Escapism, pure and simple...

>> Thursday, 14 July 2016

The summer holidays are here so normal service on this blog has been suspended (even more than usual) for the time being.  To keep things ticking over, however, I'm using a fb exchange between my sis and I from this morning.  I think it's entertaining...

From my sis to me: 


Tory name = first name of a grandparent + the name of the first Street you lived on hyphenated with your 1st headteacher's surname.
Reginald Elvaston-Woodhouse. Sorry Potty Mummy, I bagged it first.


From me to my sis: 

Well, I'll have to be your unmarried sister, Joan Elvaston-Woodhouse. Pillar of the local WI, unpaid house-keeper for Reginald, and still pining for a young accounts clerk, Alfred, who declared his love before going to Tenby on a works trip, falling for a brassy barmaid, and never returning. 

Alfred and Primrose run a sea-side cafe now and he often thinks wistfully of Joan and her bramble jelly as he wipes condensation from the salt-stained windows. 

Joan, meanwhile, is unaware that the local vicar, wounded in some unnamed war and bearing a slight limp as a consequence, dreams of her at night. Reginald knows, mind you, but keeps it to himself, unwilling to lose his devoted sister to another form of affection. And... Breathe....


From my sis to me:

Oh my God. I want to know more. 

Does Joan ever find out about the vicar's secret love? 

Will Alfred leave Primrose to peel the potatoes for the chips and take the bus back to Joan's village for the day, sitting next to the phone box on the village green, hoping for a sight of Joan whilst eating his corn beef and pickled sandwiches? 

And will Reginald take his attention away from the golf course just for one minute, to appreciate Joan's sacrifice?


From me to my sis: 

Don't think too harshly of Reginald. He is holding a torch for the redoubtable widow Verity Ssykes-Winton, a strong-willed lady with a bust like the prow of a ship.

Verity rules society in Upper Moultings with a rod of iron and, whilst she enjoys Reginald's attentions, has no intent - now that she's outlived her aged and querulous former husband Colonel StJohn Ssykes-Winton - of ever submitting to the marital yoke again. So Reginald is distracted, and a little envious of the puppy-dog devotion that his sister inspires in Vicar Edmund Oak-Wooton as she moves around the church arranging flowers and embroidering samplers for the pews...


That's it - for now.  Stay tuned for more inanity from Little Moultings.  (Oh, who am I kidding?  The next post on here is unlikely to happen until the next term starts...)

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OK - time to walk the walk

>> Wednesday, 29 June 2016

So the die has been cast; Little England it is.

I'm not going to say it's 'alright'; from what I can see right now what is happening in and to the UK is most definitely Not Alright, but I'm trying to remain optimistic.  To that end, if you voted 'Leave' last Thursday I would really, really, love it if you could explain why you did so.

In fact, I'm begging; please, please, please, tell me why you voted 'Leave' - without using any of the already debunked pre-referendum promises or that load of old toss phrase 'take back control' - and I will listen.

I promise not to judge, I promise not to argue with you.  I am simply looking for positive, realistic, and quantifiable reasons for your vote - surely it shouldn't be that hard to come up with some?

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Little England or Great Britain?

>> Tuesday, 21 June 2016



No prizes for guessing this fact, but I'm voting Remain in Thursday's referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

It seems like common sense to me to do that, but just in case it doesn't to you, I'm going to tell you what's led me to make this decision.

I suspect that, like me, you've felt bombarded by the figures and the stats that both sides of the debate have been throwing out in the last few weeks, so I'm not even going to start with the financial benefits or otherwise (although what are we, Area 51 Conspiracy Theorists?  The 'Leave' camp seems to expect us to join them in ignoring the advice to Remain flooding out from an overwhelming majority of highly trained and respected organisations and individuals, just because it doesn't fit their Brexit agenda,)

And in any case, financial reasons aside, there are plenty of other reasons why I think it's important for Britain to stay a part of the EU.


  • Europe does not have a stellar history of peaceful internal negotiation.  One or other - or more - of it's nation states were either at outright war with each other, or planning to be so, for about 1000 years before the end of World War II, so 70 years of peace in Europe is not to be taken lightly. The nations in the EU bloc - including the UK - are stronger together than they are apart; anything else is crazy.  And if you think that a repeat of World Wars I and II just 'couldn't happen again', take note: that's exactly - EXACTLY - what the population of Europe thought the last two times around.


