Friday 30 March 2012

A Brit's opinion on safety in South Africa

Last tuesday I was in Soweto...yeah so what? We went and did the tourist bits, Hector Pieterson Museum, Nelson Mandela's house, stopping off for lunch in the mall.

I drove myself there, armed with the GPS, following the same route we did when as a family when we were shown around by a former resident, a colleague of my husband.

It was safe. I felt safe on both visits. The roads are tarmac'd there are pavements, shops, markets, schools, hospital, soccer stadiums. (Don't forget it was less than 2 years ago the World Cup was held there. I've also been to Ellis Park, right in the centre of Johannesburg for the Vodacom challenge when Spurs beat the Orlando Pirates last July. I've sat in my car with the window open at a game reserve, unaware a fully grown lion was sat at the back of my car.

How dangerous can it be? with all those events and people around. Ievery person I've spoken to this week here says they've never been into Soweto and don't plan on going there either.

Well I've never felt threatened or scared since we moved here in January 2011. I tell a lie I was shit scared when we arrived here, based on the media stories, based on information from South Africans we knew in the UK. Every bloody person we've met has a horror story to tell us. Police robbing them, held hostage at gun point, car jacking, break ins. You name it and it seems every South African has been a victim of everything. However when you get down to details they admit that they were in an area they knew not to be safe, or were driving at night, or it was their neighbours, brothers, best mates, mothers cat sitter.

Yes some terrible things go on here in South Africa, but they go on at home in the UK also and other countries.

Since we've been here there have been riots in the UK, a massacre in Denmark, protests in Egypt and other countries, lives have been lost, a tsunami in Japan following the earthquake there last March and what about.......?

A country is as safe as you make it, you take extra care when you go away on holiday, more than you do with your house and belongings if you were just popping to the shops. You sling your handbag over your shoulder when you go into the big cities, but have it sat on the seat nest to you in the car when you pop to the local supermarket near home. Why? Why do we feel safe on our downstep but not when we leave our safety zone.
I had my handbag removed my shoulder in a crowded place 1 mile from home, just before christmas our neighbour in the UK was fast asleep in her bed when someone broke into her house, robbed her and used her car to take the goods away, burning the car out less than 2 miles away. The man in Kidderminster, 25 miles away, found dead after 3 weeks in his flat.

I'm sure if we all sat down together we could all scare one another silly with our 'horror' stories and personal experiences, but that is life I'm afraid to say. It's just not safe anywhere, anymore is it?

To demonstrate this take a look at the UK and some of the crimes that have happened in the last few weeks, no real difference from the ones you hear about here.

But before you do, do you remember the honeymoon couple in Cape Town where they were hijacked and she was murdered in 2010? Which turned out the husband brought her here so he could cover up the crime and blame the dangers of South Africa? Well he was British and lived not far from where we moved from. News story from the BBC on the day we arrived in South Africa.

Man shot in Canary Wharf remains in a coma. 27/03/2012

Kwame OFOSU-ASARE murdered aged 17. Lambeth. 03/02/2012

Man exposes himself to 13 year old in Hastings. 21/03/2012

Woman in attempted car-jacking in Belfast, badly shaken. 29/03/2012
I see Car Jacking isn't just a South African thing either, Crimestoppers have a whole page to protect yourself, the advice is the same here.

Armed robbery in Bangor. 29/03/2012

Asian homes being targetted by burglars for Gold. Leicester (on going)

BT announces new device to prevent cable theft. 26/03/2012

67 children were trafficked FROM Africa TO the UK, 29 of whom were from Nigeria, mostly female and were sexually exploited. 2012

Check out the Crime levels in your area in the UK .

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Labelling people

A few days ago I wrote a post on Do labels help? Children with difficulties. You can read it here.

It prompted some lively debate on twttier and attracted some interesting comments on the post itself.

I've been giving quite a lot of thought to this subject and wondered why we give labels? and not just in cases where a correct diagnosis and labelling can support an individual with medical, physical, finacial and education needs.

23 years ago I started my working life with The Spastic Society...'you can't call it that. it's derogatory to people with Cerabel Palsy, lets change it's name to SCOPE' good move for 2 reasons, people still call one another 'spastics, spazzies' I've challenged many child in my teaching as to what they mean by using that word and how it can offend others.

But who decides on the label, why do we need to put ourselves and others in categories?

Gypo, Pikey, Gay, Lesbo and many, many others are used as an insult, used often to describe someones beahviour at a moment in time and usually rarely aimed at the group of society that 'own' that label.

So it made me think about what label(s) I have, whether they are right or wrong, this is what I think I am, going back to when I was born.

White British
Future Olympic gymnast
Unmarried Mother
Child Welfare Officer

Now obviously some of these labels remain unchanged, I'm still someones daughter, sister, aunt, wife and Mother and other labels such as friend come and go.

I missed one label out on purpose as I don't know where it happened in life but it's probably the only label that is me, where I didn't make a choice, where it just happened, but it's not a label I ever use to define myself, that makes up my identity and that's 'Straight', nor do I use the term 'non disabled or enabled'

You read through my list of lables and at various times in my life you can use those labels to judge me, based on your experiences, based on your social norms and values.

You picture me as a little girl, who loves her gymnastics, but where did it all go wrong? I was a single mum, how old? ah well probably in her teens, married out of lonliness, divorced soon after, had an affair, married someone rich, that's how she was able to give up work and retrain as a teacher'.But you'd be right and you'd be wrong. That's just a few of the assumptions people have made of me because of my labels

What made me a SAHM? being an expat, that's all, plain and simple.

Unless you've met me you'll not know me, you read my tweets, you make judgements on the written word, you put me into categories and label me....but that's life, I do it to you also.

So what labels do you give yourself? What have you been labelled as? Do labels really help you? or Do they hold you back?

Don't forget to read the post first on labelling learning difficulties as this post is more generic.

Hello and Goodbye

I get so emotional at airports, whether it is saying Hello or Goodbye.

Since moving to South Africa, we've had a stream of visitors, both sets of parents, a sister, two of our kids that stayed behind in the UK, both on their 2nd visit and my friend @cantbarsed2.

You realise how large the world actually is when you move to another country, people say 'what a small world' because of all the technology, because it 'brings people together' It doesn't, it reminds you how far apart we really are.

I tend to leave home for the airport about a 40 minute drive away about half an hour before the plane is due to land. I have a favoured parking space, I grab a coffee and stand at arrivals watching people come through. I'm familiar with the airline staff and their uniforms so with one eye on the arrivals board and another keeping look out for the captain of the flight I'm waiting for. I sip my coffee, I tweet and I people watch.

In anticipation of family and friends arriving I get really excited, I think of all the place I want to take them, all the things to show them and all the things we need to catch up with. As they walk through arrivals, I have a habit of breaking into tears, hugging them, while they look perplexed. I'm not know for public displays of emotions.

Poor old @cantbarsed2 was spared that sight, as I was just approaching the terminal when my phone rang, she'd landed 20 mins early and had already cleared customs and collected her bag, seeing as we hadn't met in 20yrs she must have thought this was one big, nasty joke, as she looked around for the hidden cameras.

i'm much better with goodbyes, I think about why I'm pleased to see the back of the visitors, how we've had a row, or they've got under my feet, anything to stop myself clinging to them, begging them not to go and leave me on my own. I stand there, blinking back the tears with my 'hard cow' face on, wave them off and usually manange to just about get back to the car before the tears come. Although I can't control them when it's the kids.

I was at OR Tambo airport last week to collect Hubby from his return to Egypt. Fancy that an 8 hour flight away, same time zone and yet we are both still in Africa, that's one of the reasons I know the world is such a large place. We'd last spoken with one another on Skype 13 hrs earlier and as I stood waiting for him to arrive back from his 4 day away trip. I listened to the people around me.

