Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Three Years in London

We've had a tremendous experience. I don't think it's possible for me to completely capture our time here, but that's not going to stop me from trying.

Three Years of Art

We made this move so that McKenzie could attend the Camberwell College of Art, part of the University of Arts London, to pursue a BA (Hons) in Drawing. Heralded as a top international program, her acceptance didn't seem real at the time. Her plan - all along - was to use this degree as a stepping stone toward an MFA in Furniture Design, but that seemed too distant an idea when we arrived amidst a series of riots that threatened to tear this city apart. My concern, those first few days, was keeping her safe so that she could make it to her first class, not whether she'd matriculate to postgrad work. 

Kenz had trouble in the beginning. The UK style of education forced her out of her comfort zone into a self-guided practice, nudged by tutors that kept nagging her to experiment more and leave her old ideas about assignments and projects behind. Eventually, she got used to it. And then she began to thrive. Below is a series of photographs documenting some of her work over the past three years:

Her first sketch from a life drawing class. 

Midway through her first year, still holding on to some of her old architecture style. 

The cheeky sign for their first year show.

My favorite of her first year piece.

Sixteen varieties of shapes and shadows.

With Alejandra, proud to have finished her first year at Camberwell.

Both of us were proud. 

Kenz took to "playing" with light, shadows, and installation in her second year.

Her second year show employed psychogeography, creating shapes & shadows from memories of Barcelona.

Again, proud to be finished with another year. 

Glass blowing.

The infamous Diet Coke chair.

Making moulds. 

I insisted she hang work from her first year show - she didn't believe that I actually liked the work.

Exhibiting in the park with others from Camberwell.

It was during the Mayfair event in Burgess Park; Kenz liaised and organized the entire show.

Her third year studio.


The beginning design sketches of what would become Apotropaic

Mid-year show in Central London.

Apotropaic wasn't quite ready yet - Kenz still had some experimenting left to do. 

Her "thesis station" for about three weeks. 
Got it in just under the wire! Dynamic Ornament: Completing the Project of Modernism.

Still experimenting with rope. 

It befuddles me that she can paint like this, but it just gets thrown away. 

Making runners and risers for bronze casting knots.

Making plaster for the casts.

Testing the mould for Apotropaic

Back and forth between rope and bronze. 

Bronze comes out of the cast, but still needs about three hours' work.

Still testing.

Still scraping away plaster.

Degree show catalogue photographs.

Exhibiting at Hotel Elephant.

Sharing a laugh with Ragna on the night of the private view.

Finally succumbing to 300m of sisal rope. 

Time to bring it home for a resin treatment.

Vaseline to prevent the rope from getting stuck to the mould. 

Tightening the braid.


Owen helps.

More runners and risers for more casts. 

Sanding down the resin (50 hours).

Plaster girl.

It works!

Degree show install.

Finished in the nick of time.

Apotropaic, finally realized. 

Degree show private view visitors (sorry for cutting off your face, Bridgett).



It has been said that "drawing" is "taking a line for a walk." Kenz did so, ambitiously. 

And, for all her work, she graduated with her BA (Hons) in Drawing. 

Congratulations, Kenz. You done good.

Three Years of (local) Friendship

While the two of us knew that we'd experience a new culture and get a rare opportunity to travel, I don't think either of us expected that this would really become home. But, after the first year, at the tail-end of a monthlong visit to the States, we mentioned to each other that we were ready "to go home." And that meant London.

One of the largest contributing factors was the fact that a community had grown up around us. Brits are somewhat known for their slow pace when making new friends, but those friendships also have the reputation of lasting a lifetime. It wasn't so much the comfort of the bed or the familiarity of the kitchen that made this place home; it was the warmth of those around us that left us grateful for our return from each trip away.

Meeting Celia for the first time, traveling to Cornwall for the weekend.

Owen's parents hosted us (Owen, Celia, Jane, Kenz, and I) at theirs for a weekend. 

They took us in, cooked for us, and became our surrogate family for the entire three years. 

We got to watch Hunter grow up.

Jim & Hunter.

Hunter's first birthday party - he's three now.

Owen's band, The Great Malarkey.

Kenz, Whit, Alejandra, and I went to see them...

...but Kenz and I  went on more than one occasion. 

Jason, from Memphis, and I were mistaken for each other quite often.

The juicing phase.

Jeff's birthday.

My favorite.

