Saturday 29 June 2013

Food for thought...

The weather today in Moscow is 31degC and sunny.

The weather today in London is (max) 21degC - but at the moment, is 12degC.

I'm getting on a plane and flying from the former to the latter.

Better leave my warm weather gear here, then.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Things I learned at BritMums 2013...

The BritMums Live! team did an amazing job.

After 6 years, I still have a lot to learn about blogging.

Standing up to read one of your posts aloud in front of 400 people is just about as intimidating as it gets.

I am a rhubarb, according to the stylists from TKMaxx.  Not an apple, pear, or strawberry (yes, you really can be strawberry-shaped - who knew?), but a rhubarb.  So THAT's where I've been going wrong stylistically all these years...

A lot of bloggers have book ideas.  A lot.

Meeting online friends face to face is rarely a disappointment.

Travelling without the kids is... pretty much bliss, actually.

But sitting on the tarmac for 4 hours at Moscow's Domodedovo airport whilst the hydraulic system on the plane is being fixed still stinks.

Arrive at Heathrow T5 after midnight and you will experience the spooky situation where they actually start to turn the lights off in the baggage hall.

Driving through the centre of London after 1am in the morning, looking at all the revellers out there, is a pretty good reminder of how darn old you are.

But glancing out of the hotel window at 6am on a Saturday morning (damn that jet lag) to see clubbers making their way home through the drizzle makes you realise that being ancient really isn't that bad.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Why Blogging is like Fight Club. No, really.

It's probably going to be quiet on The Potty Diaries this weekend.  I'm heading off to the UK for a weekend of talking about blogging rather than actually blogging, at BritMums Live!

This will make a refreshing change from my usual m.o. which - when speaking to 'real' people - is to treat blogging like Fight Club.  Remember?  First rule about Fight Club; Never speak about Fight Club.  Second rule about Fight Club?  Never speak about Fight Club.  So it generally is with blogging and me.

It's not that I'm ashamed of my blog, you understand - rather the opposite.  I'm proud of it, would shout about it from the roof tops if I could.  It's more that a) it's supposed to be anonymous  and b) very often when you tell people who don't blog that you do - if you tell them - they immediately make assumptions about you.

These are, in no particular order:

1.  You have no friends.  This is surprising because the majority of bloggers I've met face to face are some of the most gregarious and engaging people I know.  Frankly, given the opportunity, we rarely shut up.

2.  You have too much time on your hands.  That's why this morning, I'm squeezing writing a blog post in between dropping my kids at school, going into the city to pick up my new visa, sorting the house into some semblance of order, making a cake for the troops to eat whilst I'm gone - got to remind them of the benefits of having me around, obviously - doing the laundry, packing for my weekend away, and getting to the airport on time to make my flight later on.

3.  In a direct contradiction with 2. , that the housework never gets done  This may be true.  I couldn't possibly comment apart from to say, thank god for our cleaner.

4.  You must be short of things to write about, so they can expect to see themselves featured in glorious prose.  Some people are even surprised when they discover that this isn't the case...  I can only say here that since I can barely remember the content of conversations I had with my own family the day after - no, a couple of hours after - they take place, I am quite pleased that I'm able to fool other people into entirely the wrong impression about the strength of my short term memory.

5.  You must be making a fortune.  Ha!

So, anyway; I'm off to London now to talk about blogging to my heart's content for a couple of days.  And then I will return - hopefully with fewer bruises than Brad Pitt and Edward Norton sported after their weekends of Fight Club excess - to settle back into my day to day existence and undercover blogging once again...

If you have a blog, and tell people about it, do you have anything to add to this list?  And if you don't tell people, why not?


Monday 17 June 2013

End of term madness, meets BritMums Live!, meets Good Enough Mothering...

I am all for giving children the opportunity to make their voices heard within the school environment.  One of the worst things I remember about being a child was the feeling that your voice didn't really count for anything; adults got to make all the decisions, big and small, so the fact that the Boys' school has a Student Council seems like a Good Thing to me.  No, really, it does.  Just as long as my sons realise that they live in a benevolently authoritative establishment at home.

