Monday, September 2, 2013

The Wild West

We have just spent two and a half weeks in America, visiting my husband's sister and brother in law, who are river guides during the summers in Idaho, on the Salmon river. We have long heard of these fantastic trips and were waiting for our 9 y-o to be old enough to enjoy and remember the experience.  So this was the year, and it was a truly amazing experience.

I must admit I have always preferred travelling to less developed, less Western countries, but either it's middle age, having children in tow, or perhaps the experience of living in developing nations for five and a half years, but I found myself relishing the American experience. I think I viewed it the same way I viewed going home for summers in the UK  in that I enjoyed a degree of comfort and convenience I wasn't used to in Sri Lanka or Albania. 

I have been to America  about 4 times, but for some reason it bowled me over this it me just how friendly and helpful everyone was. People bent over backwards to help us, people stopped and chatted to us. It made us realise what suspicious old Brits we were as it took us a little while to realise people were just being friendly, with no ulterior motives, and people weren't stopping to tell us off, move us on, ask what we were doing, they just wanted to chat. I imagine this is because we were in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming; generally more rural and slower paced.  On one occasion, we had stopped to have a picnic lunch off the main highway and an old couple on a huge motorbike stopped and said hello, which I confess,initially we felt was a bit odd, and wondered if they were checking out what we were doing. Anyway we had a really nice chat, & as he left he pointed out his house, saying if we needed anything to just pop by and ask. 15 minutes later he came back with a map of Montana which he gave to us to use for our road trip.

We flew standby as usual. No one who hasn't worked for an airline or flown standby appreciate the stress of this way of travelling. As my husband puts it, "Staff  travel (retired staff in his case) is always fantastic in hindsight." During, however, is almost always a very different matter, especially when you are flying during school holidays. We got on the Seattle flight, then got offloaded at the gate. We were booking, unbooking & rebooking hotels for our first night. Finally we got on a flight to Denver. However our luggage didn't. This has happened to us many times before, pre children, but this time, despite having been told it was a priority, as we were going on a river trip, our luggage  didn't arrive during the FOUR days before our river trip started. It was there by the end of the river trip six days later, but how many of those ten days it took to arrive, we are not entirely sure. So thank Heavens for Walmart. We each bought shorts & t shirts, and swimming stuff and 'river shoes'. Our13 y-o chose some very  fetching stars n stripes swimming shorts which he loved and the Americans on our trip were very amused by. They seemed surprised he had actually chosen them.  The worst of it was I didn't have  my contact lenses with me, so I had to wear glasses and buy those 'clip on' sunglasses. Very attractive. And not ideal for a river based trip. I also bought a strap to keep my glasses on and tried not to capsize! Fortunately for us, because our sis & bro-in-law work for the rafting company, we could borrow their gear, mats, and sleeping bags, clothes etc etc.  The funny thing was the friend who had packed clothes for me because my sister in law was already on the river, decided  i needed cute little dresses and skirts to wear at the camp each evening on the river, so whilst I had not a single t shirt and only a very itsy bitsy pair of shorts, I did have a different dress to wear each night at the camp.......

And it was magical. We rafted class 3 and 4 rapids and lesser ripples in rubber rafts & paddle boats and inflateable kayaks, called rubber duckies down a beautiful stretch of river. 100 miles in 6 days - a wilderness area with no roads at all, about 5 or 6 settlements tops; mostly old homesteads once farmed by pioneering settlers or failed gold diggers living incredibly  remotely, now in disuse, or caretakered by people with a similar adventurous and reclusive spirit.  But slightly more modern conveniences....  we saw bald eagles and golden eagles. Some of our group saw mountain lion. None of us saw bears, or rattle snakes for that matter.

We slept out under the stars, gazing sleepily at the sparkling embroidered cloths with the gauze veil of the milky way trailing across it, listening to crickets and the rush of the river. We were fed like kings. The guides used dutch ovens which they placed on charcoal and then placed some charcoal on the lid, and so they could bake! They made brownies, cornbread, huckleberry pie out in the wilderness on these dutch ovens. They also had coolers assigned to each  day which they didn't open till that assigned day, so everything stayed fridge cold.  We were in a fantastic group of people. Our son has added about 12 friends to his Facebook profile, ranging from 23 down to 13 yr olds. They loved his accent. And his shorts....

