Thursday 29 November 2007

When I were young...

What's going on? 4 blogs in a week? Either I'm having an outburst of creativity, or Husband is travelling and the tv is rubbish.

It's the latter, obviously. And as a result, I am so knackered by dealing with my beloved Boys 100% solo that the chances of my writing anything in the least creative are as likely as my waking up and finding that I fit into my wedding dress again after all these years. (Not that I've tried, you understand. Borderline loopy, perhaps, but insane? Not yet...)

So, because I once more have very little to blog about, here's a retrospective glimpse of my picture-book childhood...(mainly at the request of Omega Mum on 3 Kids No Job - for which name, by the way, she should be sued under the trade descriptions act...)

My Dad used to joke in a Monty Python styley that he 'were born in a paper bag and had to lick 't road clean for breakfast'. This was not true, but he certainly wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and everything he (and consequently, we) had was mainly as a result of his hard work. (There was also some input from my mother - but that's a post for another time, when Husband is travelling and the tv is rubbish...Next week, probably). Dad's is not a rags to riches to story, but one of a man who made it to the upper levels of corporate management by being dependable, good at his job (marketing - oh, the acorn didn't fall far from the tree with me), and probably one of the most honest men you would ever hope to meet. Who always knew how to do The Right Thing.

So, by the time he was 35 years old, with a wife, 3 children, a good job, and a 5 bedroom house in a pretty Cotswold town to his name, he was very much aware that those children were not necessarily experiencing life in the raw. My sister, brother, and I were living a life of pampered priviledge he could not have imagined growing up in post-war Formby (if you want Grim, there's no place like 't 1950's North), and clearly, he decided that it was time for us (well, my sister and I - my brother was only a baby) to experience a bit more Cold Harsh Reality. (I'm using the capitals because that is how it seemed to us at the time).

But this posed a problem. How to do it?

My sister and I were both at a Catholic Primary school 10 miles from home and ferried to and from there each day in the back of my mum's Mini Clubman Estate. On the way, she would pick up 2 kids from a friend's house, and she, the 4 of us, and my baby brother would rattle around Cleeve Hill to Cheltenham at speeds that occassionally topped 35 mph when we were going down-hill with a following wind. Things got pretty hairy at times, I can tell you. Especially since my sister, K, (btw - am not calling her that for the sake of anonymity - we just call her that), and her counterpart from the other family were usually sitting in the boot. Have you seen a mini-clubman? Not the new, swanky version, but the 1970's tin can version? Let's just say that kids these days don't know they're born. Not for us the poncy rules about seatbelts in the back... In fact, I'm not even sure there were seatbelts in the back.

But I digress.

Stage 1 of Dad's Reality Check came in the form of making us take the bus to school. Not as simple as it sounds, since there was actually no bus to school. Instead, we had to take the normal bus to Cheltenham and walk the last 10 minutes. Can you imagine asking your 10 year old daughter to do that today, and at the same time take responsibility for her 8 year sister? You can? Hmmm. Social Services may be knocking on your door sooner than you think... But in any case, Dad's plan misfired. Whilst it may have been rather a shock for poor little K and I to drag ourselves unwillingly up the lane to catch the bus, there was a limit to how raw the exploits on the Castleways service from Greet to Cheltenham were going to get, especially when the bus drivers were the same every day, knew us by name, and were likely to report any misdoings directly to our parents. Frankly, we were more cossetted on that bus than we had been in the mini-clubman. And we had more space...

We still didn't know how lucky we were, in Dad's considered opinion.

So then Dad came up with Reality Check Stage 2.

Only 2 minutes walk from our house, at the top of the lane, was a set of almshouses. For those of you who have never come across these, they were essentially bedsits provided by a 'generous benefactor' for the poor elderly of our small town when they were down on their luck or had nowhere else left to go. Nowadays this is known as sheltered housing, and the view over the fields to the hills beyond would make each of these bedsits worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Back then they were the point of no return for most of their occupants. Not that you would have known it; they all took care of themselves as best they could, had daily visits from Meals on Wheels, and tended their pots on the balconies. Those of them who were able even had a little allotment out front. Frankly, these people were lucky when they considered the alternative, and they knew it.

But aged 10 and 8, you don't see the bigger picture like that. Which is why Dad hatched his cunning plan.

