Saturday, 30 July 2011

If you don't tell me I'm getting it wrong, how am I ever supposed to know?

I go through life disappointed. Disappointed in myself and others but mainly with myself. I've blogged before about givers and takers and lack of post from the UK since moving here.

I aim too high, I set my standards to high and I fall, every bloody time. I won't learn, I can't change, but I am learning not to let it affect me like it used to.

Now I have a little rant, I have a little cry, sometimes I tweet it, but I no longer challenge.

I find if I dare to complain, tell someone that their reaction to my well thought out intentions has hurt me or explain why their actions or words have upset me, it ends up with them verbally attacking me, explaining how my expectations make them feel and why I make them behave the way they do towards me and I end up apologing for making them feel like that. And the issue of how I felt is left, undiscussed. But at least they feel better.

My biggest problem is I offer help/support/guidance when I see or hear them in trouble or when they post a comment or when I'm told by a third party something is wrong and they need help. But I do it in my way, not they way they want apparently. I spend my time looking for the right gift rather than just chucking money their way, I write what I think they want/need to hear and until they say my advice/help/support/guidance/gifts aren't wanted I just carry on blindly.

Since moving to South Africa I've discovered who/what is important to me, I've got rid of some deadwood, hangers on/takers. I've done this as a response from all the lovely letters, emergency PG Tips parcels, phone calls, personal messages, skype calls, emails and mostly but not entirely from people I've never even met. (Isn't twitter a wonderful place)

But what I've noticed and what has upset me the most is while people feel they can have a go at me because I'm not writing enough, I'm not making enough calls. Calls are expensive, the internet doesn't always work. I've sent photo's, gifts and long letters, I ask them questions about their lives, jobs, kids to give them something to reply to. But then they don't write back, evderyone loves to hear from me, everyone loves the photos's, the gifts, the letters. They don't reply, they've got nothing to say, they don't say thanks, they don't post a message to say I got your gift and thank you. I post comments on their face book, I reply to their status updates and the most I get back is a 'like'.

So no more, you reply to me I'll reply to you, you bother with me and I'll bother with you, that's how it works, it doesn't have to be a letter or a call it could just me a message to me, rather than posting your general news in my timeline or public announcements on face book.

So when you don't get a card for your birthday or at christmas and I don't pop in and say Hi when I return to the UK in December, it'll be your turn to be disappointed, your turn to wonder what you've done wrong and I won't be engaging in a conversation with you either so you can feel'll be your turn to wonder why?

Why is it only me?

I lay in bed this morning with a cup of tea and The World according to Clarkson (seperate story but a bloody good book, had me in stitches)

We have a washing machine that sings when it finishes, a little similar to 'It's a mad, mad world after all' Think theme parks, kiddie rides, Euro Disney, thats the one. Anyway it plays at least three verses, now I heard it singing to signal the end of the cycle, pestering to be hung up.

But it seems the washing machine sound is similar to a dog whistle. Only dogs can hear the whistle only women can hear the washing machine.

So getting out of bed, I open the bedroom door, walk through the dining area, past the lounge where the men folk are watching the Rugby, through the kitchen, open the door to the utility room where I find the washing machine just finishing its little tune and hang the washing up.

I walk back following the same route for hubby to say 'what you doing?' I reply 'I'm hanging the washing up' he says 'Oh I never heard it finish' I was waiting to do that for you'

Men!!!! Pah!!!!

Two things your children should never listen to

Their parents having sex and any discussions that involve planning. So far I think we've avoided both.

Kids we're moving to Malvern, yes, yes new schools, friends, clubs,activities etc. School, clubs and activites named....(obviously I can't name the new friends in advance)

This is the new house and these are the rooms you'll be in.

We're changing your school, you will now be going here...for the following reasons (there is a list)

You will be leaving home at 18 to follow a career, you're welcome to stay living here is you're either in University or can evidence you're saving up a deposit from your job for your own place. You're welcome to come home inbetween jobs, training, education for transistion periods (so far two children sucessfully left home both in training, one in the army in Germany the other in Hotel Management in Reading.)