A few English voices, I smiled, we chatted, we passed the time with 'bloody hell it's hard living here isn't it?' and then I saw this young woman with a small child. She stood in the arrival hall, she had tears rolling down her face, she yelled 'Mum', and mum rushed forward, hugging her daughter and then stood back and starred at her grandchild in his pram. She sobbed, she bent down and picked the child up and through the sobs she said 'my gorgeous little boy, I can't believe this is the first time I have cuddled you'

Most of the women around me were in tears and hubby walked into arrivals, hugged me and said 'I've been gone less than a week' I pointed at the two women and the small child, sobbing, trying to explain why I was so emotional...I failed, but bless, all the way home he thought I'd missed him....I had, just not that much.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Do labels help? Children with difficulties.

This morning someone I tweet with introduced me in a tweet to a lovely lady who has a child with SWAN.

SWAN means Syndrome Without A Name. It means that any person without a known disability involving a chromosone defect is called SWAN, lumped together into one category. We don't know what is wrong so we will diagnose you as SWAN.

But what does it mean? How does it help?

I have a problem with SWAN and it is something I've experienced. In fact I don't just have an issue with the label SWAN I have an issue with the label Learning Difficulties also.

My step daughter has been labelled SWAN, she has learning difficulties, as does my youngest child who isn't SWAN.

My son is dyslexic, my step daughter has a chromosone defect, she is unable to toilet, communicate (verbally, PECS, sign language, make eye contact) she requires 24hr supervision, she is a danger to herself and to others, has no awareness of something being sharp or hot, she will react if she touches the hob, but she will do it again next time as she does not recognise that it will be hot and it will burn. She is unable to tell you if her tummy hurts, if she is happy or sad, she will cry or laugh for both situations, she is agressive but it is not intentional. She has no long term health problems.

So what is the benefit of her being diagnosed as SWAN? None as far as I see. My sons diagnosis of dyslexia means he will get appropriate support at school, dispensation during exams and if we lived in the UK, funding for his needs in school.

My step daughters learning difficulties are obvious, her funding is secure, she's unable to do anything, she does not require support, she needs it doing for her. This was pointed out after a funding review, where the carers were PC and said 'she needs support chosing what she wants to eat' she will eat what is put in front of her and everyone elses on the table, she will grab a lemon, bread, a raw potato and eat that, she cannot open a cupboard to grab a bag of crisps, in fact if you give her a bag of crisps, they make a lovely sensory noise until the bag bursts over the floor.

We have many friends with children with learning difficulties similar to the level of care my step daughter has and similar to my son in regards to the level of support required and the costs involved.

My back ground has been teaching and support with adults and children with learning difficulties to main stream adults and children with additonal support required for their learning and with people who want to train to work with people with learning difficulties.

I have been told by a few people that as I'm not the birth mother, I don't know what it is like feel so isolated from everyone else having such a profoundly disabled child, it was easy for me to pack her off aged 12 into residential care. And they are right, NO I DO NOT KNOW HOW IT FEELS. HOW COULD I?

But I do know this and I can share it with you. Having a child with any kind of difficulty is hard, having a child without a difficulty is just as hard.

I have been at both ends of the stick,

'Do you think it was any easier to pack a disabled child off to residential school, as the wife of her father, as mother to all our children?' Which school? funding? dealing with other peoples attitudes?

'Do you think it is easy to get a diagnosis for a child with dyslexia, navigating your way through a sytem that wants to throw you out at every step?'

'Do you think it was easy to move to South Africa and leave my 18yo son behind in the UK, he'd only left home 4 days before we were asked to move here?'

'Do you think it is easy on the other siblings to spend their lives being told, we can't go on holiday/to the theme park/have friends round/have a party for new year? as it's not fair on your sister, she'll not sleep/will pull someones hair/will take food off people's plates in the restaurant.'

Many of our friends haven't sent their children away, they've not judged us, they've just said they can't do it. Many have and regretted it, many have waited till their child was older and regretted not doing it earlier.

I've been involved in placements for children with difficulties, I've supported parents through the process, I've prepared children for the move, with visits and flash cards and journals made together. I've worked in family support, as a foster carer providing respite for families, I am a mum.

The one thing I can tell you is that giving a child a label makes little difference, few people without any knowledge of learning difficulties won't understand and even if you do have a child that falls into this category, it makes very little difference to how people respond to you.

I don't believe in giving labels because every child/adult I've ever met is different, they have different needs, they have different family backgrounds. We have 5 kids, they lived with us. I gave up work to look after my step daughter, it didn't help. She went into care, it was not a decision made lightly. We all benefitted.

She can sleep though noise now. So we had friends with their kids over when she was at home on the weekends. We had New Year Eves parties that she was part of. We took her on holiday because she could now sit in a car on longer journeys without trying to get out of her seat belt and crawl into the front. We could go out for meals as she stopped grabbing food off other peoples plates. We enjoy every second of the time spent with her and are sad when she goes home.

Being labelled as SWAN has made no difference to her life or to ours. What made a difference was just accepting her as she is, the limits on ours and her life. Accepting that so called friends who found it difficult being around her were not worthy of being our friends. Acceptance that aged 24 she wouldn't be living at home any more and we'd have had a whole different set of issues like each one of our 4 boys has provided us with. Acceptance that she is our only child who's future we don't have to worry about. Who doesn't miss or need us since moving to South Africa, but is pleased to see us when we go home to visit her, 4 times a year. (We see the other two children 5 times a year and tha's only because they are capable of flying out to visit us).

Every person is an individual, every family is unique. Each situation is affected differently. There is no 'severe' difficulty there is just how each difficulty impacts on the individual, the family, society to various degrees and how you you and everyone around cope with it.

Saturday 24 March 2012

5674 miles for a tweet up

Many years a go I met Suzi, @cantbarsed2, aged 14. We were friends for 2 years only, till she left our home town and moved to London.

I visited her in London many times and we last saw each other, aged 20 in 1992, after I stayed at her flat for the night prior to flying to Barcelona to the Olympic games. I had a baby by then and our lives went in different directions.

3 years ago we rediscovered one another on friends reunited, a few chats, added one another on facebook, tea bags were sent...PG Tips of course.

I reconnected we Suzi via twitter June/July 2011 and I invited her out to visit, work got in the way for her, but we became friends again.

I went back to the UK in December 2011 and we met for a couple of hours over lunch at our old local pub and we got on wonderfully. The visit was too short.

10 days ago I collected Suzi from OR Tambo airport, our first proper time together for 20 years. Her plane landed early and I was just pulling up in the carpark, she must've thought it was a big wind up when she walked through arrivals and I wasn't there to meet her.

We have spent the 10 days, gossiping, catching up on 20yrs with no real knowledge of one anothers lives, sharing both the good and the bad times.

We all got on really well, the kids responded to her, hubby got on with her really well, she even unloaded the dishwasher and swept the floor...without being asked or having it

We went to see Rhinos

We went to Pilanesburg to see the Elephants

We went to Krugersdorp to see the Lions

Sandton City shopping


A day lazing in the garden, with our newly adopted cat (it adopted us)

Walking with giraffes and zebras at Groenkloof

Lesedi Cultural village and Cheetah reserve

Centurion Mall

Suzi left South Africa this evening. I am sad to see her go, she will hopefully be back in June, if work gets in the way I'll see her in the UK in August.

It won't be 20 years before we meet up again.

Does anyone else have a friend like this?

Friday 23 March 2012

Making things and friends on twitter

The wonderful, fantastic @tattooed_mummy sent me these this morning.

She also started a craft swop. At Christmas I made these for @cherrytweeps

And got this from @peekaywrites
(can't find photo of red and White stripped sock)

The Easter craft I made is for @habzamaphone

And I'm looking forward to receiving what @redtedart has made for me.

Brilliance in Blogging....I've been shortlisted

Oh I'm gushing at my nomination in the GO category over at Britmums

I made one cheeky/sarcastic tweet to ask you to vote for me in the #Bibs and here I am shortlisted for the next round of here.

Don't bother reading any more just get your arse in gear and vote for me. Category 7 number 3.

