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  • Writer's pictureJane Ritzenthaler

House Sitting in England

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

I'm back in England, at my first house sitting assignment! I left Tuesday evening the 14th of March on a redeye flight to London, arriving the next day at 10:00 AM local time. The flight was completely full, and I'm thankful I didn't try to fly standby this time. At first I wondered why the flight was filling up 5 weeks before departure, since this is off season here. But then it dawned on me that this is Spring Break month! That was confirmed when I tried to find a seat at the gate. It was overflowing with teens, and what appeared to be a girls' sports team, most of whom were sitting on the floor. I had an aisle seat next to a young couple from Reno on their way to Ireland for a holiday.

I had only seen my hosts, Simon and Joanne, once on FaceTime when they "interviewed" me for the assignment. Simon emailed me that he would be meeting me at Heathrow, in the area just outside baggage claim. Not sure if I would recognize him in the sea of faces (unless he was standing with the tour guides holding a big sign that said JANE), I told him I should be easy to spot; I had a bright yellow suitcase. Moments later, he approached me, saying "Jane?" We both smiled and shook hands, then were off to the short-term parking garage.

Heathrow is about an hour from their home, and we chatted non-stop the entire way. Aston is a small village of about 3,000 people in a wide flood plane of the Thames, so the immediate area is relatively flat compared to the Cotswolds. It is located only 12 miles west of Oxford, and just outside the official boundary of the southern portion of the Cotswolds. Simon and Joanne moved to a new development several months ago, and the community is adjacent to numerous agricultural fields and a sports field that is ideal for walking Peggy, a Bull Mastiff. It's about a 10 minute walk to the center of town. Below is a vintage photo of several that hang in a small local market.

I haven't had time to venture very far yet, as the last day and a half were spent getting familiar with their home and the routine for the 3 cats and the dog. Joanne and I also visited grocery stores and shops in the nearby towns of Bampton and Witney. Today they are flying to Morocco. The old market square in Witney is below, along with a couple of shots in Aston.

Simon discovered yesterday, while talking to his auto insurance agent, that effective the first of this year, non-resident foreigners can no longer be added on a short term basis to insurance policies. He was really disappointed that I wouldn't be able to use their manual transmission VW Touran, but frankly I was a bit relieved. If we think our simple Arizona roundabouts are challenging, try those here with random streets entering and crossing them! (And all going clockwise to boot.) Rather than having to rely on bus schedules, Simon learned that a friend of his who owns the local repair garage has a service of driving visitors to local destinations! Apparently they created this as a result of the numerous damaged vehicles brought in for repair from foreigners. The shop's owner, Andy, is quick to point out that his family has lived in this village for over 300 years and he knows more about the area than most guide books. He wants me to stop in Monday morning and determine where I'd like to go. I know of one destination already: Blenheim Palace just outside of Oxford. It is the birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill. Joanne loaned me her pass to gain access - a real blessing since admittance is £40!

Well, the sun has put in an appearance, so I need to rouse Peggy and take her for a walk!

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1 Comment

Michele Wares
Michele Wares
Mar 18, 2023

Oh Aunt Jane this all sounds like a chapter of a book! So excited for you to venture throughout the beautiful countryside. What a unique and wonderful gift from God. 🫶🏻

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