  • Putin thinks we should vote 'Leave'.  He's rubbing his hands at the prospect, in fact.  If that doesn't give you pause, I don't know what would.  The analogy of a predator separating the weakest animal from it's herd is not irrelevant here, I think.  And I don't want to be that weakened animal, forced to make trade and visa agreements (because don't think for a moment that the two would be separate in negotiations with Mother Russia) that are not to our advantage.


  • I've lived in a country where citizens do not have the right to visa-free travel to Europe.  Lucky enough to be exempt from that, I still saw how difficult it was for Russians to work in or to travel to EU countries, and the hoops they had to jump through.  Mind you, if we're going to get friendly with the Russians if we leave the EU, there's always the Crimea for two weeks every summer if we can't get to France, Spain or Italy, I suppose...


Now I come to think of it, I have yet to meet a returned expat in the UK who wants to vote anything other than 'Remain'.  Perhaps that's because we've seen the alternatives to living outside Europe firsthand, and don't rate them very highly.  Ultimately it comes down to this, for me at least: we can stay in the EU and work towards making life better for all 500 million of it's citizens - starting with you, and your family - or we can Leave.  Quit.  Run away.  Pull up the drawbridge.  Take our ball and go home to play alone, like the sulky child who doesn't want to share their cake at the birthday party.  Behave like Little Englanders.

Personally, I think we're better than that.  Personally, I prefer to behave like a Great Briton.


Every vote counts in this referendum.  If you're planning on putting a cross in the 'Remain' box, please make sure you get down to the polling to do so on Thursday.








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You think your parenting duties keep you busy?

>> Monday, 6 June 2016

Last week the Boys and I walked past a pair of swans and their nine cygnets.

I'll say that again; their NINE cygnets.

Don't believe me?  Here's a photo.



You might be forgiven for assuming this was some sort of swan creche - I know that I did - but I checked and no, it's not; those swans really do have nine little beaks to keep fed.

Is it just me, or do the parents look a little... harrassed?  Somewhat beset?  A little bit, 'can I just have 5 minutes to myself to go to the loo in private?'  Or slightly 'well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now that all those eggs have hatched I'm not sure this was exactly what I intended...'?

Captions in the comments box, please...

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Passive-aggressive washing machines and other nonsense

>> Thursday, 26 May 2016

It has become clear that our LG washing machine hates us.

In fact, it hates us SO much that on Tuesday, when I go down into the basement to empty it, I discover that it's walked it's way to the edge of 6 inch high shelf it's situated on and thrown itself off.    Now, it's lying forlornly face-down on the floor, looking nothing less than pathetic.

"I can't take any more" it says.  "Go on without me" it says.

Well obviously, it doesn't.  But if an inaminate object could speak, that's what I would hear.

I look down at it.  "When did it get this bad? Was it really necessary to end it all, just to avoid another load of the Boys' sports kit?  You should have said something! It's not as if I put a heavy load in this morning..."

It sighs deeply, leaking water over the basement floor.  "You say 'not heavy'.  But when was the last time you tried washing a king-sized duvet cover and base sheet?"

"Honestly? I've got no answer to that."

"Thought not" it harrumphs.

From the other side of the room the tumble dryer watches smugly.

"And you can just shut up," the washing machine mutters.

The tumble dryer looks affronted. "What did I do?"

"Nothing!  That's the whole fxxking point!  Bloody nothing!  She hardly ever uses you, you never pull your weight properly; a few sheets and towels each week and that's it.  Jesus, if I had your workload I wouldn't have to crawl forward to the edge of this precipice (the tumble dryer and I both look at the 6 inch high shelf and forebear to comment) and throw myself off it."

There's silence in the cold, clammy basement.  Because the washing machine is right, of course; I don't use the tumble dryer, not really.  No need to when there's a drying rack and an airing cupboard.  But a washing machine? That's indispensable.  I tell it so.

"But - you're indispensable!"