I'm NOT a mummy blogger, I NEVER have bloggers block, I just write about things that annoy/amuse/challenge me and my family as expats in South Africa. I DON'T give out advice, I just write about my experiences of being mum to 5 children (2 are step children) the difficulties that arise with the eldest 3 remaining in the UK, inheriting step children (1 profoundly disabled) the 2 children we have here with us and the issues of them being away from all their family and how well they've settled in, made friends and the issues they have being English living abroad.

I am REAL, I don't think of things to blog, these things happen to me and my family. They make us laugh/cry/scream and shout.

Through my blogging I have reached so many other expats that wouldn't have been possible without Twitter, Britmums and Mumsnet. It has saved me from packing it all in at times. Just one kind comment, one reassuring tweet, one considerate email and even the odd (expensive) phone call to know I'm NOT alone.

But we are strong, we are a united family, we WILL succeed and I guarantee there will be more blogging.

So all that's left to do is to ask you to vote for me please, if you want, it's up to you, but I'd appreciate your time.
Just in case you didn't get the message first can vote for me here

Thursday 22 March 2012

Want To Improve Your Life? This Mum Proves It Can Be Done.

The following extract is taken from @kateonthinice Groovymum blog

As mums we can get bogged down in all the business of it all. It can get us down and we can lose sight of who we used to be or who we aim to be. What can we do to change that? In this guest post from Polly, she tells us how six months ago she decided to take charge of her own life and to talk about how it has gone since. Read what she has to say and then join us at the Twitter Party next Tuesday from 1pm-2pm which you can read all about by clicking here'

@pollyburns2 blogs about her life as a mum and how she is getting her groove back. She shows us how she can do it, with young children rather than waiting for them to grow up to get her life back.

For me it's not children that have contributed to me losing my groove. When I had my first son when I was aged 20 and he turns 20 in May, my life hadn't actually started. I left home aged 17 and moved away from my home town for work. I spent 2 years as a single mum, married, 2 more children, endless part time jobs including a stint in a chip shop and night classes, divorce, met my husband (married for 10 years this October) inherited 2 step children (the eldest being profoundly disabled) went back to school, got my teaching degree, worked as a lecturer for 3 years training teaching assistants and teaching autistic students, worked as a child welfare officer for The FA and studied for a degree in Psychology and Criminology.

I guess like Polly I wasn't prepared to put my life on hold to raise a family, it ran side by side, often not very smoothly and in September 2010 the 3rd child left home aged 18 to follow a career, like his step brother before him. Step daughter is in residential care and settled into her life time adult home.

So where? how? when? did I lose my groove?

September 2010 to January 2011 was a very busy period for me, exams, tidying up lose ends at work, making sure all my students had passed their NVQs, inducting a new welfare officer, packing, sorting, decorating, renting the house, amending policies, change of address, endless farewells to family and friends and numerous trips to London to sort out the visas.

January 2011 - July 2011 was full of our new and exciting life in South Africa, house hunting, cars, bank accounts, utilities and all without any assistance from hubbies company, including a lost container at customs. Endless family visiting, my eldest, step son, parents, hubbies Mother and sister, no time to breathe,

August 2011 every thing stopped, there were no more visitors lined up, no more hassles to sort, kids settled in school, hubby settled in work and travelling in Africa and back to Europe...and me?

That was the problem there was nothing for me, no job, no studies and only 2 kids instead of the usual 5 on weekends or popping down to Reading to visit son, food shopping to Gloucester to take step daughter out for the day, no football club to fundraise for and no friends to have coffee with.

I stumbled across Kate, I don't recall how or when. I don't so blog hops, I don't join network sites, I don't describe myself as a yummy mummy or a mummy blogger. But something about Kates blog hop drew my attention. I hadn't lost my groove because my kids had got in the way, I wasn't suffering with PND, I'd done all the new baby stuff, the difficult divorce. I'd just lost my groove and happen to be a mum because I'd moved 5764 miles from home.

Like Polly I find that tuesday mornings I'm looking for Kates new challenges, it helps me reflect on the week that has gone, helps me to focus to realise that I have done things that are worthwhile, that I do have value as a mum, a wife, a person and it helps me set myself little challenges to get me out more, to volunteer, to meet people and it gives me like minded people to talk to, has introduced more traffic to my blog, encouraged me to not be put off by joining other neetworks and has helped me meet more expats that understand where I'm coming from to realise .... I AM NEVER ALONE

Wednesday 21 March 2012

The Budget

When my hubby gets a bonus, he pays 40% tax.

His bonus is a % of the revenue he has brought into the company.

From that revenue he can increase his head count.

Increasing his head count means he can employ more people.

He doesn't get bonuses because he's lucky or was in the right place at the right time or knows people.

He gets his bonus because he studied hard, worked hard and made sacrifices along the way.

So what if he uses his bonus to buy a car or pay for fancy holidays.

He earnt it.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

5674 miles from home

That's how far it is from everything I know.

Imagine getting on a plane with 2 children and your hubby to live in a new country, a country you've never even visited, with 2 suitcases each and your hand luggage, containing xbox, toiltries, clothing, laptops, all the cables you think you'll need, all your UK paperwork and stuff you'll not actually use.
Your wordly goods at sat at a dock somewhere and are due to arrive with you 6-8 weeks after you leave, assuming they don't get shipwrecked, pirated off the coast of Somalia or stolen at customs.

You arrive, tired, smelly and emotional to be greated by a woman from the company, who shows you to where you can hand over your documents to hire your car. Please note she knows 4 of you are arriving, with more than just holiday luggage and hires a car without enough boot space.

She wants to whisk you to your apartment, but you need 5 minutes to catch your breath, again, you're not here nicely relaxing on holiday. There are no provisions in your flat, cos you obviously assumes you have milk etc in your hand luggage and tells you, you can pop to the shops later.

This isn't any ordinary country, they speak the same language and even drive on the same side of the road, this is South Africa, 20 miles north of Johannesburg and if you're not from round these parts, or even if you are, you've heard all the horror stories, you know how dangerous this place is.

We have an apartment rented for 6 weeks, hubby is sorted with a mobile phone and eventually a company car (THAT WAS NOT AN EASY CHORE) kids have uniform, books and are in school. And that my dear friends was the end of the help.

Rent a house - I've no mobile phone to call agents, that's if I even knew how to find an agent to call - I've no car to meet the agents.

Get a South African SIM - I need proof of residency just for a PAYG...apartment rented in company name.

Bank accounts - can't have one I don't work, but hubby can have one with verified copy of ID (1 trip to police station to verify documents) WHERE IS THE EFFING POLICE STATION? Copy of 27 page contract of employment (back to the police station) last 3 months pay slips...FFS WE'VE BEEN HERE 72 HOURS, letter from company to say we live at the apartment so we can have proof of residency and letter from hubby to give permission for me to have bank account with him acting as guarantor...can't have joint account, still don't know why.

In the meantime my UK bank card has been cancelled due to unusual activity ACCOUNT OPENED FOR MOVING TO SOUTH AFRICA.

Buy a car - hubby has to do this, apply for loan, repeat steps above, withdraw £1,500 daily from UK bank, 4 days in a row, walking to and from apartment to mall. Leave mall, walk to other mall with £6,000 in handbag to pay deposit, walk back to mall in tears, sign forms at bank, walk to car dealers to collect car.....CAR INSURANCE? FUCK...QUICK NAME ME A CAR INSURANCE COMPANY IN ANOTHER COUNTRY.

And so it goes on. I don't think I was asking for much really, to have appointments made with housing agents, provided with a PAYG SIM on arrival and a list of places to go and things to do. I wasn't expecting to have everything paid for, just someone to answer questions, accompany me and make a few calls on my behalf...I'M A FOREIGNER HERE, IT'S ALL ALIEN TO ME.

Same happens when I finally find a house to rent, contract sorted after several more trips to the police station, but water? electricity? TV? DO I NEED A TV LICENCE HERE? (yes) Internet? Telephone line? HOW? WHERE? WHEN? WHAT?