Louis CK


Picnics by the Thames.

Keeping me company while Kenz is gone.

Celebrating the opening of Burgess Park.

Hunter's second birthday party.



Films in the (cold) park with Dom.

Game night with Jerome and Annie.

Celia's homemade apple crumble for Kenz's birthday.

Introducing Owen to Five Guys.

More game nights with school friends. 

Jane and Bridgett.

Lunch and a museum with the Evanses - Jeff's birthday again. 

Sending the bachelor off via the French Alps.

Twenty minutes before he got lost on the side of a mountain.

Celia ran the London Marathon; we watched.

And cheered.

Dinners with Dom.

Lunches with Jason.

Ragna's exhibition at the Danish Embassy. 

Jonny Greenwood with Amy, Celia, and Owen.


Matt & Matt

And one last birthday party.

Three years of Holidays

Being over here forced us to create new holiday traditions as well as finding new ways to celebrate old ones. November became Friendsgiving month, which required changing the day to Saturday, running around town for seldom-needed (and hard to find) ingredients, and spending an entire week cooking. Our first Friendsgiving saw about ten guests, but the second and third years' celebrations saw eighteen each. How we fit them all in our lil flat (and how we fit that turkey in the cooker) is still a feat of domestic engineering.

The Christmas holiday became unique as well. Since there is no Thanksgiving here, the city would begin decorating for the holiday right after Halloween. That, combined with the fact that it gets dark by 4pm during the season meant that we got to relish the Christmas spirit in our own London way before embarking on an annual monthlong trip back to the States. The lights would be twinkling by late afternoon and Kenz and I would replace our regular date night with shopping in unusual areas of the city as well as falling into the trap that is the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Her favorite: mulled wine. My favorite: getting her to pose in front of all the Santa statues. 

Lisa stayed with us for our first Friendsgiving, bringing pumpkin, cranberry, and the feeling of home.

Illegally streaming NFL on the computer & covering everything in gravy. 

Christmas in London.

Winter Wonderland

Visiting family.

Visiting dogs.

Friendsgiving, round two!

Success! Relief! 

Winter Wonderland, round two.

Creature comforts upon Stateside arrival. 

Family dinners with Dad'n'Mel.

Christmas on Christmas Eve with the Hawks & Gibsons.

The annual Christmas Day Waffle House stop en route to South Carolina.

Post-Christmas gathering of the Sanders & Ethier crew. 

Flights back to London. 

Friendsgiving III: the trilogy completed.

More success; more relief. 

Winter Wonderland III: the trilogy completed.

This time, co-starring Kara & Jerry!

Flights to the States.

More family dinners...

...and family lunches...

...and holiday parties...

...and gifts...

...and more gifts...

...and the annual WaHo stop on the way...

...to South Carolina...

...for laughter...

...and games...

...and family...

...and then back to TN for more games, family, laughter, and a New Year.

This year, I returned to SC to embark on the sailing trip with Tom...

...which meant more games...

...and gifts...

...and family...

Happy New Year! Now kiss me!

Three Years of Travel

Whenever we told folks we'd be moving here, the first thing they'd say is, "oh, think of all the travel you'll get to do." It was as if they'd forgotten we'd be living in the greatest city on Earth. Sure, the travel has been great, easy, and mind-blowing, but I'll not hide the fact that I would've been just as happy taking that time to explore even more of London. And, yes, there was more that we could've done, but that'll always be the case. I have zero regrets about our "travel vs. stay at home" ratio. In fact, collecting these pictures reminded me just how much we've done.

Not all of our travel was specifically tourism. Often, we found ourselves out of town for a special occasion, such as a wedding, anniversary, or simply activating our visas. Whatever the case, trips wound up being fun; I credit Kenz, who travels much better than I.


...with Emily.




Terry & Jane's farm.

Kara & Jerry's wedding.

Dad's surprise birthday cruise.




Kotor, Montenegro.

Dubrovnik, Croatia.




I traveled solo to Miami & Guatemala for a camp friend's wedding, reuniting with several camp friends along the way.


Alejandro & Cristina.

Antigua, Guatemala.

Mikey & Liz came, too.

As well as Papo (who hosted me in Miami).

I hit up Dustin & Taylor in Dallas on the way back to London.

A weekend in Portsmouth for no good reason other than to read books and see the town.

Kenz went to the States for five weeks last summer...

