Those who've been reading our blogs know our trip has been a great success so far. In fact, I think it’s fair to say we’ve all enjoyed every stop. Paris was the kids’ first experience in Europe, and what a place to start! Belgium was also wonderful. We tried to mix some kid stuff (i.e. the Mons zoo) with substance (i.e. Ypres and Passchendale). George and I really enjoyed our time in Oslo, and Ursula and Molly seemed to enjoy their girls’ time while we were gone.
For me, Holland was like a homecoming. It was great to see old friends, and visit many places I frequented 35 years ago. London was also a memorable week. We walked and walked. In addition to the famous sites, we all loved Camden Town. Molly could hardly believe Dad knew where to find the funkiest shopping in London!
Spending a month together, pretty much 24 hours a day, has been good for all of us. As you know, I’ve been away a lot over the past 11 years so, in many ways, we are reconnecting as a group of 4, rather than 3+1. Taken in that context, I know the next 25 days will be a long separation, but given that it will be followed by many months together again, I think we will survive.
I know some of you think I’m (more than a little) obsessed with budgetary matters. While there may be some truth to this critique, an unexpected benefit has been watching George and Molly learn about money management. Every day, we sat down and tallied up the day’s expenditures so George could input them into his iPad. We learned about currency exchange rates, and how we need to offset big spending days with quiet ones. For example, yesterday we were considering whether to take the Emirates cable car across the Thames ($60). George pointed out they’d already ridden the Eye ($90) earlier in the day, so maybe a second bird’s eye view of the same city wasn’t really necessary. Everyone agreed, and we were happy to leave that adventure for another trip.
One area of limited progress, however, has been schoolwork. Ursula has clearly become an expert on the parts of speech - I don’t think either of us expected her ESL certificate from Carleton would come in so handy at home! I overhear most of her lessons, and it’s obvious the kids now grasp concepts they hadn’t learned at school. As for math, the good news is that both George and Molly clearly “get” math. We worked our way through several lessons, but probably not as many as we should have. For the next month, the kids will continue English with “Mrs. D” but will get a break from math with “Mr. D”. As a result, we will have some ground to make up when I get back!
Being away from our previous life in Canada has also given me some perspective. Looking back at the past decade, I think I can now appreciate better the opportunities and experiences I had as a Member of Parliament, as well as what I missed at home (and elsewhere). I wouldn’t trade those years for anything, but I’m content with my decision to move on. Ironically, this next month may seem a little strange, as I will be revisiting that former life alone (again). But I know this month is necessary, as I have lots of personal business to wrap up, and two MP offices to close down. I'm also looking forward to helping Jamie on the campaign. Having said that, I’m sure I’ll be excited to climb aboard another big silver bird on October 20 to rejoin my family in Europe.