That means, by the way, that I will listen to their points of view and accommodate them where possible but - when all is said and done - what I / Husband says goes.  Especially on the big issues.  Like, rice or pasta for dinner.  Or whether that crust is going to be eaten up or not (we can discuss 'not' - but then there won't be dessert afterwards...)

Anyway.  The Student Council.  It had decreed that today was Celebrity Day.  (We won't get into a discussion of whether celebrity is something to be applauded here, I think.  I mean, obviously it's not, not really, but when everyone else is participating it seems to be more than a little curmudgeonly to lecture your children on why you are not going to help them pull together a costume when all their friends are dressing up as famous football players or pop princesses).

But let's put Celebrity Day in context.  We are in the last week of term here (do I hear a sharp intake of breath from UK based readers?).  So, you know, I have a question. Whose bright* idea was it to schedule it for this week? (*Add expletives as you see fit).  Because yes, come next Monday my two little darlings will be home all day, every day, until the end of August.

*sighs deeply*

*pulls self together*


So, bearing that in mind, much as I love my sons and am looking forward to spending un-timetabled weeks with them in the very near future, I have to admit that there are just one or two teensy little things I would like to get sorted before that happens.

  • Like, finish the copy-editing job I was just sent.  
  • Like, finish my novel - a ridiculous dream which is close enough to touch, but not quite - or, in the absence of that, re-read it and come up with an elevator pitch on it's theme.  You know; 'Oh, my novel?  Well, it's sort of Tolkien meets Chekhov meets Maggie O'Farrell...' (It's not, by the way.  Totally different, in fact.  But you get what I'm talking about).  
  • Like, gird my loins (as in, work out what the hell to wear) for BritMums Live! this weekend, prepare myself for the workshop and the keynote reading I'll be doing at it, remember to pack my glasses for the opticians appointment I'm squeezing in during my 60 hour whirlwind visit to London, write a shopping list for the same (sleep?  Who needs sleep?), and also batten down the hatches here so that Husband has sufficient supplies (aka pizza and crisps) during my absence.

It's not surprising then that Celebrity Day slipped my mind until Boys #1 and #2 reminded me of it just before their bedtime yesterday evening.  Cue mild panic followed by frantic thinking and creative problem solving.

But, we triumphed.  Well - sort of.  Boy #1 strode into school complete with long brown shorts, white shirt, blue sweater and comma-quiff (courtesy of my Aveda wax) as TinTin, and Boy #2 negotiated the corridors in a dark blue t-shirt tucked into slightly-too short but suitably snug tracksuit bottoms, and wearing his brother's black ski helmet bearing the legend 'Hamilton' written in felt-tip pen on a sticky label across the front of it.

I did spend a few moments last night considering the possibility of covering Boy #2 all over with sponsorship labels so he could look a little closer to the real thing but once I googled a few images and realised that a) we didn't have a yellow flame-retardent jumpsuit to stick them on and b) I would be up all night printing them, it would be much simpler to tell him he was wearing Lewis Hamilton's training kit instead.  (They keep the many-labelled racing kit for race occasions only, didn't you know?)

At the end of term, there was a limit, I decided.  In this instance, Good Enough mothering would have to be good enough...

Thursday 13 June 2013

In honour of Father's Day; The Perfect...

... Bacon Sandwich, as created by Jamie Oliver.

We all know how to make a good bacon sandwich.  Of course we do.  But indulge this slightly homesick British expat please, and take a look at the original cheeky chappie expounding on the virtues of smoked back and streaky bacon, the importance of grilling from above rather than below, how we need to warm the loaf of bread, and the uses of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces as key elements of a hangover cure.

I know what I'll be seeking out for breakfast when I'm over at BritMums Live! next weekend...  And yes, I AM talking about a proper British bacon sandwich.  Tut.  You lot have minds like sewers.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Things no mother should have to say before 8am...

