I'm British - allegedly...

>> Friday, 1 May 2015

Living outside your country of origin for more than a short while is a useful exercise inasmuch as it allows you to re-evaluate exactly what it is about 'home' that matters.

A case in point; last Thursday, Boy #2's piano teacher - a Russian - asked me excitedly if I knew if it had been born yet.

I beg your pardon?

I genuinely had no clue what she was talking about.

We don't have cable, you see.  And whilst I follow the news from home, read the newspapers online, listen to the radio etc, it seems I filter a lot more than I realised.  I only click on items that I have any real interest in.  Like, politics.  Social commentary.  Lifestyle.  Entertainment.  Education.  World events.

Not, it seems, what is happening in the UK's royal family - who I had completely forgotten are expecting a new addition some time soon.

Oops.

And the funny thing is, I have no beef with the Windsors.  I'm not in favour of the UK becoming a republic, and I think our monarchy works; it fulfils a parliamentary purpose, they (mostly) work hard, and in general are an attribute that I'm perfectly happy to support through the civil list.

But I don't actually care about their personal lives, so much.  I wish them well, of course.  I hope that everything goes smoothly for Kate and William with the birth of the new baby.  But it doesn't occupy my mind (or didn't, until I started to write this post) to the extent that non-British people I encounter seem to be occupied by this.  It never ceases to amaze me how fascinated some of them are by our Royal Family, to be honest.

So I wonder: there's the world media's representation of what's going on back home, and then there's Real Life.  I know that of course there are royalist die-hards camped out by the hospital where the new baby is due to be born, but is the Royal Baby something that is top of mind for those of you reading this from within the UK?

(And is it unrealistic of me to say that I really hope that it isn't?)

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Out of the mouths of babes (or 9 year old boys)

>> Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Breakfast is important, I think.  Especially since Boys #1 and #2 are so skinny that if the wind blows too hard I worry they might fall over.  So we try to eat a decent amount every morning, and one of my go-to energy boosters is porridge.  Only one problem; Boy #2 recently announced that he didn't like it any more - not even with maple syrup on the top.

Thins morning, then, I thought we would try things the Russian way by putting a teaspoon full of raspberry jam on the top of his porridge.

Jam is a Russian cure-all.  Want a sweet taste with your (black) tea?  Help yourself to a little dish of jam from the bowl in the middle of the table and use a teaspoon to feed yourself little bites in between sips of tea.  Feeling fluey or have a cold coming on?  Jam will definitely help.  Want to boost your intake of Vitamin C?  Yes, jam is just the ticket.  You get the picture...

I have to be honest, I didn't hold out much hope that jam would sort Boy #2's porridge-avoidance, but with Weetabix and toast on standby, it was worth a try.

He stirred it in and cautiously took a mouthful.

Boy #2:  "Mmmmmmmmm.  That's delicious!  I love it!  I'm going to eat the whole bowl!'

I smiled quietly to myself as I chatted with Boy #1 about his busy schedule and sorted out various things around the kitchen.  Job done.  Then...

Boy #2:  "It tastes just like raspberry pie!"

Me - blinking.  What?:  "But, hang on - you don't like raspberry pie..."

Boy #2:  Not your raspberry pie, Mum.  Gran's raspberry pie.  Mmmmmm...."

Oh.  Right.  That put me in my place, then.

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Carry on Regardless

>> Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sometimes, I wonder if pushing kids to try things they don't want to do is a pointless task, and more trouble than it's worth.  But then something like this happens...

With only a couple of months left before we leave Russia for the foreseeable future, we're trying to cross a few items off our bucket list.  One of the things we've wanted to do for a while was to take the Boys to a classical concert at the recently renovated Great Hall at the Moscow Conservatory, because, well, whilst it might not seem like the obvious entertainment choice for two very normal 9 and 11 year old boys, it's an experience they may well remember for the rest of their lives - if we could just get the event right.

Yesterday Husband spotted that Andrei Pisarev was due to perform various piano pieces by Chopin that evening so at the last minute we decided to go for it.  We sorted the tickets and excitedly announced to Boys #1 and #2 what the evening's program would be.

Oh good grief.