Our daughter sat on the gear boats for the first few days, the guides called it the 'princess boat', because you sat up high and just kicked back & enjoyed the view, without having to paddle and the rapids were less frightening from there too.

Our son took to the Stand Up Paddle Board and used that mostly. My husband, after being in the paddle boat for 2 days, on day three and the day of the first class 4 rapid decided to try it in a rubber duckie. He managed it fine.

I am very envious of my husband in that he is afraid of nothing. Whereas I am afraid of lots of things. And it seems to get worse as I get older. I used to be much more gung ho and dare devil ish, though never a big risk taker like him. I realised this afresh on this trip. He didn't worry about falling out in to a class 4 churning rapid, (whereas I have fallen out at the top of a nasty class 4 rapid in Chile and it wasn't fun). He didn't worry about sleeping in grizzly bear country, he wasn't at all concerned about hiking through bear country, he rode a jet ski later in the holiday, getting it up to its maximum speed of 50 miles an hour, managing to get flung off it three times at high speed because he was turning it so tightly (Our brother in law said it was almost impossible to flip them & they were so stable they were very hard to come off too) So you can see what a 'girly woos' I feel in comparison to him...But I still do everything, I'm just scared doing (some of) them & hubby isn't!

Yellowstone. I guess being British I just couldn't get used to the idea that you camped under a flimsy piece of nylon quite happily in GRIZZLY BEAR country. I mean, we Brits are just not used to large, dangerous mammals roaming the countryside freely. I couldn't work out why people were so relaxed about it. After all, warnings were everywhere about being 'Bear Aware'. We had bear lockers at each camp spot and instructions nailed to them about what we could keep in a tent and what we mustn't. Every loo, every shop, every parking area had Bear Warnings.  What to do, what not to do. You were told never to hike alone, to make a lot of noise when you did hike, (clapping, shouting, carrying a bear bell though please note they also add about the latter "This is NOT enough", to carry Bear Spray ($50 and works once, though obviously once would be more than enough. I doubt you would go hiking again after also encounter with a Grizzly) I realised that most bears would be afraid of you, and are more interested in your food. Even so, you do have to assume a degree of confidence to sleep in an area with your food near by up a tree, with only that thin bit of nylon between you & a bear hug.  But also if they are used to people camping and hearing people's noise and seeing humans around, that means they get more used to them & correspondingly less afraid of you. And they are carnivores too, of course....

I did one hike, with just the children, whilst M went back for the truck. It was late afternoon and there was no one on the trail, which was a main one near the Old Faithful geyser area. It was also through pine forest. We didn't have our bear bell. So we clapped and sang & chatted loudly. After about 15 minutes of walking, we met another family in front of us and stuck with them all the way back. At the end of the trail there was a sign which said 'Mother grizzly with cubs frequenting this area. Proceed with caution. Be alert. Make a noise."  Can't say I would have proceeded at all had I seen that notice at the start of the walk.

So, summer in the Big Country. Big distances, big cars, big breakfasts, big hospitality & big animals. To coin a phrase, "it was awesome."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Where Did The Time Go?

Ok, so it's 11 months since I last posted. I need to change my name, my blog header etc. I know. I need to start again basically.  I am just going to write a couple of posts to round this off and then publish it with one of those 'Blog to Book' packages, as a record for our children and family of our experiences overseas.  That's why I started it after all, 7 years ago.  Then I will think about reinventing myself, if I can think of a new raison d'etre for my blog.

I have loved blogging, I have just found life so busy since moving back from overseas. I didn't want to buy back into the whole frenetic rat race thing, but life just is fast paced & all consuming here. I simply don't seem to have time anymore.

We have family here, a wide circle of friends, the children have far more activity options & school clubs, they get more homework, I have no cleaner, we own our own house, so suddenly have gardening & endless DIY chores to do.  I could go on. 

Oh & we have had a few major events/life changes too.

