lovely friends wedding.  She’s a member of the ward.  I don’t know her as well as I know her dad and brother who have been my Home Teachers and supported me through the last few years.  I was more than happy to help his family after the help they’ve given me. 

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Me and my very British fascinator!

I got the music and I was scared, like run and hide scared.  I guess I should be flattered that they thought that I could play such complicated pieces.  With a lot, A LOT of editing and missing out notes I managed to get some arrangements I felt okay with.  I always get so nervous when I play piano for anything except Sacrament Meeting and Primary.  My hands turn ice cold and the shake uncontrollably.  This doesn’t help with the mistakes while playing.  That day I said a prayer that one of my favourite people, My Grandma – who gave me my first piano and ignited the love of playing, would help me be calm and make up for my many musical shortcomings.  And she sure did!  I managed to get through the songs with few (noticeable) mistakes and felt semi-calm while doing it.  What a blessing!

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A congratulatory note to myself at the end of the hardest song.

 

What I didn’t plan for was the wedding itself.  The ceremony.  The love.  The excitement for the future.  And to be honest I was caught completely off guard.  It really hurt my heart.  I was so happy for the couple getting married they were so happy and joyful.  But, I couldn’t help but look back at my wedding and feel a sense of loss.  My cynical side was constantly chiming in… (Speaker) “This is just the start of your eternal family. (Cynical Jamie) “Yeah, maybe… give it a few years.” And so on and so on…. And then I stopped (because the last thing I want to be is cynical about love) and listened, and I’ll be honest I shed a few tears (hidden behind the piano – the front of the chapel was hardly the place to have a breakdown!). 

I’ve learned that grieving a divorce, for me, is similar to the process of grieving childlessness.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  Sometimes there are unexpected tears and the emotions just come up out of nowhere and I don’t know what to do with them.  But I’m slowly learning that I have to give myself time.

In those nights that I cried and cried to my Heavenly Father and asked why he wouldn’t bless me with a child I never dreamed that that experience would be for my good.  That, that experience would help me be more gentle with myself through this experience.  Now, after 10 years and a divorce I am so thankful that he knows better than me.  Divorce is hard but, I would imagine, divorce with children is even harder. I am relying on that experience to know that this experience “shall be for my good” as well. 

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So I made it through the wedding.  I managed to control my emotions so I could see the music to play.  I thought of my Sharing Time lesson to keep my mind off of some of the ceremony.  Then I got in my car to drive home and an amazing thing happened.  I wasn’t sad anymore.  For that moment the sadness had passed.  I recognized it, I felt it, and I let it go.  I know it will come back, sometimes unexpectedly, but I just have to trust that the Lord knows better than I do and remember one day this too, “shall be for me good”.

 

Find out more about what I believe here.

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The only thing Constant in life is change

It might surprise many of my faithful readers that I am updating my blog again.  You’d given up on me hadn’t you?

Lately I’ve been itching to get back to writing about my life and connecting with my friends and family in a way that I have always loved.

But, things are different now that I’m back.  Some things I’m going to want to keep private.  Some things might only be for me.  That’s because my life is changed.

I’m not the married, childless, American living in England – biding her time until she could talk her spouse into getting a visa for the states.

Now (deep breath, Jamie) I’m the single (divorced *cringe*) American living in England because, well, because I want to.

Lets clear up a few things.

Chris and I are still very good friends.  The divorce was final in April, but it hasn’t been too difficult because we are still in each others lives.  We travel together, spend days out together, talk, text, and continue navigating our way through this uncharted experience.  The reasons for the divorce are ours, and ours alone.  Its our story and one that only we will tell, when and if we’re ready.  Have there been tears and heartbreak along the way?  Of course, probably more than I can count.  But, I’m thankful everyday (mostly everyday) that we settled things in a way that allow us to have a friendly relationship.  There will be no bashing of the ex on this blog – friends just don’t do that.