"Ha!  Should have treated me better then, shouldn't you?  The odd clean-out of my detergent draw, the even rarer wipe-round of the seal, it's not enough.  So I'm off to the great recycling yard in the sky in the hope that whatever poor machine you get to replace me is shown a Little More Respect."  I clear my throat.  "No!  Don't speak to me!  I have nothing more to say.  I'm shutting down now, and there's nothing you can do to stop me.  Farewell, cruel world!"

And with that, it leaks it's final drop of soapy water and expires.

The tumble dryer and I look at each other.

I shrug.  "There's still some wet laundry in there.  A duvet cover and a sheet..."

The tumble dryer creaks ominously.  "I'm in mourning."

"You're WHAT?"

"I'm in mourning.   You might not understand but we were close, that LG and me."

I raise a sceptical eyebrow.  "Really..."

"Oh yes.  So feel free to put that wet un-spun laundry into me, but I just... I don't know how I'll handle it.  I might be forced to blow hot and cold.  And then hot again.  Too hot - if you know what I mean.  So if I were you, I would just trot along to that laundrette at the end of the street and spin the sheets properly, before you even think of opening my door.  If I were you..."

I cram the soaking laundry into a plastic bag and stand to leave.

"Oh - and whilst you're at it?"

I stop and wait.  What now?

"I'd really appreciate a clean out of my filter, and an empty condensing drawer.  When you have a moment..."

I give the tumble dryer a steely look.  "You're not trying to take advantage of this... unpleasantness, are you?"

"Gosh, no!  How could I do that?  I'm just a tumble dryer, after all.  Sitting here.  All alone.  On my lonesome.  Alone, alone, alone.... All alone on a 6 inch high shelf..."  It peers sadly over the edge of what the LG had referred to as the 'precipice'.

I sigh and empty the filter and condenser before taking the wet washing down the road to the laundrette.

Because I know when I'm beaten...


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The Elephant in the Room

>> Wednesday, 18 May 2016

I've agonised over writing this post.

When you return to your country of origin after a time living abroad, most people don't want to hear about any problems that you encounter; not the friends and family you've returned to (you've come home, after all!  How hard can that be?), or those that you've left behind you who are still living internationally (because they will be going home at some point, too, and no-one needs yet another worry to add to the list).  Part of me thinks that perhaps it's best to keep any issues to myself, but having discussed them with other friends who've recently moved their families from one country to another and found that we are not alone in our situation, I've decided that perhaps none of us are helping anyone by keeping silent about the elephant in the room.

Which, in this case, is assimilating expat kids into an environment where their new peers don't have similar experiences.  It's about the difficulties of bringing them home - and making them feel like it is Home.

Over the last months since we've returned to the UK I have frequently been reminded of Philip Larkin's famous poem 'This Be The Verse' (first line: 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad.'), and realised that in oh so many ways, it's true.

Because expat kids are different - and we did that to them, with our emphasis on making the most of our opportunities.  I wouldn't change a thing about our six years away, and I know that it was the right thing for our family at the time - but it comes at a price.  We returning parents might not like to dwell on that as we congratulate ourselves on finding the right house, in the right location, close to the right school, and put all the pieces of the jigsaw in place to try and facilitate a smooth re-entry, but it's true.

Children who have lived in a culture not their own have had a wealth of experiences that - for all their richness and diversity - set them apart from their new classmates who have attended the same school all their lives.  The passing references that our kids make to trips to this place or that, to this winter activity or that summer camp, to the parties in the sun with live tigers and bears as entertainment (no, really), or climbing walls in friends' back gardens, none of that resonates with the children that we - their parents - are hoping they will make friends with now they are Back Home.

Some kids pick up on this quickly and learn to keep their past history to themselves.  They drop the accent, get with the programme, only ever refer to their previous lives when they are with people who will 'understand'.  I hate to see it happen, but that's how it works - if you want to make friends.  They can share their stories later, once the foundations of these new relationships are established and the pressure's off.

Other children?  They find the whole thing more complicated.  Why should they not talk about that sailing trip on blue seas, or the overnight train journey across frozen wastes?  Why can they not share their tales of flying to the other side of the world to catch up with best friends, and the volcanoes and natural wonders they encountered there?  They can't understand it - these are fascinating stories, don't their new friends want to hear about them?

