Friday, 2 July 2021

BritMums Expat Round-up; Roll Up, Roll Up!

I've picked up a new role; hosting the BritMums Expat Blog Round-up.  I know, I'm British, and I now live back in the UK, but hear me out...

Clearly, I'm not an expat blogger any more.  We arrived back home six (SIX!) years ago and my days of battling with Moscow traffic, minus twenty degree temperatures, and intransigent security guards are long behind me.  And yet.

They changed me, those years, and I'm not sure that their impact will ever truly disappear.  I loved it, you see, in all of it's glorious extraordinary-ness, even as I panicked whilst being pulled over by the police officer with the white stick, or as I tried (and failed) to convince a passport officer to let us catch a flight when one son's visa was a day overdue and there had been a misunderstanding at the embassy.  At the time, of course, it was scary and frightening and I cursed my husband to high heaven for putting me in that situation, but I came through it all and was stronger for it.

Expat life in Russia, for me, resulted in lasting friendships and a deep and abiding fondness for a country that those who have never visited might struggle to understand.  I don't pretend to understand it either, and am certainly not an apologist for it, but it will always have a place in my heart. 

Throughout the six years we spent abroad I was supported by the expat blogging network.  No caps here - it wasn't official - but it was there all the same; women (mostly women) like me who had found themselves lifted out the life they had previously assumed was their normal, into a maelstrom of packing, unpacking, and transitory situations.  Many of them had been living this life for far longer than me, and some of them still are.  They wrote in their blogs about their trials and triumphs in a way that made me feel less alone, no matter how different our day-to-day lives were in actuality, and they helped me through it all.

My distance from all that now makes me feel a bit of a fraud, hosting a BritMums Expat Round-up, but when the opportunity came up it seemed like a natural fit.  Even though I'm not an expat any more, in many ways I still feel that disconnect with my surroundings, and I suspect that I always will.

If you are an expat blogger (or are even an ex-expat blogger, with something to say about your experiences abroad), and would like the opportunity to be included in the BritMums Expat Roundup, post a link in the box below before Saturday 10th July.  I'll put a post up here and on Insta etc when the RoundUp goes live. Comments are also welcome, not only here at The Potty Diaries but - I'm sure - on any participating blogs that you might read, as well.


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Handbags at tea-time

 Husband and I are walking the dog when he tells me.

'You won't believe the ad that popped up next to my emails today.  A targeted ad.  It was outrageous.'

'Really?  What was it for?'

He's tall, my husband but right now he stands - if possible - even taller.  I wonder why he's adopting that posture; elongating his neck, lifting his chin.  

'It was... an ad for a neck and facial exercise regime.  To help you get rid of jowls.'  He sounds affronted.  'Jowls?  I don't have jowls!'

He's right, he doesn't, which makes it ok not to stifle a laugh.  'You're not serious?'

'Yes!  Look, I'll show it to you...'

I cut him off.  'God no, please don't.  I believe you, of course you got the ad.  I meant, are you seriously surprised by the fact that you got it?  We are in our fifties, after all.'

He's incredulous.  'Yes, but that doesn't mean they have to send me that shit.'

Now it's my turn to be affronted.  'OK.  This is yet another difference between men & women.  I get that crap in my feed every day.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I could show you a long list of ads that are offensive about the concept of what I, as a 50-something women, am expected to look like, care about, deal with - so many in fact, that I've stopped registering them,'

He seems surprised.  'Like what?.

'Oh god.  The list is endless.'  I think for a moment.  'So just before we came out, a repeat offender popped up.  Promoting an app for a keto diet.' I describe the infographic that shows a woman in different decades; teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties.  (Apparently there's no need to show the woman in her seventies because obviously she'll be in a home with a zimmer frame by then and not offending the world with her continued aging process. Or dead.).

'It's all fine until they picture what a woman in her fifties is supposed to look like.  Portly, flat-footed, slightly hunched, stocky-legged, wearing her hair in a ruddy bun, and-' by now my voice is so high with indignation that it's possible only the dog can hear me - ' with a fucking handbag looped over her arm like the queen.  Or a nana, about to hand you £5 as special treat on your 21st birthday.  At fifty.  I'm fifty four.  Do I look that?'

Both husband and the dog wisely stay silent.




Friday, 26 February 2021

Snacks, Lockdown style

 Husband walks into the kitchen as I'm measuring 50g of cornflakes into a bowl already containing 350g of porridge oats.

'What's that for?'

'I'm making flapjacks*'.

'What?  I thought they were healthy!'

'What on earth do you mean?' I'm bemused.

'Well, cornflakes.' I look at him blankly. 'They're processed.  Not exactly healthy.'

'Are you serious?'

'Yes.'

'Ok...'

He leaves the room, whilst I consider the 100g golden syrup, 175g soft brown sugar and 175g unsalted butter that I'm about to melt and add to the mix.

On balance, I decide, it's probably best not to mention those ingredients.  Instead, I'll leave him to enjoy the chewy deliciousness of the finished product without having his illusions of healthy eating completely shattered....


* UK flapjacks, not the US stacked pancake version.  

Disclaimer: Not a breakfast food.  Not a diet food.  Not healthy, as such.  But ruddy gorgeous, and essential in our Lockdown home.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Pride and (snow) falls

 Parenting.  It's a roller coaster.

One minute you're blow away by your teens' maturity and grace in the times of Covid.  You thank your lucky stars that they have adapted reasonably well to the ridiculous times we find ourselves living through, and even congratulate yourself - a little - on the fact that you must be doing something right.