Every Saturday morning, crucially before pocket money was handed out, K and I were tasked with walking up the lane and knocking on each of the 14 or so doors and asking if there was anything we could to help the occupant within. No matter how smelly. Or toothless. Or gaga. And we weren't allowed to come home and claim our pocket money until we'd done it. Our Dad was capable of checking, and we knew it.

So every Saturday morning, oozing resentment and fury, we would drag ourselves up the lane, kicking stones around, and desperately hoping for most of the occupants to be out / asleep / at the doctor's / in hospital / on the loo when we knocked at their doors. Usually we got lucky around 50% of the time. And at another 25%, they didn't need us or, even want to talk to us. But in the remaining flats... I learnt - and have since forgotten - more about budgies & their habits than most people pick up in a life time (Did you know they like chickweed? Can't believe I still remember that...). Had an overdose of butterscotch sweets - I still don't really like them... Heard - and shockingly forgot - more about World War 2 than you could pick up in a month of watching the black & white war films that showed interminably on Saturday afternoons on BBC2 before the sports results, back when there were only 3 channels.

Of course, none of these old people really needed K and I to do anything for them. Their lives fitted into one room smaller than most of our sitting rooms these days; what could an 8 and a 10 year old provide? Now and then, one of them would ask us to fetch them a newspaper or a pint of milk, but that was pretty much it. They even tried to get us to keep the change (and remember, this is when 7p would buy you a Mars bar, so it was temptation indeed), which I hope we never did, but can't be sure.

However, I look back, and realise that Dad played a master-stroke here. I think we did this for about 18 months, before I began to plead too much homework after I started secondary school, and not only did this brief period in time give us a slightly better understanding of what it might be like to grow old (mainly you became smelly, I seem to remember my sister and I deciding, with the wisdom of two children who lived in a house with two bathrooms and a cloakroom), but also - and most importantly - how bloody lucky we were.

Now, how the hell, in this day and age, am I going to manage to educate my kids in that?

Wednesday 28 November 2007

The Worm Turns

For nearly two years my younger son has been mainly sweetness and light. We have had our moments, certainly, but they've been either health related (mrsa, anyone?), or generally panicky (second-time) mother related.

But now - whilst he is still an unending source of joy and laughter - it is beginning to seem that the worm has turned...

You may already have picked up Boy #2's climbing ability - no chair, sofa, or bookcase is safe when he is unsupervised - and his ability to unerringly home in on any stray banana like a heat-seeking missile. But just in case you think he's not a professional at this mischief stuff, here's what I think an instruction leaflet on some of his more interesting behaviour would read like, if he could type...

1. Guerilla Tactics to be employed at meal times

Roughly 10 minutes before any meal is ready, when you decide that you've really had enough now, and the wait for sustenance is getting beyond a joke, carpet-bag Mum. Wait until she is rushing around the kitchen marshalling the troops and putting the final touches to the cordon-bleu cuisine she provides whilst, admittedly, talking 10 to the dozen on her mobile and trying to convince your older brother to wash his hands before sitting at the table (But I haven't done a pooh, mamma!), then act as follows. (Obviously.) Throw your arms around her knees, press your head into her thigh (Mum's trousers, incidentally, are perfect for removing any annoying bits of snot you may have hanging around your face), and sit on her feet. And for a perfect 10, do this as she's trying to take a pan of boiling water off the stove or a hot tray out of the oven...

Once at the table, appear to be eating the veg. Then hide it on the handy shelf under the table, or if all else fails, in your pelican bib, when her back is turned. She probably won't notice until the yucky broccoli has been removed from the table and the delicious strawberries have already been placed within reach.

2. Amusing Party Tricks #1

After a swimming lesson, when you've had fun and games pretending you can't understand what the hunky man in the surf wet-suit is asking you to do (just desserts, really. I mean, who on earth wears a wet-suit in a swimming pool unless they are trying to impress the hot French mummy of that annoyingly clever Sebastian who seems to be able to swim already. He only comes to show the rest of us up...), wait until you are dry and Mum has taken off your swim nappy at the last minute before she puts a nice clean fresh Pampers on you. Then (and this is a blinder), wee on the one and only towel that she has brought with you.

Even if the towel is bath-sheet size, if you've drunk enough pool water, the effect is magnificent.

For maximum impact, do this before she has had the chance to dry herself.

3. Amusing Party Tricks #2

Fart. Loudly. Then laugh.

Encourage your older and previously well-behaved bro to do the same. It helps if Dad is around - he usually laughs too.