Kids we're moving to South Africa in 3 months, this is your new school and we'll make the rest up as we go along.

And so far, no major problems, 'his room is bigger than my room' 'yes but you have a better bathroom than he does' 'I hate my new school uniform (shorts and long socks) 'OK so do I actually and I know wearing shorts at 16 is a tad embarrassing, but hey, everyone else is wearing the same silly clothes'

But the one thing as parents we can't manage, the one thing that ends up with sulks, rows 'I'm not going' is planning the family holiday.

We let it slip (OK they pester all year to find out where we're going) we've been to the States, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Gites in France when they were younger. 5 kids in tow is a major operation. One is disabled the other four are boys they all have their preferences, one wants theme parks, the other wants bloody electronic and game shops, one wants to dig a hole in the sand all day and do nothing else and the other just shrugs and says 'don't ask me, I like it when you just plan it and tell us when and where'

And this year is no different, we always leave the planning of holidays till the last minute, something always comes up, I've written the end of terms dates down wrong, their Dads factory fortnight holiday has been changed, Nanna is going away somewhere and we have to juggle everyone to fit it all in. But this year we decided not to have a holiday as we're living in SOuth Africa, but Hubby has to go to Europe with work and is going to tag on a few days to see the kids we left behind. The eldsest is off to Mozambique for a week with his friend and his parents (Must sort out his visa, it's only next weekend) so that leaves me and the 12 year old. I want to return to the UK for a week, hubby says it's too expensive, eldest says it's not fair as he will miss a visit with his dad and the youngest, who is 12, cannot understand why we are speaking in whispers in the kitchen.

Because if we tell him our plans he'll go beserk if we end up not being able to go, blame the eldest for feeling left out, blame hubby for being tight and quite frankly that's why we don't discuss things with our kids.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

in your own time Suzanne........

So today I did it, I've been thinking about it and lots of people have suggested it, I just wasn't ready and besides I wanted to find the right place.

I got off my arse and took my CV to an enterprise centre, it's a charity to help and support Africans in using the skills they have and providing the training they need to run their own businessess.

I'm starting off one day a week in a new area, education and training in Customer Care and basic life skills, managing money, budgeting etc.

I have a skill area, these people have a need and hopefully together (it will be a long slow process) we can both achieve something.

*goes to desk to sort out pre entry NVQ teaching material, with a spring in her step*

The grass is always greener

Some of my tweets are replied to with 'stop your moaning, I'd love to be able to give up work and be a SAHM' others with 'I understand things are hard' either way I find myself in a very strange situation.

I'm not allowed to work, but it's through choice.

I chose to come to South Africa with Peter's job, it was a quick move, we hired an agency, I got a two years visitors visa.

Great I can finally sit back and reap the benefits of being a SAHM, I can focus 100% on my OU studies and enjoy the sun.

Ok I'm enjoying the sun and it's winter, I had to give up my studies (there's distance learning and then there's distance learning) and as for being a SAHM I've left it a bit late. My kids are 16 & 12, give them a weekend or school holiday and I'm lucky to see them from dawn till dusk.

I feel isolated, lonely and without purpose. I can revisit my visa situation in December and I've made enquiries with Pretoria uni to finish my degree there, I've considered getting a dog for company and my cooking, baking and making skills are now almost at a professional level, I've refused to hire a maid to give me something to do.

But I still need something to do, something to give me purpose and a focal point, but I haven't a clue where to start.

I made friends in school, college, mother and toddler groups, the kids school, the work place...but how do I make friends now, find things out, get to know what jobs are around, clubs activities? (remember I don't live in the safest of countries)

I'd love to hear from other people in similar situations.