It's not been esay, I've moved many times as a child, as an adult and with my kids, but it's pretty much the same all over the UK, you know how things work, you know where to go to get certain things done, even if you don't know the exact location.

Now a year on, I've renewed the policies, more trips to the police station, I've given up trying to get a PO BOX number, I've given up on Barlowworld Toyota and the faulty tyre pressure guage and given up trying to extract an apology from Britannia Movers in regards to the lost customs paperwork and the lost container (see earlier blogs for stress caused there)

I'm not a wimp, I've relocated 5674 miles from everything I've ever known. I get things done, I've been scared, I've cried, I AM STRESSED, DEPRESSED, I've threatened to go 'home' but I'm still here, I'm determined to make things work, otherwise it's all been a waste of time...

Monday 19 March 2012

Oh I was tagged in a Mother's Day meme

I've been tagged by @kateonthinice the founder of #groovymums over at to blog about What mother's day means to me.

I won't be tagging anyone else, as I'm a day late for the UK, as Mother's Day isn't actually until May here.

I received a facebook message from my 19 year old son wishing me a lovely day, my 17 year old tweeted me from his bedroom and the 13 year old asked hubby 'Did we get anything for mum?'
My step children haven't sent or acknowledged me, but then post may be 'lost' and step son has just moved back in with his Mother, and I doubt he's remembered her either.

Describe Motherhood in three words
Overwhelming, Challenging, Hard

Does your experience differ from your mother’s? How?.
My mum never worked when we were kids apart from 9 months when I was 14, but she always did voluntary work with the eldery, shopping, trips out and she played a lot of sport. We had regular babysitters in the evenings if my dad was away, while she played badminton and walked us to school every morning and collected us every afternoon. She run us round to all our after school activities, Brownies, Swimming, Gym, Youth Clubs and then school and youth discos.
When my children were small I had to work, we needed two incomes, I spent two years as a single parent, but never claimed any benefits. I used to work shifts around my then husbands job in care and youth work and I also did voluntary work to build my CV up alongside regular study.
I run the kids to all their activites also and like my mum I've run the home and moved on quite a few occassions with my hubbies job, like we did with my father's job.
My mother doesn't 'do' cooking, she doesn't enjoy it, she did cook a meal for us every evening, but if there was any chance we could eat out, or request fish and chips she'd be more than happy. I like cooking, I like preparing meals for the children, they like to experiment and enjoy 'tasty' food.
I'm much more relaxed with my children and their friends, we always have a house full of children, I drive miles with the kids for their activites, whereas my mum kept things local which meant I wasn't able to progress further with my activities.
My children have far more freedom than we did, I allow them to go out just for the sake of it, stay over at friends houses mid week, but I don't let them have TV's in their rooms.

I'm going to stop now, there are too many differences and I could write for ever about them.

What’s the hardest thing about being a mum?
I'm not sure there is anything 'hard' about being a mum. I can't compare it too anything else. I have single friends, childless, I don't envy their 'freedom/lonliness' I guess sometimes the hard part about being a mum is never being allowed to switch off and being judged by other parents, teachers, family and friends for the childrens behaviour.

What’s the best thing?
Well there are laughs, fun times, wonderful experiences. Companionship, friendship, achievements.

How has it changed you?
Again I'm not sure it has. I don't know what I would have been like if I hadn't had kids.

What do you hope for your children?
I hope my children are happy and I hope they continue to aim high.
I always recall my parents being disappointed that I had C for achievement, they wanted more, expected more. I had A for effort and that's all I want for my kids. I want them to do their best and that's all.

What do you fear for them?
I fear my children will struggle, that they will have to work hard and get overlooked.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Don't expect they will go down well, but it makes it worthwhile when they leave home. My first 3 kids left home aged 18, they went on into further education and training and they are happy and settled and left behind in the UK. If the last 2 can leave home at 18 then it will all have been worthwhile.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Did I mention the panic attacks #expats

I'm used to hubby working abroad, getting back late, phoning me to say the M5/M6 etc is closed.

I'm also aware his ' I'll be home in 20mins ' is more like 3 times as long.

Yes I worry, in the UK he'd wear his cars out in 3 yrs, new engines, turbo's etc and clock 100,000 easily.

Since we moved to South Africa my worry has turned to panic.

He called me at 7pm ' I'm on my way home ' it's a 40 minute drive from the airport and it's 90 minutes since he called.

Accident, breakdown or hijacked?

Police stop and document check.

But actually not that simple as our passport number doesn't enter the system and our UK driving licence won't scan, coupled with a UK address and a piece of card they call the international driving permit, it takes sometime.

We have to explain what each document is, we are usually waved on.

I'm just waiting for the 'accompany me to the station, as I don't recognise these documents and I want them verified.

So while hubby sits there on the side of the road with all the stories of being robbed by police and worrying about a lengthy trip to the station.
I'm panicking at home thinking he's been hijacked at gun point.

That's the reality of living here.

The forgotten expat children

My children are not angels, I acknowledge and can point out their faults just as quick as you can.

If you've followed me for a while on here and twitter, prior to us moving to South Africa, you'll know the hassles we've had with them at school, fights, ex partners criticising how we've raised 5 kids, disability, being a step mum etc.

When my kids get into petty squabbles I tell them to toughen up and walk away. Life is crap sometimes, just picture the other child in 5yrs times asking you 'do you want fries with that?'

But if my children are wronged then lord help you, I will not take it sitting down.

Today my pre teen (he's 13 next month) comes out of school in a right state, he's struggling to breathe through the tears. He won't tell me what is wrong so I go into school with him.

I speak to the head who knows nothing about this other than my son has been sent to her for bullying another child.

Except my son wasn't bullying, my son retaliated to a years worth of verbal abuse of being told to go back to his own country, as a pom he's not welcome here. Both kids have been subjected to this and hubby was verbally abused after defending me when a guy smacked me in the face with a block of ice, drawing blood, just because I was English.

It's plain and simple racism.

Unfortunately the boy my son retaliated against hadn't racially abused him, just accused him of wiping a bogey on his school book and told on my son who was given 2 defaults for disturbing the lesson, he hadn't done that and objected and was given another 3 defaults for arguing. He called the other boy gay, not as in homosexual, just gay in the way lots of kids use the word. Whether it's right or not, that's what kids do. Except this child went home and told his mum that my son had called him names, but he didn't tell his mum he was called gay, he told his mum that my son called him a 'fucking wanker'

So the parent comes into school and complains that my son is bullying her son and my son must be punished, so further sanctions are given and hence my son coming out of school in floods of tears.

I start off calmly with the head, how dare the school accept the word of one child and his mother, label my son as a bully, my son admits calling the other boy gay as he'd got him into trouble, the school issue sanctions and my child does not have the right to reply and neither am I informed, which is completely out of order.

And then it all comes out, the bullying, the name calling, the prefect who calls him 'Oi English boy' and puts him on litter duty for no reason. The teachers who issue sanctions to my son, but let the other child off for the same offence.

Last week I approached the school as I was fed up with endless sanctions against both boys, my youngest is dyslexic but he's just told he's lazy, the teachers who ambush me to tell me their lack of historical and geographical knowledge of South Africa is dire, the way my children write, spell is atrocious, they have no idea of the UK education system, yet expect my children to relearn everything their way in a year.

My son sees a councillor. He's labelled manipulative, which I don't disagree with, he passes the blame to deflect any trouble from him, but he does not cry.

We initially found the following incident funny but in retrospect it's not.

First day back of term the English teacher told my eldest class that she wanted her classroom to be treated like they treated their homes, keep it clean and tidy, adding unlike these British people who have messy, dirty homes.

At this my son puts his hand up and says 'miss, I'm British, my home isn't messy or dirty and we don't have a maid to tidy up behind us'

I guess I've ignored my children's adaptation to living in a foreign country, they made friends very quickly, joined all the clubs in and out of school, get invited to all the parties and the girls love their accents. I though they were OK.