4. Stunts.

This one may be difficult for those of you who don't live down steep basement steps like we do, but if you get the chance it's pretty exciting. On the way down, as Mum is bumping you back down the stairs, wait until you get roughly 4 steps from the bottom and she is distracted by complaints from your older bro about the fact that the bannister is wet. (Note; slippery stairs due to rain add to the fun for this one). Then, on step Minus 4, throw your body weight forward, causing the buggy to rock forward alarmingly, the last couple of steps to happen rather more quickly than normal, and your Mum to turn bright red and shout something unintelligible in a rather impressive manner.

That's it for now folks, but I'll be back with more tricks in the near future, and remember, if you must do these at home always remember to follow each of them up with a cheesy grin and a blown kiss to limit likely repurcussions. If these don't appear to lift the mood at all, and things are looking really dicey, finish off with a gentle stroke of Mum's cheek. Works every time - haven't had Time Out once yet. (She thinks I don't even understand what that means. No, of course I don't, Mother....).

Now, you may think I'm kidding, but I swear - if Boy #2 could type - or even talk...

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Gloom, dark, dreariness

Just call me Mrs Irritated this morning. It's gloomy, dark, and cold.

Plus...Boy #2's cold is back, so I'm covered in snail-trails of snot (when will I learn to colour code my wardrobe by children's ailments and activities? White for colds. Black for painting. Plastic sheeting for everything else...)

Plus... Husband forgot to take the flowers in when he dropped Boy #1 at nursery this morning (is this common practice, pupils taking it in turns to flowers in to school? Just seems yet another opportunity for one-upmanship if you ask me)

Plus... have had no luck finding a Kilt, yes, you read that correctly, a KILT for Boy #1 to wear at his nursery Christmas show. It's a musical performance of 'The 12 days of Christmas' apparantly - and he's a piper. This is going to be fun. He has already informed me in a rather final way; "I am not wearing a skirt, mamma. No way." Based on his level of involvement over the last 2 years at the school Christmas plays (sitting on his teacher's lap, weeping piteously at the sight of all the grown-ups and the glaring stage lights), anything more than £5 could be a huge waste of money. And yet, I have recieved a letter informing me he needs to wear a white shirt, a KILT (with 'jazzy' shorts underneath, if you don't mind. What the hell are 'jazzy' shorts? Is this a whole new cult of dressing I know nothing about?), long socks, shoes and - get this - a tartan beret. There are no words. Other than, it'll teach me to live in Kensington sweetie-lovey-darling...

Plus... having finally got Milly (mother-in-law) to commit to which photos she wants where in the book of her mother and aunt's lives (palaver is not the word), and downloaded them to and placed the order last night, I just recieved an e-mail stating they couldn't fulfill it due to technical problems. So have just spent half an hour on their live help site trying to sort that one out. Please god let them arrive in time for Christmas...

Plus... am trying to book a Santa trip for the Boys but all websites appear to be down. Have been informed by smug friends that it just doesn't pay to leave it to the last minute, apparantly. Last minute? It's not even December yet...

Plus, what is it about men and washing up? Yes, it's great that Husband does it. But not so great when I find the sink plug-hole blocked by bits of rice, cornflake, raisin and various other revolting bits of debris that apparantly will work their way through the system - eventually. Hmmm...

Reasons to be cheerful?

I have got one, actually. Boy #2's godmother, who recently decamped to the wilds of Gloucestershire is dropping by for coffee tomorrow morning. Hurrah! The company of my best mate, who knows my husband and doesn't mind me sounding off as she's looking for an opportunity to do the same about her bloke. (And we both know it means nothing, other than a chance to vent before we drink too much tea and eat too many biscuits.)

Life doesn't get much better. Until Christmas, anyway...

Monday 26 November 2007


OK, here I am ready to blog with what seems like very little to blog about. However, I must post as it seems imperative that I move on from the previous, never-to-be-mentioned-again update about the dreaded h*l*d*y in M**rit**s, since all that has done is upset people...
Have decided that my life right now is mostly about containment. Not all of it, not all the time, but in the main; containment. Here’s what I mean:

Containing the mess – that a family of 4 make as part of daily life. Particularly a family of 4 with two boys under 5… Tidying up does not feature very much in the play-radar of my sons, and when it does appear it is only because I have threatened them with the most heinous punishment known to man. Oh yes, that horrific punishment of the withdrawal of tv priviledges. (It is at this stage that - oh the shame - I occassionally feel nostalgic for the smacks on the back of our legs that my mum used to give when things got a bit heated).