We're not on an ex pat package or even emigrated, but we have moved our entire life over here with no plans to return.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Peter gets a statement to pay for his credit card. Can you pay this for me? Yeah no problem, I took care of the bills in the UK mainly cos I was passing the banks most days and worked in the centre of Worcester. So my role continues here in South Africa especially as I'm not working.
But the problem is because I don't have a job I can't have anything in my own name, but even so how hard is it to pay a credit card bill? Well it goes like this.

Who's the credit card with? Our med aid company *digs out med aid info* sets up online service.

1st problem the med aid company information assumes I've used med aid before.

So I go to our bank. We need to set them up as a beneficiary, ok I can do that. Beneficary is similar to a direct debit but it doesn't automatically take a payment monthly you have to action it.

So I sign in, go to beneficiaries. It asks for a branch and account number. I don't have one. Email med aid company for info, no response. How am I supposed to know the med aid and the credit card departments are separate companies. Silly girl I assumed they'd either a) tell me this or b) pass the email on.

So back to online banking to set up credit card payment. It sends Reference number to the mobile phone, need to call Peter to ask him for the number as it's his phone it's sent to. This is a security measure.
Next they want to know beneficiary bank. How the fuck am I supposed to know that? Oh hang on I remember now, when I changed email address so I get notification of payment due it told me details with the bank (which it named) would not be altered. So I put their name in which then took me to the next step for credit card number, another phone call to Peter, right now to make payment, request proof of payment and wait for Peter to call to say he'd received SMS confirmation payment had been made.

Now going to have to wait to see if we've just paid ourselves or actually paid the bank.

6 months on

6 months ago today we arrived at OR Tambo to start our new lives in South Africa. You can read about how we came to be here on previous blogs.

'So what's it like?'
'Have you settled?'

Well I still find this a strange sight on the school run.

I've got used to the Robots not working and pleasantly surprised how everyone handles it when they become a 4 way stop...see I'm not calling them traffic lights anymore.

I don't notice this anymore either.

but I'm still amazed that more people don't get killed on the roads daily when they cross the motorway whilst I'm driving at 120kilos...ha not even miles per hour anymore either.

I've stopped converting Rand into Pound, but I haven't stopped saying 'how much?' at the price of some things.

I say Dankie automatically and even reply in English to people when they great me in Afrikaans.

I've stopped saying to the locals 'Pah!!!! call this winter?' and I'm now wrapped up like the rest of them even when it's 18c outside.

We've had loads of visitors and I've done the local sights to death, I can take you to the best place to see what ever African animal you want and know their preferred hiding places and best time of day to see them. I know where the best coffee and souviner shops are and have even found a charity shop to buy books and donate stuff visitors leave behind.

...and I've seen enough of these to last me a lifetime.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Actually I was hoping for a pony.

When I was pregnant every person in the world thought it was right to comment on my pregnancy at any time of their choosing.

'Is this your first?'
'What do you want?'
Well I assume they meant boy or girl, but had much more fun with 'well actually I was hoping for a pony'

Automatic touching of my bump, without seeking approval and on one occassion whilst out, my t shirt was lifted prior to the belly rub.

Then the endless 'horror' stories, labour lasting 3 days, how pain relief doesn't work and even critism for saying you'll have pain relief. 'oh well done you for subjecting yourself to unnecessary pain then forcing the whole story upon us'

Stitches? how many? intimate details and shown 'C'section scars without requesting to see them.

Antenatal classes, birthing partners 'so you're a single mum?' you'll never cope' 'you're too young' the look was enough without the additional comments.

Expert advice 'It's a girl, its all round the front and such a neat bump (3 boys all carried the same)

'Wow 8lb 5oz, you must have been ripped to shreds?'

2nd and 3rd pregnancies just got worse.

'You trying for a girl?' 'one of each would complete your family' 'oh a girl this time...the perfect family'

16 years ago I wasn't given the option to know the sex of my baby and anyway to me that would be like having the gifts unwrapped under the tree all year then acting with fake surprise.

