This past month has flown by. It is the first time back to England in almost four years and the first English March into April that I've experienced since 2004. The first thing I noticed stepping out of the Heathrow terminal, apart from the expected but still surprising cold air, was the trees.
In Mexico, my home for the last ten years, I have been trying, and failing, to capture the image of the "winter tree" right in front of my bedroom window. For the past five years, I have watched this particular tree slowly lose its leaves but almost as soon as its branches are bare, the new foliage is springing the tree to life again. Trying to keep up with my three young children, sometimes means missing that snapshot I want to take.
Despite the London Heathrow fog, the harsh, stark bodies of the winter trees in mid-March were shockingly bleak and breathtakingly beautiful, a work of art to my eyes. This was our introduction to "Exotic England".
I've mentioned my three children. They are my travelling companions for the next four and a bit months. Daddy has to work, and remains in Mexico.
As predicted, and still in the Heathrow compound, the shrieks of delight started sounding. The first one at the sight of a double decker bus, the second at an aircraft just about to land, seemingly within touching distance. I was eager to find out what else was to stir the excitement of my young adventurers.
Reaching my mum's house, base camp for the duration of our European escapades, my fraternal twin boys quickly found themselves in the kitchen, lining up, or I should say, jumping up and down for a glass of water. Yes, we know that long-haul flights can be dehydrating, but the sparkling eyes for plain tap water were for the thrill of drinking water dispensed by the kitchen tap and not a 20 litre plastic bottle. The splash of the water from tap into glass, and the naturally icy temperature was a hot topic for a good few days.
A ride seated at the front window of a double decker bus held all the fun of the fairground as pointed fingers moved from street signs, to steepled churches to looking down upon traffic lights. There are no traffic lights in the town in which we live in Mexico. Skips, yes, the metal containers that sit out in driveways, are another great feature to spot on our walks around town, and the contents often look like valuable material, rather than rubbish, to small engineering eyes. On a stroll one day, one of my five-year-old sons stops in his tracks, points and shouts, "Another Virgin!" He was, of course, referring to a plane coming in to land. "Avion!" all three scream. All in awe of the turns and tails of the vehicles that traffic the skies.
Then came the rains, as I knew they would. Being stuck indoors with three energetic children can be testing for both parents and children. The dull drizzle and cold wind brought the easy excitement of watching the buses, planes and Minis to an end. For a while...
Thankfully, please allow me a pause whilst I give thanks again, the blessed sun has had his hat on more often than I had hoped for and my bunch have been able to explore park after park after park. We are lucky to be staying in such a green London borough, the verdant open spaces with huge stretches of lawn and very impressive playground equipment have been enjoyed by all. What a contrast to the dry semi-desert environment where we reside in Mexico, where we enjoy walks in the cacti rich botanical gardens, where a patch of lawn is considered quite the luxury. In England, the children are free to sit on the fresh grass and make daisy chains, and I have been joining them whilst also enjoying the beauty of daisy's neighbours, daffodils and bluebells
As well as the superb local parks, a short drive in the car has led us to some grander locations. Deer spotting in Bushy Park, a wonder through the maze at Hampton Court Palace, a greenhouse playground in Kew Botanical Gardens and checking out the kite skaters in Gunnersbury Park.
Something many of our friends may not know about us, we are a family of birdwatchers. In Mexico, our day starts by peering out through the window across the town, looking for hot air balloons and the routine loving birds who visit our garden, a red cardinal and a little bird named "Fluff". In England, we also start the day looking out for new feathered friends. Blue-tits, seagulls, parakeets, but it has been the magpies who have caught our attention the most. Their sheer size and strength combined with their glossy distinctive look make them a delight to watch, but their attraction to all that glitters is something the children can relate to. Climbing a tree, a heart-shaped, mirrored treasure was discovered by Fluff's name giver. It was handled with enchantment and returned to its nook. The magic of the find will stay with him for... I'm hoping a lifetime.
As our first month away from Mexico draws to an end, the requests for quesadillas have begun. The ingredients to their beloved bedtime snack, flour tortillas and Cholula hot sauce have been sourced, and a very English cheddar has been thrown in. Que rico!
My eyes are still on the trees, whose silhouettes have just begun to soften as the new, moist leaves are unfolding to greet the sunshine. How will the next month unfold for us? What adventures will be recorded on the leaves of our next chapter? We will begin our second month with a visit to a hedgehog rescue centre. After that, who knows...? What I do know is that every small and ordinary details is catching the imagination of my darling buds. Everything is so exotic. Viva England!!