Since I last wrote, here's what happened:
1. Sept & Oct last year I spent editing a theologian friend's bibliography for his latest massive tome on Romans.  I loved doing this & even got paid for it, but it took all my computer time.

2. Out of the blue I got a part time teaching job (through my supply agency) starting Nov 1st. It necessitated a return journey of 50 miles, four days a week. This made me very busy.... But I needed a job, and the students are lovely. The school, well that's a whole other blog post.  This post has now been made permanent. And the CRB check was a walk in the park for some reason.

3. Oh yes and did I mention we moved house? We found somewhere that's a perfect compromise between town & country.  On the edge of the city, but near a country park.  We moved 4 days before I started my new job. Timing crazy, house purchase miraculous really. We had been searching for a house for about 2 yrs from when we first knew we would be moving back to the UK. Everything got snapped up very fast, we couldn't decide where we wanted to be, couldn't find a house in our price range. We seemed to have hit a dead end.  We had found one house we liked but, though it was with an estate agent, it wasn't on the market yet and was too expensive. If we offered lower, we knew they would just wait till it went on the 'open market'. An impasse.

Then one night at 10p.m a note was pushed through our door. I wrested the paper from the eager jaws of our puppy and was about to throw it away assuming it was an advert, but something (sheer unalloyed nosiness probably) made me look at it. It was a letter from a family asking me if we were selling our house as they were interested in it. My husband told me not to get excited as the chances were very slim that it would work out. Neverthless I emailed that night (Tues) They came to look at it on Wednesday, asked to come back on Thursday. On Friday they made us a full price offer, we accepted it and on Saturday we put an offer in on the house we liked (which was rejected) However, the vendors agreed to meet us half way between ours & their price. So in five days we had bought and sold a house!

4. We are now in the throes of a 'Forth Bridge' of a decorating project, trying, and failing probably, to balance the house's demands with our children's needs, in terms of time spent on both.

5. We are having a kitchen extension done. This also seemed to be a dead end scenario. Our builder, most inconsiderately, told us in March he couldn't do our project after all, because he was retiring to become  a farmer. An original excuse at least. His previous project had taken far longer than expected.  So, suddenly we had to find a builder during the busiest time for building - over the summer. We tried all our personal recommendations; had 2 ridiculous quotes, 3 builders who said they were too busy to take it on. An impasse again it seemed. Then one Tuesday (again) as it happened an architect friend emailed to say her builders were looking for work for August & September. They came the same day, we got a quote on Wednesday, rejected it on Wednesday and told the project manager what our original builder was going to do it for. On Thursday she accepted that price and they started on the Friday!
The builders are Polish and boy do they work hard. 6 days a week, from 8-5p.m. I must say they make me feel very at home in a nostalgic way; being surrounded by concrete dust, building noise, my ears filled with the familiar sounds of an East European language. The men are all in their 40s and 50s, grey, pot-bellied and smoke constantly.  And they are phenomenally strong. My husband has been dishing out ear plugs to them because they drill with no ear protection.  So in 4 weeks the project is nearly finished.  Trying to keep up with them in terms of research has been a struggle. I hadn't realised were SO many decisions involved in such a project. It's taken Choice Anxiety' to a whole new level.

So that is why I haven't had time to blog. Instead I am marking books, preparing lessons, walking our dog, cleaning our house, keeping up with friends & family and trying to learn how to juggle with at least 10 balls. And I've never been very co-ordinated on that front....

Friday, September 21, 2012

One Down, Three to Go

Woohoo, I have my Albanian police check! One down, three to go. My former director (of the school I taught in) took my scanned passport & parents full names (that's all he needed...??) along to the scruffy little office, paid over the money & a week later they have it. And it cost about a tenth of what the international police checks website over here was going to charge. Yay!

I must say I rather enjoyed the moment when a former Albanian colleague sent me an email saying her husband had 'contacts' in the government if I wanted him to 'fix it' for me.....Ah, I felt briefly nostalgic for that Albanian way of life which relies not only, negatively, on corruption & bribes, but also is fundamentally built on relationships, networks & who you know who can sort something for you.  It made me smile.