...to visit grad schools, but she got to visit a lot of family and friends as well.

She also ran the fireworks show at the Gibson's 4th of July party.

Annie came with her for the grad school visits, and wound up seeing Dollywood as well.

With the Grays in Boston.

With Nye in NYC.

They covered a lot of ground.

Craig got married in September.

Kara made an absurd poster of us.

She & Jerry threw a welcome home BBQ for us.

We went to Raleigh to see Katharyn get married.

Saw Dad'n'Mel along the way.

And Kenz threw an epic surprise bday party for Pauline & me.

You can't go to TN without visiting Terry & Jane.

Wilmington, NC with Joey.

BVI for Tom's birthday.

Sandy, Tony, Sam, Quin, and Zora in Hong Kong. 

Pretty awesome.

Emily visited while we were there.

The best hosts.

York for a lil falconry and glamping, thanks to Kenz's 4th wedding anniversary planning.

Back to TN for yet another wedding!

Whitney was gracious enough to plan it for the 4th of July weekend (Thanks, Whit!).

Edinburgh, Scotland with Mom'n'Tom!

Lake District.

Three Years of Visitors

One of my favorite things about being in London is the fact that it's a destination for others, in both work and play. As a result, the Ethier-Gibson B&B had its doors wide open for three full years. Family and friends from different chapters of life, different corners of the earth, and different interests stayed with us for a variety of lengths. It seemed like each year had its own Visitor Season - that time of year where everyone's calendar freed up enough to come across the ocean - which usually meant several days (or weeks) of guiding tours, cooking breakfasts, and laughing deep into the night.

As has been noted (several times), I suffered with a few bouts of homesickness during our tenure here; visitors always had a way of remedying the ailment. Whether it was through bringing various hard-to-find American goods or just their smiles and hugs, the guests we've had have all been a pleasure to host. Kenz and I both hope to keep our B&B open once we move to Providence, hosting Brits from across pond and even more family and friends from within the US. 

Katie & Leah, Ohio & Virginia

Nye, NYC

Greg, Washington DC

Derrick, NYC

Will & Kira, Ohio

Edward, Delaware

Whitney, Tennessee

TROB, South Carolina

Nye ('s second visit), NYC

Patti & Michael, Tennessee

Whitney joined a week later (for a second round).

Robert & Casey, Tennessee

Greg ('s second visit), Washington DC

Sarah, NYC

Ed & Kathy, Virginia

Randall & Deb, Tennessee

Jessica, Tennessee

Jessica's friend, Anna, came in from Germany.

The entire Nuckolls crew, Texas

Garrett, Vermont

Nye ('s THIRD visit) & Steven, NYC

Caleb, Baltimore

Kara & Jerry, Tennessee

Papo, Florida

Overlapping with Papo for Owen & Celia's wedding was Nancy, North Carolina.

Carlos & Christina, Florida

Patti ('s second visit), Tennessee

Bob & Kathy, Tennessee

Mom & Tom, South Carolina

Brian & Jessica, Tennessee

Three Years of London

The longer we lived here, the more this massive, mega metropolis started to feel manageable. In fact, after three years, it now feels like a village. I think most would say that, actually, London is a collection of villages, really - the city swallowed them up as it grew. It didn't feel (or look) that way when we arrived. Everything was the same: big, fast, and scary.

But, after some time, some friends, and some activities, we got the hang of it. I'd say Kenz knows how to get around London better than she ever did Raleigh. That which helped the most was the fact that, since we lived in Camberwell, we were kinda forced to use the bus. Doing so let us connect all the dots between this place and that, which came in handy during Visitor Seasons when I moonlit as a tour guide. I know I have a lot of life yet to live, but I feel pretty safe in saying this is the greatest city on Earth.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford - Dr. Samuel Johnson. We crammed about as much as "life can afford" in these past three years.

Professional "football" games. 

Summertime disc golf.

Wintertime disc golf.

The Diamond Jubliee

The freaking Olympics.

Yea, yea, the flag is backwards; we were tired. 

The London Marathon.

Lots of live music (above: Bombino)

Van Morrison

Halloween themed surprise birthday parties.

Kenz's school friends are the sweetest - they planned and executed the entire thing.

Art exhibits

Theatre, theatre, theatre.

Our hood.

Houses of Parliament. 

Public urinals on the weekends.

Walworth Road.

Decorated Easter egg hunts.