'Oh..another boy, you can always try again'

3rd Pregnancy 'do you want to know the sex this time?'

What ever answer I gave I was a goner

'You must want a girl'
and when I replied 'I'm not fussed...I'd rather have a pony' this was met with 'oh dear, she wants a girl'

So I said 'what happens if I ask and they tell me it's a boy? Do I abort? how do I explain to my other 2 boys that they're not really wanted and I'll just keep on trying till I get a girl?'

So now 12 years on and my boys are 19, 16 and 12 I'm still asked if I regret not having a wasn't actually a choice I could make and no I don't. So if I say 'no I don't regret it' its greated with those looks and comments that say 'it's too painful to talk about' or if I were to reply 'yes I regret not having a girl' I don't want years of pity for something just to shut them up and make them feel better.

Oh and don't forget the second marriage, we chose not to have children together as between us we had 5, the eldest being a daughter but profoundly disabled...see I can't even get that right, but it still didn't stop the comments of 'but it would make your family complete' and 'hubby could have a second chance of a normal daughter and you the daughter you deserve'

So I guess I'm stuck, but hey I've got one thing to look forward to at least...

I can always hope for granddaughters...and yes that's actually been said to me also.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Arh I just want a routine

I get so excited about things, I write lists, get distracted and rarely complete things till the last minute.

My parents were here for 3 weeks and although we had a fab time I know we all ended up getting on one another's nerves. They like their routine and I felt mine was interrupted. Then they went home on Wednesday, I sighed with relief, I get my routine back....then what did I do for two days?...I slept, I read books, I mopped about feeling a little lost.

I woke up full of energy this morning, with a list of all the things I needed/wanted to do before Peter's mother and sister arrive tomorrow morning. I was off...not dressed...but getting on with it.

'muuuuum' screamed Alex 'there's a flood'

Well bugger me, there goes my day. Water was pouring through the ceiling in the back kitchen. Panic followed, we finally located the stock cock, and I called the agent who sent the plumber round. Well half an hour later, the burst water pipe (frost damage) was repaired, I administered 1st aid as the plumber smacked his head on the roof joist and ripped his trousers and we spent the next 3 hrs mopping, cleaning cupboards and drying electrical items. Food shopping, haircut and car cleaned we returned home to put up curtain rails, repair the sofa, move Dan into the downstairs lounge, make beds, wash and dry towels, have tea and then clean.

I'm knackered now and regretting the two wasted days, but I obviously needed them or I don't think I'd have made it through the day.

And tomorrow, my routine changes again for 2 weeks....but I think ive discovered what my routine is...

...the ability to adapt and change.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Welcome to the other side

I'm here, I'm 40 and not even a single hair sprouting on my face, the grey hairs have been with me for at least a decade now, but who cares? I?

I can't believe I'm all grown up, an adult, ffs I have an adult child living in another country from me...I don't look old enough, why thank you, I was 20 and probably wasn't old enough.

I have 2 step children and I discoverd about 4 years ago that people stopped saying (with surprise in their voice) 'oh you don't look old enough' and reality kicks in.

Who gave me all this responsibilty, a career, a family, a husband, (2nd one) and a mortgage, let me sit on the PTA and make decisions about other peoples children, or even worse gave me a job with proper responsibilities Safeguarding other peoples children?

I suppose I should thank the midwife when I had my first child 19 years ago when she said....'I'm going off shift now, ring the bell if you need anything'

Ring the effing bell????? Where's my manual for all of this? It's not just changing a nappy or feeding and settling a crying baby, but what next? what happens now? Oh I see I just get on with it.

And I did.

I've made mistakes, wrong decisions, my kids are all growing up now and don't need me as a Mummy like they used to, they sleep through the night. I'm staying up now, not to make sure they've come home but to check they've locked the bloody door after themselves. I act as a taxi driver, a counsellor, a bank, I administer first aid 'nah, you'll be alright, get on with it' and I have a life....