Containing the laundry (an old and trusted complaint of mine, I know, but indulge me here...). Obviously it's been particularly bad this last week since I've had to catch up with washing from our (holiday), so perhaps I'm feeling a little tender on this one, but it's rather like Sisyphus pushing water up-hill (did I spell that right?). It never bl**dy ends. And then, to add insult to injury, just as I start to see daylight - or rather, the bottom of the laundry basket - my beloved Husband returns from one of his business trips, and opens his bag. The effect is rather like an exploding firework, with clothes shooting all over the room. (Actually I can't remember the last time I really saw the bottom of the laundry basket; there's a sub-layer of clothes that just seem to sit there as they need handwashing, not my favourite activity. I really must stop buying them...)
Containing the Boys – Boy #1 when he’s having a tantrum, is in high spirits or is just in a mood, and Boy #2, who currently wants to scale every piece of furniture in the house. I walked into the dining room yesterday where there were suspicious noises going on, to find Boy #1 applauding whilst Boy #2 sat in the middle of the table and throwing all the fruit out of the fruit bowl onto the floor. With the exception of the bananas, which he was trying to peel with his teeth…

Containing my chocolate habit - 'nuff said? I would also like my peanut butter habit to taken into account here. Normally pb is contraband in our house due to Boy #1's nut allergy, but when we got back home after our (holiday) and found we had no hot water or central heating, I stomped off to the corner shop to buy milk and found myself slipping a jar of the dreaded stuff into the basket along with a loaf of bread. Aaaah - pb on toast, the ultimate comfort food. After 2 days I had to throw the unfinished jar out as I was using it to replace all other meals when Boy#1 was not around. I've got loads of will-power, but it only ever manifests with stuff I don't want to do, like smoking (one vice I never adopted), eating Marmite (see Rotten Correspondant's post on this one), and going to the gym.

Containing my sarcastic retorts. This morning in the supermarket the very sweet checkout lady asked if I would be OK to pack my own bags. OK? Yes, I would be OK. Not happy. Not great. Not very quick, or efficient, but yes, just about OK. Thankfully I didn't say any of this, restraining myself by muttering under my breath whilst juggling Boy #2, a sneezing fit, 5 'bags for life' that for once I had actually managed to remember to take out of the car and into the supermarket, and a handbag that refused to give up my wallet. I can't think who had stored the following crap in there:

3 pairs of gloves - none of them mine
a plethora of crusty hankies - both Boys have perpetual colds this winter
2 diaries - roll on 2008 so I can ditch the 2007 version
a leaking juice cup
various cars and planes
two sets of keys
Not mention, of course, all the interesting sort of stuff that Mya wrote about recently...

There, I think that's done it. For someone with nothing to blog about I seem to have written quite a lot...

What are your containment issues? I would love to know...

Thursday 22 November 2007

Oh, the memories...

So here they are, the best things about going on holiday to Mauritius... (or at least, our holiday in Mauritius, which I appreciate may be unique to the Potty family).

Spending non-pressured time with Husband and Boys. Well, non-pressured in so much as our only guidelines were that breakfast finished at 10.30am, and Boy #2 had a nap each day after lunch. Oh yes, and that a babysitter was booked to keep an eye on them most evenings so we had to be ready to go out at 8.00pm. And also that the turn-down service guys arrived each evening at 7.30pm so we had to have the boys out of the bath by then so the bathroom could be cleaned... Gosh, actually it sounds like a rather exhausting schedule when you put it like that...

Are you sick yet, Tattie and Rebecca? Don't be. My Beloved was working EVERY DAY. However, this didn't seem so bad (to me, anyway) when you could...

...walk straight from our room onto the beach. This is a considerable advantage when you need to be able to have one boy playing - albeit safely in the shade, heaven forbid he might get a tan - on the sand, whilst the other snores gently inside. It is also an advantage when your Husband has to work every morning, lap-top humming away and mobile glued to his ear, and you want to indulge in a bit of guilt-free sunworshipping whilst your children are in...