"There's always a trashy one in the bunch" - Kenz

Imperial War Museum


Regent's Park.


The City.


Street performers.


The Eye.



The Thames.

The O2. 

Baker Street.

Kew Gardens.

Tavistock Square.

Folks with pet ducks. 

Borough War Memorial.

Window washers.

The Cumming Museum fire.

Changing of the guards.

The view from St. Paul's Cathedral.

Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge. 

Burgess Park.


St. Paul's Cathedral.

Our neighborhood fox.


Treasures on Walworth Road.



Elephant & Castle.

Fleet Street.

Burgess, again.

Again, Burgess.

The Gherkin.

The Shard.

Southbank at night during one of the countless festivals.

Soho Square.

Covent Garden.

Regent Street.

Temple Bar.

Buckingham Palace.

Three Years of Marriage

We had a few folks tell us that this move would really "test" or "prove" or "show" us how strong our marriage was. I wasn't buying any of it. I didn't think there was anything to test or prove. I couldn't see how living in London was going to be any different for our marriage than living in Knoxville or Raleigh. I had already won the lottery: I was getting to share my life with Kenz. How on Earth could living anywhere be hard if I was with her? Hell, I'd live in Florida if it meant I got to live with Kenz (but, seriously though, Kenz, please don't make me do that). 

I mean, I get the spirit behind those words. We moved over here, completely disconnected from friends, family, and familiarity. We were nervous (read: petrified); our mantra for those first few homesick months was "we're enough, we're enough, we're enough." We'd jumped off a cliff, but at least we'd done it together. And, I think that's what folks were referring to - the fact that we'd find out whether or not we'd keep holding hands once gravity set in. We did. 

I have a strong suspicion it's because Kenz is the single greatest person I've ever known. 

Our first visit to Regent's Park.

Meeting Johnny Cupcakes after a Les Mis show for my birthday.

Wicked for Kenz's birthday. 

Trying out new food spots. 

Kenz breaking the sink with a coffee mug (twice; the mug is fine - in fact, it's coming to Providence with us).

Havil Street.

Albany Road.

The lurker.

"I got him. I got the dragon."

"I'm not getting up till it's warm."

The taste tester, throwing unsalted pistachios back inside the tupperware. 

"I guarantee you I'll re-learn the clarinet. And then I'm joining The Great Malarkey."

Date night absurdity.

"I know what you're getting for Christmas."

More absurdity.

Our second anniversary.

Arcade games.

All night movie marathons.

Roller coasters.

Those stupid swings.

Camping in Wales.

One day we'll have goats. I can wait (not a typo). 

Kew Gardens. 

The Borough Market cheese monster.

The cold weather blanket monster.

"Don't fall asleep with the computer in the bed." "But it keeps me warm!"

"I hate this store."

Mug wars. 

The Electric Cinema.

Bumper cars.

One wonders how she'll survive a New England winter.

Watermelon hat!

The popcorn thief.

She cut my meat for an entire month...

...because I had a fractured elbow.

Enjoying our back yard.

More food spots (our actual third anniversary).

Tunisia for our symbolic third anniversary.

Those stupid swings again.

Mediocre theatre when it's the only show on a Sunday evening and David insists on going.

Kenz's takeaway habit.

Homemade pasties.

Wal-Mart feet.

When Kenz reps our adopted team.

That "interesting" conspiracy theory guided tour.

Dumpling's Legend.

Reclaiming her inner child.

Eating bread and chutneys for breakfast (with Diet Coke and coffee).

"She's a feral woodland creature." - OEtheOG

Weeks-long grilled cheese phases during stressful school periods. 

Finding new ways to be less hostile toward the cold.

Post-thesis naps.

Helping around the house.

Finding care packages from her mom. 

Asking for more gambling money at race tracks. 

"Enjoying" cold weather strolls through Burgess Park...

...but making it look good.

Napping mid-gamesnack like a child.

Yea, even Florida. I'd live in Florida if it meant being with her. 

That's it for this week - and possibly this month. I'm leaving on Friday. Kenz has been back thirteen days now, securing a house, getting cell phones, and rummaging through everything we've forgotten we had in storage. We'll reunite in Knoxville, pack for a week, and then make the drive up to our new home. Providence will be slightly smaller, slightly slower, but still probably scary - it's new. But, we've done this before. We'll be together; we're enough.

Thanks for reading along these past three years. Have a great end of summer. Until September.