On walking into my sons' bedroom first thing...

Good morning!

None of us really needs to see that, do we?

Well, if you want to see it, I suggest you look in the mirror.

No, I won't hold the mirror for you.

And your brother is not interested, either.

Well - if you're cold, getting dressed might help sort that out.

Into your clothes, not your dressing gown.

Yes I know your dressing gown is warm and cuddly but you're supposed to be getting up.

Yes, getting up now.  And then come in here and brush your teeth.

Now, please.

I've left your toothbrush on the basin in the bathroom.

Aren't you dressed yet?


No, I don't like Shouty Mummy either.

No, she's not very lovely, is she?

Well, maybe if you did what you were asked to do the first, second, or third times, she might not make an appearance.

Yes, that is a good idea.

So, shall we try that?

I love you too, darling.

Yes, even that bit of you.

Yes, you do still need to get dressed...

*Disclaimer;  not all of the above may have been heard in the Potski home this morning.  But all of the above has been heard in the Potski home at some point before 8am on other, unidentified mornings...

Thursday 6 June 2013

It's not over 'till it's over... Saying goodbye to the baby years.

I am 46 years old.

I'm reminded of that every morning when I look in the mirror and seem to see a new grey hair blazing defiantly at me from what is still - for the moment - mostly brunette, or a new wrinkle when I hold my face 'just so' in the harsh morning light.  (Understandably I think, I tend to keep the holding of my face 'just so' to a minimum).

46 is not old.  There are still many things on my personal bucket list* that I fully intend to achieve, some of them, I hope, sooner rather than later.

I want to finish the novel I'm writing.  (I've reached 55K words, so it's no longer a distant dream but an achievable one, I think).  I want to find an agent to help me publish said novel (yes, still a distant dream, but I can always hope).  I want to climb dormant volcanoes in Indonesia, and walk in the Himalayas.  I want to speak Russian at least a little better than I do today.  I want to walk the Cotswold Way.  I want to learn to play the piano.

I want to go back to work in paid employment outside the home (not impossible, although it will be considerably easier to achieve back in the UK).  I want to eat sushi in Japan, and visit the red heart of Australia.  (I also want not to see any venomous creatures in that red heart...)  I want to go back with my husband to the hilltop in Kenya where we watched the sun set on Kilimanjaro during our honeymoon, and take our sons with us to experience the magnificence of Africa.  I want to finally get around to stretching the enormous dot painting we bought during our visit to Sydney 5 years ago over a frame and see it installed in splendour on the white walls of our flat in London.  And of course, I would quite like to lose half a stone.

All of these things are - one way or another - achievable.  Being 46 does not preclude any of them.

But what 46 does preclude, in my mind at any rate, is having another baby.

We have two amazing sons; our family is complete.  Adding to it is unthinkable; logistically, emotionally, physically.    I don't yearn with a passion for a third child; I do not want to go back into the mist and fog of those early baby days.

But every now and again, I have to admit that the thought that I will never cradle another baby - of my own - in my arms again makes me quite sad.

There's not much that I would say I am now too old to do, but having another baby fits right into that category.

It's not over 'till it's over.  But that?  It's over.

*With thanks to 'Talk about York' who got me thinking about bucket lists this morning

Monday 3 June 2013

An expat confession...

Bless me, Interweb, for I have sinned.

I recently read a post on Buzzfeed which promised to tell me 'The 17 Best Ways to Annoy a British Person' expecting to chuckle my way through it.  Because we're easily annoyed, we Brits, aren't we?  Not in a 'stamping around, throwing our tennis racquet on the ground over losing matchpoint like MacEnroe did all those years ago' kind of a way*, but in a 'Tut.  Well, that's quite disappointing...' way, which is how we react to virtually everything from a mildly rainy day when we were promised blazing sunshine, to a traffic jam on our way to the airport causing us to miss our plane, to an empty biscuit tin, to being knocked out of the Football World Cup at the quarter final stage, or to bidding farewell to large parts of what were formerly outposts of the British Empire**.