Speaking of Albania, we have an Albanian friend staying with us for three weeks, while she finishes her PhD.  She is pregnant & is trying desperately to finish by the end of October. As a result of her arrival I have been neurotically cleaning the house. Albanians are obsessed with cleaning their homes. The day she arrived she offered to help  me with cleaning. She looked around & said "It's fine, but if you would like me to help you do a really good clean, we could put our trainers on & spend Saturday doing that'. Not my idea of a fun weekend, but clearly my idea of cleaning is not hers either.... You can take a girl out of Albania, but you can't take Albania out of the girl obviously........ I had cleaned the house from top to bottom the day she arrived. I felt a bit deflated.All that effort to waste! I clean it once a week, not everyday. I remembered how I used to move the mop round the flat to make it look like I had cleaned in between my Albanian cleaners 2 weekly THREE hour visits.

Today she came home & saw some rubber gloves on the stairs & wagged her finger at me & said "Have you been cleaning the house without me?" I confessed I had been.

Tomorrow is Saturday. I'm hoping for a lie in, but maybe I'll offer to polish the door handles, to appease her. Or maybe it's just that she's pregnant & it's the Albanian form of nesting kicking in.  In which case I should let her embrace it & get on with it. After all I'm not pregnant....or Albanian.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Fine Upstanding Citizen in Search of Work

Just how hard can it be to work in this country? Clearly the answer is quite hard, if you work with children & need a CRB check.

First of all I discovered you can't apply for one as an individual. You can't 'submit yourself' to investigation & police checks, to prove what a fine upstanding citizen you are. . Oh no, Heaven forbid. An organisation has to do it for you. So I can't work as a freelance supply teacher without a CRB, but to get a CRB I need to have a job or work for an agency.

So I decide to apply to work for a supply agency. I fill in an application & cough up £50. I am slightly concerned that 2 of my last 3 addresses from the last 5 years are foreign ones & wonder how they will check those out.

Imagine my surprise when my CRB comes back within 2 weeks. wow, that was a bit easy I muse. Furtehrmore the Supply Agency tell me it has 'full portability' which besides meaning it's a flimsy bit of paper which tucks neatly into any handbag, it more importantly means I can use it to work in other places.Yay!

Today I spoke to the personnel manager (yes in a school - how times have changed...) of a large secondary school which needed an English supply teacher & where I had heard on my social grapevine that there was  a part time job coming up soon.

Turns out that they won't accept my agency CRB (as most schools wouldn't she said) so I need to pay out another £50 for another CRB to be done (my CRB certificate has only been in my grasp for two days & it's already out of date/invalid) & furthermore I would need police checks done for Sri Lanka & Albania too. Hmm, that could prove tricky. Then she dropped her final bombshell. "Actually, just looking at your CV, I see you worked in France & South Africa too. You actually need a police check done in every country you have worked in since you were 18"........

Long silence.

"You mean when I worked in South Africa 24 yrs ago & when I worke din Paris 23 years ago, I need a police check done?"

Yes, we wouldn't even consider you until the police checks were in place"

"But I worked for Oxfordshire for 15 years, after living in South Africa & France, &was 'CRB-ed' no problem. How come it was ok then but isn't now?"

She said, rather prissily;

"I'm not saying this is you, but look at what Gary Glitter got up to in those countries he visited years ago."

Another long silence. What can I say to that? Guilty until proven innocent.....

So even though I worked for Oxfordshire L.E.A for 15 yrs before moving abroad, complete with a CRB check, to work in Oxfordshire again now I have to have police checks for when I was abroad before I ever worked for Oxfordshire. Seems a tad illogical to me. I guess I never had an international police check done.

 I did a bit of research online & discovered that for the princely sum of £115 I can get a police check done in Albania, & for another £115 one in Sri Lanka & for another £115 South Africa. France is a 'bargain' £94.

So £439 to get 4 international police checks. And that's just to get through the preliminary application process.  To be even looked at by a school. Never mind be offered the job. Woe betide me if I got a job & then changed school, I would need another check done as they are 'in theory' only valid on the day they are issued. So the supply agency told me. Presumably I wouldn't have to do the foreign ones again would I? Though when my husband needed one done for some reason in Albania, they asked for a UK one to be done even though he hadn't lived there for 5 yrs.