...I'm just not sure I'll ever be ready for it.

Life of a non working Mother

My day

Alarm 5.30am stay in bed till hubby yells ‘where would you like your tea?

Stand in kitchen, drinking tea

Yell instructions to kids while drinking tea

Hand kids lunch boxes after locating football boots, grey socks, homework

Kids to school via hubby on his way to work

Put washing machine/dish washer on

Jog/Walk/Exercise DVD




Twiddle thumbs till 4pm school collection (tweet, blog, shop, clean, drink coffee)

And then everything comes at once and I don’t sit down till 9pm

What's a CRB?

Well yes actually I know what a CRB is. I used to work for the local FA as a Welfare Officer, tasked with reaching 100's of 1'000s of people volunteering in Youth football without any police or club checks. 90% were parents giving up their spare time to support their son/daughter's club from coaching to making teas to sitting on the committee. Not all roles require a CRB for example running the line at a're not left unsupervised and the ref has a CRB (assuming he's over 18) and the two team coaches have CRB's and maybe one or two other parents if they help out...anyway it's a complicated process, helped by volunteer Welfare Officers, one for each club, who provide a list of names of all coaches and adults involved in footall within their club and their CRB status is checked online...

So what happens here in South Africa?...

Well I can't find a link on the school web page or SAFA website, there are Mission Statements and Codes of Conduct, but nothing clearly labelled as 'Child Protection/Welfare'

I was able to host two children over night from a visiting school without so much as filling in a form, mind you the school knew I must've cleared a police check to get my visa in the first place.

I was reading a magazine in the hairdressers when I came across the 'Find a Pen Friend' page....

I was shocked, I was alarmed, seriously..there was a 12 year old boy wanting a penfriend, he listed his interests, name and email address and the other was a 16 year old girl who left her mobile phone number as a contact...

Can you imagine the uproar in the UK, how the media would react to this or do you think possibly that the UK are overdoing it a bit? after all even with all these people out there and CRB's and Police Checks and Multi agency working, there are still horror stories everyday of paedophiles who slipped the net.

It says E-tags and Cash only

I blogged and tweeted how I felt OUTsurance had let me down with an insurance claim and they decided to review my case and pay out (see previous blog) so I decided to redress the balance and tell you about the time, last month, I had a blow out whilst driving home from Pilanensburg late one evening.

I was with a colleague of Peter's and offered to take him on Safari, Pilanensburg is a 2 hour drive from us, a trip I'd done twice before with the family.

At 8pm in the dark, the rear drivers side tyre blew, I was travelling in the outside lane at 120km/per hour and I reacted well, avoiding the traffic as I came to a halt on the hard shoulder...

My mobile had run out of talk time so using my friends phone I called OUTsurance, typical, being a Danish phone it wouldn't dial a free phone number so I rang Peter with our details, he called OUTsurance who rang me back straight away...

'Where are you?'

'I'm at a toll on the N1 north of Pretoria'

'Are you alone?'

'No, I am with a male friend and the toll booth security people have sent someone to wait with us'

'OK I'll get Premier Tow with you within 33 minutes ma'am, can you tell me your exact location?'

'I'm sorry there's no signs'

'OK, what does it say on the toll sign?'

Honestly I was in hysterics with my answer, so was my friend...

'It says E-tags and Cash Only...does that help?'

The poor guy was laughing ' no ma'am that doesn't help...use your GPS to find out where you are'

So Premier Tow arrive within 33 minutes, park behind me, set up 3 cones by the wheel and starts to change the tyre...

OUTsurance ring me to check he has arrived, text me several times to confirm I am still OK, the toll guy drives off after establishing we weren't really having a picnic as my friend told him when he asked why we were sitting on the bank at this time of night in the dark and my friend has made Precision Tow, move his car back on an angle, put up the warning triangle much further dowen the road and moved the cones where they were more effective.

So thank you OUTsurance for making my breakdown a pleasurable experience.