But then I read #1 on the list; 'Make them a cup of tea without properly boiling the water first.'

And I thought - god help me - 'But I don't boil the water properly first, any more'...  I used to, you understand. And in the UK, I still do.  But here, I just go to the water cooler, which also gives out piping hot water (though it must be said, it's not boiling) and - oh, the horror - I just fill my cup straight up from there.  And then put a tea bag into it, wave it around a little, and I - I call that tea.

*hangs head in shame*

This got me thinking.  What else do I do now, as an expat, that I never used to do when I was living in Blighty?

I call pavements 'sidewalks'.  Because frankly if I said anything else, no-one here would understand what on earth I was talking about, but still...  Ditto (see that?  'Ditto'?  What's happening to me?) 'recess' for playtime, 'highway' for dual carriageway, and 'cookie' for biscuit to name but a few linguistic infractions.

If a traffic jam doesn't have more than 7 lines of traffic trying to squeeze into two marked lanes, I don't consider it worth remarking on.  It's just a normal intersection (Jesus, I meant 'junction'.  JUNCTION!).

I listen to Crap FM in the car.  Easy listening.  Smooooth music.  Because if I listened to anything like I used to in London (xfm, out of choice), I would be a nervous wreck in the afore-mentioned traffic jams.

I am capable of going to a dinner party or spending time with friends and not once mentioning my children's school, their next school, their previous school, or how any and all of these are fitting our children for their futures.  Which is quite refreshing, if you think about it.

I am also capable of spotting a new arrival from the UK at 20 paces at any social gathering, because they will be the one fretting about education and not understanding how the rest of us are so chilled out about it.  (Note: I am saving my fretting for the school year prior to our return to Britain, and since I don't know when that will be, why for now I just consider myself on sabbatical from the UK education system.  Shortsighted, I know...)

I make fantasy lists.  Not lists of what I would do if I were to win the lottery, oh no.  These lists are of what I would buy if I were to find myself magicked to the aisles of Sainsbury's or Waitrose on the Cromwell Road. Highlights include Marigold Organic Vegetable and - of course - Green & Black's chocolate, if you must know.

And, heaven help me, I encourage my kids to make fantasy lists too; 'We're going to England in a few weeks, boys; what shall we eat?'  (The answers to this one are many and varied and span the culinary gamut from Cornish pasties through roast lamb to sushi, with a quick stop on the way for Gran's lasagne and Oma's indonesian food).

I make scones.  Scones, god help me.  And what's worse - I like them and think to myself, 'Oh, that would be LOVELY with a cup of tea'.  Now, obviously scones have their place - smothered in clotted cream and strawberry jam (in that order, obviously), in a sea-front cafe in Devon or Cornwall, but in Moscow?  Really?

I make my own chutney.  A friend from the UK came to visit last summer and on discovering this fact her face said it all.  'Who are you, and what have you done with PM?'

If you are - or have been - an expat, what's your confession?

* which event, I am sure, still ranks highly in the  most embarassing incidents British people ever saw on tv because, really, for chrissake man, show a little decorum...

** I have it on good authority that this has been royalty's reaction to minor setbacks throughout the history of the British Empire, like losing America.  Or India.  Or - need I go on?

Sunday 2 June 2013


... what kind of fool, when about to start an entirely self-catered dinner party for 12 people, takes a look at the clock (5 minutes to go), the state of the kitchen (chaos), the heat on the barbeque which her husband forgot to start on time to cook the butterflied leg of lamb (not hot enough), and the table (a work in progress due to the fact that the dishwasher was started late and half the cutlery needed to make up the place settings is still inside it), and then thinks to herself;

'Oh, I've got that packet of fresh mint in the fridge, and loads of lemons.  Why don't I make some mint lemonade, from scratch, for those who aren't drinking wine?'

Face, palm.