I am so frustrated.  there must be a better system? 

I despair. The personnel manager did say their school was particularly stringent, but I fear until I have international police checks done for the 4 countries I worked in overseas, this will be a constant bugbear, not to say obstacle to getting employment.

Maybe I should just give up trying to teach again. Maybe I should open a teashop. I would call it Jammy Dodgers, in honour of my status as a CRB Dodger....

The thing that really upsets me about this is that we,or at least I, am paying the price for having gone abroad to do something we felt was good and worthwhile. I gave up a very good part time English post in a good secondary school, where the deputy would ask me each year whether I wanted to increase or decrease my hours, even which days I preferred to teach. I was known, respected, had good relationships & a successful job. Now I am back; my friends who were all SAHMs when I lived here & worked, are now in jobs, new careers or doing further study & I am once more out of sync, scrabbling around trying to find my place, trying to get work and trying not to wonder what on earth I am doing. Once a trailing spouse, always a trailing spouse it seems.

I don't regret going abroad. I don't regret the meaningful experiences that season of our lives enriched us with. I don't regret how it changed me, how we grew through it and most of all how it helped poor and vulnerable people through what we did.  It's just that now we are back I am counting the cost, not of moving abroad & leaving friends, family, home, job & security, but the cost of coming home & trying to make a life here. Somehow I thought this would be the easy bit.....

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Year and a Day

A year and a day ago we returned to England from 5 1/2 years living abroad.

So how do we feel  a year on? Well, firstly I can't believe it's a year already. I am still at that stage where I feel the need to get 'I lived in Albania' into the first 10 minutes of most conversations I have.  It's so much a part of my identity now. The whole living abroad thing is really.

To sum up I would say my three alliterative words are wobbly, wistful and weird!

I feel quite wobbly still, in terms of adapting to life back here. Both my husband and I would sum it up saying we feel flat, detached, as if we are observing life here but aren't fully involved. Life has been very busy and much fuller, mainly due to school and church stuff, but also because we have so many more friends here than we had living abroad, we just don't feel a part of  'Life in Britain' yet.  We still feel a bit 'The Alien Has Landed. What IS This Place?'

My husband, the introvert, who was rejoicing at no commutes, and working uninterruptedly from home, is finding the reality of it quite isolating, he doesn't feel part of a team, is working alone and could go for days without even leaving the house. In fact he has done. Some days he has been known to not even get dressed, but sit at his computer in his Boden baggies! Actually they're not Boden, but that was just to give you the mental picture, or you might be conjuring images of flannel tartan pyjamas with piping cord. Not good. we're not that middle aged. Not quite yet anyway.

He misses going 'into the field', being at the chalk face, managing people and working with a team, in a cross cultural environment. He has seemed quite unmotivated to get some exercise (very unusual), join things, meet people for coffee etc. In a way I am glad he now knows how I felt at the start of our two postings when I didn't have a ready made social /work sphere and struggled to motivate myself to make a life there and not to get down. He realises that "Snap out of it. Get out there and meet people" just doesn't cut the mustard! I'm glad because it shows it's tough, it's not just me being a wimp. These are known culture shock symptoms. They even happen to him (well reverse culture shock does, he never seemed to get the normal kind!)

We feel wistful because of course we miss the weather, the mountains, the fresh produce, the coffee, my teaching job which I loved (perfect conditions-small classes, part time,delightful kids!) being able to live within our means and eat out, have a cleaner, travel to new places, be out of the rat race etc:  all the things that helped ameliorate the trash, sewage seepage, power cuts, bureaucracy and general craziness.

We feel weird, because we feel different, we have made different choices and feel ambivalent about being back. People have been very welcoming and it has certainly been heaps easier coming back to friends and a community where we are known. But, it also feels quite boring and pedestrian back here. We even miss the craziness and unpredictability!