....The Kid's Club. 4 hours off every day for Husband and I whilst the Boys get to do interesting stuff (archery, nature walks, cookery - don't get excited, only pizza) and frolic in the fort and the kid's only pool. Most importantly they were also fed lunch. Hurrah! No ketchup on my swimsuit, and Husband and I could have lunch on the beach courtesy of...

...the on-beach waiter service (I'm sure it has a fancy name but I don't know it). Stick a flag in the sand and some-one obliging appears with iced water, clean towels, and a menu for lunch. Lots of healthy options but of course, on holiday, nothing has any calories in it (oh, you didn't know the First Law of Travel?), so we just over-indulged in carbs and chips each day. With a bit of salad on the side, of course. Lucky for me there was also... adults only pool (in addition to more a feral family pool) to burn off a minute fraction of said carbs. Must admit, I felt a bit of a fool ploughing up and down with my goggles on whilst everyone else in the (kid-free) vicinity were honeymooners, simply there to soak up the rays whilst lying in interesting poses to ensure an even tan. I remember when an even tan seemed important - it was pre-kids. In any case, since they (well, the women anyway) had spent the last six months working out like crazy to shine on their wedding day they were damned if they were going to raise a sweat on their two weeks off. (Come on, we all did that, right?). Consequently, I had the pool almost to myself - lovely.

I could go on, but not only am I making myself gag, and since I'm now back in rainy London and am getting rather depressed, I won't. I especially won't bother to tell you about the glass-bottomed boat (actually no great shakes since due to our restrictive nap schedule we couldn't go at high tide, and so consequently saw very few fish. Not that it mattered to the Boys. A boat that you could see through the bottom of? Better than crisps), or the hotel's private island with sugar-soft sand, crystal clear waters and wonderful beach-side restaurant (where Husband and I had our unwise experience with the sea-food platter).

I think I'd better stop. No one will ever read my blog again...

Must go and sort out the laundry. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Back on the Chain Gang...

Those of you kind enough to comment on my last post might already know this, but I've been a bit quiet for the last week as I've been on holiday. Hurrah! The sunny beaches of Mauritius are now my spiritual home, and the come-down yesterday on our return was not helped by the shocking descent from 28 to 8 Degs C, or the lack of central heating and hot water awaiting us at home. (As I write this I'm still waiting for British Gas to send round an engineer. He/she was due to be here between 12 and 6pm today. Am beginning to suspect we've been stood up...)

However, somehow I doubt that I'm going to get much sympathy for that, or that you will be particularly interested in my stories of caiparinha's in the evening, hangover's in the morning, or kid's clubs in the afternoon. Why is it that we never want to hear good news? I include myself in this; there's nothing more sick-making than someone telling you how perfect their trip was, when you've been toiling away on the school run all week. Really, all you want to hear are tales of lost luggage and tummy troubles... So in the interests of making this a more attractive post for you to read, here's a short list of what I learnt on our trip.

  • Speedo's for men over the age of, I don't know, shall we say 25? are rarely a good idea. (Likewise those tight brief swimming shorts some men are wearing nowadays. Really. Who on earth managed to persuade men that those are a good idea. Ever?).
  • If you must wear the Speedo's though (as the men in our Italian family beach neighbours did), is it really necessary to stand legs akimbo by about a meter, feet firmly planted in the sand, with your hips waggling enthusiastically whilst you discuss what to have for lunch? (At least, I assume that's what they were discussing. It could have been the state of world peace for all I know. Or they could have been verbalising what their body language was saying, and just saying 'never mind that, look at my Nob!'...)
  • No matter how unfit you feel, or how non-bikini-ready you believe your body to be, there will always be another woman on the beach who doesn't feel the same way, but should. And in her bikini, she makes you seriously reconsider your decision not to wear one. If she can get away with it, you are positively a goddess.
  • Re; the bikini's. Posture, ladies. It does wonders. That's all I'm saying.
  • Cover-ups / kaftans / sarongs + Transparent. Why?
  • Cover-ups / kaftans / sarongs + Beach Vendors. If you wouldn't pay for it at home, why pay more for it on the beach?
  • NEVER (as my beloved Husband and I did) get carried away at a beach restaurant with your 'Last Day, just Sod It attitude' and say; 'The seafood platter for lunch? That sounds like a great idea...' I'm still paying for my devil-may-care approach to that one.
  • If, sitting between you in the cab, on the way back to the airport, your older child starts complaining his tummy hurts, don't just assume this is (bless him) just one more way to delay the trip home. Pick him up and put him on your lap so he can see out of the window to avoid travel sickness. Unless you like vomit over your skirt, shoes, the interior of the cab and afore-mentioned child, of course.
  • And finally, if your loo was playing up before you left home, and you are not in the fortunate position of employing a handyman on your domestic staff, it will still be playing up when you get back. Along with the hot water and central heating, I could do without that.