No.  Actually, they don't.  The child who doesn't toe the party line on accepting oft-parroted truisms about other countries, or who professes too much knowledge of business class seating (even if it's only gleaned from walking past it on their way to the back of the plane, as in our case), or the child who excitedly chips in that yes, they have been to that once-in-lifetime holiday destination - twice - and isn't it amazing, did you swim on the reef whilst you were there, and how about the horrible porridge that they served for breakfast... they are labelled as show-offs.  Different.  Weird.  They don't fit.

So as a parent, when you hear your child starting to regale their new friends with another of the 'Greatest Hits of My Expat Life' you find yourself desperately signalling to them with your eyebrows to keep that story for another time, or butting in and changing the subject, or serving dinner earlier than you planned, or - heaven forbid - switching on the X-box to provide a distraction.  You're trying to throw them a life-belt, even if they don't see that.

And then there are times you find yourself pulling your child out from underneath their bed in the morning because they don't want to go into school (at least at home, they reason, they won't have to think before they speak).  Or sitting outside the loo that your child has locked themselves in because they can't face whatever activity it is that you've lined up for them to help them meet new friends and which you just know they're going to enjoy, if they would only undo that bolt and come outside...

Not all returning expat kids go through this, of course.  And for those that do, I'm told that it gets better, with time. But whilst they're in the thick of it, it can be - well, difficult.  For them, and everyone else in the family.

Yes, these are problems grounded in what I know are First World issues.  And unfortunately, other than being there to provide support and a listening ear - and all the other coping strategies the literature on this recommends - I don't have an easy answer on how to handle it.  But when your child is hurting, sometimes it helps to know that other families have been through it too. Which is why, against my better instincts (of course we're fine!  Everything's going swimmingly!), I'm sharing this here.

We're not all fine.  But we're managing.  And we're getting there.


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Today's Task: Write a Blog Post in 10 minutes...

>> Friday, 13 May 2016

I'm putting together my writing cv.  It is, shall we say, a little 'thin'.  It's not that I don't have any experience in writing, you understand - over a thousand posts written on here alone are testament to that - it's just that I don't have so much experience in writing for publications that actually pay.

As I reached the end of this still-as-yet unfinished cv I realised that perhaps, if I'm going to refer to this blog, I probably should write something.  You know, like, a post.  It's been another month, after all...

So here I am.  With the ten minutes before I have to leave to collect the Boys from school the only time I'm likely to find in the near future.  What to tell you?

Well, Boys #1 and #2 are now ten and twelve years old.  How did that happen?  I was reminded of how far we've come today when I took them both to our local - excellent - hospital for their first allergy test in seven years.  It went smoothly, no problems (and yes, they are still allergic to nuts, dammit).  Now, the last time we did this was in London and it was something of a seminal experience for the three of us.  Boy #2 - three years old at the time, still chubby and toddling around - handled the whole experience with aplomb and dignity, whimpering a little as they scratched his arm, but generally behaving well.

His older brother?  Not so much.  There was a visit to the paediatric ward 'Quiet Room' involved, I remember, to allow him to calm down.  There were chocolate buttons (well - I can't remember the chocolate buttons, but since there were usually chocolate buttons or smarties involved in times of stress, I'm thinking I'm pretty safe in assuming they made an appearance here).  There would also have been wailing and gnashing of teeth, no doubt - obviously, since we were banished to the Quiet Room, I suppose.

But the thing is, I actually don't remember that many of the details.  I guess that may be due to having blanked it out as not having been our finest hour, who can say?  But whatever the reason, it's interesting to realise that however awful a parenting experience might be at the time (and I do remember that at least; it was awful), you actually are unlikely to remember the details in the future.

Which is a comfort, I suppose.  Especially as I look the teenage years squarely in the face.

And of course the other comfort is that whatever happens, and whatever the years ahead hold, there will, of course, still be this blog to refer to, to remind me that there were some difficult times before, and that we made it through those.  And there will still be smarties and chocolate buttons.  Or Green &; Blacks.  Whatever comes to hand, really...

There you go - a blog post in 10 (no, 12, actually) minutes.

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