I had a debrief with a counsellor, who said there seemed to be a lot of stuff to do with our experiences in Sri Lanka, and in particular our daughter's heart condition diagnosis, which I hadn't processed and was still very close to the surface.  She also felt there was a lot of identity loss issues with not only having been a trailing wife and putting my husband and children's needs first, but then also coming back to a new job for him, new schools for the children and nothing for me, coupled with them growing up and being more independent of me at the same time. So at least I have an excuse for being an emotional wreck! A professional vouches for me.....

I have felt out of sync especially amongst my peers, who as I said in the last post are all working, retraining, studying and have all 'moved on' in many ways. I have moved on in myself, but not in my circumstances.  It looks (and feels) like I am right back where I was 7 years ago. I also find because I have not been working I am always the one available to look after other mums' children, fetch them from school, etc. You do rather lose yourself when all you seem to do is meet other people's needs. And now I am faced with the prospect of needing to get a job but really not wanting to go back to teaching in the UK with all its pressures, stresses and demands. But I don't know what else I would do.......

I am very proud of the children though, who, being children, have adjusted to life back here so well. They put me to shame, taking everything in their stride. They have integrated well into their schools and are both doing really well. Between them they have learnt German, French, Latin, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, netball, cricket, rugby, hockey, not to mention picked up on who's who in the pop world. All new subjects to them. I miss the tight knit family life we had, where your family are also your friends much more when in a place with no family, and fewer friends and activities around. They are both desperate to spend every available moment with their new friends. It makes me a little sad, that change. But it's all about seasons and I must learn to enjoy each one.

On the other hand, they do seem to need me for 'chats' much more than they used to. I chew the cud with them most nights before lights out. Oh and after two weeks back in England, with each having their own bedroom for the first time ever, they both decided it was a bit lonely & they preferred sharing. Not many 8 and 12 year olds would say that I imagine. Now that is a special legacy from the closeness which developed from their years abroad.

So all in all, let's just say life back here is very much a 'work in progress.'

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Town or Country Living?

We're going to see a house today. Together. This is the first house my husband has got really excited about or been to view with me. He has even been doing a few sums to work out if we can afford it. We probably can't, unless they accept a lower (much lower) offer.  And then there's the issue of getting a mortgage when my husband is on annual contracts & I don't have a job.  And we've been overseas for 5 1/2 years. Off the radar.

Before we moved back to the UK we said we would definitely move house. We decided we would move to a village. It was all settled. I started looking on the Internet as soon as we knew we were moving back, so that's been 18 months now. I couldn't help it, it's one of those nesting things. Very little suitable has come up, even less that my husband would consider. Part of it is that I have much more of an eye for what you can do to a property. I still desperately want to move. It's one of the things which has made me feel much less settled and in limbo. It also feels a real step backward, being back in our old house, with the same people round the corner, doing the same things we did 6 years ago. Did those last six years really happen? They feel as though they are being compressed and squeezed into a mere hourglass of time, rather than the tome of experiences it was for us. I know I should be grateful we have a community to move back into, but I have changed & moved on, yet this just feels like I am being squeezed back into who I was & where I was in 2005.

I was hoping that moving would give me a project as well as help me put down roots and settle. My husband has his new job, my children have their new schools, I over exuberant puppy & a mid-life crisis.

I want to be in the house we will be in here, so I can make it a home and get on with life. Doing a place up has always set my creative juices flowing and I would love to put my mark on somewhere rather than make do with what we inherit from the previous owners which is what we have always done before. After all I am 46 now. I've waited 21 years for this opportunity!

We have constant circular discussions about what to do. Mealtimes, late night debates. Town versus country. Which is better? My husband changes his view weekly. One week it's too expensive to move at all (stamp duty), another week it's to move way out into  the countryside to get more for our money. The next week it's to convert our cellar. And then my Country Boy decides our suburb is so convenient we would be fools to move.  It doesn't add to my feelings of security. But I feel equally paralysed by indecision.

Where we live is 5 minutes from the bus stop to school & town, a 10 minute walk to shops, library, tennis courts, six lots of friends are walking distance away. We share lifts to school, to youth group, clubs & can even have dinner & enjoy a nice bottle of wine with friends & then WALK home! BUT there are loads of student lets on our road, it's a rat run so quite a fast, noisy road and busy at rush hour. And just very urban.