There we are, hopefully entertaining enough for you to put aside any lingering thoughts that I might (whisper it softly) actually have had a great time. Heaven forbid. And bring on the next holiday....

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Just Desserts

On August 16th of last year I wrote the following:

Husband has been in NY since Sunday and is still luggage-less after a fiasco when a mobile phone during take off (not his, he assures me) caused his plane to be turned round and all the luggage taken off and checked – and not put back on again. Handy.

For most people that would be bad enough (imagine having to go out and buy a completely new wardrobe in New York… Really, really hell…), but found myself thinking rather tastelessly that for a banker being separated from his mobile phone, blackberry and lap-top is tantamount to asking Helen Keller to communicate without her hands.

I didn’t share that with him…

Keep getting sad phone calls, when he updates me on the current fate of the 17,000 or so bags separated from their owners in the chaos over the last few days. Oh yes, and asks to speak to the boys. (We used to do passionate phone calls after we first met when he was abroad for 4 years. Now we mainly check diaries.)

What on earth could have posessed me to be so flippant? Our computer has been 'down' for the last 3 days. 'Down' - not really an appropriate word, I think. 'Down' implies a little low. Not quite itself. Likely to answer questions on it's status with a heavy sigh and a 'Not so bad, thanks' (my paternal grandmother's favourite way to show she was not quite tip-top).

'Down' does not imply sulking. Refusing to come out to play. Refusing, in fact, to even answer the door. Drawing the curtains and sitting shiva for it's past fun and exciting life when I used to write long and wordy creative writing assignments on it (oh yes, dear reader, I was that wordsmith - or not).

So I sent it on a little break. The nice man at the local computer service centre took it away and spoke soothingly to it, told it that it was indeed a thing of beauty and a joy to behold, and lo! It works again. It has returned and I have promised never to treat it gracelessly again; never to switch it off manually when it was still battling to work it's way through the programmes to do that itself; and always to back up. Which of course, I hadn't done when it went into it's decline. Thoughts of losing 4 years of photos of my boys flashed through my mind when it was throwing it's hissy fit, and I will not allow it this inanimate object to hold me to ransome again. (Although just in case it is listening - please don't do that again).

So that's what I'm going to do now. Back up. Just as soon as I've sorted the laundry, finished the soup for my mother-in-law's state visit tomorrow, tidied up the living room, watched a bit of tv and reorganised my wardrobe.


Friday 2 November 2007

Count your blessings

My Husband's family has an interesting history. Not like mine; born and bred in the UK, you don't get much more through and through English than us. To find anything interesting on us you need to go back 400 years when there is a chance - extremely remote - that we were descended from a sailor shipwrecked from the Spanish Armada. This is based on the flimsiest of circumstancial evidence, such as the fact that my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Pope; that she, her family (including my cousins and I - a little) look like Moors or Morroccans (in the right light); and that in Dorset, where the family originates, this sort of link is not uncommon.

Flimsy links indeed.

But Husband's family; their tales are the stuff of movies and best-selling blockbusters in a Wild Swans styley. Ever since I found out about it I've been trying to uncover more, and this year my mother-in-law (partly to get me off her back, I think) persuaded her aunt to put some of her reminiscences down on paper. Together with what my MIL (Milly from now on) remembers being told by her own mother this has been condensed into a story, and I've spent the last few evenings editing it and getting it into a suitable state to be self-published via, for the family only.

My god, what a story. In brief, Husband's grandmother and great aunt were of Dutch extraction (mostly, with a few more exotic strains thrown in just for the fun of it), but were born and grew up in Indonesia from the beginning of the 20th century, and stayed there until just after the end of the 2nd World War. They went through the camps and came out the other side, not unscathed, but as two remarkable women.

Beginning to see where I'm going with this?

Something that Husband's Great Aunt wrote stays with me, and pulls me up short whenever I get frustrated with every-day life:

'My poor mum was stricken with grief. She lost her home, all her belongings, her husband and her youngest child in the space of one week.'

Without making light of the real problems I know many people face every day; do we really know we're born?