I spent the first few months focusing on them leaving their dad and massive family full of aunts, uncles and cousins in the UK and the last few months have been all about me and how difficult I've been finding things.

Well no more, I'm their mum, it's time to buck my ideas up and turn my attention to my expat kids.

Setting short term goals as an expat

It seems to be all or nothing as an expat. Busy one minute with visitors and trips 'home', followed by endless time with nothing going on.

My friend is arriving on Thursday for 9 nights. I'm so excited. In the past 20yrs I've seen her once and that was for 5 hours in the pub on my trip to the UK in December last year.

Then in April the children are off school, they'll get under my feet and on my nerves, but their 17 & very nearly 13 so just a bit of supervision from the sun lounger and they'll be fine. We will be camping over Easter and I'm sure my friend and I will have a few 'play dates' of our own.

In May my son comes out for two weeks. He'll turn 20 over night during his flight out here and again I've not seen him since December. We will have cake and banners at the airport.

But then I know I'm going to slump, I know I'll need picking up again. It happens everytime. It seems to be all or nothing, surrounded by family and friends then they go back to their lives and I sit here moping, alone, isolated, feeling like I'm missing out in life and it's just passing me by.

We make an excellent holiday destination, little time zone difference, no jet lag, you can get a flight here between £500 and £800 depending on the time of year, we have the perfect weather to top up your tan, a pool to lounge by in the evenings with a glass of wine and I don't think I'll ever tire of taking you all on safari.

So what am I going to do to stop the slump that is coming around the end of May, when everyone has gone home and the kids are back in school?

Nothing, I'm not going to worry about it. I'll know by then if I've got the volunteers role at The Olympics or I'll be back in the UK end of August to visit everyone.

I'm going to take each day as it comes and if I feel sad, lonely, depressed then I'll ask for help, I'll allow myself to sit and wallow. Then I'll pick myself up with love and care from my husband, children and friends and then it'll be time to get excited about the next round of visitors.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Messy pre teens

Well we've tidied the bedroom.
When I say we, I mean I barked orders, 12yo got angry and hubby came in, shouted, reclaimed his stuff and stormed out muttering.
We found a hand saw, several items of crockery, a bin bag full of rubbish to throw out, a park town prawn, retrieved my camping table and a pile of chargers and USB cables, all of which was a complete surprise to son, esp the hand saw.

In the past I've tweeted about cleaning/tidying up after my kids and many of you ask 'why' and that I should install discipline and not tidy up after them.

But I live in the real world, they leave for school at 7am and don't get home till 3pm and then there's sports club and the heat to deal with. I don't do much between 3pm and sundown, it's too hot.

They do have chores like laying and cleaning the table, emptying and reloading the dish washer, sweeping the floors and iron their own school uniform and helping with the food shop.

But I supervise, I help them and it's a good way of spending some time together.

Weekends everything goes to pot. At 17 & 12 we can leave them at home while hubby and I go out and spend time together away from the kids. Saying that, we did all go out together last night for dinner and a show with friends.

I left 17yo looking after 12yo and his 9th friend while us two mums went to the cinema and for a coffee.

I returned to chaos, it was so bad I actually cried.

So 2hrs on we have a clean and tidy bedroom, TV has been banned after school, full stop and Internet time is now limited.

More importantly we now have a clean and tidy bedroom, a baseline to work from. I've installed storage boxes and removed stuff he's out grown and we have a clean slate.

I'm fed up of the arguing, the shouting and the fighting over it. Clear guidelines and sanctions are in place for future requests and my favourite sanction is...borrow something and don't return it, then I get to confiscate something of my choosing for 24hrs so hopefully he'll learn what happens when he borrows other people's things.

How hard can life as an expat be?

How hard can it be?

Move to the other side of the world. South Africa in our case. Speak the same language and drive on the same side of the road.

The culture is different, you know that, you know that things will be done differently, the currency is different, but you're paid in local currency so no need to keep converting, but you can't help it. How much for a packet of hula hoops? Half that back home, but then have you seen how cheap the wine is?

I spoke and still speak to many people experiencing the expat life, the support, the problems, the issues and the hassles. It's not the same the world over. I can't compare how I fell living here, with someone living in Japan, where they have to overcome a difficult language barrier or Saudi Arabi where women can't drive or go out alone and don't forget about the ban on alcohol. I can only talk about my experiences here, coming from the UK.

But the common theme I'm picking up on is the 'trailing spouse' and I've only spoken to women about this and it's all too common.

As an expat, only another expat can understand what it is like to give up your life in your home country. Whatever your life was, it will never be the same again. Your husband has work, he has support, he has people to talk to, he has people to provide guidance, but he's doing a new job in a new country which is also completly different from anything and everything he's ever known. He can't just carry on doing the same job in the same way and expect people to change their culture, their way of doing things just so his job is made easier. One of the reasons you're now living abroad with your husbands job is that he is flexible, he manages challenges and people effectively and he can problem solve. Why else would his company spend all that money and trust me it costs 10's of thousands of pounds to relocate one man and his family.

But everyone forgets the 'trailing spouse' we are lucky to live in this beautiful country, the heat (in my case) not having to work, a pool in the garden...oh you're all so jealous.

And yes, that sounds great, after all those years of working, juggling Mother hood with a career, never having 5 minutes to yourself, oh the joy to have the time to sit and paint your finger nails and actually have them dry before you have to rummage through a draw for swimming goggles, or go on another school run, or training session.

But in reality it's not a good life, it's lonely and frustrating.
I've no one to share the days with, go for coffee with and how do you be a 'lady who lunches' when you know no one to lunch with? and don't forget you had an income, now where does the money come from for you to stay at home, to shop, to get your nails and hair done on a regular basis? to be that person you thought you would enjoy being for a few years?

I was warned early on that it would be hard, that it could take a year to make friends, it would feel like a breavement, that family and friends wouldn't understand what was going on, they'd just see you as 'lucky' and won't be able to understand why you think you have anything to complain about.

I was also told that once you become an expat, that's what you will be forever, even if you only do it once and for a short time, only other expats understand this.

But despite the support from other expats, I still can't explain what it is like to feel so alone, even with their help. They exist on the interent, they're not here to have a hug with or to go shopping with or to help with one anothers children when you feel ill, low or just feel like jacking it all in, they have their own issues, they are at different stages, they're hardy expats (they do this every few years) but from their tweets and blogs it doesn't get easier, it gets different everytime and the same range of emotions pop up all over again.

So I guess what I'm saying is, when I complain about how hot it is here, don't tell me how lucky I am, it's always hot here, it becomes oppresive when you're stuck in it every day, it makes it harder to actually get out and do things, harder to do the housework and the ironing.
Don't tell me how lucky I am not to work, it wasn't my choice, the country doesn't permit it. And with the loss of work there's no social network, no routine.
Yes I'm fortunate I have kids but they're not really needing me to drop them off and hang around in the school play ground to meet the mums for coffee.
Yes I can do voluntary work and I do. When people bother to get back to me.

I'm not looking for suggestions on what to do or how to do it as I'm trying to adapt to my new enforced life. I've started to make friends, get out more, go more places and meet more people. I have a husband who loves me and understands my frustrations and gives me time, space and hugs. I have two lovely kids who understand Mum is going through some changes, but it doesn't mean she's unhappy, they understand why I feel depressed, they don't like it, but they know it's short term and I'm working my way through it with my families support.

It takes time, I know that, other expats tell me that and continue to tell me that, but they also tell me I'll get there, it will fall into place, usually just as the hubby gets a new posting and the 'trailing spouse' syndrome starts all over again.

Friday 9 March 2012

Do you worry about upsetting others? when they're upsetting you?

I get myself in such a pickle...I've lost count the number of times I've sat there, being told what I've said, done or talking about doing is upsetting them. Be it because they can't afford it, don't agree with me, or think I'm dreaming and are worried I'll end up getting hurt.

