Sunday, 22 October 2017

My Sunday Photo - Week 147 - N is for Normal

I'm back home in Dubai until November 6th, the purpose of my trip home is to find a new house to move to, we're trying to downsize. Apparently people in Dubai don't know what downsizing is and all the houses we've looked at so far are bigger than the 4 bed villa we live in now, however, we live near the beach in a prime location, so by moving a bit further inland we can save almost a third in rent and move to a much better quality home.

I'll be in the UK again for 3 weeks to finish helping my mum move, then retuning to Dubai for our actual move and won't be back in the UK until February.

I'm struggling to adapt to the time difference, driving on the wrong side of the road again (I keep getting in the wrong side of the car) and the heat, despite the summer being well and truly over, it's still 35c in the day.

It's been emotionally draining returning to Dubai. Since we've lived abroad I've always worried that every trip home could be the last time I see my parents. Sadly this year, my father died while I was in the UK, hence my extended stay and returning home has meant having to go through things all over again. Telling people when they ask if I've had a good summer in the UK and having some of his things around me that I'm rediscovering, but this time without family around to support me. I'm not looking forward to returning to the UK next month as it all seems so final, but I get one last visit to the home he shared with my mum, before she moves with some of his belongings in a box to her new home.

It's strange being back in Dubai after 3 months in the UK, but it's nice to have a break. I'm not doing anything different than normal, going out and drinking coffee and blogging, I just happen to have different scenery to look at.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 42

I'm back home in Dubai, we're house hunting and organising packers. We're trying to downsize, so far we've viewed a 2 and a 3 bed property in a location we like. Both properties are a third cheaper than where we currently rent but bigger than what we have now.

I wasn't sure I was going to make it home, after the fire alarm was sounded at Terminal 3 at Heathrow, 2 hours before my flight, and we had to evacuate the terminal. It was an emergency landing and the fire crew had followed the plane into the terminal. I only knew this because in light of recent terror attacks in the UK I decided to evacuate as quick as possible with a handful of other people to the opposite end of the terminal and we could see the action unfolding, however when we saw the fire engines leave and made our way back, I was rather alarmed to see people really hadn't moved that far and slight panic was growing as people speculated as to what it might be.

Being back in Dubai has been difficult for me emotionally after my father's death in July. I'm having to relive events with people I meet here, from the nail technician, to the guy who runs the pub quiz and even to the woman in Starbucks as well as with friends. People say 'oh I haven't seen you for ages, have you had a nice summer in the UK?' I'm also surrounded by a lot of my father's things at home, new things that I'm revisiting on my own, without family support.

Leaving the UK was also emotionally hard on me, every time I leave I worry that this may be the last time I see my father and it's hard knowing that when I return next month, he actually won't be there this time.

288 Sunday Soft Focus. Having arrived in London on Saturday, I spent the weekend with friends in Barnes, we met them on holiday in Tunisia in 2010. The day was spent chilling out, catching up and finally filling in the tax return.

289 Monday Fur. A walk around Richmond Park before being dropped off at Heathrow. I was stunned to see the deer and how close they came. I had a row of 3 seats to myself on the flight and slept most of the way home.
290 Tuesday Spots. Bob and Pushkins love having me home, I can't move more than 2ft without them jumping up to follow me and Bob kept a close eye on me all day. I needed to get my nails and eyebrows sorted as a priority and half heartedly unpacked my suit case.

291 Wednesday Today. Off out for coffee, finished unpacking my case and put a lot of paperwork away. Went out for dinner with friends in the evening and we won the pub quiz by a land slide.

292 Thursday From Where I Stand. headed off to the Mall of the Emirates, treated myself to 2 new dresses and a pair of sandals as well as buying Bob a halloween outfit. I arranged for a moving company to quote and in the evening we went out to view a property.

293 Friday Near and Far. A lovely lie in and off to visit a couple of new properties, they were huge, had dinner out at Carluccios and shopped at Ibn Buttata Mall. I bought an iPhone 8+ and spent the rest of the evening, updating MacBook Air to support the new phone.......grrrrrrrrrr.