The problem with raising two children to have independent thought and ideas, it seems, is that some of their thoughts and ideas are completely independent of your own.  And one of those ideas, in this case, was that going to a classical concert is akin to having your teeth pulled without an anaesthetic.

This is not the first time I've made this observation on raising individuals, but I was forcefully reminded it of it yesterday.  As the wails and yells rose up from the back seat of the car, you would have thought that instead of the opportunity to sit and listen to a world-class performance of beautiful music in a hall with some of the best accoustics in the world, we were telling our children of our plans to make them clean out a septic tank with their toothbrushes before spending the night in it wrapped up in jute sacks.

Which, to be honest, was something I was prepared to consider as my younger son went into a Force 6 tantrum and kicked the back of my car seat to demonstrate his unhappiness with our plan.  Frankly I was considering suggesting to Husband that we call the whole thing off.  Maybe it would just be simpler to stay home in front of the box...

So, did we go?

Of course we did.  Husband is made of sterner stuff - or at least, is more stubborn - than I am, and rapidly came up with a plan to stop the rot.  There may have been just a little bit of a carrot dangled to get them there.

OK - we took them to Macdonalds first.

But from that point on, they were a credit to us.  Boy #2 in particular was entranced, clapping like a mad thing the moment the performer finished each piece (and, once, when he hadn't), and excitedly joining in with the applause at the end when the audience was - oh so politely, this was a Russian concert audience, after all - angling for an encore.  (They were SO polite, we got two.  Result).

As we left, Boy #2 asked me what I thought of it.  "I thought it was wonderful," I said honestly.  "Me too," he said earnestly.  "And you know Mum, it was so different to be there and to see it and hear it at the same time.  Because when you listen on the radio, really, it's just, so much... pfffff."

And there, with a huge smile on his face, an expressive wave of his hand and a vowel-less word, my younger son perfectly expressed why sometimes, as a parent, you do know best - and have to carry on regardless...



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The ingredients for my perfect tea-break...

>> Friday, 24 April 2015

Warning: this post does not feature proper tea.  Or milk.  Or a china cup.  Or a digestive biscuit.

(I'm not going to be allowed back into the UK, am I?)


















Hot water, camomile tea, and a Dutch stroopwaffel perched on top until the syrup in the middle of it heats up to the point that it reaches just the right consistency of gooey.

Oh, and a pretty insulated cup given me by a good friend, that keeps my tea hot for as long it takes me to drink it.

Yum.

What are the ingredients for your perfect tea break?


Disclaimer:

I do drink 'proper' tea - but not often (the caffeine upsets my stomach).  And decent digestive biscuits are hard to come by here; the ones produced outside the UK, whilst they might bear the McVities name, do not match up to what you can get back home.  Trust me on that; I speak as someone who has conducted an extensive series of taste tests...


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Crossing The Rubicon

>> Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Potski Family have crossed The Rubicon.

The Rubicon, in case you didn't know (I didn't know in detail before I started writing this post - isn't the internet a wonderful thing?), was the river that Julius Caesar's army crossed in 49 BC in an act of insurrection against the Roman state preceding his eventual assumption of power, and was where he supposedly uttered the words 'The die has been cast' (according to Suetonius).

Well.  That seems a bit dramatic for what we've done; there has been no insurrection, we are not acting against the state, and the only place our words on this event are being recorded are here on this blog, but still; we have crossed a point of no return in our family's journey.

We are heading back to the UK.

And our particular Rubicon - at this point - was not re-registering Boys #1 and #2 for the next academic year of school here in Russia.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but places at the school they currently attend are as common as hen's teeth; for every child who leaves there are many lined up to step into their spot, so it's not a reversible decision - but we've made it.

I have mixed feelings about moving back, to be honest.  On the one hand, we're not a family of serial expats; we haven't spent 20 years trekking around the globe, and it was always likely that after Moscow we would be returning to the UK, so it's not exactly a shock that we're doing this.  We still have a home there, along with family and friends who have been very understanding about our itinerant lifestyle during visits over the last 5 years or so, and it will be wonderful to be closer to all of them.  It will also be fantastic to be able to comprehend what's being said around me rather than just catching a few words in each exchange and hoping that where I miss the meaning, my general smiling and nodding will get me through without causing too much offence.