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So, I hear you ask, if you are divorced and he was a major reason you stayed in England – WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE?  That, my friend, is a great question and I still don’t even have an answer for myself, yet alone anyone else who might wonder and question it.  I do know one thing for absolute sure, England is my home.  I’ve been an adult longer here than in America.  Me and England?  We’ve been through a lot!  Just because I am now on my own, that doesn’t change much.  I am settled here, I love it here, and if it only had my friends and family I’d be completely happy (anyone want to move over?  Visit?  Anyone??).  I’ve searched, studied, prayed, asked nicely, and begged for an answer of what I need to do with my life.  I am still waiting, but in the meantime I am going to be taking advantage of some great opportunities for my future while I’m still here – however long that may be.

I am lucky that I still have the twins in my life as well.  They are going to a new school in the Autumn and I, luckily, get to look after them still.  They make me crazy and frustrated and happy and peaceful all at the same time. 

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Luckily, this change in my life hasn’t made me bitter and angry with the church.  I am so blessed that I still treasure my testimony and membership.  Don’t get me wrong there are times where I want to scream and shout, “ITS NOT FAIR! WHY??” but I am learning to lean on my Saviour even more to answer those tough questions.  My calling in our newly created ward as a member of the Primary Presidency has helped me to focus on the basics. 

I also have been on the “Divorce Diet” as my mom calls it.  I am finding joy in taking care of myself in every way including physically.  I am sure it is something I will mention in future posts, but I wont ever say how much I’ve lost, just that I’m focusing on me and you know what? It feels great when I get out there and do it!

In the future there will be some posts that will be private and unavailable to read.  But hopefully, I’ll keep having adventures and keeping a record of it right here on this blog!  Stay tuned!

Me, single again?  That’s bound to create some stories right there!

Happy Anniversary England!

Today is my anniversary.  Not with Chris, but with England.  Today 8 years ago I landed in England to live.

When we moved here I had a lot of ideas about how my life would be.  I thought that in 5 years we would be back home. When we moved back to Utah, Chris would have a degree, We’d have a few kids, and we’d have a substantial nest egg and a lot of life changing experiences under our belt.

Well…. God had other plans for us – boy, did he have other plans for us!  8 years on Chris finally has his degree and is finally starting a job where he is actually using it.  We have zero kids and are now living life as a family of two.  We, like so many others, live pay check to pay check but we absolutely do have a lot of life changing experiences under our belt!

I have been thinking of that day 8 years ago a lot this last week.  Maybe it is because the weather is almost exactly the same as when I first got here or maybe because I don’t know how many more anniversaries here I’ll have.

I will never forget the day we landed.  The night before I left was full of tears and doubts.  Chris very nearly went to England on his own with me staying back in Utah.  Chris and I didn’t fly to England together because we booked the flights at different times.  Chris was on one airline, and I was on Air India.  I got on the plane and put my ear plugs in and promptly feel asleep – FOR THE WHOLE FLIGHT – which never happens to me.  At one point in the morning the flight attendant woke me up to make sure I was okay and offer me some food and drink.  I was so sad leaving I didn’t care if I ate ever again!  We landed and I made my way to the meet up point Chris and I agreed on.  Chris was landing a bit later and we’d meet up there to take the tube to a tube station further outside of London to meet his dad who would be taking us to his house.  I waited and waited – I didn’t have a mobile phone to call Chris to find out where he was, so I just stayed put even though the time was passing and I wasn’t seeing him.  Finally I saw him coming towards me – sweat dripping down his face, luggage in hand, and a look of anger on his face I’d never seen!!  He had gone to the wrong terminal and had to travel around the airport looking for where I was waiting.  I didn’t know what to do, but I followed in silence.  We managed to get the luggage on the tube and make our way to Redbridge Station.  This was my first experience of England in the summer – the other times I had been here were Autumn and Christmastime.  It was an unusually hot summer (the start of many) and I learned very quickly that no where had air conditioning.  When we finally reached Chris’ dad’s car I was ready to turn right around and get back on another airplane.  I was hot, tired, sweaty, homesick, and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  As we drove to our new house, I remember Chris and John in the front of the car, and me laying in the back seat (black leather – very sticky in hot weather) and crying.