294 Saturday Write. Lie in and back out to view more properties. Driving Peter to the airport as he's off to Pakistan till Thursday, then had an early night catching up with writing some letters to friends that I'll post when I'm back in the UK.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - U is for UK. It's hard to explain where you're from when you've moved around so much.

Triumphant Tales and Tweens Teens Beyond - The world through the eyes of a 6 year old and mini me's breakdown when she realised after 3 months that Aunty Suzanne was going home.

PoCoLo - When an online friend dies. The loss isn't any less just because you've never physically met.

Friday, 20 October 2017

When an online friend dies

Having been on Social Media for almost 10 years, I've seen people come and go, most of them strangers.

In the early days, it was common for people to set up an account, explore the new platform, build up followers and either a) get bored b) be easily offended and block you or c) change names and d) as you build up new followers and followed new people, you just lost track of who you chatted to.

Some people become real friends, you move over to face book, you text, you physically meet up, you may live in the same town and see one another every day, you may only physically see one another a couple of times a year. But you are friends who share emotions, secrets, day to day stuff, things you probably wouldn't share with others, you somehow feel safe sharing with 'strangers' online.

Before Social Media people only really knew their family and the people in the same village, town, city to where they lived. I moved a lot as a child around the UK and from an early age had pen friends that I'm still in touch with to this day. The friendship however has migrated over to FB and is more of an occasional 'like' It's become lazy, we no longer have anything in common. I have real friends who have never done the whole Social Media thing, or have accounts and don't post, but who think they share my life because they see what I'm doing and we do occasionally meet up, usually through me making the effort.

I have friends on SM that I no longer interact with, that no longer interact with me and I wonder why I bother keeping them as friends online, twitter is one thing. FB is more personal.

Earlier this month I realised a friend, who I'd never met, hadn't posted online for a couple of weeks, this is unlike her, I was worried. I checked messages to see when we'd last spoken. We'd not spoken privately for a long time, but she had been extremely supportive with my father's death over the summer months. I'd neglected a lot of friends over the summer, a lot of them had their own problems and had neglected me also, such is life.

When you spend a lot of time on SM it's easy to keep in touch with people, send messages, comment on a post, but it's also easy to just see what they are doing, like an occasional post and not interact.

But like a neighbour, a friend on social media is there every day. You smile at your neighbour, say good morning, wave a hand in acknowledgement as you walk past the kitchen window, share an exchange of words of the lack of survives in your area, the lack of bin collection, catch brief snippets of their work and family life, or you may chat with them everyday over the fence or drink coffee together.

Friends on Social Media you click on their page, but you see a photo of their garden, you see the photos from their holiday, but you don't always interact, you just get used to seeing them there and when all of a sudden they disappear, you worry, you wonder where they are.

Sometimes you never find out where they've gone, sometimes they message you and/or others to say they're going off SM and sometimes they die.

Sara died on October the 3rd. I was catching up with my online friends, she hadn't posted for a few weeks, that concerned me. I'm not friends with her adult daughter but I messaged her at 6.45pm to ask if everything was OK with her mum. She messaged me back at 10pm to say her mother had died only an hour earlier.

I don't know how Sara died, I could speculate, I could ask her daughter, but it's irrelevant to my friendship with her. I don't need to know. All I know is that Sara hadn't posted online that she was unwell. The last time she'd talked about her health was in June when she was bitten on her foot by a horsefly.

All I know is that I wake up each day and as I scroll through my face book, I know Sara isn't there anymore and I've lost a friend.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The World through the eyes of a 6 year old.

Meet Mini Me, my 6 year old niece. She was born after I left the UK. She knows no different, her Aunty Suzanne, lives in another country and has to catch get an aeroplane to come and visit her twice a year for a couple of weeks at a time. Aunty Suzanne turns up with gifts, does fun stuff like take her out for ice cream and makes sure that there are presents and cards left behind for birthdays, christmas, easter and halloween. In Between visits there are items sent through the post, pictures put up on facebook of where Aunty Suzanne is travelling and skype calls.

Mini Me has a map and a globe to see how far away Aunty Suzanne lives and where she is traveling, she has pictures of our home, our cat and dog

There is always great excitement when Aunty Suzanne is coming to visit, a list compiled of things for them to do and tears when Aunty Suzanne has to go home.

