The three other members of the family went to a football match on Sunday and froze while I did important things like warm my toes in front of an electric heater. So I can’t report on English football matches, although it was a tie, apparently, and they sat in front of a man yelling slurs at the opposing team while his companions told him to shut up. Shame I missed it.

We met up at the Gloucester Arms on the Kensington High Street for dinner.  The smoking ban inside pubs a couple of years ago has meant you are greeted with an enormous cloudy crowd on the street in front of the pub in good weather; in the current cold smokers seem to be staying home.  Many pubs have kept business strong by offering food while others have died.  I don’t understand this mushy pea business but the other stuff ranges from basic fried fare to things like roast parsnip soup and crusty rolls — delicious.

But it’s the atmosphere in pubs that I would like to export to North America.  The tables are usually mismatched wood and there’s a bit of red or green velvet here and there, lit by chandelier type lights so you can party like it’s 1899.

Then there’s the clientele: at the Gloucester Arms there was a cluster of lads watching a(nother) football match around the corner from where we were sitting, a group of very happy thirtysomethings behind us, and all ages scattered around.  A bar is a pickup joint; a pub is a living room.  You can see yourself sitting in a corner with a good book and feeling at home.

And then there’s the Rose family: two generations enjoying veggie sausage and mash, chicken, fish and chips and a salad. We drank cider; Jessica the 22-year-old adult sipped red wine.  What was a watershed about the occasion was that the newly 18-year-old Hannah was of age in Britain, drinking legally in a place serving alcohol for the first time.  God knows alcohol presents its problems, as the thirtysomethings behind us–now bobbing up and down doing the wave–must know.  But it is an occasion, and we toasted it.

I have such mixed feelings about going home to Toronto. This has been a fantastic adventure for me, both geographically and as a mother away from her brood for the first time, moving on with my own life.  Always happy and sad at the same time. To me that’s adulthood: never feeling one way about anything again, always a mix in the brew. I want to tell Hannah that, but the family would call me morbid, and they would be right.  So we toast to all four of us being of age, and we drink.