I don’t remember many details about the following weeks.  We moved into a caravan in the back garden of the in-laws house and I tried to cope.  It was hot and I was miserable.  I remember one night not long after I had gotten there, sitting on a lawn chair outside the caravan in the cooler evening weather.  There was a nice breeze and I was reading a book called, “Living in the United Kingdom” – it was supposed to give me all the answers I needed to live happily in England.  I remember looking up at the blue sky with the clouds that seem so much lower here and saying out loud, “How am I going to do this?” with tears streaming down my face.  I thought that the hole in my heart from the homesickness would swallow me whole.

So here I am 8 years later and it hasn’t been easy at all.  It seems like we’ve been tried in every single aspect of our lives here. We’ve been down as low as you can go financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

But, it hasn’t been all bad!  We’ve travelled more than most people I know.  I have a great job.  I’ve started a website that has changed my life.  I have sweet bunny Sugar.  I’ve got to serve in the church in ways I probably couldn’t have in Utah.  I’ve made a few friends.  I can drive a stick on the wrong side of the road – I can pretty much drive anywhere.  I’ve gotten to be an influence in the lives of children.  I’ve learned a lot of new recipes and traditions.

Most importantly I have made it.  Chris and I have made it – together.

I can never be one of those people who say, when looking back, “I wouldn’t change a thing!” Because I would – oh I would change so much – the list is longer than anyone can probably imagine.  But, its made me the woman that I am.  I am a stronger person now, having lived away from friends and family, then I would have ever been in Utah.  I have learned so much about myself, about God’s plan for me, about my marriage, and about other cultures.  I’ve learned to budget money, travel alone, deal with difficult people, gain my own testimony, resolve conflict, and manage homesickness – among so many things.

I have also gained an appreciation for my friends and family that I never, never would have otherwise had.  I cherish phone calls home, I say – “I love you” to my family always (I never did before), I know what its like to loose a loved one and be so far away, I know how lucky I am to have true friends (a lot dropped off the face of the planet after a few years), and I know how much a letter, card, or package can mean to someone who is struggling to stay above water.

I am hoping this will be my last anniversary with England.  And, I will miss this place that has reluctantly become “home” (as much, if not more, than the place I came from).  But, I am lucky to have experienced life here for the last 8 years. So happy Anniversary England (I wont get too upset that you didn’t get me a gift)!

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The Snow Child

Reading is an amazing thing to me.  Reading takes you to places you’ll never go, helps you meet people you’d never know, and sometimes in almost magical moments puts a voice to the thoughts you don’t know how to speak. 

This happened when I was reading a book called, The Snow Child, written by Eowyn Ivey.  I don’t know Eowyn Ivey’s background – I don’t know if she is married or not, has kids or not.

There is a quote in her book that explains to absolute perfection how I feel about my infertility.  A lot of people think that I’ve “gotten over it” and I am happy to report, I have, to an extent.  My arms aren’t constantly aching for a child.  My house doesn’t cry out to be filled with the sounds of children.  I don’t feel guilt at the fact that I cant give my husband a child – but sometimes, even with all the healing, it still hurts.

I just could never quite explain why, and then I read this quote:

“She had watched other women with infants and eventually understood what she craved: the boundless permission-no, the absolute necessity- to hold and kiss and stroke this tiny person. Cradling a swaddled infant in their arms, mothers would distractedly touch their lips to their babies’ foreheads. Passing their toddlers in a hall, mothers would tousle their hair even sweep them up in their arms and kiss them hard along their chins and necks until the children squealed with glee. Where else in life, Mabel wondered, could a woman love so openly and with such abandon?”