And then there's the fact that we are very much looking forward to the Boys being in UK schools (more on that another time), and giving them the chance to see the country as more than just a holiday destination.  They will be able to be more independent as they get older, in a way that expat kids in Moscow just can't be.  Children here often live in a bubble, and whilst they have incredible experiences and see wonderful places, the opportunities to do mundane things like get Saturday jobs or paper rounds just don't happen.  And I very much hope that they will no longer have to say goodbye to 30% of their classmates every July, when that year's rotation happens and families move to their next posting on the opposite side of the world.

That last one's a bugger.  I will not be sorry to leave it behind.

But on the other hand, we've had an amazing time here.  We've had some life-changing experiences and met some truly adventurous and outstanding people and made what I hope will be lifelong friends.  Living in Moscow has changed us for the better; it's made us less insular, less inclined to take one viewpoint and stick to it and more likely to look for the other side of the story.  It's made me both value the differences between people and also to understand that whatever you see on the surface, we mostly want the same thing; for our kids to be happy and healthy.

When we took the final decision to move here, back in 2009, Husband gave me the chance at the last minute to change my mind.  We could stay put, he said.  Or, we could move Russia.  Neither was the easy option; he was travelling to Moscow each and every week and was only back at weekends, so Monday - Friday the Boys and I were on our own.  On the opposite side of the scale there was, well, Russia, and all the challenges that living there would involve.

Having fretted about what we were planning, and having been second-guessing myself in the run-up to that conversation I was surprised by how easy it was to make the choice.  Because how many people in their early 40's get the chance to pro-actively make the decision to really shake things up?

So we chose to throw the deck in the air and make the move, and whilst it was tricky to begin with, 5 years down the line I think it was the best thing we could have done.

Here's to shaking things up.  May we all have the courage to cross our Rubicon from time to time, whatever it might be.

(But I would highly recommend that if you do, you ensure you will have access to wine.  And chocolate.)



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I can resist anything... except temptation

>> Monday, 6 April 2015

No, really.

And that is why, finding myself halfway through a family pack of Cadbury's mini eggs that I had lovingly bought back from the UK a few weeks ago, only to discover on Easter Sunday that neither of my sons liked them, I did the most sensible thing for someone who has my woefully low ability to resist temptation.

I went and put them in the bin.

And just to make sure I didn't go back and salvage the pack when the munchies struck later, I didn't just drop the bag in. I up-ended it and tipped those little morsels of candied heaven into the bin and watched them disappeared from sight.

As I did so, I paused to consider that not only were they rattling down between empty milk cartons, cereal packs, used tea bags, and vegetable peelings, but that they would also encounter the half eaten pieces of cake that I had subjected to the same treatment yesterday.

Know what I want to be when I grow up?

Able to resist temptation...

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'Tales from the Land of the Lost... Property' continued...

>> Friday, 20 March 2015

You know how sometimes bloggers use a little poetic licence when writing their posts?  I have to admit that the post I wrote yesterday - about Boy #2 losing his coat - was actually about an incident that happened the day before.  So sue me.

What I'm writing about now, though, happened this morning - honest, guv.

So, in an effort to communicate to Boy #2 how much of a pain in the backside losing his coat is, I have made him come with me to the Lost & Found cupboards at school 3 times since he mislaid it.  We went there yesterday morning.  We went there yesterday afternoon.  And we went there again this morning.

No sign of it - the coat is still lost in the space-time continuum.  But I figured that if nothing else, as a result of the hassle of going backwards and forwards to L&F, he would take better care of his belongings from now on.

This morning, however, after another fruitless expedition to the cupboards, I walked him to his class.  We were almost at the door, when THIS happened.

Me: "Have a good day darling.  See you later..."

Boy #2: "Bye Mum!"

Me (with a sinking feeling):  "Wait.  Where are your hat and gloves?"

Boy #2 looked at me with a dismayed expression.  "Um.  I left them at the Lost & Found?"


Well.  That lesson in taking responsibility for his possessions really worked, then...

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