With a visit from Keegan’s parents suddenly and unexpectedly postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, Liam and I were left to our own devices this week. We had lots of down time to giggle, stay in our jammies, watch cartoons, work on his Halloween costume, and reconnect as he had the week off from school. The school calendar in the UK is set up into three terms of 14 weeks each so that after six full weeks of attending school, students are released for a 1-2 week holiday every term. While Halloween may be a complete nonevent in the local British neighborhoods, Half Term Holiday is, on the contrary, quite another phenomenon altogether. A force to be reckoned with really when venturing out into the endless queues of tourists and their offspring. We made three outings throughout the week and everything, including Okra Ikea, was completely mobbed. In the process though, we developed what I felt to be the beginning of a sweet tradition to temporarily replace the annual trip to glorified mud puddle, aka Pumpkin Patch. The day before Halloween, Halloween Eve if you will, we headed out West a bit to the lovely Royal Botanic Kew Gardens, a massive 121 hectare (thank you Wikipedia) piece of land with gardens, multiple glasshouses, ponds, art galleries inside and out, and the very cool Treetop Walkway. The place is so large, there is a hop-on, hop-off bus that runs around the perimeter if you don’t want to miss any of the “attractions.” At any rate, Liam and I had a wonderful time walking around and soaking up all of the Fall colors we’ve missed over the years living in temperate California. At the conclusion of our trip, we walked back through the very quaint little town of Kew and stopped in at The Kew Gardener, a small horticultural and landscape maintenance shop. The handful of pumpkins in the window front and spilling out the front door caught our eye and we decided to forgo the $3 grocery store variety for the $20 (yikes) beauty growing out of the sidewalk because somehow, the fact that it was from a garden store and sitting in a pile of hay made it more authentic. Somehow. That was what I was telling myself on the twenty minute train ride home with a 30 pound pumpkin in my lap anyway.
And so that brings us to the big nonevent: Trick or Treating in London. A fellow mom and expat from Liam’s school invited us to join her and her 2 boys and she and I were emailing back and forth all day about our plan of attack for the boys, our
Little Mini Fearless Superheroes. We finally settled on taking the bus to St. John’s Wood, an expat neighborhood about 2 miles down the road from us. Super Union Jack Man, i.e. Liam, and I headed out around 4 pm for the bus stop and found ourselves completely underwhelmed by the feeling of ghosts and goblins in the air. I had been told by SecurelyBe that if a house was not decorated, do NOT expect to find tricks OR treats there so don’t go a’knocking. Our street: quiet, dead, barren, and definitely not decorated. I gave our humungous bowl of candy waiting to be passed out at home a fleeting thought, elated I went with the crappy $1 bag of lollies that would find a new home in the rubbish bin when we returned. We passed child after child unadorned. For once, my child IS in a uniform and we are still getting looks from other parents. I can’t win. My Superhero was not to be deterred. We kept on truckin‘ and as we rounded the corner to the St. John’s Wood, it was as if we stepped off a British Airways plane and landed in the middle of any old white picket fence American neighborhood well into their typical Halloween celebrations. 3 words: American Halloween Motherload. The Superheroes had brilliant fun of course, but for me it just made the whole tradition seem even more bizarre. Who are we to come invading into another country, thousands of miles away, with this weird spectacle?! When we returned home, we lit our jack o’lantern anyway and Liam made some comment about doing all of our decorating work for nothing because we wouldn’t get to hand out any candy. He barely finished his sentence when the doorbell rang and Liam greeted a whole slew of British Trick or Treaters. I heard one of them ask how many candies he could have to which Liam enthusiastically replied, “Take as many as you want.” Within minutes, the bowl was emptied and my Halloween was complete. To top it all off, on Friday we went into Central London and witnessed the opening of Christmas Ice Skating outside the Natural History Museum and fireworks have been randomly going off 5 nights straight (no joke) for Guy Fawkes Night?? (My British audience, help me out here) No Halloween? No Thanksgiving? No Problem. Just light fireworks and start celebrating Christmas 2 months ahead of time. The perfect Bizarro ending to my imperfectly Bizarro week.
Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway, every bit as cool as it looks. Incidentally designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the same Architects that designed the London Eye.
David Nash at Kew Gardens. Liam liked his work because he used a chainsaw to carve trees from the Garden that had come to the end of their life.
And the ever so complicated pumpkin picking begins. On the right is the pumpkin he had his eye on. Seriously Buddy?! I have to carry this damned thing back on the train. Try again.
Liam progressively went from THE largest pumpkin possible, to the next largest, to the next largest, until he finally drew the line on the one on the right. I am not leaving this place with anything smaller than this one, Mommy. How could I say no one more time to that face?!
Urban Pumpkin Picking in Kew - our new Halloween Tradition
And NOW . . . introducing . . . SUPER UNION JACK MAN!!!
My Superhero makes it all worth it.
Cheers Super Union Jack Man!