This year there was a complete and total breakdown from Mini Me, when I said my goodbyes. I'd been in the UK for a 3 month stint. I've bought a flat in town where I can stay when I visit and as far as Mini Me was concerned I now lived in the UK, the flat was my home and Uncle Peter was away working as he'd been over twice to visit during the 3 month period I was in the UK.

I was only leaving the UK for 3 weeks, I've returned to Dubai to declutter, organise a removal firm and find us a new house to live in, then I'll be back in the UK for 3 weeks to finish helping my mum move after my father's death this summer, before returning to Dubai to move house and resume my usual pattern of visiting family in the UK.

But in the eyes of Mini Me, 3 months had been 'forever' and she didn't want me to leave.

'But what about the flat? you've got a flat, who will live in it? You're supposed to live in it'

'Christmas, you'll be here for christmas like you always are?' I've not spent a christmas in the UK since 2010 'But you're always here for christmas'

'Who is going to pick me up from school?' I've only collected her 3 times since the new term, but each time we have gone for ice cream.

'My birthday, you always come for my birthday' that's not till February and again, I've never been there on her birthday.

Mini me is getting older, learning more, her understanding of the world is growing, yet she still has little concept of how far away Dubai is even when I equate it to the length of time it takes me to get home as being the same as a night time of sleep for her.

My physical presence in her life of gifts and photographs and this 3 month visit has become 'forever' for her and she just doesn't understand why I'd not be there anytime she wants to see me.

Three weeks is also forever for her until I come back, she's moved house this year, changed schools, her nanna is moving after her granddad died and now I'm leaving her and in the world of a 6 year old, that's just too much to process, although I also suspect that she's back in school this week without a care in the world, counting down the sleeps till Aunty Suzanne comes back again and takes her for another ice cream.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Parenting without Social Media

So it worked for you, that bit of advice you picked up from the health visitor, teacher, friend or even off social network. But it doesn't mean you can start making other parents feel like they're failing because it doesn't work for them.

If you choose not to immunize your children that is your right, but don't tell other people that they're risking a life of disability with their child as you could be also & if your child contracts an illness they could have been immunized against, they and you could be responsible for making another child who is maybe too young for the next set of jabs very ill. 

Ok that may be a bit extreme, you're untitled to your views and opinions but I'm fedup of seeing so many people quick to put others down then play the victim and claim they're being harassed by another blogger who disagrees with them. 

Don't try and make your battles, other people's. Use the proper channel if you as a family have been unfairly treated, talk about it, blog about it but stop trying to convince others that you are right, you may be, you may not be.

Bizarre as it may seem at the ripe old age of 44, I birthed 3 boys, all were induced, all were full term. I spent quite a few of those years as a single mum and purchased everything 2nd hand. Things were handed down and around with friends, kids were often swopped out with the neighbours kids for weekends camping, there were no gadgets, no sterilisers, no breast pumps and no labels.

When you give a process a label, one is being set up to fail. Baby Led Weening was doing the rounds on Mumsnet this week. As far as I can work out it involves sitting your child in a high chair, with the same foods as the rest of the family and letting them feed themselves. As one mumsnetter was informed 'she was insulting her child's intelligence by shoving a spoon in it's face'

I breast and bottle fed all 3 to different ages, I mashed up their food (I didn't own a liquidiser) and spoon fed them, I let them eat and explore their own foods.

I didn't have pram envy, or designer nursery's, I didn't have bank loans and credit cards to pay for all the stuff I didn't need. I was proud to announce I'd picked up something for almost free and the competition at nursery and later in the school play ground was all about who knew who and what they were passing down this week.

I visited the mobile toy library, we swopped toys out, we donated and exchanged toys at the local play group.

Yes parents in the playground judged others, gossiped, compared reading ages, but that was human nature. Shock most of us were SAHM's, there were quite a few SAHD's but we didn't use labels. But we, as many generations before us didn't know that one day it would be labelled and others would then feel they could judge us for our decisions. Some of us parents had part time or full time jobs as the children grew, but did we judge? No, we collected one anthers children, helped with homework and fed them their tea.