I always find people feel they can say anything they want to me and me, being me sits there, worrying about how it would upset them if I told them 'please don't speak to me like that, I'm upset by your comments' because I know it would upset them, that we would have issues, that they would reply 'why can't you just listen, realise you're making a mistake, you're upseeting me with your reaction...I was only saying...'

But that's not my problem any more, I'm going to stop being polite, stop agreeing with them because I don't want to upset them, stop worrying about their feelings when something they say upsets me.

It's not my problem anymore, they obviously don't think it's their problem how I react to a 'few home truths' So from now on I shall say 'your comments are upsetting me, I don't like the way you feel you can critisie my choices, I was only telling you because I thought you'd be interested, not so you could judge me so openly' and if my response upsets them, that's their problem, I won't say it with malice. I shall just say it the same way they do to me and I'll not worry about the consequences, if they're grown up enough to tell me, then they can deal with how it makes me feel and I'll not worry about their feelings, that's their problem.

I sit here thinking about......trying to relax

.....rubbing cream in my cracked heels. But I may have to get up to answer the door and I can't be arsed to find the cream.

.....painting my nails. But I may have to do something and smudge the polish.

.....listening to music. But I have to find my headphones.

.....blogging about why I don't.

So I now sit here with cream on my heels, wet nails, my music on, a cuppa of tea and I can't relax..... waiting for the door bell to ring, realising I might have to do something, but I have my head phones plugged into the laptop so I can't go anywhere and I'll not here the door bell ring.....I'm relaxed.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Making friends

It has taken 14 months but you know when you've made a real friend, when you turn up on their doorstep, demand coffee, cake and an offload, then later in the same day you call them in floods of tears because you've spilt nail varnish everywhere and then they turrn up at your house with flowers to cheer you up.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

my groove is recovering nicely, thank you

Having linked up with @kateonthinice back in September join in and link up, it's free and doesn't hurt.
I relished and looked forward to her weekly challenges for us to 'get our groove back' but the last few weeks have been hard for me and I've been blogging in general about depression. I've not been to the Doctors as I don't feel medication will help, just mask the problems I face. But some big changes in our family are afoot and although I am blogging about it all, you won't see it here for a while, in fact it may never appear in print for a long time if ever.
I do blog about my kids and hubby and they read what I write before posting it, in general they agree, sometimes hubby gets afronted, but that's usually before he's read the whole post to see how it's taken shape.

Anyway Kate's groovy mum challenges this week are as follows and remember they are all optional.

1. Body – how can you incorporate touch into your life this week? Massage or more? You decide but take time out to touch and be touched this week.

2. Mind – your challenge this week is merely to link up a post about how you are attempting to change your life with steps whether like those of a baby or more solid ones. Any progress is to be celebrated so acknowledge how well you are doing by linking up a post.


3. Spirit – Lent sometimes involves giving things up. What can you give up that would help you move forwards in life? This might mean delegating or accepting that some things or people no longer serve you positively. BREAD, I'VE GIVEN IT UP

4. Blogging – Did I mention that you are supposed to link up with Groovy Mums this week? There you go, two kicks up your rather lovely ass. If you are going to Britmums Live, you can also join in the blog hop mentioned in my previous post.

5. Special Days – Mother’s Day is around the corner so why not start planning just how you would like it to go. Your task is to communicate your ideal day to your nearest and dearest.

6. The Big Question – what needs to change? OK, maybe lots needs to change but identifying the big thing that needs to change might help you to prioritise what the first baby steps need to be.

So there you go, I'm getting groovy again

What's for tea?

I asked earlier tonight for recipes as our family menu was getting a bit boring, that's lasagne twice in 4days, so I thought I'd 'spice' things up a bit and asked twitter for suggestions and here's what they came up with.

@mulledred suggested stuffed peppers, but didn't suggest what to stuff them with and to go on the BBC website where you can input a main ingredient and it generates a recipe and sliced onions potatoes with juniper berries and bacon scattered over pork chops which have been sliced and garlic inserted, layer of potatoes, cover with stock and white wine, bake in oven. Any ideas where I insert the garlic?

@mincetroll suggested cheddar cheese risotto, spinach & feta filo pie and a fish tray bake. I'm hoping she'll also give me some dessert ideas.

I have a Balti chicken to make tomorrow and I'll blog the recipe, but first tonight's 'WTF are we going to have to eat? Lasagne.'

For all recipes involving mince I make a standard base.

I cook in a large pot, not a frying pan.

Tomato sauce base (or you can used 2 tins of tomatoes)

Boil water in a pan and drop in 1lb of large tomatoes, having hulled them first. As the skin starts to bubble, peel, chop and place in a bowl for later.
Use the water to make up 1/2 pint of beef or veg stock.

Lightly fry some garlic (to taste) add the meat and fry till browned, then add 2 finely chopped onions after a few minutes add the tomatoes, some puree, the stock and as much red wine as you can handle.

Place lid on pan and simmer until you're happy with the results.

This mince base can be used to make cottage pie (add chopped carrots and beans, put in dish, top with mash potato and cook in oven for 45 minutes)
or Spag bol (add chopped celery, mushrooms and cook for additional 10 mins and serve with either pasta or spagetti)

I tend to make enough base for all 3 dishes, and freeze the rest to eat later in the week.

To make into lasagne, prepare a white sauce. 250gs of butter, melted over a low heat, add plain flour (Gluten free works just as well) add in small amounts and mix to a paste, slowly add milk and stir.

Next put 1/3 of mince in a dish, pour over 1/3 of sauce, layer lasagne sheets (I don't pre soak) and repeat process, using only 2 layers of lasagne.

Put in oven and cook for 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven.

The above recipe has been adapted from various sources, bits handed on from friends and hubby but probably the main idea from Delia Smith.

*I don't add cheese to the lasagne, we eat it with salad and fresh bread.

You'll not find fish curry on this blog, but if it appeals to you or you have a slow cooker, pop over to @mediocre_mum

Family meals

Please feel free to add a link if you have any fab meals you make (don't forget to credit it)

Here's my family menu

Cottage Pie
Spaghetti Bolognese
Chicken Stir Fry
Mexican Stew
Sausage Casserole
Hot dogs and Burgers and home made pizzas when hubby is away

Hubby's contribution


Toasted Sandwiches
Home made cakes

But we're getting bored so tonight everyone is going to sit down with a recipe book and let me know what they would like to eat next week.

February's newsletter home

February’s Newsletter
Another busy month, more experiences, new place, people. It sounds all very glam and some of it is, but there is still and always will be the underlying fear for personal safety and although we’ve been exploring further afield, it is impossible to put into words what it’s like to do things that sound so normal when we were in the UK.
We’re starting to make some very good friends and can’t believe it has taken over a year to build and nurture a support network. We nearly lost all our hard work when the company explored the possibility of us moving to a smaller estate with cheaper housing. It wasn’t far away but would’ve have meant we no longer had access to where our friends were making it impossible for the kids to play or for us to just pop in for a coffee or have friends pop into us without booking in at the gate, scanning driving licences and vehicle details.
We are still having issues with the post and it only arrives after we go to the post office, demand they search for our mail, assuming it’s got past customs, and then wait a few days for it to be delivered, so we apologise if you’ve sent us anything and we’ve not acknowledged it. Surface mail takes 56 days to reach us and the only way we can guarantee delivery is if it is sent by recorded delivery and then you’ll need to tell us the tracking number so we can chase its actual arrival to us. Cards and letters marked as ‘printed papers only’ seem to have a greater success rate and anything with your name and address on the back has some chance of being returned to you. The second anyone puts a declaration of what’s inside, you can forget it; it’ll not get past customs.
Not working, studying or having young children is making it harder to make friends. There are lots of activities, groups advertised which we’ve joined but most take place in the evenings and with Peter working it’s not all that safe for Suzanne driving alone at night. A simple journey home from friends in Jo’burg after a meal was a hair raising experiences for us both in the dark. Suzanne has been knitting and has purchased a sewing machine for her to have something to do, that’s how desperate things have got.
We had a fab trip into Soweto with a guy who is from there and now works with Peter; he drove us round the tourist spots and took us to his family home to meet his cousins. We felt safer in Soweto than certain parts of the UK and it was so clean and tidy, even round the market areas and the shopping Malls are huge. We drove round the world cup stadium.