The beauty and the truth of those words, took my breath away and in one moment summed up what I have taken 7 years to explain.

That is the power of books.

Sugar the Rabbit

So, I am going to try this new thing… to blog more often than every 6 months!  I used to do it – but then again, I used to have things going on in my life.  Now it just seems like the same old thing and not much to blog about.  Chris is working and I am working so that leaves us little time to explore and travel.  We really, REALLY miss it but we have to look at the long run and the long run is: America.  So, I guess in the long run a few less trips to old houses and castles are worth it for the prospect of work and money and America.

But, that isn’t what this entry is about.  This entry is about Sugar – our rabbit.  The landlord has absolutely said no cats or dogs.  I am definitely a pet person and I really wanted a pet – not just any pet (we had hamsters and I hated them).  When I took one of the twins to the local farm I was taken by the cute little rabbits.  They are called Giant French Loop rabbits.  I immediately called Chris and told him to call and beg the landlord to let us have a rabbit.  Over here house rabbits aren’t unusual and the farmer couldn’t stop talking about what great pets they make (sneaky farmer).  Luckily (and surprisingly) the landlord said yes and so we reserved our Sugar.  We had to wait a long 6 weeks to pick her up, but I took the twins every week to visit her and we all just fell in love.  I was interested to see how Chris would take to a pet, since he doesn’t like dogs or cats – but me and the twins were hooked.

Disclaimer:  I should have done a bit more research before committing to a GIANT house rabbit.

She is lovely but very, very naughty!  In fact, as I type this, it is past when I’d go to bed but I am up because she peed on my bed and I’ve had to wash the bed sheets.  If I had to make a list of pros and cons they’d probably go something like this:

CONS:

  • Chew on EVERYTHING, especially wires.
  • Eat a LOT.
  • Are not cats – they aren’t too cuddly (especially before they’re fixed).
  • They are mischievous and love to explore.
  • They need a lot of space.

PROS:

  • They are entertaining.
  • They love you back – just in different ways than cats.
  • They are rewarding.
  • They can be trained – litter trained and even respond to their name.
  • They have great personalities.

Now some of the pros and cons probably wouldn’t be there if I didn’t get a GIANT rabbit and also had I researched and gotten 2.  But, never mind – its done and me and Chris just love her.  Chris took to her right away and although she isn’t too keen on him holding her – she is his shadow when he walks around.

I am actually surprised at what good pets they actually are.  She is just a baby still so I have to give her some excuses for being so naughty. We’ll get her fixed in December and that is supposed to settle her down a bit and make her a bit more docile.

WARNING: Gratuitous Rabbit Pictures Ahead!!!

Here are some pictures of her when we just got her:

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Baby Sugar at the farm… just a ball of energy, we should have known! Winking smile

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The first look at her new home.  As they say in England, “Butter wouldn’t melt!”

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Exploring her new home is hard work.  Sometimes you have to just watch telly and have a rest, if you could just get up on that bed!

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Cant be bothered!

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First photo shoot.  In the few months we’ve had her she’s grown sooooo much!

We got Sugar at the end of June – the beginning of a really horrible, miserable heat wave here in England.  Sugar hated it too and actually because of the heat caught a virus that will not go away.  She’s been on antibiotics for nearly a month now.  I am told this is normal for rabbits.  Its just like she has a cold but it could become really dangerous, really quickly.  After me trying to give her her shots at home (and doing it so wrong I gave her a massive bruise), trying to give it to her orally and her not having any of it, going to the vet EVERY.SINGLE.DAY to have her get her shots there – I took her to another vet who gave me enough meds for a month and sent me on my way.  After wrestling with her to try to take it, we’ve found the best thing is to make a “bunny burrito” and wrap her in a towel, pry open her mouth and put the meds in.  She is getting quite good at it – she still hates it, but at least she doesn’t pout in her hutch for hours after now!

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During the heat wave, we both did a lot of laying around being miserable.