The next minute, you're standing in your garden late at night waiting for the dog to deliver, and you notice that one of your children has walked the outline of a huge penis onto your snowy lawn - and that it's in a location clearly visible to all your neighbours.


Thursday, 14 January 2021

Walking with dinosaurs

As Lockdown #3 begins I walk the dog through our local woods, trying to pin down an elusive thought.  There's a scene from a movie that sums this situation up, I think.  Somewhere, rattling around in the back of my memory, it's there - but I can't quite touch it.  It floats elusively on the edge of my consciousness, just out of reach.  A child - IS it a child? - commenting on the fact that he - I think it was he - was back where he started.  Was there a car involved?

I can't quite grab it.  It'll come to me, eventually.  For now, I try to focus on the beauty of my surroundings, on the sunbeams angled through the empty branches, the patter of the dog's feet through the leaf litter under the bushes and the crunch of gravel under my feet, but instead am swamped - again - by anger.

It's distressing to consider how little progress has been made by the UK over the last ten months, and how many opportunities to learn have been ignored in our encounter with Covid19.  That's not to discount the herculean efforts and sacrifices that have been made by so many, the fortitude of even more. and the astonishing speed with which individuals and companies have marshalled themselves to battle both circumstance and this pernicious virus.  But just as this situation has brought out the best in some, it has highlighted where our government has come up short.  Their lack of foresight or interest in learning from their mistakes, the shocking cronyism that has seen good money thrown after bad, their absence of confidence that the majority will follow sensible rules and, of course, the lack of accountability when they are caught ignoring their own advice; all of the above have brought us to the current parlous state of affairs. Again.

Those are the thoughts I have as I stomp crossly along, wrapped up warm against the cold snap.  Eventually though, the calm of my surroundings works it's magic and I start to focus on simply breathing in, and out, in, and out, and begin to look forward to a cup of tea and a flapjack (because, Lockdown) when I get home.

As I reach the gate at the end of the fields my brain has cleared enough and finally, the memory I was grasping for comes to me.  When I get home I check and - even if I do say so myself - I was right.  This scene, from a movie that is nearly 30 years old, perfectly sums up how I feel about where we in the UK are right now.



Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Scores on the Doors, please!


 So Advent is finally here.  All across the land families are opening Door 1 on the calendar and rejoicing in the wholesome Christmas-related images that lie behind it (unless you're my sister,  who is currently wondering what on earth a pig on a skateboard has to do with the Holiday Season, but that's a story for another post).

I'm a fan of an old-fashioned advent calendar myself, loving the nostalgia of the process.  Who doesn't enjoy the hunt for the right number hidden in an overly-crowded design, the subsequent battle with the inadequate perforations around each door, or the jolt of recognition as you discover a candy cane or a toy train pictured behind it?  (Both of which still seem to look the same as they did 45 years ago, which shouldn't be a shock, because how many ways are there to draw a wrapped present, after all?)  And let's not forget the joyful surprise of the inevitable discovery, a couple of hours later, that the glitter from the calendar has somehow transferred itself to your cheek.  Twelve year old me liked to pretend it was make-up.  I always have loved a bit of sparkle.

Consequently I've been fighting a rear-guard action against the inevitable march of chocolate advent calendars since the Boys were tiny.  Mainly this was down to my reluctance to give them a sugar rush before breakfast each day, (what's the point of making them eat Weetabix rather than sugared cereal if they've already been snacking on milk chocolate or, nowadays, Percy Pigs?).  But this year?  This year I couldn't be that cruel.  This year, after all, is 2020.  Normal service is currently suspended.

This, it turns out, is the year I finally caved and bought each of my sons a chocolate advent calendar.

I didn't tell them in advance, simply presenting them with their calendars when they came down for breakfast this morning.  Boy #1 - the junk food king - was delighted, and had ripped open the card and gobbled down the milk chocolate bunny behind Door 1 in 2 seconds flat. 

Boy #2, however, doesn't like milk chocolate.  Do you know how difficult it is to find a dark chocolate advent calendar at the end of November?  Or at least, how hard it is to find one that doesn't cost £40?  (I love him, but there are limits).  Nevertheless I managed it eventually, returning home in triumph with a 70 percenter for less than five quid, only to find - after he tried what lay behind his Door 1 this morning - that there is yet another brand of chocolate for us to add to the list of those to which he is allergic.

Oh well.  My intention is that my Husband will benefit from his younger son's misfortune.  But I'm home alone, and you know what they say; the road to hell and all that...


Thursday, 5 November 2020

Ground Hog Day: Lockdown Mark #2

 It's Ground Hog Day...

Well - it's not, obviously.  But on the first day of England's second national Covid19 lockdown it sort of feels like it.  Some things are different, of course.  My sons are still in school (and thank god for it.  Frankly every day of face-to-face education is a win, from my perspective.  More space at the kitchen table and fewer demands for snacks, for starters).  Husband is - for now - still allowed to travel for his work (the positives here are surprisingly similar; more space at the kitchen table and fewer demands for snacks.  Huh.).

Oh, and there is still loo roll on the supermarket shelves.  At least the shopping public (and I include myself in that number) seem to have learned that any shortages last time around were caused by people buying enough toilet paper to fill an entire wall of their bathroom, rather than there being a shortage in supply. 

The feeling that this whole situation has been incredibly badly handled, though.  The knowledge that more could have been done earlier, to avoid necessity of these measures being implemented.  The disillusionment with a government who have wasted valuable time prevaricating and ignoring the obvious, who have thrown good money after bad and refused to accept the situation soon enough to make a tangible difference to keeping the numbers down.  All those things.  

All those things? Exactly the same.