Suzanne ventured off into Pretoria to get her Police Clearance check so she can start to apply for work, but with the law here, unless she changes the colour of her skin and her nationality things don’t look too good. After having fingerprints taken, it was a trip into Pretoria, the capital to hand them in and took advantage of a walk around the city, which is something we don’t get to do here, usually everything is behind a security fence and it’s not somewhere one would go in the evening.

We took the boys camping to Bela Bela, about 90 minute drive north to go camping for 2 nights. Your tent is pitched for you for about £5, which stopped all the arguing that goes with camping and we had access to the water parks for the pools, wave machines and slides with a nominal charge for go karting and the pedalo’s. There was plenty of shade in the park and a Spur steak house and small shop. We were able to walk into the town, built in the 70’s and nothing done since for gas, coals and meat for the Braai.

March sees Suzanne’s old school friend coming out for 10 days, then the schools are shut in April, so we will be going back to Bela Bela and off to Durban for a week. Jamie is out in May and by that time, Suzanne will know if she’s been successful with her application to work at the London Olympics and we can then book our UK trip. Peter is off to Egypt for a week for a meeting and hopes to have a work trip to the UK soon. Dan is busy with his football at TUK’s, his Rugby with school and his upcoming matches and weekend tours. Alex is still busy being Alex and he wants a disco for his 13th, which he’s going to DJ to show off his lasers and music equipment. We are also looking at Scuba Diving lessons for him during the holidays.

Monday 5 March 2012

Avoiding the #expats

When we moved to South Africa we did little research, we trusted the experts...big mistake.

When people discovered we were English (well I'm Welsh, but apparently it's the same thing) they told us about all the English people they knew, gave us phone numbers and told us where the other English people gathered.

I met a few people, swooped numbers, joined a few expat groups, but no one was really interested. They had little concept of what it was like to do things here as most were either single, no kids (Diplomats) or here on a company transfer for 2 years, not renting their houses in the UK, everything provided for them or they'd been here 20+ years and kept harping on about 'the good old days of apartheid. And they all had 'horror' stories, so I stayed away.

Most of the online groups I encountered were out of date or not specific enough to South Africa. But I did find help and support on twitter, RT's, links with phone numbers and addresses of places I needed to go for utilities, car insurance companies and tweets of 'it's hard but you'll find a way through it' from other expats all around the world.

But what no one has been able to help with is finding friends for me. We have a few acquitances for meals out, lift shares, drinks and gossip.

Today I argued with a 9 yr old over homework, returned a vacuum cleaner we'd borrowed when ours broke and was called 'Aunty Suzanne' by a 16yr old. All from the same family and I think I've achieved a long standing friendship with the family. The dad helped me out with my car insurance, the mum invited me at short notice to join her for lunch and their maid knows how I like my tea. They took hubby and youngest to meet Bear Grylls and we have impromptu Pizza nights.

So now I've made friends and have a secure and safe base to run back to I think it's time to expand my horizons and to access these expats a bit further, I'm not needy now, I know how to get things done round here, so maybe I can relax a bit more and ignore the negative comments.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Sod the terrible twos and toddler you know how much worse it’s going to get? My pre teen is feral.

Next month my 3 boys will all be teenagers, only for 2 weeks and by the time the 19yo flies out here, he will have turned 20 over night somewhere over Africa.
My 12 year old, soon to be a teen, is driving me and hubby to distraction.
He’s in trouble at school (unfinished class work, no homework) and he’s rude and argumentative at home, to the extent he swears at us, denies all knowledge of misdemeanours, even when caught red handed, refuses to help with house hold chores and is often found biting, kicking and screaming at anyone that comes within a 5 meter radius.
It’s not helped by hubby challenging, in that tone of voice and when I step in to help, yes I think I’m helping I make it worse.
So today hubby and I discussed how to sort out the problem with son, using things and not putting them away.
‘Where’s my tool box?’ son goes into denial, I haven’t had it, it wasn’t me, which is followed with ‘I’ve found it in your room, I’ve spent 30 minutes looking for it among all your crap and half of its missing and why is my saw being used to cut through your desk?’
Tripping a child up with a question you already know the answer to, isn’t helpful. My son reacts in a negative way because he’s been caught out and knows he’s in trouble.
But just what is the issue here?
Hubby and I have decided the aim is to find tool box, locate all the missing items, fix the desk and for son to help.
So we tell son ‘when your programme has finished the TV is going off as you have some chores to do, which are (then list adding mum/dad will be helping you) TV will not be back on and mum/dad can’t get on with your tea until we have completed these chores.
So off goes hubby on the tool box quest and within 5 minutes all hell breaks loose, hubby says he can’t cope and goes to light the Braai. Mum sighs and gets off her arse and tackles the issue, patience is also wearing thin, and tools are located and put away.
I sat with son on his bedroom floor and told him what he needed to do, I passed him things and together we got the tool box sorted, notice the keyword was ‘together’ I then informed son as he had wasted my time he was to help me with hanging the washing up and emptying the dish washer. I outlined who was doing what and took the opportunity to discuss why we got so cross/upset with him and how he could manage these incidents in the future. I also allowed him to talk to me about how we as his parents could handle situations better and basically it’s because his brother does nothing and is always mean to him. OK sometimes this is true, but I explained that we were dealing with his behaviour and no one else’s.
As a result within an hour instead of the usual whole day it takes, hubby has the Braai lit and is sat reading his book, I get to blog and tweet, eldest son has been watching cricket and has been helping hubby with the Braai, the house is calm, son is now sat back in front of the TV and more importantly our aim has been accomplished with minimum fuss, stress free and no sanctions issued.
We have the tool box, complete and back in its rightful place. Which is now locked away to prevent son using it without asking permission.

Do you have conversations like this?

'Darling have you seen the ********?'
'Yes it's in the ******** on/in the *********'
'I can't see it?'
'Well it's there'
'No it's not'
Stops what she is doing, gets up, goes to ********* retrieves said item hands to hubby
'You didn't need to come up, I could've got it myself'

How do you handle teenagers and technology.

My last child, my baby, turns into a teenager next month and for 3 weeks I will be the proud owner of 3 teenagers. Thank fully they won't all be in the house at the same time as my 19yo lives in the UK and arrives for a 2 week visit on May 2nd having turned 20 during his flight here.

This will be the 5th time for that 'Kevin and Perry' moment in our household (I have 2 step children, both in their 20's now)

I don't actually recall it being 'that' bad as dealing with 5 kids with varying needs, interferance from ex partners and several sets of grandparents, I'm not sure any more if my children became teens over night, if it just creeped up on us all.

My step daughter is profoundly disabled so her milestones hasn't follwed the normal routine. Her milestones were walking aged 8 and her ability to sit in a cafe without grabbing food off our plates.

So what makes teenagers so difficult to manage/control? Is it just their hormones? Is it because there are 5 of them and they're constantly fighting for attention? Or is it peer pressure?

No, No, No, No, No. I won't have any of that used as an excuse. I blame one thing and one thing only, TECHBLOODYNOLOGY.


We have 3 televisions in our house. The main one in the lounge with DSTV/SKY which you can record on and pause live TV. There's a TV in the kids lounge with the same channels, but no recording facilities and no HD and a portable one in the conservatory which I usually watch DVDs on (we used to have it in our bedroom, but it drove me mad with hubby finding things to watch, falling asleep and leaving me wide awake looking for the remote to switch it off)

Our 4 boys have never had TVs in their bedrooms, I've never agreed with it, watching TV to fall asleep with actually in my opinion makes them stay up later, they can access adult channels, even on the old terristeral system and it just causes too many arguments (there's one going on right now about watching the main TV as both HAVE to watch their programmes in HD)

Access to the internet.