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This picture pretty much sums up how she felt about the vets.  The first time I took her she was on the table and every time he started talking she’d thump her foot out of anger (and I think to wind me and the vet up!)

She is a house rabbit so she stays inside most of the time.  She does stay in her hutch through the night and, is in the second hutch we have since she has already grown out of the one we got for her.  The twins built a hutch for her in their back garden, which she loves, and she goes on a lead and one of the twins walk around (or run) with her during football practice.  She has complete access to the house except for the kitchen and bathroom.  She mostly stays in the front room and love the carpet in the bedroom to run around on and do lots of binky’s (rabbit term for running and jumping – means they are happy).

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Home Sweet Home – oh, and Food Sweet Food.

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Sugar meeting Karl Marx.  They are comparable in size.  Karl is 17 years old and Sugar was 2 months.

Here are some more random pictures that I love of her:

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Always getting into something!

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She just keeps growing!!

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Look at those paws – she is going to be huge!!

To compare how much she’s grown in just the 3 months we’ve had her:

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And just to scare myself I decided to look up Google Images of Giant French Lop Rabbits (after we brought her home):

My goodness that rabbit is HUGE!  Her parents aren’t that big (that I can remember – maybe I am blocking it out!), so we are just crossing our fingers!

She is coming to America with us, but by that point will probably need her own seat!!

And if you haven’t gotten enough of Sugar, here are some videos of her: doing a binky, nibbling on something, and the other of her just playing around.  I hate my voice in the second one (its early in the morning) but I guess it solves the question if I’ve gotten an English accent (and no, it wasn’t on purpose I was just as surprised when I played it back)…

Sugar’s Binky:   http://vimeo.com/73584692

Nibbles:  http://vimeo.com/73584694

Crazy Sugar (and accent debut):  http://vimeo.com/73584693

 

Oh and by the way, for anyone who’s stumbled upon this while searching rabbits this site, http://rabbit.org/ is my rabbit bible!

Giving Thanks and Other Thoughts on a Cold November Evening

Happy late Thanksgiving (or like I said on Facebook – Happy Homesick Day).  Although I was kindly invited to a truly American Thanksgiving, I had to miss it because I was looking after the twins.

In the lead up to Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with the twins what it is all about.  I don’t think a lesson on being thankful hurts any child, and it was nice to share some traditions while we were learning.  We started out making pumpkin and chocolate muffins.  The twins love to help me cook – and I love to teach them to cook.  We worked on reading the recipe and measuring the ingredients.  The results were quite mouth-watering.  Over here in England they don’t really cook with pumpkin, so luckily I had a tin left over from last year and we used that.  It was their first taste of pumpkin and, they really loved it (when it was cooked as opposed to them trying it from the tin Smile)  When their parents had a muffin they said they tasted like Christmas, and I said for me it was Thanksgiving.

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While we were waiting for the muffins to cook we made handprint turkeys – “M” got more into it than “J” did – but I explained to them about the Pilgrims going to America and how they had a big feast and so we eat lots of turkey.  I showed them a picture of a turkey and “M” said, “Wow that is one strange looking bird!”  They then proceeded to ask me what that red thing was hanging from its beak to which I replied, “Its the gobbler!”  I have no idea… but they seemed to think it was a fitting name.

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We then proceeded to have some nice, warm, gooey muffins and reflect even more on the things we are thankful for.  It was hard for them to grasp as first, but I reminded them that we have a lot more than some others and so we need to think of all the things that make our lives happy.  It deeply touched my heart when “M” wrote this on her first leave without any prompting from me:

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“I have God”.  These children are not brought up in a religious house and although I don’t preach to them, I do answer their questions about life and a lot of times my beliefs cant help but seep into those answers.  The other nice thing is that over here there is no separation of church and state, in fact a lot of the primary schools are religiously affiliated.   The children are taught religion from the time they enter into school.  They ask me so much about heaven and God.  They know that I don’t work on Sunday and that I go to church.  They know that I work with the kids in church and that Chris and I both have “big bibles”.  We’ve driven past the church house and even spent some time with some members of the Ward.  It just warms my heart to see that they are learning that God is something to be thankful for.