Part of it is also that it's just not where I envisaged  bringing my children up, but then life often thwarts our expectations and dreams. Part of it is that I keep hoping & dreaming. Maybe I just need to let go of my dreams.  My husband is much more pragmatic & down to earth (and probably realistic)...

He had an idyllic childhood, living in a huge house, with rope ladder fire-escape from the top floor, an acre of garden, tennis court, zip wire, tree house & rope swing in the garden & what I call 'glorious isolation' - not that I would like it. I would hate to be 2 miles from my nearest neighbour!  He seems to feel if his children can't live somewhere like that, which of course they can't, then he would rather just stay put & live where we are & not try & get something a bit better. A bit more space & a bigger garden.

I did one of those pros and cons lists of 'suburb versus' village and they came out very equal but on different things. So that didn't really help either. Most people think I'm mad to consider moving and are very envious of the community we are in!  But then all my life I have felt out of sync with what everyone else is doing,  so no change there.

A few friends have said that as their kids get older, they quite like the 'limiting' nature of a village. i e their children CAN'T just be out and about all the time. You can maintain some degree of control by ferrying them around even though it is a pain. Our children have both just turned 12 and 8, so maybe we are too late for the country life and we need to be in town for the teen years......

Oh I don't know.......

What do you think? What would you do? Are you a town or country mouse?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diamond Jubilee

Today is my daughter's school's Diamond Jubilee celebration. They re-enacted the Coronation, had a trestle table lunch outside & a crown competition (which my daughter won) and did a rendition of the National Anthem on recorder  They also had to dress in red, white and blue and bring a plate of food in for the party. Yr 3's remit was 'something sweet' Great, patriotic cupcakes it is then. Easy.

Apart from Sainsbury's having had a run on union jack decorations, it all went smoothly. These ones I used, I found away from the other sugar-bling, on a lower shelf amongst the raisins, in a broken tube. So in true Albanian fashion, I took them up to the till and asked if she could do me a 'special price' on the broken tube of red, white and blue sprinkles, as it was the only one left.

She could, and so my daughter didn't have to re-invent the union jack colour scheme, because of Sainsburys' stock crisis. Other shops seem happy to do this, however, with their sky blue, pink & cream renditions of the union jack on every kind of bag and soft furnishing imaginable. Somehow for the Diamond Jubilee celebration, it just didn't seem 'proper'.

My daughter has, of course, also been planning her outfit for weeks, asking my opinion, ignoring my opinion, tweaking the combo, trying to reduce the number of spots, stripes going on in the whole ensemble (seemingly a feature of red white and blue children's clothes- many are spotted or striped)

She has also been checking the forecast daily for slight meteorological changes. She had one outfit & two contingencies lined up you see..... So it was quite good that today was much cooler as her best outfit was the red cord skirt, blue & white striped top, white socks and shoes and a red flower slide in her hair. The only slight anomaly was the navy tee shirt she wore over the long sleeved one. It said 'Hello Paris' on it.....

Actually it is quite appropriate, as we are in fact going to Paris for the Diamond Jubilee, mainly to take advantage of the bank holiday long weekend.  Several people, however, have expressed surprise that we would choose to miss the Diamond Jubilee celebrations here. But celebrating the Jubilee in a suburb, hmm; Our street isn't having a street party and I'm quite glad. I'm just not into that sort of thing, hanging out with a bunch of strangers.  It's not that sort of street; it's a weird mix of student lets, a few family homes, empty houses, flats etc. I would actually rather be abroad for it, strangely. I wouldn't want it tobe a damp squib. Abroad, you feel special, just being British, at such a time. Everyone asks your opinion about the events.

I loved being in Tirana for Will and Kate's wedding. All the Brits were invited to a barbecue at the British embassy. It was a boiling hot summer's day, everyone was in garden party garb and some even in hats and wedding outfits, with G and T on tap, lots of wide screen TVs to watch the ceremony on, bunting, union jacks everywhere and a really festive atmosphere.

So I will enjoy, once again being abroad, with our ex pat friends living in Paris, & observing proceedings from afar and feeling, for once, a little bit nostalgic about living overseas, rather than feeling homesick for England