The majority of the village owned their own home, bought in the 1990's when one could get on the property ladder, owned one car and foreign holidays were reserved for when your kids had grown up.

There were no demands for insisting children could miss school to be taken on a family holiday, quoting it as a 'human right'

Back in my day, if it didn't exist, we didn't have it and if we couldn't afford it, we didn't buy it. But we didn't judge others when they couldn't afford to get their car fixed, we gave them lifts. They didn't go out and buy a new pram instead of paying their bills.

No one told you they couldn't afford new school uniform, pay their utility bills, put food on their table yet in the same sentence boast about their new coordinated furniture, designer curtains and TV.

I've recently seen people blogging about holidays abroad, complaining that their child's school won't let them have time off and 'sod it' they'll take the child out anyway as apparently 2 weeks on a beach in a resort is more educational than school, then a couple of weeks later they're blogging about how they can't pay their bills and then moaning about how their child was excluded from an end of term trip due to their attendance record.

It seems that some people in life are going to find things to complain about regardless. Thinking that their basic needs and rights as a family include foreign holidays to keep up with the Jones's. Debt, repossession of houses, complaining that their benefits are being cut, but not cutting back on their Sky, Internet and Phone subscriptions on the grounds that because everyone else has it, it's their right to have it also and then using their 3G coverage to find the local food bank and claiming their kids will be bullied if they don't have certain clothing, phones etc, etc, etc.

We weren't envious, we accepted that our time would come, when our kids left home. In the meantime the kids knew they'd have to wait till xmas for that football shirt or a certain toy/gadget. The TV was huge as in depth and took up half the lounge and we couldn't afford sky so we just didn't have it. I didn't have my first mobile phone until after my youngest was born in 1999 and it was 2001 before I got the internet at home.

I've been told I'm selfish, lucky and spoilt for having my children in Private School, living abroad etc etc. I've been told I have no idea what the real world is like and how 'people like me' don't care about those living in poverty. I lived in South Africa for 4 years and worked full time as a volunteer and let me tell you, living in a shack with no electricity and having to walk 4km for drinking water daily is poverty.

I have what I have now as I worked and I studied.

So why was it different for me as a young and single mum in the 1990's, compared to todays parents 20+ years on?

We lived in a community where everyone had similar values, standards, upbringings and income. I was a much younger mum, living in an older generation, most of my neighbours, friends and school mums with a few exceptions were a minimum of 10 years older than me with kids the same age.

But more importantly, there was no social media, we compared our lives to the others directly around us, we all attended the same nursery's, doctors, pubs, shops we met and knew the same people. Apart from a newspaper article or a story in Take a Break, we weren't influenced by 24 hour TV, adverts, there was no one telling us we would face problems if we didn't buy a certain product, parent in a certain way.

We put our babies to sleep how we found fit, we fed them, potty trained them, educated them, taught them values and demonstrated standards. I keep in touch now with most of these people from my early parenting days, in fact 2 women and their husbands are still very good friends, the girl I used to baby sit, who than baby sat my kids, now has a child of her own. She doesn't do twitter, isn't on face book much, doesn't blog, she works as a theatre nurse, owns her own home with her partner and has no idea what I'm on about somedays when I ask her opinion on breast feeding, co sleeping and baby led weening. She just doesn't have time for it, I just didn't have it.

All our kids are well and healthy, they may not have had the games, the designer clothes, the foreign holidays. But they do have an education, they talk none stop about the camping trips when they were young, the days out with the play groups and school trips and spending time with the neighbours.

Before you get wound up that you're failing as a parent because Social Media tell you are failing, consider where the report, information, advice comes from. Remember journalists will tell you what they think you want to hear, case studies are carried out on very small numbers. Remember statistics can be manipulated to fit the response the advertisers want and don't forget in order to sell you a product a company will quite often scaremonger you you into believing there is a problem that they can solve with one simple 'click' and before you know it, you have purchased yet another product or resource that you don't actually need for parenting, it just makes you feel you're doing something to protect or enhance your child's well being.

I'm grateful my parenting days are over and I'm more than grateful that I wasn't bullied by social media into raising my children how a small proportion of people see fit, when at the end of the day, that's their problem and not mine.