Here are some other things they put on the wreaths:

*  For friends

*  We are not poor

*  We are good

*  We have Mum and Dad

*  We have a home

*  Our lives

*  Cats

*  Trees

*  Jesus and God

*  Beds (AMEN to that!!!!)

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What a simple list, but it taught me a very important lesson.  Sometimes we get so busy that we forget simplicity.  Those things that were the very most important things in 7 year olds lives, are the things that I am thankful for as well.  Simply put – the things that seem so basic are the things that are the most important.  I could elaborate and add in my beliefs but at the core – those are the things throughout life that we should be thankful for.

 

Life in England has been very good to Chris and me lately.  I feel more settled than I have ever before (hey, its only taken nearly 7 years!!).  That isn’t to say that I have gotten over being homesick and still miss my family and friends terribly.  The holiday season is ALWAYS difficult to be away from home.  This year, Chris and I are going it alone – we have no nieces and nephews that we can celebrate with and that makes my childlessness even more painful.  There are some days (or weeks or months) that I have come to terms with this trial – but there are things and times that no amount of contentment or happiness (or travel) can help.  Us not being able to see our nieces and nephews have left a gaping hole that we are trying to figure out what to do with – nothing can fill it – we just have to learn to live with it and appreciate what we do have.  We are trying to figure out a holiday season with just us two, just the two of us, only us, all on our own – can you people with families imagine your holidays without children?  While it may seem tempting at first, I am sure you’d miss it.  So, we are trying to figure out how to come to terms with missing something we never had (and may never have) and that makes the holidays even more tricky.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that as a childless couple we have a lot of opportunities we wouldn’t normally have – but sometimes I have to grieve… its just one of those times.  Luckily I have a small but strong support group of LDS women who know how it feels and I am thankful that I can turn to them.

So finally, in honour of Thanksgiving, here are some of the things I am most thankful for:

Peterborough Cathedral

Bonfire Night 2012

Bonfire Night in the UK is a reason for celebration – fireworks, huge bonfires, and usually rain.  It is one of the tale-tale signs over here that Autumn is drawing to an end.  The sun starts to set around 4:30 PM and the air smells of bonfires.  It is quite a cosy time, if you can get used to the time change!  The last few years Chris and I went to a local Primary School – this year, our plans changed and we found it was just us.  I looked around to see if there was any bonfires and it seemed like we missed most of the local celebrations.  Then, I saw that Ely (about a 30 minute drive) was doing theirs this last Saturday – against the backdrop of the Ely Cathedral – I couldn’t resist. 

Chris and I bundled up and hoped that the rain would hold off.  We parked in Ely and went to the park.  There were a lot of people there.  They had food stalls and a fun fair.  They had a massive pile ready for the bonfire along with 5 “Guys” on top from local primary schools.  When they lit the bonfire, they had put fireworks in it and it popped and cracked (it was by far the best bonfire I’ve seen – the picture doesn’t do it justice!)

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Then the we waited for fireworks, while playing a musical chairs type game as we moved from place to place to get away from drunks, BAD parents, and people with no concept of personal space.  The fireworks were meant to start at 6:45 – but they said people were still queuing to get into the park so we waited and waited.  Finally about 25 minutes late, the fireworks (which the announcer told us cost £10,000 when people started to get a bit disgruntled at the late start) finally started.  They were really worth the wait.  It was an amazing display.  We were so close we could see the men lighting them on the hill.  It was so beautiful to see them in the shadow of the cathedral.  I was trying out new technics on my camera so I got quite a few pictures.  But, I will only post a few.

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You can see on the left is the far part of the cathedral. 

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Do you want to know why Bonfire Night is celebrated??  Click here for the history behind it.