Life is developing its rhythms, even though I still have the sense I have slipped into someone else’s skin. One of those rhythms that is new to me here and newish to me in general is grocery shopping. In Washington and Wellington, Michael went grocery shopping; it has always been his thing. Here, Aidan I walk past the Victoria and Albert museum and along Hyde Park to go grocery shopping at the Whole Foods in Kensington High Street. In that lovely store, we wander around, tasting the samples of vegan sausage and goats milk yogurt as we put our organic veggies into the cart. I am tempted by the out-of-season berries, even though I know they have no taste (there is very little pushing of out of season food in New Zealand, very much pushing of it here). Aidan begs for the £5, single packaged, massive goose egg every time (the answer is still no). The packaged food—vegan, organic, and healthy—is shockingly delicious. We load our groceries into our reusable bags (we are attempting a hyper low waste footprint here) and carry them home on the tube.
Last night I remembered that I needed to replace my face moisturizer, a thing I’ve been trying to remember to do as the glass pot got more and more empty over these last weeks. An aside here—I love my moisturizer. It’s a New Zealand, all natural one, and I used to buy it very inexpensively at the local chemist just a few blocks from my house in Kelburn. I meant to buy more of it before I left, and I forgot, and I have been kicking myself about it ever since. Occasionally I have wandered into large make-up or facial care stores in London, but I always walk out again, dazed and confused. Those stores are not in my comfort zone.
But I figured I could find something at Whole Foods, and that it would be relatively natural and relatively inexpensive (as compared to the ones at Sephora). So it was that Aidan and I found ourselves crouching in the skin care aisle, rubbing lotion on our hands.
“This one smells like dirt,” Aidan said, quickly screwing the lid back on.
“I like this one,” I told him, holding my hand to his nose.
“You’ll like it for three days and then you’ll get tired of it,” he assured me, probably wisely.
Finally, we found one we thought was ok—or maybe we were just worried that the ice cream was melting. It was a compromise and I was still talking about the one I loved, but I gave myself a little pep talk about living in a new land now and doing new things. And then we turned the corner and…
There was a whole stand of New Zealand skin care! There was my moisturizer! I actually hugged the display. Suddenly my eyes filled with tears as I was transported to the Kelburn Pharmacy for just a moment. I had this bizarre sense of being closer to home and also farther away than I had ever been. I balked at the price—it was twice as expensive as I had ever paid for it before. “Mom, it makes you so happy!” Aidan told me. He was right. I gently placed it in the cart, returning the mystery cream we had smelled so many to find.
Ok, so on the one hand, this is a totally vapid story about a facial cream. But on the other hand, it’s the story of what happens to us when we move. Every little routine is broken; every familiar thing turned at least a few degrees on its side. There’s the lovely garden, bursting into bloom in front of my house. Like the botanic garden in front of my Kelburn house, but this one is locked, and I don’t have a key. There’s the Whole Foods, which harkens back to my days in DC more than a dozen years ago, but this one sells PROUDLY MADE AT HOME IN THE UK products and the prices are in pounds and pence (I still feel like Paddington Bear when I count out my pounds and pence). There are my friends and colleagues on the screen as they used to be in my virtual firm, but now our times are reversed and it’s me late at night while they blink into their early mornings. (And don’t even get me started on the difference between the Wellington Airport and Heathrow!)
I love it here. I love it that Aidan and I go several days a week to have tea in the Members Room at the V&A (this is the best Members room ever, pictured above). We walk back through the museum after fresh mint tea for two and find a new corner to discover (yesterday it was tapestries from the 16th century and costumes from movies and plays). I love minding the gap on the tube with its spindly lines going in every direction. I love that I can walk to the Thames.
And I miss New Zealand. I miss the smell of the sea. I miss the enormous sky. I miss walking on the beach with Melissa, miss having Dolce’s sandy paws on my pillow. I miss Keith’s random unexpected visits for a cup of tea, and the sharp southerly wind in my face. And I will keep loving it here and missing it there—but with one difference. Now I do not miss my face cream.
PS In case you were wondering, the brand is Antipodes and it is their “Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream.” Available at the Kelburn Pharmacy, the Wellington Airport, and a Whole Foods near you.