We bought a 2nd hand desktop in 2000 with dial up internet, it wasn't that appealing to the kids, they were too young, there was no facebook, bebo etc so it was rarely used, more of a word processer for my studies and the occassional education game that failed to load.

In 2002 we got broadband and the trouble started...'I want a go, it's my turn' so along with the desktop I purchased a laptop so I could work in peace and the kids could play on the computer, which by now was really a gaming machine. Xbox, playstations arrived after the hand held consoles had been purchased by ex partners and grand parents which hubby and I objected to due to the arguments caused among the boys and missing games and chargers that were borrowed and not replaced.

The eldest child now 22 didn't own a laptop until he left home aged 18, which he bought himself, the next child nearly 20, bought himself a laptop whilst he was still living at home with his christmas money, the one now aged 17 had a desktop for his 16th after saving his birthday and christmas money and the now 12 yo owns 4 laptops, yes 4...his older brothers have donated theirs to him as they've replaced and upgraded them and the child is a bloody genius, he's taken them apart and rebuilt 1 thats works 100% and has far greater capabilities than anything we own.

Mobile phones

The biggest bone of contention in our house, ever.
Eldest was bought one by his mother so she could keep in touch with him i.e. tell tales on the family of ear wigged conversations to throw back at us in court. It was removed from his possession and anyway he kept losing it, rarely took it with him and it was rarely charged. He was 11 and no way does an 11yo NEED a mobile phone. He then got himself another one aged 15, lost it, another, another, another and now aged 22 he doesn't own one he CBA.
Next had one aged 15 on contract (his dad pays it) I objected but then what rights do I have?
Next one had an old phone aged 15 as he was always out at sports matches, needing picking up at different times, using public transport on his own to travel to training session by train in Birmingham and having to catch several buses and walking a mile so it was decided a mobile phone WAS a necessity. When we moved to South Africa we couldn't get SIM cards so for a year there weren't mobile phones, I managed to get a PAYG and hubby had a work phone and then finally after a few months we got 2 more SIM cards, fixed 2 old nokia phones and the 2 youngest were able to use them. They moaned about the phones being old and it was embarrassing they couldn't access facebook.
On their return to the UK in december one returned with a Blackberry the other with a Samsung.

Each child has complained that they didn't have x x x until they were much older. I remember complaining I had to wait till I was 14 to get my ears pierced yet my sister had hers done aged 11 and the same with going to youth club and coming home at 8pm. So I guess there's no real difference with how teenagers behave, I guess it's just about different things.

I think I've finally understood my mother who spent years listening to me complain 'it's not fair' and her reply of 'wait till you have children of your own' which has now become 'wait til you get grandchildren and you'll buy them the stuff you know their parents don't want them to have as a grandparent you only have the fun times'

So I'm just waiting now to 'lie in the bed' I've made for myself by backing down/giving in and letting them have more stuff (please note it's not us buying the stuff, we just provide the internet, which is regulary switched off as a punishment)

Their next quest is to get anything 'I' related and they now think they have a right to it all, because of the path technology has taken, but I'm standing firm. They both have a phone, xbox and Wii, access to the internet and constantly complain that I have an ipod, a Galaxy tab, a mobile and a laptop and 'it's not fair' but I'm the adult, I earned the money (well hubby does) and life isn't fair and as for their reaction? Is it because their teenagers? Is it because of peer pressure? or is it because I deny them their basic human rights to technology?

Who am I? and Why am I here?

Thought I'd tell you a little about the Chicken and my background. To help you understand why I'm so bloody needy at the moment. My life has taken a huge change in direction and it's far harder to cope with than I'd expected. I've gone from being so busy I couldn't breathe somedays to being the proud owner of a sewing machine and taking up knitting to relieve the boredom.

In 2010 this was me

A wife with 5 children male and female with mixed abilities, some my own others my husbands....none together but isn't 5 enough? A student with The OU in Criminological and Psychological studies, a Lecturer in Life Skills, Customer Services and training mature students as Teaching Assistants NVQ level 2 & 3. I also worked in Child Welfare for a large sporting body...shhh football. I helped to run my son's local football club for 3 years. I had friends, I was always busy and very stressed, rasing a large family, working and studying but generally loved my life...and then...

2011 onwards

SAHM to 2 children and that's in South Africa is varied and interesting, you can follow our journey in the tab above...I can't work, wrong sex, age, colour, nationality and skills for South Africa, but it's not stopping me applying for work and I'm getting involved in as many charities and organisations as possible. I have a diverse set of skills that I'm sure someone out there needs, they just don't know it yet. It was a shock, I never realised how my life would change, so much and so quickly...How do you make friends when you don't work, when you don't have small kids? It's been a challenge and continues to be so...sometimes I'm up and other times I just want to cry, but i have my health, my family and some wonderful friends back in the UK and online and that's what has kept me going.

2012 and forward

If I can help you in anyway whether its life, love, a chat, emigrating, parenting teenagers and other family stuff, then come and find me, ask me a question, or offer me some advice. I have way too much spare time on my hands and my ultimate aim is to meet more people and make more friends. Check out the Grooving mums tab, a group of women that have gone through major life changes and are now recovering their groove and sharing their stories along the way, you can also find them on twitter #groovingmums #gm

Well that's me, 40, add a few too many grey hairs and a love for Birmingham City and I used to own a Chicken called Ruby

I lost the comments when I added the tabs so I've transfered the ones below.
Julie Rose Hi there - or should I say 'Howzit!'.
Lovely to stumble upon your blog and looking forward to reading your updates. I'm a former Durban girl, but have been living in the UK for 7 years. Miss the SA sunshine, and yes I agree with you the suncreams are very limited and expensive! Pleased you've got through your first year with a smile, wishing you a happy future there. Please send my love ;-)

Hi julie, yep so far i love south africa, the beauracracy of the place drives me mad, but most of our problems have been due to lack of research, after we were mislead prior to moving here. I love Durban, the heat nearly killed us in early January, but such an experience.

Julie Rose
The heat can be extreme. Best weather over there is April/May. Right now I'm sitting outside having a cigarette and it is FREEZING!! Madness, I know...

Friday 2 March 2012

My cup of coffee in Pretoria

OK watch out job market here I come...I won't be out off by the horror stories and I will not be defeated...
But I will continue to rant about the situation, I can't work and study is hard to enrole with here (trust me spent many frustrating emails/visits/phonecalls) my kids are teens. So how do I meet people? how do I feel of value? how do I build my career and keep my CV alive?

Here is what I do?

I kick up one holy stink with hubbies work and DEMAND help. I use twitter to contact organisations in the UK that deliver volunteer packages here and I do not give up.

But first I need a police clearnace check...pop to local police station, get fingerprinted, pay R59, drop prints off with SARS, wait 3 weeks and return to collect clearance.

Simple? Easy? surprisingly enough, so far it has been. I'll let you know when I go back on next monday to collect it and it's not ready because they forgot to tell me something.

Anyway I digress, but that is how I ended up in Pretoria for a coffee. I parked in a multi storey car park. Crossed the road, department signposted, handed forms etc over and asked a bemused police man if it was safe for me to walk around the city. I've driven through Pretoria before to go to the Mozambique embassy and through it on our way to Brits on one occassion, but never stopped off.

You see living in a security estate and only going to Malls etc in security areas, it becomes a little difficult to feel safe without a barrier around me. I'm aware all the time for my personal safety and the ability to walk around an open city was quite a daunting process *if you're new to my blog I do live in South Africa.

After being advised to take the same precautions one would in any city I scurried off to the nearest coffee place which was Wimpy for a Latte and gather myself together.

I then wandered round a few arcades and shops. There are the high street shops here but mainly it is independently owned shops where I discovered spray paint for some projects I wanted to work on, a solar panel kit for youngests science experiment, a card shop at cheap prices. I was pleased and amazed with Pretoria and will be going back there again.